Red Sox Notebook: Betts Blasts 100th Homer
By Michael Silverman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With his leadoff homer in Friday night’s 10-5 victory against the Royals, Mookie Betts reached the century mark in career home runs.
He does not turn 26 until October. The only other players to reach 100 homers with the Red Sox before turning 26 are Tony Conigliaro (160), Jim Rice (133) and Ted Williams (127).
The leadoff home run was his fifth this season and the 16th of his career.
Thornburg finally debuts
After a 19-month layoff since being traded to the Red Sox, Tyler Thornburg made his debut in a decidedly low-leverage situation, with the Red Sox holding an 8-1 lead in the seventh. Thornburg allowed the first triple for Lucas Duda in seven years, with Duda coming in to score on a groundout. Thornburg retired three batters in a row after Duda.
“Today honestly there were a lot more nerves than I thought there would be,” said Thornburg, who had not pitched since Oct. 2, 2016, 643 days ago. “Figured it would kind of like riding a bike once I get in there, good to go. But a little bit of nerves. I was excited to get the first one out of the way. I guess I knew that coming in even though I didn’t want to admit it. Get the first couple out of the way and then start really going from there.”
Said manager Alex Cora: “Awesome, awesome, velocity was good, command was good. He was rushing a little bit early but that’s normal, he hasn’t competed at this level in awhile. That was good to see.” ...
The Red Sox’s record heading into Saturday night’s game was 60-29, the first time they’ve been 31 games over .500 since the end of the 2013 season, when they were 32 games over. Before Saturday night, the Red Sox were 5-2 on this trip, and guaranteed to finish with a winning record with two games to go.
Chris Sale’s victory was the 100th of his career. He has 96 since 2012, one more than David Price, and the most in the American League since then.
Sale’s 12 strikeouts were the most here since Carlos Carrasco of the Indians struck out 15 in September of 2015. Sale also has not allowed a home run in a career-high 44 innings.
Anybody who caught sight of a shirtless Sale wearing stars-and-stripes suspenders and other Uncle Sam-like garb for the team’s trip here from Washington on July 4, won’t soon forget it.
To Cora, the effort Sale and others went to is a sign of the team’s camaraderie.
That counts for everything.
“They had fun on the trip over here, some interesting, to say the least, clothing for that day, but you can see who they are,” Cora said. “That ’s something I really like. You saw Chris Sale. Nobody thought Chris Sale was going to dress up like that that day. It’s a very likable group, they’re having fun with it. ”
A lot of BBQ was consumed, movies watched and FIFA played in hotel rooms -- “too bad we didn’t watch games, it was an off day,” said Cora -- but the opportunity to recharge after an intense series in New York followed by hot and steamy Washington, helped Cora appreciate the chemistry that is easy to see swirling around this club.
“It’s a very likable group -- from Day 1, when I met some of them in Fort Myers, and some of them throughout January in Boston, I felt like they were in a good place,” Cora said. “They like each other, then the weekend we spent in Connecticut (in January), I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ It’s a good group.
“Little by little, they’re learning who I am and I’m learning them. I think all this stuff that we’re doing, they like it, they really do. I think they’re doing an outstanding job not getting caught up on the things that go on around us, outside of the clubhouse.”
If the Red Sox were not winning, theme garb on road trips might be viewed as more of a forced effort at team spirit. For this team, winning comes first, and it’s something to feel good about, said Cora.
“We know where we’re at as far as the record and the standings, and everything that people are talking about, but they’re not getting caught up on that, they’re showing up every day, preparing and playing hard and they’re having fun at it, which is something I really wanted,” Cora said. “I didn’t want them to feel like a ‘W’ is a relief. No, it’s the other way around. You win and you celebrate. Because to win at this level is very hard, it’s very hard. They’ve been consistent at winning games and celebrating, too.”
Cora said both he and the players contribute to theme ideas.
“They love it,” Cora said. “They do their homework, seems like everyone wants to outdo the other one. But in this one, Chris Sale, by far, it was not even close, he was the No. 1 outfit. My daughter told me I need to do something like a prize for whoever wins. I was like, ’No, they’ve got money, they’re OK.”
There continues to be very little good news on the injury front concerning the surgically repaired knees of both second baseman Dustin Pedroia and pitcher Steven Wright.
Pedroia stayed in New York for several days to be near his surgeon, Dr. Riley Williams III, but is back in Boston now. Cora said Pedroia will tweak his rehab with the hope he begins to improve, and that the veteran thought the visit was “productive.”
As for Wright, Cora said he did not experience a setback, but the brakes are being applied after he does not yet feel ready to proceed after a bullpen Sunday in New York. A return by the All-Star break does not sound likely.
“We’re running out of time,” Cora said. “We’ve been taking care of these guys the whole time. We’re good where we are at as far as pitching, there’s no need to rush him.”
Drew Pomeranz pitched Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket.