Clay Buchholz

Game 31 Recap: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 3

The Red Sox hit well, fielded well and pitched well enough to win on Sunday afternoon. This is pretty much how they drew it up.

Top Play (WPA): Mike Napoli’s three-run homer in the first inning (.208) is the big winner here. After a rough start to the season for both Napoli and the team in general with RISP, you could hear all of Red Sox Nation sigh in relief when Napoli launched this bomb. Next on the list is Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the fifth (.104), followed closely by Mookie Betts’ triple to lead off the game (.090).

Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar nearly made a spectacular catch on that Betts triple, and given the way this season has gone so far, it’s surprising he didn’t hold on. Still, it was great to see the Red Sox score four runs in the first inning, even if Clay Buchholz nearly gave many of those runs back a few moments later.

Bottom Play (WPA): Junichi Tazawa is a really, really good reliever, but he’s had his fair share of troubles with the Blue Jays in the past. If you had that sinking “here we go again” feeling when he started out the eighth inning by giving up a single to Jose Bautista, you can be forgiven. But Tazawa got the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, to ground into a double-play (-.092), effectively ending any shot the Jays had at getting back into this one. It was a huge play.

Next on the list is another double play off the bat of Josh Donaldson in the first (-.061), followed by a Josh Thole GIDP in the second (-.042). Yes, you should be sensing a theme here: the double play was truly the pitcher’s best friend today, and Boston’s infield defense looked especially crisp all game long.

Key Moment: Napoli’s homer, probably. Beyond that, pick your double play. Buchholz limping off the mound after tweaking his ankle could have been a key moment, but thankfully, he appears to be fine.

Trend to Watch: The Red Sox are now 9-2 in games in which they score first. They should probably score first in often and more in general. #Analysis

Also, let’s hope the rest of the Red Sox rotation isn’t following through with this Joe Kelly/Buchholz rat tail theme. I’d rather watch Edward Mujica.

Coming Next: The Red Sox are now off to the west coast for a three-game series in Oakland followed by a four-game stint in Seattle. Tomorrow, the Red Sox will throw Rick Porcello — far and away their best starter to this point — against Scott Kazmir. The A’s are off to an even slower start than the Red Sox, and taking at least two out of three against this uninspiring bunch will be important before the Sox face a better Mariners team.

Shane Victorino is slated to rejoin the Red Sox before tomorrow’s game, and he should form the short side of a platoon with Bradley Jr. for the time being. Limiting Victorino’s playing time may be the only way to keep him healthy at this point and JBJ deserves another shot in the majors, so it’s a move that makes sense, even if there’s plenty of clamoring for Rusney Castillo. If nothing else, this will be a hell of a defensive pairing.

Photo by Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports Images

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