Friday night in Arlington represented the high point of the season for everyone on the Red Sox not named David Price.
Boston was able to erase a 6-0 deficit — and a brutal performance from Price — and emerge with an 8-7 victory against the Texas Rangers, thanks to a four-run rally in the ninth inning that was highlighted by a game-tying, two-run home run by Mookie Betts.
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) June 25, 2016
Entering the ninth trailing 7-4, the Sox look finished. Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the inning with a walk, but Bryce Brentz struck out, followed by pop-out from Travis Shaw.
Enter Sandy Leon.
The red-hot backup catcher (pinch-hitting for Christian Vazquez) worked the count full against Texas reliever Jake Diekman, eventually lining an RBI double to left field on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. The Rangers brought on Matt Bush to shut the door, but Betts greeted him with the game-tying homer.
After Dustin Pedroia walked and Xander Bogaerts singled, the Red Sox had men on first and third when Bush uncorked a wild pitch with David Oritz at the plate, allowing Pedroia to scamper home with the go-ahead run.
This is the 1st time the Red Sox won a game in which they trailed by 3+ with 2 outs in the 9th inning or later since 9/23/03 vs. BAL.
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) June 25, 2016
With recent struggles fresh in mind — and Craig Kimbrel unavailable — Koji Uehara came into the game to save the most unlikeliest of wins, and promptly struck out the side.
At 47-27, the Rangers have been the class of the American League, making Friday’s victory all the more impressive.
Back to Price.
The $217 million “ace” was absolutely terrible. Price lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on 12 hits. He walked none (hooray) and struck out one batter. His ERA now stands at an unsightly 4.68.
Price was hammered early and often. Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a home run, and the Rangers rallied for two additional runs in the first inning. Price allowed another run on an Ian Desmond single in the second inning, and was pulled with one out in the third inning after allowing a two-run single to Bobby Wilson.
#RedSox relievers pitched 11.2 innings the last 3 days. David Price getting cuffed around in the 1st inning is not what they needed.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 25, 2016
From there on, there were a lot of positives.
Hanley Ramirez and Bradley Jr. each had two-run home runs, and Matt Barnes was impressive in relief, allowing just one run on four hits over 2 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out four.
It was a big win for the Red Sox, who improved to 41-32, and stayed 1.5 games behind Baltimore for first place in the AL East.
Boston will turn to the Steven Wright — and his 2.01 ERA — Saturday night in the second game of the three-game set. The Rangers will counter with A.J. Griffin.
— Red (@SurvivingGrady) June 25, 2016
Leon — Is anyone missing Ryan Hanigan? With all due respect to the Andover, MA native, Leon has earned the right to remain the team’s backup catcher. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but Leon is hitting .545 with a 1.342 OPS in 22 at-bats. Friday night’s at-bat was a thing of beauty. under any circumstance, an 11-pitch at-bat that results in an RBI double would be impressive, but it was especially remarkable given the circumstances of the game.
Sandy Leon on having 12 hits in 22 at-bats since getting called up: "I've been working a lot all my career to just feel like this."
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) June 25, 2016
Betts — Mookie doesn’t like to refer to himself as a home run hitter, but outside of David Ortiz, there may be no other member of the lineup you’d want to see at the plate more in that type of situation. The home run, his 16th of the year, raised his average to .292 with a .853 OPS. Barring the unforeseen, Betts should be starting for the American League in July’s All-Star game.
Jackie Bradley Jr. said he called Mookie Betts' homer from the bench tonight. "I just knew. Don't believe me? Ask Rick." Porcello confirmed.
— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) June 25, 2016
Bullpen — In addition to Barnes and Uehara, the bullpen was very effective Friday night. With the Red Sox clawing their way back, Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree combined for three huge scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one baserunner between them. Hembree picked up the win (4-0), and Uehara earned his second save of the season. It’s clear that the Sox still need another arm, but it was great to see the pitchers they have step up in big situations.
Strong work by the #RedSox bullpen: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K for Barnes, Layne and Hembree.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 25, 2016
Price — Just awful. Price’s numbers have looked great recently, but he’s still not passing the eye test. He was routinely burned on low-90s fastballs, and really looked clueless as to how he could put away the Rangers’ batters when he needed to. It was the fifth time in his career that Price has failed to make it past 2 1/3 innings, with the last instance coming April 22 2015 against the Yankees.
— Gary Marbry (@nuggetpalooza) June 25, 2016
KEEP AN EYE ON
As mentioned earlier, it will be interesting to see how the team handles the backup catcher role going forward. It’s no secret that the team loves Hanigan and how he manages the pitchers, but Leon has definitely earned more playing time.
Sandy Leon entered 2016 w/a .225 SLG, 523rd of 524 active players w/200+ career PAs. He leads all of MLB in '16 w/.727 SLG (min. 25 PAs).
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) June 25, 2016
Hanigan is 35-years-old, while Leon is still just 27, so the team may opt for seniority. Still, it would not be surprising at all to see Hanigan designated for assignment following his return from the disabled list.