BOSTON -- Boosted by exceptional, against-the-wall catches from Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr., the efforts of starter Christopher Johnson and the Boston bullpen were enough to lift the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the Angels on Thursday at Fenway Park.With the win, the Red Sox swept the
BOSTON -- Boosted by exceptional, against-the-wall catches from Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr., the efforts of starter Christopher Johnson and the Boston bullpen were enough to lift the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the Angels on Thursday at Fenway Park.
With the win, the Red Sox swept the six-game season series against the Angels.
Thanks in part to home runs from Rafael Devers and Bradley, the Red Sox built a lead they would not relinquish. The Angels threatened to tie it in the eighth inning, scoring a run on an Jose Pujols single and having two runners on when David Fletcher lined a ball toward the Green Monster. But Benintendi made a magnificent leaping catch to rob Fletcher of a hit that would have driven in at least one run, and Boston reliever Joe Kelly induced a flyout off the bat of Luis Valbuena to get out of the inning.
"[Benintendi has] been good," manager Alex Cora said. "He's an all-around player, and when [Fletcher] hit it, I thought he didn't get it, honestly. The reaction was great, and it gave us a chance. That play is a game-changer."
Bradley had a similar jaw-dropping snag in the first inning, leaping in front of the center-field wall to catch a Justin Upton liner.
"Incredible," Johnson said of Bradley's catch. "Been seeing it since college. I would say it's surprising, but it's not. I'm just grateful to have him on my team."
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Johnson made his eighth career start Thursday -- his second this season -- with Steven Wright on the disabled list due to left knee inflammation. Andrelton Simmons gave the Angels the lead in the fourth inning, crushing a Johnson curveball over the Green Monster for a solo home run.
"Good swing," Johnson said. "I mean, it's probably the best pitch I have, so it's what I went with, and he put a great swing on it."
Aside from the eighth-inning drama, the Red Sox bullpen shut down the Angels, holding them to one run over the final five innings. Johnson allowed three hits and a run over four innings, a start he was pleased with, though he had been aiming to get through five. Hector Velazquez followed with two scoreless innings, and Brandon Workman, Kelly and Craig Kimbrel each pitched an inning to close it out.
The win gives the Red Sox a one-game edge over the Yankees in the American League East standings as the teams prepare to face off this weekend.
Thursday was a promising sign for Johnson's stint as a starter, as well as Velazquez's role in backing him up.
"B.J. was outstanding," Cora said. "Using his fastball, mixing up his breaking ball. Just one [run], and Simmons is a good hitter. Very pleased with the way we got six innings out of those two guys."
Johnson said he and Velazquez like to laugh about their shared responsibility, the season-long toggle between spot starters and relievers.
"We kind of joke about it," Johnson said. "We're ready whenever, and we just love being here. Whatever it takes to help the team."
Thursday's win marked the first time in more than 100 years that the Red Sox have swept a six-game season series. And Boston's 20 home runs in those six games set the MLB record for the most against one opponent in a season series of six or fewer games.
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In the first inning, Upton sent the ball soaring to the center-field wall. But Bradley was ready. He sprinted to snag the ball over his head before crashing into the wall. Upton hit the ball with an exit velocity of 101.6 mph at a launch angle of 22 degrees and a projected distance of 393 feet, per Statcast™, giving him a hit probability of 76 percent on the drive.
Watch the MLB Network Showcase Game as left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (9-2, 3.86) takes the mound against the Yankees on Friday for a key showdown for AL East supremacy. Against the Yankees on May 10, Rodriguez struck out eight while allowing one hit and no runs in five innings. Veteran lefty Carsten Sabathia (4-3, 3.18) will start for New York, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.