BOSTON — After being swept in Sunday’s doubleheader, the Red Sox bounced back Monday night, scoring five times in the fifth inning in their 9-6 win over the Oakland Athletics. The Red Sox have now won seven straight series openers to begin the year, the longest streak since 1917.
Slugger Mike Napoli delivered the big blow, a towering grand slam into the Monster seats in the fifth, which gave the Sox an 8-3 lead at the time. Jarrod Saltalamacchia added an RBI double later in the inning as the Red Sox sent 11 hitters to the plate. Napoli is one of the best hitters in all of baseball right now as he is now12 for his last 33 (.364) with six doubles, a triple, two home runs and 15 RBIs in that stretch.
“It was a good offensive night, we knew [A.J] Griffin was going to come in with a high strike percentage,” manager John Farrell said. “I thought our guys did a great job going early in the count and squaring them up. The five-run fifth, obviously highlighted by the grand slam was key for us.”
The Red Sox also had a number of players at the bottom of their lineup break out of slumps as Will Middlebrooks (two runs) snapped an 4-for-45 slump with a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Saltalmacchia’s double was just his fourth hit in his last 10 games. Finally, Stephen Drew entered the game 3-for-30 to open his season, but he singled in the fourth, on top of a deep fly out to the warning track in his first at-bat, showing signs he may be turning a corner.
Felix Doubront, making just his third start of the season didn’t have his best stuff, struggling with his command at times, but it was good enough to pick up his first win of the year. Doubront went 6 2/3 innings allowing three runs on just three hits, while striking out eight. The Southpaw did walk five batters and threw two wild pitches, throwing a career-high 113 pitches. The Red Sox starters remain the only team in the league not to allow more than four runs in a given outing.
Clayton Mortensen relived Doubront, but allowed three runs in just 2/3 of an inning before being replaced by Alex Wilson. Wilson walked the only hitter he faced, but Junichi Tazawa came in to get two straight outs and the Red Sox out of the inning, only giving up three runs. Because of the three runs allowed by the bullpen, Andrew Bailey (save) had to come on for the ninth, pitching on the third consecutive day, making it unlikely he is available tomorrow.
The teams will resume their three-game series Tuesday (6:35, NESN) as Alfredo Aceves will make his third start of the season and be opposed by Bartolo Colon.
What they’ll be saying: Seeing the offense put up nine runs was a welcomed sign, especially getting contributions from the bottom of the lineup, which has been struggling of late. Although Middlebrooks homered, he did finish 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, so he isn’t completely out of his funk, but obviously the homer did give him a confidence boost … With Mortensen, Wilson and Tazawa getting middle relief duties it gave Koji Uehara a well-deserved night off, but it also may have raised a concern as Mortensen gave up the three runs and allowed the A’s back into the game. Bailey continues to impress in the closer’s role, although it isn’t always perfect. He picked up his fourth save of the season after being named co-AL Player of the Week earlier in the day. It seems like he will remain the closer when Joel Hanrahan returns, but Farrell said any discussions regarding that situation are premature.