Red Sox finish off three-game sweep of Athletics
Sometimes it’s the little things.
By his own admission, Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi has been searching at the plate. A 1-for-17 dry spell to end April didn’t make matters any better.
When Benintendi stepped to the plate in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday afternoon with the Sox ahead, 2-1, and Tzu-Wei Lin on second after a leadoff double, he hadn’t quite found the answers he was looking for, but he found a way to contribute.
When Oakland starter Mike Fiers tried to sneak in a first-pitch slider, Benintendi saw his chance and dropped down a bunt.
“Just trying to do something there,” Benintendi said. “Get him over and give us a chance to get a sac fly.”
Manager Alex Cora was on the same wavelength.
“We feel that where we were in the lineup that run was huge for us right there,” Cora said. “Up 2 with the bullpen and all that, we needed him to get the guy over regardless. If he wants to bunt or pull the ball, whatever, just get him there.”
It was far from perfect, but it was effective. Lin broke for third before Fiers could hop off the mound to chase down the ball.
Benintendi was hoping he could have squeezed out a single but settled for the sacrifice.
“I feel like, in that situation, you might as well try to bunt for a hit,” he said. “It wasn’t a good bunt, but Lin got a good jump at second and was able to get there.”
The next batter, Mookie Betts, finished the job with a sacrifice fly that gave the Sox a two-run lead in an eventual 7-3 win.
It was just the seventh time Benintendi has laid down a sacrifice bunt in his career, but the second time this season. When he got to the dugout, he heard some chuckles.
“We were kidding about it in the dugout like, ‘What are we doing?’ ” said first baseman Mitch Moreland. “We laid down a bunt there and manufactured a run. That was big. It was nice to kind of play a full game.”
The sequence was a small but significant part of a win that polished off a three-game sweep and gave the Red Sox momentum as they head out on a seven-game trip.
“That’s how it starts,” Cora said. “You start doing the little things and then little by little probably good things are going to happen.
“They’re buying into doing anything possible to get a win. Just do your part, and they know that if we start doing the little things, big things are going to happen.”
The best thing the Sox could do for themselves was put April behind them. Their 7-4 end-of-month push was enough to keep their heads above water after a frustrating start to the season. Waiting to see how long it would take to put a complete performance together was a test of patience for a team coming off a championship season.
For just the second time this season, the Sox have won three straight games. It was their first sweep at Fenway this season.
“It’s a good start,” Moreland said. “We got three under our belts there. That was a good series, good momentum for us going on the road.”
The Sox went 5-4 over the nine-game homestand.
“Overall, we played good baseball,” Cora said. “Obviously, we wanted better results, but it is what it is. We’ve been playing better.”
With Hector Velazquez going just two innings on Wednesday in his fourth start of the season, the Sox leaned on their bullpen. The combination of Marcus Walden (three innings), Brandon Workman (one), Colten Brewer (one), Heath Hembree (one), and Tyler Thornburg (one) weaved together the win, holding the A’s to five hits.
Rafael Devers went 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Lin went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Moreland and Christian Vazquez each went 1 for 3 with a solo homer.
Benintendi finished 1 for 4 with a two-run, two-out single.
“I’m just trying to find something right now,” Benintendi said. “I struggled for a few games now, so I’m just trying to find something and make good contact. Just trying to build off each at-bat.”
The Sox have won five of their last seven. They’re 10-2 when they score six or more runs. Each of their last five wins have been decided by at least four runs.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Benintendi said. “I’m sure there’s still a lot of things that we could improve on, but take it a day at a time and just keep grinding and hopefully get wins.”