This game belonged to Mookie Betts and David Price. It was the first of its kind, but I don’t suspect it will be the last.
Top Play (WPA): Through two innings it looked like we might be in for a two-hour dueling complete games affair, but after Jackie Bradley Jr. lined a sharp single to right (spring matters!), Corey Kluber tried to sneak a fastball underneath Betts’ hands and Betts battered it deep into the left-field stands in more or less a carbon copy of what Dustin Pedroia did to two separate pitches on last opening day. This got “new” Sox announcer Dave O’Brien to bring up Betts’ infamous bowling habits, and led O’Brien and Remy to speculate that maybe there was a connection between his hand speed and wrist strength as a result of a lifetime of bowling. Maybe it is! I don’t know. But then again, Pedroia is known as the same type of hitter and probably can’t even lift a bowling ball.
I’m kidding, Dusty. But maybe it was those strong Betts wrists that led to his insane catch on Rajai Davis in the fifth:
Mookie Betts makes a game saving catch in Cleveland pic.twitter.com/XG6AkxhF8E
— Steve Silva (@stevesilva) April 5, 2016
Bottom play (WPA): When Yan Gomes singled home the Indians’s first of two runs in the fourth inning, the Tribe actually grabbed the WPA lead while trailing 2-1. Given that there was a runner on third with less than two outs, this makes sense, and Marlon Byrd brought home Carlos Santana on a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat to tie it. A Juan Uribe single followed that, but Cleveland’s rally stalled when Price caught Colin Cowgill (who didn’t have a clue all day) looking.
Key moment: After a long fifth inning during with the Sox took the lead, Price came back into the game and promptly set aside Santana, Gomes and Byrd. Early, he and Kluber had traded bad innings, and given the wait-time, temperature and pitch count, it wasn’t clear if Price would even come back into the game. He did, and he did so emphatically, and it was a relief to see a Sox pitcher not to step on a land mine when it was so obviously there to be detonated. Santana and Mike Napoli had been tormenting Price all day by driving up his pitch counts, but he quickly got to them both in of their last times at-bat, because he was still getting better as the game went along. That’s good.
Trend to watch: If you skipped spring training like a normal person, you’ll notice that Hanley Ramirez looks different in the batter’s box. He’s calmer before each pitch now and has ditched the enormous leg kick that had him flailing away last year at a previously unprecedented pace. It paid off, if only for one day: He went 2-4 with a walk.
Eye on Papi: It’s gonna be a great year:
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 5, 2016
Coming next: Clay Buchholz and Carlos Carrasco face off tomorrow night in the battle to determine if 30 Rock was right about hard K sounds always being funny and whether or not the Sox can continue what would be a historically unprecedented undefeated season. I believe.
Photo by Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports Images