Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Rays . . .
1) Andrew Benintendi has made his mark
When the Red Sox were preparing to promote Andrew Benintendi from Double A Portland, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski expressed confidence that the rookie would be able to hold his own offensively in the big leagues.
But, Dombrowski added, even if he struggled -- and he hasn't (.306/.353/.468) -- Benintendi could still contribute on the bases and in the outfield.
Monday was a case in point. Benintendi didn't collect a hit (though he did have a sacrifice fly to knock in the second run of the game), but he made a game-changing catch in the eighth inning to rob Steve Souza Jr. of what seemed destinated to be a two-run homer, paving the way for the Red Sox' 6-2 victory over the Rays.
Benintendi -- who had started the game in center field but was moved to left in the bottom of the eighth when Jackie Bradley Jr. replaced Chris Young -- sprinted sideways to the short wall just next to the foul pole, where it appeared Souza's drive would sneak over the fence. Without ever looking at the fence, he leaped, snared the ball just as it was leaving the field, then hit the wall with his waist and teetered periously close to tumbling off the field before righting himself and throwing the ball back to the infield.
Click here to see the play. According to Statcast, Benintendi covered 92 feet in getting over to make the catch.
"Pretty stunned," said Souza when asked his reaction. "That was an unbelievable play. He ran a long way, was at full speed and then to go over [the wall] and hold onto the ball . . . [that] was pretty impressive."
"Yeah, I think that's the best catch I've ever made," said Benintendi. "I've never really had an opportunity to take one back and I was fortunate enough I could."
Had Souza's ball cleared the fence, the Rays would have trailed 3-2 and that probably would have ended David Price's night, handing the game over to a less-than secure bullpen crew. Instead, Price got through the eighth unscored upon, and when the Sox tacked on three more runs in the ninth, the cushion was even larger.
"I spent seven years here," said Price, who began his career with the Rays, "and I didn't see that catch too many times. It doesn't happen a whole lot. That was huge."
"That's a highlight-reel play at a pivotal time in the game," John Farrell said of the catch. "[Price] was outstanding. But in a three-run game, that late, take away a two-run homer, it's a huge difference in the ballgame."
That's an example of what Dombrowski was talking about: That Benintendi is a complete enough player to help the Sox win even when he isn't contributing at the plate.
2) Don't look now, but the Red Sox have become a better road team
The win Monday night improved them to 6-2 on this, their most demanding road trip of the season.
It also improved their road record this season to 32-27. Among American League teams, only the Toronto Blue Jays -- at 34-28 -- are more than five games over .500 on the road.
That's doubly important for the Sox, since their scheduled is so road-heavy in the final two months. With 38 games remaining, the Sox still have 23 games away from home left, including a nine-game swing in early September that will take them to the West Coast for the third time this season.
John Farrell noted that Sox have smart enough to not use the demanding stretch of schedule as a crutch.
"We've embraced it,' said Farrell. "They've kind of let (the schedule) roll off their back. They've bonded even closer together.”
But Farrell also noted that what's led to the turnaround on the road is the improved starting pitching. Monday night featured the 18th game in the last 19 tries that the Sox' starter allowed three earned runs or fewer.
Those sort of performances from the starters enable the Red Sox to have a chance to win more times than not -- whether they're playing home or away.
3) Xander Bogaerts may have taken a big step forward at the plate
For the past three weeks, Bogaerts has been in a funk, with just two (2) RBI for the entire month of August.
In recent days, Bogaerts has been taking better swings, with five hits in series agasint the Tigers. Tellingly, however, only one of those was for extra bases and Bogaerts was having difficulty with pitches in.
On Monday night, Bogaerts had a leadoff single in the seventh, but what might have turned things for him was a two-run homer in the ninth -- a blast to left-center that provided some insurance runs.
"He's starting to put some games together with multi-hits,'' said Farrell. "We got accustomed to a guy here who was hitting .330, .340. That might be a little unrealistic over the course of a full season. Obviously, he's coming out of this at the right time.”