BOSTON – (Staff Report from Fenway Park) – When it comes to the American League batters hardest to strike-out, Boston’s Mookie Betts – the best hitter in the majors – ranks only eighth in the AL. After tonight’s game, the Toronto pitching staff might challenge that ranking after Boston’s 6-4 victory, the 10th straight for the Red Sox and 17th win of their last 20 games.
Mookie Betts hits the 13th pitch of his AB for a Grand Slam
Trailing 2-0 in the last half of the 4th inning, Betts stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. The All-Star outfielder battled Toronto starter J.A. Happ for 12 pitches, hitting foul ball after foul ball mostly with a 1-2 count, before he deposited the 13th pitch on Landsdowne Street, way over the Green Monster at Fenway. Betts fourth career grand slam, the second of this 2018 season, anchored a five-run 4th inning for the Sox.
The rally started with a Xander Bogaerts single and 2:54 instant replay review of a Brock Holt ground ball fielder’s choice which resulted in Bogaerts being safe at 2B on a phantom tag, Holt safe at first with a fielder’s choice and an error charged to Toronto second baseman Devon Travis. Because of the error, all five runs against Happ were unearned.
Mookie Betts reacted strongly after his Grand Slam HR
On the evening, a gorgeous 69-degree night for 37,132 baseball fans, Happ went 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and one walk along with six strike-outs, a wild pitch, a hit batter and the Betts HR. Happ threw 98 pitches, with 18 just to Betts over two ABs.
Boston added an insurance run in the 7th inning when Jackie Bradley Jr. rocketed a line drive off the Monster for a double, then advanced to 3rd base on a wild pitch by reliever John Axford. Betts singled-in Bradley with a shot off the wall to record his 5th RBI in the game.
The Blue Jays got on the scoreboard first when Teoscar Hernandez clocked a 434-foot clout to center field to knock in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who had doubled off Boston starter David Price.
Price settled down after the 2-run 1st inning and lasted 6.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits, no walks and eight strike-outs. The additional earned run came on a Kendrys Morales 7th inning solo home run. Price retired two additional batters after allowing that HR and was removed for Brandon Workman. Price threw 103 pitches with 76 strikes. He earned his 10th win of the season against six losses.
Toronto touched-up Boston reliever Matt Barnes for a run in the 8th inning, the RBI produced when Blue Jays 1B Justin Smoak his a long drive to dead center field which fell short of a HR when a fan leaned over the rails to interfere with the ball. The umpiring crew reviewed the play for 2:03 and allowed Randal Grichuk to score from first base on the play, but ruling Smoak had a ground rule double. Barnes escaped a big inning by striking out both Morales and Russell Martin.
Boston’s All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel retired the Blue Jays in the 9th inning for his 29th save of the season.
GAME NOTES: Boston is now 37 games above the .500 mark for the first time since the 1949 season. … The Red Sox are (66-29) and (15-2) over their last 17 games, (17-3) over their last 20 games. … Popular Boston pitching legend Luis Tiant received a nice round of applause when he was introduced in the middle of the 3rd inning … In the second of the four-game series scheduled for Fenway Park, the Red Sox will throw RHP Rick Porcello (11-3, 3.58 ERA) against Toronto LHP Ryan Borucki (0-1, 2.25 ERA). On Saturday, the Sox will toss LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (11-3, 3.62 ERA) against an unnamed Blue Jays starter. On Sunday, the Jays have announced RHP Marcus Stroman (2-6, 5.90 ERA) as the starter but the Red Sox are yet to name their pitcher. Throughout MLB, pitching rotations and bullpen moves (including optioning recent young starters to the minors) has additional relief pitchers on 25-man MLB rosters. … After Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox will have played 98 games before the MLB All-Star break, their most ever by one (2008 and 2013). Of all MLB clubs as of today, the Sox have played the most road games with 51.