I had a particularly gluttonous dog, who I adored, growing up in rural Connecticut. He wasn’t the most cunning canine (in 14 years, he never quite grasped potty training) but Oz did have his moments of inspired lunacy that I suppose, in the most generous sense, could be construed as brilliance. One of his more impressive gambits involved sneaking undetected past me, my mom, dad and brother (a near-impossible task given how loudly his collar jingled every time he moved) to his basement paradise. And by paradise, I mean a 20-pound feedbag he’d devour like Joey Chestnut, binging all-you-can-eat dog cuisine until one of us inevitably caught on to his elaborate scheme and put an immediate stop to the whole sordid ordeal. His feeding frenzies never lasted long, but I wondered if no one were around, would he ever stop eating?
Which serves as a segue to Thursday’s events at Fenway Park. We know the Red Sox can swing with the best of them—they slugged their way to a World Series title last year, a mountain they scaled on the strength of 876 runs, 1,509 hits, 829 RBI, 355 doubles and a .268 batting average, all tops in baseball. No major league offense (excluding whatever dream lineup you may have curated on MLB: The Show) has ever operated at maximum efficiency but on Thursday, the Red Sox came as close as anyone ever has. Like a mischievous beagle left to his own devices, the Red Sox ate everything in sight, swallowing the Yankees whole in a 19-run outburst reminiscent of my lovable pup waging war against a helpless bag of Iams.
Besides the irreparable damage it did to Masahiro Tanaka’s ERA (12 runs in 3 1/3 innings will leave a mark), the Red Sox’s offensive explosion at the hands of their division rival probably won’t amount to much in the long run. Even with Thursday’s 19-3 blowout counting in their favor, the Sox are still just 2-6 against New York and—barring a Falcons-level collapse—Boston will be playing for silver in September while the Bombers coast to a division title. But even if it was just one night—one puppy-sized footprint in a six-month MLB marathon—boy did Sox fans get their money’s worth.
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The Yankees have been a critical favorite (if their season was a movie it would be a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), drawing widespread acclaim for their resiliency in the wake of countless early-season injuries, their penchant for summoning huge performances out of lesser-known names like Gio Urshela and Domingo German and of course, their murderer’s row bullpen led by late-inning sniper Aroldis Chapman. New York’s talent-flush roster is an embarrassment of riches, striking the perfect balance between proven veterans (DJ LeMahieu, J.A. Happ, Edwin Encarnacion) and promising up-and-comers (Gleyber Torres, German, Gary Sanchez). But if the Yankees have an Achilles heel, it’s their starting pitching, a middling unit that some fear won’t measure up in October. As currently constructed, the closest New York has to a “big game” starter is Masahiro Tanaka but as Thursday night proved, even he’s not immune to the pressure of Fenway Park.
The Japanese ace put a new spin on Groundhog Day Thursday night, but instead of contending with Punxsutawney Phil and an endless loop of Sonny and Cher playing on the clock radio, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were the ones pulling the strings. Tanaka couldn’t make it out of the first inning in his previous encounter with the Red Sox June 29 in London (2/3 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 2 BB) but unfortunately for the right-hander, playing on a different continent didn’t improve his luck. Tanaka’s first-inning blues continued as Boston obliterated the two-time All-Star, putting a seven-spot on the board with three of those runs coming on a majestic, 451-foot lightning strike off the bat of Xander Bogaerts. That was the first of two home runs on the night for Bogaerts, whose bloated stat line (4-for-6 with four RBI) barely fit in the box score. While Xander evenly distributed his carnage throughout the night, Mookie peaked early, delivering both of his hits—a single and a two-run double—in the first inning. It looked like Tanaka might right the ship after blanking Boston in the second and third innings but that brief display of competence quickly gave way to more anarchy as the Red Sox bludgeoned him for five more runs in the fourth. The 12-run poison pill absolutely annihilated Tanaka’s ERA, which rose from 4.00 to 4.79 in the aftermath of Thursday’s horror show.
Boston spread the wealth in Thursday’s opener, combining for 23 hits including 13 (nine doubles, four homers) for extra bases. Every hitter in the Red Sox’s lineup save for Sam Travis, a late arrival who only played the last few innings, recorded at least one hit in Thursday’s slugfest. Even Michael Chavis, who subbed in for Brock Holt after the latter’s ejection for arguing balls and strikes, got into the act, supplying a pair of RBI doubles in the 19-run onslaught. Later the Sox got their licks in against backup catcher Austin Romine, who was tasked with pitching the eighth inning to preserve the Yankees’ worn-down bullpen. It went about as you’d expect—Boston bombed him for four hits, two of which went out of the park. Romine was the third position player to pitch against Boston in the past week, an indicator that the Red Sox’s offense is firing on all cylinders.
