By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox on Wednesday night broke from recent tradition and actually won a game by a comfortable margin.
After earning a pair of extra-inning, walk-off wins against the Phillies to start the week, the Red Sox went down to Philadelphia and took care of a business with a 7-3 win. Considering the Phillies are the worst team in Major League Baseball, the victory was much more in line with what the Red Sox would prefer.
Still, with starting pitcher Brian Johnson exiting the game after retiring just eight batters, the win didn’t come easy. It came after some excellent work from the bullpen, and it came with some big-time help from some outstanding defense.
Xander Bogaerts ended the Phillies’ threat in the bottom of the fourth by ranging to his right, going to the jump-throw near the edge of the outfield grass and getting the throw to first in the air, beating Jeremy Hellickson by a full step. (WATCH HERE.)
The next inning, Mookie Betts got a Howie Kendrick flare in his sights and quickly reacted, racing toward the right field foul line and making a diving catch. (WATCH HERE.) MLB Statcast said he traveled 57 feet in 3.7 seconds on a ball that had a a 32 percent chance of being caught. Betts’ four-hit, two-homer night received the bulk of the attention after the win, but that catch wasn’t too bad.
In the bottom of the sixth inning with one out and nobody on, Pablo Sandoval went into a full-on Superman dive to stab Maikel Franco’s chopper before hopping to his feet and firing to first for the out. (WATCH HERE.) Considering Sandoval has had his issues dealing with the most routine of plays in the field, that one was by far the most surprising of the night. (He made a nice backhand stab earlier in the game, too.)
Two batters later, Dustin Pedroia handled a hot shot up the middle on a high hop with his backhand, casually spinning and firing on to first to end the inning. (WATCH HERE.) NESN color analyst Jerry Remy, himself an MLB second baseman for 10 years, couldn’t help but react audibly in the booth to what was roughly the 3,000th impressive play by Pedroia.
(Pedroia also did a nice job of holding the bag at second on a wide throw from third baseman Josh Rutledge in the eighth.)
And fittingly, the Sox outfield made two more outstanding plays in the ninth inning to secure the victory. First, Andrew Benintendi leaped and reached over the wall in foul ground in left field to snag a lazy fly from Freddy Galvis to record the first out of the ninth. (WATCH HERE.)
Two batters later, Odubel Herrera smoked a line drive to left-center field. As he is wont to do, Herrera artfully flipped his bat out of his hands while exiting the left-handed batter’s box, believing he had himself an extra-base hit. But Bradley has his own traditions too, which include tracking sharply hit fly balls that might otherwise fall. Bradley sprinted back and to his right, making a leaping catch at the edge of the warning track to steal extra bases and end the game. (WATCH HERE.)
Though it’s mostly impossible to quantify, it may have been as impressive a defensive showing as any team will have all year long across the majors.