BOSTON -- Doing his best Mookie Betts impersonation at the top of the batting order, Andrew Benintendi sprayed the ball around and out of Fenway Park, leading the Red Sox to an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays in Monday afternoon's opener of a three-game series.Benintendi, filling in for Betts
BOSTON -- Doing his best Mookie Betts impersonation at the top of the batting order, Andrew Benintendi sprayed the ball around and out of Fenway Park, leading the Red Sox to an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays in Monday afternoon's opener of a three-game series.
Benintendi, filling in for Betts (tightness in his left side, day to day) in the leadoff spot for the second straight day, fell just a double shy of the cycle and belted a three-run homer over the Green Monster in a five-run bottom of the fourth. The left fielder was 3-for-5 and had four RBIs.
Though Benintendi isn't quite at Betts-level hot yet, he's been a force for the Red Sox of late, homering four times in his last eight games and going 18-for-43 with two doubles, two triples, five homers and 16 RBIs in his last 12 games.
"He's staying on pitches," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You can see with his takes. When he's taking pitches it tells you a lot. We've been talking about him staying in the zone, not chasing pitches. He was able to get that pitch, hit in the air the other way. He's feeling good about himself, putting good at-bats, not expanding. Those are all good signs."
The opposite-field homer was the second of Benintendi's career, and the first time he's cleared the Monster at Fenway.
"I've hit a few out there in BP, but never in a game," Benintendi said. "I knew I hit it pretty good, but I wasn't sure right away. But I was glad it went out."
If Benintendi was hopeful his drive would leave the yard, there was no such wonder when J.D. Martinez connected an inning later. The slugger kept the Red Sox in attack mode in the fifth with a towering solo shot over everything in left for his 17th homer. The blast rocketed off Martinez's bat with an exit velocity of 108.7 mph and traveled a projected distance of 415 feet.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was another key contributor to the win, belting a double to left-center, scoring twice, stealing a base and making a dazzling catch in center to take extra bases away from Kendrys Morales in the sixth.
Winning pitcher David Price (5-4, 4.04 ERA) minimized the damage on a day the Blue Jays made him throw 95 pitches in five innings, 34 of them coming in the top of the second. Price allowed four hits and two runs on the day, walking four and striking out four.
In the four starts since Price returned after missing a start due to carpal tunnel syndrome, he is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA. Boston has won all four of those games.
"I've thrown the ball better my last four, and everything kind of continues to feel better," said Price. "Taking my last four outings, my last inning has been the inning I've given up runs. That's something I want to kind of do a better job of."
The Red Sox improved to an MLB best 37-17 with the win and now lead the Yankees by two games in the American League East.
"We've battled quite a bit through these 50-whatever games and we've played really good baseball," said Price. "We've stuck together and played good defense, timely hitting, our pitching has been good. That's what good teams do."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
JBJ finding form: After an epic slump to start the season, Bradley is starting to look like himself at the plate. In his last seven games, the center fielder is hitting .304 with five runs, three doubles and a triple. His double to left helped set up Benintendi's homer. In the previous at-bat, Bradley hit a scalding line drive (102.6-mph exit velocity) to center, but it was right at Kevin Pillar for an out.
"It was tough for Jack and tough for us to watch, because we all know how much he cares and how hard he works. All the work he does in the weight room, the video room -- he's MVP in the cage and to see somebody struggle like that you feel for them," said Price. "For him to swing it the way he's swung it the past six, seven games, that's good. He never let's it affect his defense and that's what the really good players do. They don't take their at-bats out there into the field. He continues to make web gem after web gem, and that's why we love Jack."
Price continues to have strong results against the Blue Jays, a team he is now 19-3 against in 28 career appearances. That gives Price the highest winning percentage against the Blue Jays by any pitcher (minimum of 10 appearances) in history, and the third highest for any pitcher against any single opponent in the Divisional Era (since 1969).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The moment that electrified Fenway the most on Monday was when Bradley raced back to the deepest part of Fenway in right-center, twisted his body so his back was facing home plate and made a tremendous grab in front of the wall in the triangle to take extra bases away from Morales in the sixth.
Morales had a hit probability of 91 percent on a ball that was scorched at 104.4 mph, had a launch angle of 28 degrees and traveled a projected distance of 415 feet, per Statcast™. Since 2015, batted balls with that combination of launch angle/exit velocity are home runs approximately nine out of 10 times. Bradley needed to go 107 feet on a direct line to get to the ball, and wound up going 116 total with the twisting and turning as he tracked the ball. Right fielder Brock Holt was so excited about the play he gave Bradley a hug.
"I'm just a hugger, man," said Holt. "He was just asking me about hugging J.D. when he hits homers. That's just what I felt like doing. Jackie made a heck of a play, and my reaction was to go give him a hug. But, yeah, we're having a good time and that was a cool play to kind of be right there to see."
HE SAID IT
"You know me, I'm the softest guy in this clubhouse. If that bothered me, I would have been out of the game. I'm soft. It wasn't painful. I'm fine. If it was painful, I would have come out."
-- Price, speaking sarcastically when asked if a line drive by Yangervis Solarte that hit him on the left forearm and biceps bothered him at all for the remainder of his start
"I'm soft, period. It's not a joke. I'm soft. No, I'm soft. It's cold, can't pitch. My hands tingling, can't do my job. That's it."
-- Price, obviously bothered by perceived criticism from when he exited an April 11 start against the Yankees due to numbness in his fingers and then missed a start in New York on May 9 due to the diagnosis of mild carpal tunnel syndrome
Right-hander Rick Porcello, who has been inconsistent of late after a red-hot start, takes the ball for Tuesday's middle game of this three-game series against Marco Estrada and the Blue Jays. Porcello was 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his first seven starts, but just 1-2 with a 7.29 ERA in his last four. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.