June 8, 2021

Monday night, the Boston Red Sox completed their second three-game sweep in two nights. You know, that old chestnut.

Off-days after winning a big series are always a welcome break. However, a May 30th Fenway rainout forced the Red Sox to play a make-up game against the Miami Marlins the night after sweeping up the Bronx better than Rudy Giuliani did in the ’80s. The Sox, who took the first two games of that series against Miami two weekends ago, finished it off Monday by beating the Marlins 5-3. In doing so, Boston pulled off the rare feat of closing out two sweeps in two consecutive nights.

But the real story is what happened in New York this past weekend. 

The Red Sox had lost three of their last four coming into their first series of the season against New York. The Yankees had a chance to leapfrog, or at least pull even with, a second-place Sox team whose offense had gone stone cold.

Rafael Devers had forgotten how to hit fastballs. Marwin Gonzalez had gone so cold from both sides of the plate that he’d considered hitting centerhanded. Kike Hernandez had gone hitless for a week. Bobby Dalbec’s average had dipped back below the Mondoza line. Worst of all, an injury during Friday night’s game sidelined J.D. Martinez, the Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez of the Red Sox lineup, for the final two games of the series. 

Well, after this weekend, I’m petitioning for the fourth-place New York Yankees to be officially renamed the Gotham Slumpbusters.

Rafael Devers set the tone in the first inning Friday night by pimp-slapping a Michael King 0-2 fastball to Staten frigging Island to give the Sox an early 3-0 lead. The swing said “Know your Role,” the bat flip said “Shut your Mouth,” and the slow trot reminded everyone in New York of the Rafael Devers that did this as a rookie.

Marwin Gonzalez, after a season-long slump that had threatened his status as a starter, was a beast this weekend. He doubled down the left field line to drive in a pair of runs and put the Yankees’ lights out Friday night. He doubled down the other foul line in the sixth the next night to break a 2-2 tie. And he struck yet again Sunday with a two-run homer in the seventh to even the game at 3. I couldn’t remember Marwin Gonzalez getting three hits all season before this past weekend. Yet he put on his big boy pants in a huge series against the hated Yankees and came up with crucial knocks late in each game.

Kike Hernandez, hitless in his past 27 at bats, hit a massive RBI double in the eighth inning Saturday to put the Red Sox ahead for good. Two batters later, serial whiffer Bobby Dalbec obliterated the baseball, along with Chad Green’s manhood, 453 feet to left center to put the game out of reach.

These four hitters in particular had been rendered virtually useless at the plate last week against the Astros. Oddly enough, it was the arms of the much heralded Yankee pitching staff that served up the cookies that their starving bats feasted on to get back on track.

The Boston pitching staff stepped up in much the same way. Aside from closer Matt Barnes, the bullpen has been the biggest weakness of this team throughout the year. But the middle relievers all came to play this weekend. The embattled Hirokazu Sawamura dominated for two innings Friday night, striking out five. Adam Ottavino threw a perfect inning Saturday and then another on Sunday. Josh Taylor, who had been utterly useless until mid-May, has somehow not been scored upon in his last 14 appearances, culminating with an epic strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the eighth Sunday night with the tying run on first base.

A small downside to the weekend was Matt Barnes blowing his second save of the season in his third appearance of the series. But it’s hard to complain about a guy that earned two saves and a win over the weekend. That’s like complaining about the cost of insuring your Lamborghini.

None of these wins was a blowout. None was a dominant performance from a starting pitcher. None saw a Red Sox hitter throw the team on his back for three straight games. These were all complete wins from a complete team.

It’s criminal that I got this far into the column before mentioning Alex Cora. The way he manages the bullpen, sticks with slumping hitters until they make monumental contributions at critical moments, and seems to make the right decision every single time is stupefying. Look as recently as Monday night against the Marlins for a perfect example.

Nick Pivetta, the most consistent starting pitcher on a Red Sox team with no ace, struggled through 4 2/3 innings (2 earned runs, 7 hits, 3 walks). With Boston leading 5-2 in the fifth and Pivetta in a two-out jam, Cora yanked his starting pitcher in favor of Garrett Whitlock. Whitlock retired the only batter he faced, getting out of the jam to preserve the lead. Unfortunately for Pivetta, the fifth inning hook meant that he could not earn a win. Do you have any clue how many managers would be too scared of alienating their best starting pitcher to take him out of the game in that situation? Yet Cora did not hesitate. He has the brains, he has the balls, and most importantly, he has the trust of his team. Nothing against Terry Francona, but he’s the best all-around manager Boston has ever seen.

Tuesday, the Red Sox have the chance to extend their five-game winning streak and get some revenge on those philandering Houston Astros. The Yankees have been humbled, Iron Sheik-style. Now it’s time for the second-most evil team in the league to get their comeuppance.

Oh, by the way …

Chris Sale threw on the field before Monday’s game.

Boston Red Sox Fan

By Luke

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