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Johnson feeds off Sox rotation mates, HRs

April 2, 2018

MIAMI -- One turn through the rotation, the Red Sox have established the start of what could be something special.Just imagine when they have their starting pitching at full health.Christopher Johnson (six innings, one run, five strikeouts) became the latest Boston starter to shine on Monday night at Marlins Park,

MIAMI -- One turn through the rotation, the Red Sox have established the start of what could be something special.
Just imagine when they have their starting pitching at full health.
Christopher Johnson (six innings, one run, five strikeouts) became the latest Boston starter to shine on Monday night at Marlins Park, lifting the Red Sox to a 7-3 victory, their fourth in a row after losing on Opening Day.
And in this one, the Sox got something they hadn't seen in the first four games -- an outburst by the offense.
The 12-hit attack was led by former Marlin Hanley Ramirez (two-run homer), Mookie Betts (homer, two hits), the sizzling Xander Bogaerts (two more hits, .455 average) and Rafael Devers (two hits, double).
"You could see it [Sunday], we hit some balls hard," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "I think six or seven balls we crushed were outs. That was a good sign. And today, Devers hit three or four, he barreled them. Obviously Hanley, that's good to see. Just stay with the process. We're not preaching launch angle or hitting the ball in the air. We're preaching swinging at strikes. When we do that, we're going to be better. It was a good sign."

But the best and most consistent sign has been the starting pitching. Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Hector Velazquez and Johnson each allowed one earned run or less the first turn through for an ERA of 0.90 over 30 innings. Per Elias, that mark is the team's third lowest through five games since the American League started recording earned runs in 1913. The two better years were '19 (0.70) and '14 (0.85).
"Everyone feeds off each other, it's huge," Johnson said. "You see one guy go out there and do well, you want to repeat that. I think that's how it works."
Velazquez and Johnson are holding down spots for lefties Thomas Pomeranz (17 wins last year) and Eduardo Rodriguez, who both started the season on the disabled list but could be back in the somewhat near future.
What the Red Sox are learning now is that they have good depth in the rotation.
"It's important because we know we have to take care of these guys, David and Chris," Cora said. "And when you have a deep rotation, it's going to help us pick spots. When everybody comes back, obviously those two guys, three guys, are really, really good, [Steven] Wright, Eduardo and Drew."
The Marlins actually jumped out first in this one. Brian Anderson, Miami's No. 9 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, connected on his first big league home run.

After being held in check through three innings by Marlins righty Trevor Richards, who was making his Major League debut, Boston's offense awoke in the fourth inning and kept it going.
"They're kind of a different animal than we've seen through the first four [games]," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It's more of an all or nothing for the Cubs. This is a little different offense, where they'll take their hits. They'll kind of ding you a little bit, and they're dangerous also."
Behind Sale, the Red Sox will try to close out the road trip in style on Tuesday.
"It's what we expected," Cora said. "We know how special they can be. We know the first three guys, but the next two, they were outstanding the last two games. The game plan, all the information we have gathering and executing, it's good to see. It's a good road trip, and it can be a great road trip. We've got the right guy going."

Swinging bunt gets things going: Rallies were rare for the Red Sox in the opening four-game series against the Rays, but they put together one in a three-run fourth inning on Monday in a fortuitous way, starting with a two-out, swinging bunt by Bogaerts that stayed fair down the third-base line. According to Statcast™, the roller had a hit probability of 12 percent, but all the Marlins could do was hope it rolled foul. Eduardo Nunez followed with an RBI liner that hit the third-base bag and went for a double, and Christian Vazquez knocked a two-run double off third baseman Anderson's glove. Boston turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.
"It started with an infield hit," Cora said. "That's a start. All the balls we hit hard yesterday evens out."

Marlins squander opportunity: Down 3-1, the Marlins looked ready to mount a comeback in the fourth when Justin Bour and Cameron Maybin led off the inning with singles. But with one out, Johnson made a huge pitch, getting John Holaday to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. The Red Sox would extend the lead from there, making the missed opportunity all the more costly.

Hanley makes himself (back at) home: If the Red Sox had some fortune on their side with some well-placed hits in the fourth, Ramirez gave them a legitimate laser in the fifth, a two-run rocket that soared into Miami's bullpen in left to make it a 5-1 game. It marked Ramirez's second career homer against the Marlins. The drive had an exit velocity of 108.3 mph. Ramirez clearly enjoyed it, as he stood and watched it before completing his trot around the bases.
Who was Ramirez pointing to when he was running the bases?
"My family. We have like three suites up there. We spent a lot of money on tickets," Ramirez said. "It's good. They're enjoying it. They got a chance to see me play live." More >

"Who can miss David when he shows up? Nobody. The crowd was going crazy, too. That's how it's supposed to be." -- Ramirez, on his close friend and former teammate David Ortiz watching from the stands. More >

Betts might not be familiar with National League parks, but he sure performs well when he plays in them. He has a 12-game hitting streak in them, batting .407 with six doubles, six homers and 17 RBIs.
Sale will make his second straight start in his home state. This time, it's at Miami, where he'll try to build off the gem he threw against the Rays on Opening Day, when he fired six shutout innings while striking out nine in a no-decision. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. ET.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.