OAKLAND -- With the eyes of the nation turned to the Red Sox and their historic start, manager Alex Cora reminded his team on Friday to "stay humble, stay hungry."Unfazed by the spotlight, Boston continued its march into the record books with a 7-3 win in Oakland in Friday night's
OAKLAND -- With the eyes of the nation turned to the Red Sox and their historic start, manager Alex Cora reminded his team on Friday to "stay humble, stay hungry."
Unfazed by the spotlight, Boston continued its march into the record books with a 7-3 win in Oakland in Friday night's series opener behind a three-run homer from Jackie Bradley Jr. and a Mitch Moreland grand slam. The Red Sox improved to 17-2, becoming the fifth team in the live-ball era to win 17 of its first 19 games, and the first to do so since the 1987 Brewers.
Two of the other four teams to start 17-2, the 1984 Tigers and the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, went on to win the World Series.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"There's a lot of people watching the team now, and there's a lot of people talking about the team," Cora said. "You can't help it. You flip the channels, and they're talking about what's going on. But they're humble and hungry, and they're still doing it, and that makes me prouder."
After Oakland jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Boston left-hander Thomas Pomeranz, who was making his 2018 debut, the Red Sox bats picked up their power surge right where they left off in Anaheim.
Bradley's long ball in the second tied the game before Moreland's slam in the sixth put Boston ahead for good.
"Really, in that situation, I'm just trying to go up there and get a pitch up in the zone," Moreland said. "It just happened to be a slider that kind of popped up out of his hand, and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Moreland's shot was Boston's MLB-leading fifth grand slam in its last 12 games. The Red Sox did not hit one in 2017. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the first time Boston has ever hit five grand slams before May 1.
Bradley and Moreland's homers were Boston's 12th and 13th on this road trip. The 11 long balls the Red Sox hit in Anaheim before coming to Oakland were their third-most ever in a three-game series. The Sox entered the game with 24 dingers, sixth in the Majors.
• Amazing facts from Red Sox's historic start
Under Cora, Boston's lineup entered the season looking to be more aggressive at swinging at pitches in the zone. Moreland's first-pitch grand slam was Boston's sixth homer of the year on the first pitch of the at-bat.
"Regardless of who's on the mound, you look for pitches in the middle of the zone," Cora said. "And if they get it, they're going to drive it."
Despite Pomeranz's short outing, the Boston bullpen combined for 5 1/3 innings of shutout relief, headlined by three scoreless innings from Hector Velazquez. Red Sox relievers have not allowed a run in their last 19 2/3 innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Barnes escapes a jam: Oakland had its best chance to cut into Boston's lead in the seventh, when the A's loaded the bases with a Lowrie double, a Khris Davis hit-by-pitch and Matt Olson's two-out single. The A's sent up pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to face Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, and the right-hander silenced a crowd of 23,473 by getting Joyce to swing through a 3-2 fastball.
"[Pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie] had told us earlier in the day that Joyce is a pinch-hitter in a situation like that, so I kind of had a good game plan," Barnes said. "I'd faced him a few times before. It's being competitive in the zone, throwing pitches and not giving in at the same time, and it ultimately comes down to executing."
JBJ goes yard again: Bradley's blast traveled an estimated 436 feet to right and left his bat at 106 mph, according to Statcast™. It is the fourth-longest homer of his career as measured by Statcast™, just five feet shy of his career-long of 441 feet. It was Bradley's second in four games.
"Just a good pitch to hit in the zone," Bradley said. "I couldn't be too picky. I had two strikes on me. He was doing a really good job keeping the ball down, and on that particular pitch, he left it up. I was able to put a good swing on it."
POMERANZ CAN'T FIND RHYTHM
Pomeranz had struggled in the spring with finding his mechanics while dealing with a mild flexor strain in his throwing arm, and in his return from injury, he had trouble shaking off the rust in a 45-pitch first inning in which he allowed three runs.
"I think it's a result of the first [start]," Pomeranz said. "Mechanically, I didn't really feel like I had much rhythm out there tonight, and after a certain point, I just stopped trying to. I just started trying to locate and started pitching better."
Pomeranz found his groove after focusing less on his velocity and starting to emphasize location and mixing up his pitches. Seven of the 11 outs he recorded came on strikeouts, including four straight spanning the second and third innings.
Last season, Velazquez allowed six earned runs in five innings in a MLB debut to forget at the Oakland Coliseum. But as he bounced around between starting and relief roles, he found a niche as an effective long reliever.
"I honestly really wanted to get back here," Velazquez said through a translator. "I had it in my mind, I called it into existence, and I knew that I had what it took to pitch well here. Like we say in Mexico, I was ready to get my revenge. Thankfully, God gave me the opportunity to get that tonight."
Velazquez earned the win after pitching three shutout innings in relief of Pomeranz, scattering four hits while striking out one batter.
"It's funny, because I look up at one point at the scoreboard, and they show the ERA of him here, and I remember [LeVangie] talking about his outing here last year, and he struggled. I was like, 'Oh my God, what am I doing?'" Cora joked. "But he was outstanding."
Boston's +70 run differential is the second-best in the modern era (since 1900) for a team that won at least 17 of its first 19 games. Only the 1918 New York Giants had a better mark, with a +75 run differential during an 18-1 start. The 2018 Sox lead the way among 17-2 teams, though, with the 1981 Oakland A's next at +64.
HE SAID IT
"This team right now, it's fun to play on. I don't think any score is really out of our reach at this point -- we have so much confidence going up to the plate." -- Pomeranz
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Bradley's homer would not have tied the game if a long foul down the right-field line by Oakland's Chad Pinder in the bottom of the first had drifted a foot or so to the left. The foul traveled a Statcast-estimated 400 feet and was judged to be foul by first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
A crew-chief review was initiated after A's manager Bob Melvin conferred with the umpires. The call was upheld. Pinder was eventually called out on strikes, leaving Oakland's lead at 3-0.
Chris Sale has allowed one or fewer runs in each of his four starts to begin the 2018 campaign, and he has some good company: Roger Clemens was the last Red Sox starter to accomplish that feat, in 1991. Sale will look to extend that stellar start Saturday at 9:05 p.m. ET against Sean Manaea and the A's.
Do-Hyoung Park is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.