BOSTON -- There was no star on Sunday, no single slugger who carried the Red Sox to victory.And that is what has allowed Boston to be the winningest team in baseball entering the All-Star break. Sure, the Red Sox are home to the MLB leaders in five offensive categories, but
BOSTON -- There was no star on Sunday, no single slugger who carried the Red Sox to victory.
And that is what has allowed Boston to be the winningest team in baseball entering the All-Star break. Sure, the Red Sox are home to the MLB leaders in five offensive categories, but that's only the top of the batting order.
A solid effort from the bottom half of the lineup boosted the Red Sox over the Blue Jays, 5-2, in the final game of the first half Sunday at Fenway Park. The victory left Boston with 68 wins in the first half, a 4 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East and 12 wins in its last 13 games heading into the All-Star break.
"Obviously, we have something real nice going on with this team," Xander Bogaerts said. "A lot of guys are starting to heat up lately. It's tough to go into the break with some guys heating up like that. But hopefully when we come back, we pick it up right where we left off."
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez went hitless in the win, but the rest of the lineup picked up the slack -- a theme Red Sox manager Alex Cora has touched on when asked why his team continues to excel despite depth issues from injuries.
"It's going to take everybody to win and go deep into the season," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "We can't just put it on one, two, three, four people. We've got to do it collectively as a whole."
Bradley, Brock Holt and Sandy Leon hit a combined 5-for-9 with three RBIs in the win.
Boston took a first-inning lead thanks to a solo home run by Bogaerts -- his second in as many at-bats after Saturday's 10th-inning, walk-off grand slam -- and a single from Holt.
The production comes as Holt and Leon have been compensating defensively for a slew of injured Red Sox players -- including Christian Vazquez, Dustin Pedroia and Rafael Devers. Holt and Eduardo Nunez have tag-teamed at second base in Pedroia's stead, while Leon has shouldered most of the catching load, with help from Blake Swihart.
Toronto's Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run home run in the third inning to tie the score at 2. Bradley restored the Red Sox's lead in the fifth inning with an off-the-wall RBI double to center field. He then extended the lead to 4-2, scoring on Bogaerts' groundout.
"The way Jackie's swinging the bat now, he's not only hitting the ball solid he's putting good at-bats," Cora said, citing the walk Bradley drew before Bogaerts' grand slam, and two off-the-wall doubles.
Holt tacked on another run with an RBI single in the sixth, and Boston's bullpen held the Blue Jays scoreless through the final frames to lock in the win.
That's how the Red Sox hammer out high-scoring wins. From the All-Stars to the bottom of the lineup, batters do their part to reach base and exhaust the opposing pitcher.
"Those guys have been doing great," Betts said. "Extending innings, making pitchers work, running the bases well. Just getting on base for the guys at the top to hit them in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After a dropped catch by Holt and a miscommunication between him and Bogaerts allowed runners to reach first and second, the Blue Jays managed a single off of Richard Hembree, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. But Hembree struck out John Smith, holding the Blue Jays scoreless to preserve the Red Sox's 3-2 lead.
Boston's 68 wins at the break mark the first time since 1949 it has tallied that many wins in 98 games. The Red Sox's .694 winning percentage is the second highest in franchise history at this point in the season.
HE SAID IT
"We have a very powerful, potent offense that can score from anywhere, and then we have a great bullpen that can come through and shut guys down. So I think we do a lot of good things on the field, and it shows." -- Betts
Martinez and four of his teammates were rewarded for an incredible first half with a trip to the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. The Red Sox slugger will look to continue that momentum in the second half as Boston travels to Detroit to face the Tigers in Friday's second-half opener. David Price (10-6, 4.42 ERA) will take the ball for the Red Sox, and Detroit will counter with Matthew Boyd (4-8, 4.76). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.