Sandy Leon impacts the game in a variety of ways, but his game-winning slide Saturday night might be one of the most important plays of the Boston Red Sox’s season.
The Red Sox had lost five of six coming into Saturday’s game with the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park, but with the game tied in the 10th inning, Leon saw an opportunity to grab a much-needed win, and he delivered.
Leon led off the 10th inning with a double off the Green Monster, and he moved to third on a wild pitch by Royals left-hander Mike Minor.
After an intentional walk to Mookie Betts, Eduardo Nunez came to the plate with a chance to end the game. The newest member of the Red Sox laced a rocket up the middle, but Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar made a diving grab and threw out Nunez from his backside for the second out of the inning.
Once the ball left Escobar’s hand, though, Leon broke for home. First baseman Eric Hosmer spun and threw a laser to catcher Drew Butera, but Leon was able to contort his body around the Royals backstop to give the Red Sox a walk-off, 9-8 win.
According to manager John Farrell, Leon’s decision to break for home was one he made on his own.
“With just one out, we’re in a standing speed, we’re not going on contact,” Farrell said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “We’re waiting to see the ball go through, and then he broke when he saw the ball go across the diamond. ”
But Leon said he darted home because Betts was in danger of being caught in a rundown.
The Red Sox were in danger of losing a game in which their offense finally broke out, but Leon did it all in two innings off the bench, tallying a double, throwing out Royals speedster Terrance Gore and finishing off the game with an acrobatic slide. Boston’s skid could have continued in heartbreaking fashion Saturday, but instead, Leon bolted for home, and now the Red Sox can focus on heading onward and upward.
Here are more notes from Red Sox vs. Royals.
— Eduardo Rodriguez has struggled since returning from the 10-day disabled list. The Red Sox left-hander lasted only four innings against the Royals, throwing 107 pitches in his short outing. Rodriguez now is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA since returning from a dislocated right kneecap that he suffered before a start against the Baltimore Orioles on June 1.
The left-hander has an average fastball velocity of 92.6 mph since his injury, which is down from 94 mph before the injury. Rodriguez’s dip in velocity has contributed to his short outings, as teams have been able to foul off his out pitches and drive up his pitch count. The 24-year-old lefty averaged six innings per start during his first 10 outing of the season, but since his return from injury is averaging a little less than five innings per outing.
— The Red Sox traded Double-A pitcher Luis Ysla to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations before Saturday’s game.
— Nunez recorded the second two-home run game of his career Saturday. His first came last season for the Minnesota Twins.
— Leon and Christian Vazquez each threw out a runner Saturday who had not been caught yet this season. Vazquez threw out Lorenzo Cain in the eighth inning and Leon gunned down Gore in the ninth.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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