Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff had a tough decision to make Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Roenicke and Co. needed to decide whether or not to pinch hit for Mitch Moreland to lead off the seventh inning with the series finale against the Blue Jays knotted at three. Moreland homered in his first at-bat of the game, but Toronto was trotting out left-hander Ryan Borucki to start the frame.
Moreland stayed in the game and was punched out by Borucki on five pitches. But Roenicke’s decision to keep Moreland in the contest ultimately paid off, as the Boston first baseman delivered the club a series win with a walk-off, opposite-field home run in the ninth inning.
After the game, Roenicke recalled the conversation he had with his staff heading into the bottom half of the seventh.
“…When he’s (Moreland) feeling this way, you want him up there as much as you can,” Roenicke said, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “We had a decision to make in his at-bat before, whether we let him face the lefty or not. Actually, Tim Hyers and Jerry (Narron) said, ‘Yes. We want him. We want him again, whether it’s the ninth or tenth inning. We want him up there again.”
Given the way Moreland has been swinging the bat through the first few weeks of the season, it’s easy to understand why Hyers and Narron were adamant about wanting the 11th-year pro available late in the ball game.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Blue Jays:
— Moreland was sitting offspeed when he stepped in the box with two outs in the ninth, and Toronto right-hander Thomas Hatch delivered exactly what the first baseman was expecting.
“I just wanted to go up and get a good pitch,” Moreland said. “That’s kind of been my gameplan all year so far. I was watching him. It seemed like he threw a lot of soft stuff, so that’s what I kind of went up there looking for. Got a pitch up — kind of a backup slider — and put a good swing on it.”
— The Red Sox received a quality start from Nathan Eovaldi, who struck out 10 over six innings while only allowing three runs on three hits. The right-hander didn’t have all of his pitches working Sunday, but he was satisfied with his fourth outing of the campaign.
“…I felt like I would have been able to do a little bit better if I had my splitter going more,” Eovaldi said. “I felt like toward the end of the game I was throwing them in there a little earlier in the count, keeping them off the curveball. But overall I felt really good today.”
— Boston received an encouraging sign from Rafael Devers, who entered the rubber match having gone hitless in three of the club’s previous four games. The young third baseman came up clutch in the sixth inning when he walloped a game-tying solo home run. Roenicke believes it could take only one positive at-bat to turn things around for Devers.
“There’s no doubt one play — and it can be anything,” Roenicke said. “It could be just a good walk, it could be a base hit, it could be a bloop, it could be a homer like Devers’, it could be a great defensive play.”
— In addition to pitching matchups, Roenicke’s daily lineup decision on Moreland depends on how the first baseman’s legs are feeling. While Moreland might have powered through days he wasn’t feeling 100 percent in seasons past, that might not be the best course of action in 2020.
“We can’t really take a chance this year because of the short season,” Roenicke said. “If I think a guy needs a day off, I need to give him a day off because if I leave him out there too long and he goes down, now we’re 10 days on the IL and this season, to be on the IL, pretty much kills your team. So that’s why — even though we know it’s important to put those guys out there — it’s probably more important I don’t push them to the point where they end up on the IL.”
— Boston received a great collective outing from its bullpen. Josh Osich, Austin Brice and Matt Barnes combined to throw three hitless innings in which they only allowed one walk while striking out five.