Tuesday was a big night for a pair of the Boston Red Sox’s bottom-of-the-order bats.
Blake Swihart got the nod at catcher while hitting eighth and Jackie Bradley Jr. manned his usual post of center field, batting in the ninth spot. Both came through in the 8-4 victory over the Texas Rangers, combining to go 4-for-8 with three doubles.
Swihart got a five-run rally going in the third with a one-out double to the triangle in center that nearly left the park. Bradley followed that up with a double of his own to score the catcher. Another double from Bradley in the sixth gave the Sox a three-run cushion.
Both players’ struggles at the dish have been well documented this season. Swihart has gotten very limited time both at the plate and in the field due to the logjam of utility players, such as Brock Holt, getting more pronounced roles on the roster.
But with Christian Vazquez out for six to eight weeks with a fractured finger, Swihart has a great opportunity in front of him to get some reps as he backs up Sandy Leon, who has been swinging a hot bat for some time.
“We trust him, it’s just a matter of numbers,” Alex Cora said of Swihart after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “We’ve got Christian, we’ve got Sandy, but there’s a reason he’s with us: we trust the guy. It’s tough to play three catchers but he’s stayed with it, he’s been working hard … preparing like he’s an everyday catcher.
“He did an outstanding job,” Cora continued. “Blocked a few balls, called the game with conviction. Offensively he got us going with that double, so it was good to see.”
Lest we forget it was just three years ago Swihart posted the best batting average for a Sox rookie catcher since Carlton Fisk. A similar notion goes for Bradley, who, despite plenty of offensive trouble, has gone on insane hot streaks over his career.
The talent in the first two-thirds of the Red Sox lineup is unquestioned, but the sheer dominance is clear when the bottom half pulls its weight as well.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rangers game:
— Hector Velazquez got the spot start Tuesday with Brian Johnson on the disabled list, and he proved how reliable he can be when tabbed as the starter.
Save for a misplaced sinker in the second that resulted in a Rougned Odor moonshot, Velazquez gave the Sox what they needed to get through the night. He allowed just the one run on two hits with as many walks and strikeouts over three innings.
It obviously isn’t ideal for Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz to be on the disabled list, but Velazquez and Johnson alike have proven they can serve as more than just long relievers when needed.
— Matt Barnes has been tough to hit all season, just ask right-handed opponents.
With his 1-2-3 inning Tuesday — all strikeouts — righties now are 9-for-90 against Barnes this season. And in his last nine games the right-hander has been especially untouchable, not allowing a single run while striking out 16 and walking two in nine innings of work.
After the game, Cora gushed over his late-inning reliever.
“Velocity is way up, you can see it,” Cora said. “He’s becoming one of the best relievers in the big leagues. His stuff is outstanding. … It’s good to see they way he’s dominating.”
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