Despite another shaky outing from Henry Owens, the Red Sox were able to continue their winning ways on the backs of a slow-moving but effective offense and a deep bullpen.
Top Play (WPA)
Despite the Red Sox coming out on top on Thursday, the White Sox were actually the owners of the biggest play of the game. This came in the fifth inning, when Heath Hembree was on the mound and struggling. Chicago loaded the bases with three straight singles, and backup catcher Hector Sanchez was at the plate. He worked a fantastic ten-pitch at bat that eventually led to a bases-loaded walk (+.131) that brought the White Sox within one. Luckily….well, we’ll get to what happened next in a second.
As for the biggest play for the Red Sox, that came in the following frame. Jackie Bradley came to the plate with a one-run lead facing off against old friend Matt Albers, the owner of a 35-inning scoreless streak. Sure enough, Bradley continued his power surge by blasting a line drive the other way that landed in the seats (+.129) and gave the Red Sox a 5-3 advantage.
Bottom Play (WPA)
So, remember that bases loaded walk that ended up being the biggest play of the game? I sure hope you do considering you read it about 20 seconds ago. Anyway, things got a little worse for the White Sox after that. With the bases still loaded and Matt Barnes still in the game, Austin Jackson had a chance to give the White Sox their first lead of the night. Instead, he hit a line drive to Mookie Betts in right field. Betts relayed the throw home to gun down Brett Lawrie at the plate and end the inning (-.222) with the lead in tact. It was something of a controversial play, as Chicago challenged the play on the grounds that Ryan Hanigan blocked the plate prior to getting control of the ball. To be honest, it looked like the White Sox had a case, but the play was close and the umps opted to stick with the original call.
Henry Owens Enjoys Long Walks on the Basepaths
For as encouraging as the overall game was, it’s hard to get past just how poorly Henry Owens pitched. As is typically the case with him, the control was just nowhere to be found all night. Although he only allowed two hits in his three innings of work, he walked a whopping six batters. Owens still has the talent to make it as a back-end starter, but he won’t come close to realizing that potential until he gets these walks under wraps. It seems likely that his next start will be with Pawtucket rather than Boston. It’s unclear who would take his rotation spot, but it’s hard to imagine them being less productive than Owens.
Don’t Forget about Dustin Pedroia
On the positive side of things, I think we need to acknowledge what Dustin Pedroia is doing this year. He’s not usually who we think of in this lineup, but he’s been extremely productive to start off 2016. On Thursday, he started the scoring action for the Red Sox by hitting a solo home run in the first inning. With his three hits in the game, he’s now hitting .322/.364/.496 on the season to go along with his typical defense. The Red Sox have a scary lineup when Dustin Pedroia is swinging the bat like this.
Jackie Bradley’s Power Is Still Here
As I mentioned before, Bradley hit another home run in this one. Although it was only his second of the season, he’s been hitting for plenty of power with a .213 ISO through Thursday night’s game. It was jarring to see his power production last season, but he’s showing that he can keep up something in that neighborhood on a consistent basis. To make matters even better, it seems as if all of these extra-base hits are coming in high-leverage situations.
Another Strong Night for the Bullpen
Boston’s bullpen is no stranger to long nights, as the rotation has made a habit out of leaving games early. Luckily, they haven’t been fazed by that challenge. Although Hembree struggled a bit coming in after Owens, he still allowed just one run while recording four outs. Then, Barnes came in and came through with a huge performance. He was aided by that play at the plate, but he also deserves credit for recording five outs without allowing a hit or a walk. Junichi Tazawa did Junichi Tazawa things after that before Robbie Ross locked down the final two innings to close out the game. Eventually, starters need to go deeper in games, but the bullpen has been up the challenge thus far.
The Red Sox head to New York to face off against the Yankees once again. New York is coming off a series loss in Baltimore, and are reeling early in the year. A good series for Boston would not only keep them atop the AL East, but would bury their rivals even deeper in the standings. The series starts at 7:05 Friday night with the struggling Michael Pineda taking on the red-hot Rick Porcello.
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