BOSTON -- In game No. 93 of the season for the Red Sox, Blake Swihart finally had the night he'd been searching for.Whether it was belting a rally-starting RBI double to the deepest part of Fenway Park, hauling around from first to score on a gapper or catching all nine
BOSTON -- In game No. 93 of the season for the Red Sox, Blake Swihart finally had the night he'd been searching for.
Whether it was belting a rally-starting RBI double to the deepest part of Fenway Park, hauling around from first to score on a gapper or catching all nine innings in a game the Red Sox had to piece together pitching-wise, Swihart (2-for-4, two runs) was ever-present while helping his team to an 8-4 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday.
"My legs will be tired probably tomorrow from running and stuff," said Swihart. "It felt good. My swings felt good. Just keep on going."
Meanwhile, the 64-29 Sox continue to roll in this final week before the All-Star break, extending their winning streak to eight games and a 3 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
There were many contributors for Boston in this one, including Andrew Benintendi, who helped his Final Vote candidacy with a pair of RBI doubles. Jackie Bradley Jr. added two doubles and two RBIs from the No. 9 spot in the order. Mookie Betts had a two-hit, two-run performance. Mitch Moreland had two more RBIs.
"Lineup-wise, everybody is doing an outstanding job," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "It's not only Mookie or J.D. [Martinez], Xander [Bogaerts] is doing an outstanding job. You saw Jackie today going the other way and Swihart. Like I said yesterday or the day before, it's becoming fun."
But nobody enjoyed the night as much as Swihart, who has been used sparingly this season due to roster construction. With Christian Vazquez undergoing surgery on his right pinkie finger Tuesday and expected to miss six to eight weeks, Swihart is finally going to get some reps behind the plate as a backup to Sandy Leon. This was just the second game Swihart started at catcher this season.
"We trust him," said Cora. "It's just a matter of numbers. We've got Christian, we've got Sandy. There's a reason he's with us. We trust the guy. It's just a matter of that it's tough to play three catchers, but he stayed with it. He's been working hard with [catching instructors Chad Epperson] and Jason [Varitek].
"He's been staying on top of the game, preparing like he's an everyday catcher. He did an outstanding job, blocked a few balls, called the game with conviction. Offensively, he got us going with that double. It was good to see."
Swihart helped guide the pitching staff for what was essentially a bullpen game. Starter Hector Velazquez, who is not stretched out, handed it over to the bullpen after throwing 49 pitches and allowing one run over three innings.
The bullpen took it home for the final six.
"It felt good to be back there," said Swihart. "Kind of having a bullpen day like that helped me out, just seeing a lot of those guys and trying to get in a rhythm with them."
Texas led briefly in this one when Rougned Odor smashed a solo homer to right in the second, but Swihart's double in the third ignited a five-run rally and the game was mostly controlled by the Red Sox from there.
Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo bore the brunt of a Boston offense that was bashing the ball from gap to gap in that third inning.
The big capper in the frame was provided by Bogaerts, who skied a two-run triple off the glove of center fielder Delino DeShields to make it 5-1, Boston.
"Gallardo did a good job the first few innings and then all of a sudden, Blake hits one in the triangle and Jackie hits a double and the line kept moving," said Cora. "That's what it's all about from top to bottom, just be relentless, and they've been doing that the last few weeks."
Of the six hits in the inning, four were for extra bases and five were hit with an exit velocity of 101 mph or more.
"A lot of big hits from a lot of guys tonight so it was a good win," Benintendi said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Rangers chipped it back to a two-run deficit at 6-4 when Joey Gallo smashed a two-run double to center in the sixth. But in the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox came right back. After Swihart reached on an infield hit, Bradley unloaded on a first-pitch fastball (96.4 mph) from Ricardo Rodriguez and roped it to the gap in left-center. Swihart reminded everyone of how athletic he is for a catcher by motoring all the way around from first to score. According to Statcast™, Swihart scored in 10.61 seconds and had a 27.5-mph sprint speed.
The Red Sox are in the midst of their third winning streak this season of eight games or more. The last Boston team to have as many as three winning streaks of eight game or more was the 1978 squad, which finished 99-64. The Sox are 35 games above .500 for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It seems that a game doesn't go by without either Betts or Bradley making a standout play. In this game, they both did. In the fifth, Betts raced back to the Boston bullpen, timed a short leap perfectly and snagged a fly ball from Nomar Mazara that would have been a two-run home run.
An inning later, it was Bradley's turn. Ronald Guzman belted a liner to center, and Bradley came in for a sensational, tumbling catch. Bradley had to go 50 feet in 3.4 seconds for a 33 percent catch probability. It was a four-star catch, giving Bradley seven for the season. Only DeShields has more with eight.
"Great play by Markus. I just wanted to kind of get over there, not necessarily to back him up or anything, but just to communicate to him, let him know he has some room," said Bradley. "Kind of let him know that he can make his jump whenever. He was able to get back there. You saw him put his hand out to try to feel for it. Communication helps. On my ball, I saw a liner. Hit it hard enough to where I could run in and get to it."
The Red Sox send ace Chris Sale to the mound for Wednesday night's finale of this three-game series against the Rangers. Sale has been on fire over the last month, going 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA in his last six starts. It will be an intriguing matchup, as the Rangers counter with ageless veteran Bartolo Colon (5-6, 4.65 ERA). Colon has made 17 career appearances at Fenway Park, going 7-6 with a 3.74 ERA. This is the first time the righty has pitched in Boston since April 23, 2013, when he fired seven scoreless innings for the Athletics en route to victory. 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.