Red Sox

When it comes to the 2019 Red Sox, even the walk-off wins are kind of boring

When it comes to the 2019 Red Sox, even the walk-off wins are kind of boring

BOSTON -- It's just a curiosity in a season distinctly lacking the excitement of 2018, but the Red Sox have managed to turn the walk-off — what should be the most thrilling play in baseball — into an aesthetically meh anticlimax.

The Sox recorded their fifth walk-off of the season on Monday, and it fit the general pattern of its predecessors, with Marco Hernandez sending everyone home by beating out an infield single to short in a 6-5 victory over the White Sox that looked like it would be another sloppy loss, with Rafael Devers erased at third on a short fly to left, Christian Vazquez failing to put his bat on a hit-and-run fastball, and a 3-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position.

"We let some chances slip away," said manager Alex Cora. "We had men in scoring position and we didn't put one ball in play. There were a few things we did not do offensively today. Early on with Devers running the bases. We didn't put that ball in play with the hit and run in the eighth. There was a lot of stuff that didn't go right, but in the end, you know what? We won and that's the most important thing."

It wasn't exactly pretty, but with the exception of Christian Vazquez's mammoth homer over the bullpen on Friday night to complete a stirring comeback vs. the Blue Jays, the Red Sox have delivered the least dramatic walk-offs imaginable this year.

Are we going to nitpick their game-winners? You'd better believe we are. Consider the others:

-- After dropping the home opener, the Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays 6-5 in the ninth inning on April 11. Toronto closer Ken Giles tried to nail things down, but couldn't throw a strike. A walk to Mookie Betts and double by Mitch Moreland tied the game before two more walks loaded the bases with one out.

The Blue Jays brought the infield in and Rafael Devers chopped one in front of home plate and into the second base hole that landed on the infield dirt. Statcast had it traveling 135 feet at a minus-29 degree launch angle. The expected batting average? An even .100.

-- It looked like the Red Sox were going to blow a second straight heartbreaker to the Rockies on May 15 after Colorado scored three in the seventh off of Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes to erase a 5-2 deficit, but a Xander Bogaerts leadoff double in the 10th and intentional walk of Devers set the stage for Michael Chavis to ground one sharply up the middle to win it.

-- The Red Sox blew another lead, this time in the eighth, against the Rangers on June 12, but reliever Jesse Chavez lost his command in the ninth after allowing a double to Christian Vazquez and single to Jackie Bradley. He walked Chavis on four pitches to load the bases, and then issued a five-pitch walk to Betts to force in the decisive run.

-- And that brings us to Monday. The Red Sox overcame deficits of 2-1, 3-2, and 5-3 before loading the bases on a double and pair of intentional walks in the ninth. With two outs, Hernandez sliced one to deep short, where Tim Anderson passed up an opportunity for an out at third and instead unloaded a strong fall-away throw across the diamond which first baseman Jose Abreu couldn't scoop and Hernandez beat by half a step anyway.

The exit velocity of 74 mph and launch angle of two degrees suggested a hit 23 percent of the time, but as far as the Red Sox are concerned, it was a missile.

There's been a lot of that this year.

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Jason Varitek, Alex Rodriguez were 'teammates' after Sox-Yankees brawl, and things got awkward

Jason Varitek, Alex Rodriguez were 'teammates' after Sox-Yankees brawl, and things got awkward

Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez were never destined to be close friends.

That much was confirmed almost 15 years ago, when on July 24, 2004, Varitek and A-Rod sparked one of the wildest moments of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry.

You remember how it went down: Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo drilled Rodriguez with a fastball, Rodriguez took exception and Varitek confronted Rodriguez, shoving his glove in the Yankees slugger's face to set off a wild fracas.

 

The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey published an entertaining oral history of that famous brawl Friday that includes some terrific quotes, including what Varitek allegedly said to A-Rod that got him so heated.

"Him and ‘Tek are going face to face," Sox pitcher Curt Schilling recalled. "He says, 'Throw that s--- over the plate.' And ‘Tek says, 'Hey dude, we don’t hit .260 hitters.' And then that’s when you see Alex look at him and go, 'F--- you. F--- you.' "

But little did either player know that they actually would be teammates two years later on Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Here's Arroyo on asking Varitek if things got awkward between the two -- and the Sox catcher sharing a hilarious story.

When he got back I said, “Jason, how was it being on the same fricking team with Alex?” And he said, “Man, there was one game we were about to play and both of us ended up in the training room and no one else around, both taping up our wrists right next to each other.

And neither one of us spoke a word. We never spoke a word about it. We never acknowledged it. We never acted like we didn’t like each other, but we weren’t going to act friendly, either.” So he said it was the most awkward dead silence ever, taping up those wrists.

What we'd give to be a fly on that wall.

Both Varitek and A-Rod have come a long way since then -- the former is a special assistant in the Red Sox baseball operations department, while the latter has enjoyed a career renaissance as an MLB broadcaster -- but we'd guess they still don't send each other holiday cards.

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Mookie Betts is smoking hot and could reach a milestone only two others have seen in 70 years

Mookie Betts is smoking hot and could reach a milestone only two others have seen in 70 years

BOSTON -- We all agree that Mookie Betts is having a so-so year. He didn't deserve to make the All-Star Game, he hasn't carried the Red Sox like he did a year ago, and his production is down across the board.

And yet, if he continues on his current pace, he will score more runs this season than all but five players in the last 70 years.

If that's a down year, then sign the Red Sox the bleep up.

With so much attention on Rafael Devers maturing into a destroyer of men, we've managed to overlook one of the most significant developments of the last month -- Mookie is very quietly getting hot again.

He blasted his first homer of the month as part of a torrid July that has seen him hit .431 with 18 runs in 11 games. Those runs are important, because they're the one part of Betts' game that has not suffered a whit.

He leads the majors with 86 runs in 95 games, and at his current pace would finish with 145. With a little bit of luck, he could join Jeff Bagwell with the 2000 Astros and Ted Williams with the 1949 Red Sox as the only two to reach 150.

The way Devers is going out of the No. 2 hole, there's an outside shot the leadoff man will become only the 20th player ever to reach that 150 mark. As it is, he just joined Teddy Ballgame in the franchise record books for most consecutive games with a run at 13.

"I mean, yeah. I think when anybody scores, good things happen," Betts said. "But I think you need somebody to kind of get on base in front of Devers and (Xander Bogaerts), I think it's a good chance I'm going to score."

Betts is now hitting .284 with 14 homers and 44 RBIs. That's a far cry from last year's batting title, but as manager Alex Cora noted, Betts has taken his walks all year, which suggests a solid approach. His on-base percentage stands at .399, and nowadays every baserunner in front of the scorching Devers represents an RBI opportunity.

"Aw, man. It's been a lot of fun," Betts said. "I have one job and it's just to get on base and let him kind of take care of the rest. So it makes my job a little easier. Obviously I may get a couple more pitches to hit because nobody wants to face him and that's part of the game."

Since moving to the No. 2 hole on June 25 and pairing with Betts atop the order, Devers has been playing on another level. The 22-year-old is hitting .397 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 17 games, his OPS pushing 1.300.

Betts has been of the primary beneficiaries.

"It's been a long season, but things are kind of coming around," Betts said. "It seems I've learned what not to do."

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