Red Sox Knuckle-Down against Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Written by Dakota Randall

By Dakota Randall
BU News Service

Dustin Pedroia knocked in five runs, and Steven Wright continued his season long knuckle-sandwich as the Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves 9-4 Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

As has been the case throughout this recent stretch, one that has seen the Sox win 5-of-6, the team has received contributions all across the diamond.

Wright continued to prove himself as Boston’s most consistent starter this season. For the night, he allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over seven innings, while striking out eight. Wright is now 2-2, but owns a sparkling 1.37 ERA, good for third-best in the AL.

As good as Wright was, the offense was just as impressive, led by the recently power-struck Pedroia. The diminutive second baseman finished 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs. One of those homers was a grand slam off of  Pesky’s pole. It was the third grand slam of Pedroia’s career, and the first time he’s hit the famous right field foul pole.

The Sox also received strong strong contributes from David Oritz (3-for-5) and Travis Shaw (1-for-2) who continues to play at an all-star level both offensively and defensively. Jackie Bradley Jr. also continued to play all-world centerfield:

The win was Boston’s third-straight over Atlanta, and fourth-straight overall. The sox improved their record to 12-9, and currently sit a half-game behind Baltimore for first place in the division.

The Red Sox will wrap up their series against the Braves Thursday night when they send pitching’s greatest enigma, Clay Buchholz, to the mound to square-off against Atlanta’s Jhoulys Chacin.

THE GOOD

Wright — The 31-year-old knuckleballer is 2-2, but could easily be 4-0 this season. Wright’s unique ability to combine his knuckler with a fastball that sits around 87-89 MPH (well above-average for a knuckleballer) allows him to actually pitch his way out of jams, not just throw up the knuckleball and hope for the best. He’s been Boston’s most consistent starter this season, by far, and the fifth spot in the rotation appears to be his to lose, regardless of Joe Kelly’s health or any prospects in Pawtucket.

Pedroia — Pedroia’s five RBIs were a career-high, as he continues to show that talk of his decline may be premature and greatly exaggerated. He can still hit for average (and pop), play gold-glove defense, and remains a clubhouse leader. If he can stay healthy, and that’s always a big if, he may still be the game’s premiere second baseman.

Ortiz — The 40-year-old had three doubles and drove in two runs, as he passed Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx on the career extra-base hits list, tying George Brett for 16th all-time with 1,119. Anytime you can pass two legends and tie another on any list, you know you’re doing something right. Ortiz also continued to spray the ballvaround the park, a sign that he’s really locked in.

THE BAD

Ryan Hanigan — The Andover, MA native had a rough night behind the dish, finishing with four passed balls, giving him eight for the season. Tough to blame him, as not everyone can be Doug Mirabelli. His average also dropped to .208 on the season, albeit in limited opportunities.

Tommy Layne — The 31-year-old lefty specialist was great against left-handers last season, but hasn’t looked quite as devastating so far this year. Freddie Freeman took him deep on Wednesday, which was also Atlanta’s first home run as a team in 15 games, a record in the modern era. He holds a 4.91 ERA in just 3.2 IP this season, and may not be far from loosing his job to Robbie Ross, if he hasn’t already.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Carson Smith was in the clubhouse on Wednesday, a day after throwing a simulated inning in Pawtucket. The Sox plan to send him to Double-A-Portland Friday night, and see if he can pitch on Saturday as well. The team has said that they’d like to see him throw on consecutive days before recalling him. Smith has been sidelined with a right flexor muscle strain since spring training.

It’s more good news for the bullpen, as Boston starters have been going deeper into games, and the addition of Smith should allow the Red Sox to slot relievers into more appropriate roles, as well manage the innings of pitchers like Uehara, Tazawa, and Kimbrel.

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