Like Pac-Man gulping up everything in his path (or a precocious 25-pound pooch pigging out in the basement with no regard for moderation or self-respect), the Red Sox haven’t figured out how to pace themselves. Case in point—after laying waste to the Orioles in a 17-run clinic Saturday night (Rick Porcello, the crown prince of run support, was the pitcher of record), Boston’s offense had nothing left to give the following day, losing Sunday’s one-hit struggle-fest in shutout fashion. Soon we’ll find out if the Red Sox have any juice left or if they spent it all Thursday night. The Yankees, intent on resuming their AL East dominance, are hoping it’s the latter.
AL Quick Hits: Troy Tulowitzki has decided to hang up his cleats after 14 seasons in MLB. The five-time All-Star accrued a .290 average, 225 homers and 780 RBI over 1,291 career games between the Rockies, Blue Jays and Yankees. … The Rays were dealt a critical blow Thursday with news that reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell will undergo surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow, a procedure that figures to sideline him for at least the next month. Snell will be a tough loss to overcome, but even with their playoff chances dwindling, the Rays reportedly have no plans to move ace Charlie Morton (AL-leading 2.60 ERA) ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. … The Rangers will be without Joey Gallo for at least the next four weeks as the All-Star outfielder underwent surgery Thursday to repair a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. His absence will open up playing time for Willie Calhoun, who was called up from Triple-A Nashville on Thursday. … Jonathan Lucroy is due to begin a rehab assignment, where he’ll catch 5-7 innings for High-A Inland Empire Friday night. This comes about three weeks after Lucroy suffered a concussion and broken nose after taking the brunt of a collision with Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick at home plate. Marisnick was later suspended two games for the incident. … It looks like Whit Merrifield is staying put as the Royals won’t be entertaining offers for the All-Star outfielder ahead of next week’s trade deadline. The 30-year-old is signed through 2023. … Felix Hernandez (lat) logged 22 pitches during a live batting practice session on Thursday and has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment. He’ll throw 2-3 innings Sunday at Low-A Everett before advancing to Triple-A Tacoma. The former Cy Young winner is hoping to return for the Mariners’ stretch run in September. … Byron Buxton returned from a two-week absence on Thursday, contributing a pair of doubles in a win over the White Sox. The Twins outfielder had been out with a concussion and also had three wisdom teeth removed last week. Buxton’s teammate Nelson Cruz launched a career-high three homers spanning a combined distance of 1,336 feet in Thursday night’s victory. … Brett Gardner was sent to the injured list Thursday with left knee inflammation. Mike Tauchman has been working at left field in Gardner’s absence, though New York could look to fill its roster vacancy by promoting Clint Frazier from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
NL Quick Hits: With San Francisco now emerging as a legitimate Wild Card threat in the National League, the Giants have reportedly scrapped their plans to trade Madison Bumgarner. With Bumgarner likely off the table, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Matthew Boyd figure to be the most coveted arms available at next week’s trade deadline. … Speaking of Syndergaard, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Thursday that the Mets are “fully intent” on trading their star right-hander. Marc Carig of The Athletic adds that New York is seeking at least a Top 30 prospect and “a couple of other solid pieces” in return for Thor, who logged seven innings of four-run ball Wednesday in what may have been his final start as a Met. … Edwin Diaz bowed out of Thursday’s game after being struck by a Manny Machado line drive, though luckily X-rays on his injured foot came back negative. The Mets closer is day-to-day. … Max Scherzer was back at it Thursday against the Rockies, taking a no-decision in his return from the injured list. A strained back cost the three-time Cy Young winner about three weeks of action. … The Dodgers are making a change behind the plate. Austin Barnes was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday while Will Smith (No. 98 in MLB.com’s prospect rankings) is expected to join the Dodgers ahead of their series opener Friday against the Nationals. Smith should serve as L.A.’s primary catcher with veteran Russell Martin filling in the gaps. … Travis Shaw is headed back to the big leagues after a month-long stay in the minors. Shaw, who lost his starting job at second base to rookie phenom Keston Hiura, hit .286 with nine homers and 22 RBI over a 28-game span with Triple-A San Antonio. … After a two-year hiatus from the big leagues, Yasmany Tomas is finally ready to rejoin the Diamondbacks. He’ll be on hand for Friday night’s game in Miami. The 28-year-old has been a standout in Triple-A, hitting a robust .305 with 29 homers and 80 RBI over 390 at-bats for Reno this season.