Mookie Betts heroics finish stellar three-city trip
Via Boston Herald
CINCINNATI — Best road trip of the year, and you thought the Red Sox wouldn’t end it with an exclamation point?
Given a golden opportunity to tighten their grip on the American League East, the Red Sox put together yet another late-inning rally for yet another win, this time 5-4 to complete a series sweep against the Cincinnati Reds. The Sox’ magic number to clinch the division fell to three.
The first-place team returns to Fenway Park in firm control of its own division and own fate. Even a losing record during the final homestand could do the trick.
“It goes back to, I think, their competitiveness and their never-dying relentlessness,” manager John Farrell said.
The Red Sox have won six straight, 8-of-9 on the road trip and 14-of-17 overall. Four of the eight wins during the trip were come-from-behind.
Trailing 4-1 in the eighth inning yesterday, the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out for Mookie Betts, who cleared them with a game-tying double — his 46th of the season, third-most in baseball. He clapped his hands and shouted toward the dugout.
But he wasn’t finished.
When Rafael Devers slapped a two-out infield single to the left side, Betts rounded third and kept going, scoring the go-ahead run on a head-first slide just ahead of the tag.
“With (Raisel) Iglesias pitching, I know it’s going to be tough to score,” Betts said. “I know Devvy runs good down the line, and I figured he would have a chance to beat it. With that play having to happen, me running home was going to be a tough play at home.”
September has been a resurgent month for Betts, who’s looked more like the near-MVP of a year ago. Not only did he double in three runs and use his speed to score another yesterday, he also threw out two baserunners from right field.
“It shows you every skillset he has,” Farrell said. “He cut down two baserunners with his arm strength, he drives the ball into the gap to clear the bases to tie things up, and then the instinctual baserunner he is. He is dynamic on the base paths (with) his instincts. Raffy busted his tail down the line to beat out an infield single. Mookie never broke stride. Certainly was an exciting play and an exciting player that you saw all dimensions from today.”
Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel once again teamed up for a scoreless eighth and ninth innings, an emphatic finish to a road trip that has all but locked up the division. The Yankees’ strong play this month is all that’s kept the Red Sox from clinching already.
“If we need to put up a touchdown, the boys are putting up a touchdown,” starter Doug Fister said. “It’s that kind of mentality that we’re never out of the fight until the fight’s over. The boys have definitely been showing a lot of heart, and we’re learning a lot about ourselves. That’s a great thing for us going into our future.”
As the New York Yankees fell into a large early deficit in Toronto, opening the door for the division lead to grow to five games, the Red Sox fell into a hole of their own. Fister allowed a pair of two-out base hits, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. made a throwing error and the Reds pulled ahead 3-1.
In his 10th start filling in for David Price, Fister was better than his previous two times out, but he ultimately allowed three runs in 51?3 innings. Speedy Billy Hamilton added a run for the Reds, scoring from first when the Red Sox botched a rundown and failed to cover home.
“We’ve got some things we’ve got to shore up defensively,” Farrell said.
But even with the miscues, the Red Sox were relentless. All hoped seemed lost, and suddenly they had a runner on base, then three, then Betts at the plate, then Betts rounding third and heading for home.
“We play 27 outs, sometimes more,” Betts said. “It just kind of shows that you have to play a complete game against us.”