PHILADELPHIA — There is no complaining allowed the next time the Red Sox bullpen blows a game. None.
Less than 48 hours away from a weekend series with the best team in baseball to this point, the Astros, the Red Sox are playing as well as they have at any point this season. Possibly better. That’s 16 wins in their last 23 games now.
RED SOX 7, PHILLIES 3
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“It all leads back to the bullpen,” Sox manager John Farrell said after a 7-3 victory over the Phillies. “Once we get a lead or keep a game close, they’ve been shutdown.”
This isn’t hyperbole. It’s been 21 1/3 innings since the Sox bullpen last allowed an earned run, and they had even more work to do Wednesday night, 6 1/3 innings.
Even when a shoulder injury forced an early exit for a fill-in starting pitcher, Brian Johnson, the Sox found a way to get it done with the fill-in’s fill-in, Hector Velazquez.
The righty, formerly of the Mexican League, woke up in the wee hours Wednesday morning and went on his way to meet the team. Velazquez took his time warming up after Johnson was hurt in the third inning, and he took his first major league win in just his second career appearance.
Velazquez may wind up with a start next time through. But from a physical standpoint, the regular relievers can’t keep this up. They can’t and won’t be asked to. But they’ve been a marvel.
“You’re always concerned,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “You monitor how many pitches the guys are throwing and you’re trying to pick spots and best conserve. Robby Scott, that’s three consecutive days for him after we were able to give him a little bit of a breather in the last series. We need deep starts. That goes without saying.”
One more in Philly before the fireworks. The Astros are the bellwether match-up on this three-city road trip. The Phils, whom the Sox play four times in a row between Fenway Park and the two-game series that began Wednesday in Philadelphia, are a stopover. Get in, get out, get where you need to go.
It’s easy to note how terrible the Phillies are, at 21-43. But what are the Sox supposed to do? Precisely what you’ve seen.
Mookie Betts not only homered twice, he made a great diving catch in right field moving toward the line. The final out Wednesday was a Jackie Bradley Jr. trademark sterling catch. Pablo Sandoval looks shaky on routine plays, but, confusingly, he’s had a knack for some great diving stops lately too..
The only other teams in the American League that have more wins than the Sox are the Yankees and Astros.
Betts is rounding back into his MVP-candidate shape, the product of some cage time.
“I’m just putting a lot of work in at this point just trying to trust my abilities and trust the work I put in and just see a couple balls fall,” Betts said. “For us to win is definitely a good feeling — and I’m just happy we did it in under four hours.”
All-around, the Sox look great. They’re playing a poor team, and they should.
“Each one of the departments on our team is being effective,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Outside of some strange blunders on the bases, Farrell is right, and how good the Sox have looked lately should not be understated.