On a day overshadowed by the news manager Ron Roenicke would not be returning in 2021, the Red Sox closed out their COVID-19 shortened season by scoring a 9-1 victory over the postseason-bound Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on Sunday in Atlanta.
Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA here after he went five innings and scattered four hits while allowing one run and recording five strikeouts. Pivetta’s only blemish in his final outing of 2020 was a solo homer he surrendered to Braves slugger Marcell Ozuna in the bottom of the first inning.
The Sox (24-36), however, responded by getting homers from Jackie Bradley Jr.., who highlighted a three-hit afternoon with his seventh homer of the season on a solo shot in the fourth; Xander Bogaerts, who belted his 11th of the season in the fifth inning; J.D. Martinez, who hit his seventh of the season on a two-run shot that sparked a five-run outburst in the seventh inning; and Jonathan Arauz, who recorded the first homer of his major league career on a solo shot in the ninth.
Earlier in the day, Roenicke was informed by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom his services were no longer needed.
“The tough part [of the day] was talking to Chaim this morning, and letting me know their decision,” said Roenicke, who spoke haltingly as he held back his emotions during a Zoom postgame conference call. “Getting to the ballpark, I wanted people to know — players and staff to know before it came out publicly. So that part was difficult. The game was fine. It was still concentrating on what I had to do.
“Afterward was a little tough in the clubhouse,” he added. “Some guys spoke and so that was a little tough, a little emotional.”
It was possibly the last game Bradley, who made a web gem catch on the warning track and finished one triple shy of the cycle, would play in a Red Sox uniform. He’s now a free agent. Emotions were certainly there.
Oh, and it was the last game of the season, one the Sox won to take the series from the playoff-bound Braves.
Bradley left his imprint, reminding Sox fans just what makes him arguably the best defensive center fielder to ever put on a Sox uniform. In the bottom of the fourth, Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies drove what looked like a double over the head of Bradley. He glided back to the warning track, contorted his body, and made a leaping snag, while jumping into the wall.
In the bottom half of that frame with the game tied, 1-1, Bradley hit a solo home run against Braves' Will Smith.
Bradley was 3 for 6 on the day with a double, a home run, and a single to end the season slashing .283./.364/.450 with an .814 OPS, his highest mark since 2016.
“Man, he’s been through a lot here,” Xander Bogaerts said of Bradley’s tenure with the Sox. “We all know how good he is with the glove. He’s obviously one of the best in the game. For him to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that’s really nice. I know that’s something that he’ll be very proud of. He finished on a really strong note. I hope he could stay here.”
The Sox took a 2-1 lead into the fifth and Bogaerts added to that total with a solo shot of his own off reliever Darren O’Day. That homer tied him with Rafael Devers for the most on the team this year (11). The Sox piled on with a five-run seventh, including a Martinez opposite-field poke to right for 2 RBIs. Arauz hit his first big league homer to right in the ninth and Mike Kickham closed the game with a 1-2-3 inning.
Then the finality of it all kicked in.
Closing Day was officially closed. In a season scarred by COVID-19 concerns, the Sox suffered their fair share of battle wounds. They finished 24-36 and in the basement of the American League East. Despite having won two World Series championships since 2012, the Sox also have four fifth-place finishes in that span.
“A lot of guys on the team didn’t have years that they wanted to have. It was just a tough year in general,” Bogaerts said. “We played much better toward the end of the season, but it’s just 60 games that we had this year.”
The Sox have either been a hot or cold team despite their World Series titles. From the start, Bloom has preached that he wants sustainable success. Still, to get there, so far, has been a rugged road.
“If you’re not [successful], and especially, the way the year unfolded, you’re not happy,” Bloom said. “It’s no fun to lose. Even though it was only 60 games, it felt like a lot longer than that. I think that probably goes without saying.”
Parting thoughts on Roenicke
Bogaerts could have the fourth manager of his Red Sox career when Bloom makes his decision on Roenicke’s replacement. Bogaerts, who also played for John Farrell (2013-2017) and Alex Cora (2018-2020), said having Roenicke’s steady stewardship at the helm this year, and on the bench during the previous two years, was a benefit to him.
“He just found a good way of communicating with us,” Bogaerts said. “Trying to make us feel good. He’s definitely someone we will miss. It was a tough day. It was some rough news. He was a huge part of my life. I learned a lot from him.”