By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Perhaps you arrived at this story because of the headline. (That is, typically, how these transactions work. See headline, click headline, read story. Alas, I digress.) And perhaps you thought, whether aloud or to yourself, “Why, that is simply preposterous. How silly. I’m upset now.”
Well, perhaps you’d be right. But only partially.
That’s because, after Thursday night’s game-tying double from Mitch Moreland, this much is no longer up for debate: Moreland has been the Red Sox’ most important player through a trying first few weeks of the season.
Though the Red Sox sit at a dreadfully disappointing 4-9 on the season, we can all agree that 4-9 is a lot better than 3-10, or 2-11, or 1-12, or, of course, 0-13. Whether the Red Sox would still be searching for win No. 1 without Moreland’s presence seems like a bit of a stretch. But consider this:
–In Boston’s win at Seattle, Moreland hit a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning when the Red Sox were trailing 6-4. They won 7-4.
–In Boston’s win in Oakland, Moreland hit a game-tying, two-run double in the eighth inning to make the score 3-3. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi drove in runs in the ninth inning, and Boston won 6-3.
–In Boston’s win in Arizona, Moreland smoked a solo home run in the seventh inning. The Red Sox won 1-0.
–And Thursday night vs. Toronto, Moreland battled Ken Giles in a seven-pitch at-bat, eventually crushing a 97 mph fastball to deep center field to bring the tying run home from first base. After a steal of third by pinch runner Eduardo Nunez and a pair of walks (one intentional), a Rafael Devers chopper over a drawn-in infield brought Nunez — pinch running for Moreland — home as the winning run. Moreland also hit a game-tying solo home run in the seventh inning.
That right there covers all four of Boston’s wins this season. Mitch Moreland was smack dab in the middle of all of them.
It’s a rather impressive stretch for Moreland, who leads the Red Sox in home runs (5), RBIs (12), and OPS (1.331). He’s also the team leader in slugging percentage by a country mile, with his .975 mark followed by J.D. Martinez’s .653 and Mookie Betts’ .600 slugging percentage.
Moreland being Moreland, he wasn’t exactly promoting himself after delivering yet another clutch, late-innings hit for the Red Sox.
“I don’t think I’m carrying [the team],” Moreland said, per RedSox.com. “If it’s not me, it would be somebody else.”
Hey, perhaps he’s right. Perhaps if Moreland opted to head to law school or join a heavy metal band instead of playing baseball this season, then someone in that same exact spot in the lineup in the same exact situation might have delivered in the same exact way for the Red Sox. Perhaps.
But also … perhaps not.
For the sake of the 2019 Red Sox, and for the sake of all us, we’ll never be able to know. And we’ll never have to know.
What we do know is that the Red Sox’ low win total could be even worse if not for the athletic exploits of one Mitch Moreland.
Unfortunately, somewhere out there, a heavy metal band could really use a bassist, though.