BOSTON — Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have given new life to the Red Sox offense since the beginning of August.
Consistency at the plate has plagued both players throughout their brief major league careers, but that’s been much less of a concern over the last five weeks. Betts is batting .344 with 17 RBIs, 18 runs, nine doubles, two triples and three home runs since Aug 1. In that same span, Bradley is batting .365 with 27 RBIs, 29 runs, 12 doubles, four triples and six home runs.
Betts has done most of his damage from the leadoff spot, while Bradley has provided offense from the bottom of the order (usually the eighth spot).
Thanks in large part to these young outfielders, the Red Sox ranked second in the American League with 161 runs scored in August, and they already have scored six or more runs in four of their five games in September.
In addition to their impressive offensive production, this duo has provided stellar defense in the outfield. Very rarely do they not track down a ball in the outfield, even ones hit in the gap. On the occasion they don’t make an out, they at least prevent the runner from taking an extra base. In 11 games together, the outfield trio of Betts, Bradley and Rusney Castillo has totaled eight assists.
On Sunday, it was Betts’ turn to make a spectacular catch. In the fourth inning, he ran all the way into the triangle to track down a fly ball right at the edge of the bullpen wall.
The Red Sox don’t have much to play for over the final 26 games, but it’s encouraging to see two young players dramatically improve at the plate after going through struggles and inconsistency early in their careers. Betts and Bradley both project to be key pieces in the team’s 2016 puzzle.
— Eduardo Rodriguez improved his record to 9-5 with a win Sunday. He gave up one earned run and eight hits with seven strikeouts and one walk over seven innings.
“Solid outing, seven quality innings,” Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said. “These last four starts, his third win. Twenty-six innings, five earned runs, what’s not to say about this little run he’s on. He pitched into the seventh inning, tiny little nick with the 24-pitch inning, but everything else was outstanding. Control of the pitch counts. He was on the attack. Great outing, kind of set the tone for us to do some things offensively. Good day.”
— Rodriguez arguably is Boston’s top young pitcher, so the team doesn’t want him to throw too many innings and risk injury. He’s already at 152 2/3 innings between the majors and Triple-A this season, which is a career high. Lovullo said the Red Sox won’t just shut Rodriguez down at some point. Instead, it will be a gradual process.
“We’re trying to figure out that balance right now,” Lovullo said. “This next turn after the off day, I’ll have an update with some rotation adjustments. We’re trying to control that. What’s the (innings) cap? We haven’t defined that number, but there is going to be a pullback at some point. Whether it be that sixth starter, whether it be pushing him back with off days, plus that sixth starter.
“We don’t want to let it get too far away from us, but we might control his innings per outing. There’s a number of ways we’re going to work on doing that.”
— David Ortiz hit the 497th homer of his career in the first inning. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that his 500th home run might not happen at Fenway Park. After a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays that begins Monday, the Sox head out on the road for nine games at HR-friendly ballparks.
He finished with three RBIs in Sunday’s win, giving him 86 on the season. His chances of tallying a ninth season with 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs are increasing.
— Ortiz left the game in the fifth inning with right calf tightness. Lovullo said Ortiz was taken out for precautionary reasons, is considered “day-to-day” and will be re-evaluated Monday.
— Lovullo said third baseman Pablo Sandoval is “probable” for Monday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Sandoval didn’t play in this Phillies series after suffering mid-back tightness before Friday’s game.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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