Atlanta - 011 000 011 - 4 6 0 Red Sox - 240 200 01x - 9 11 1The 2016 Red Sox have scored more runs in the first inning (28) than in any other frame, by far. The next most productive innings are the sixth (17 runs) and the third (15 runs).
On Wednesday night, Bud Norris could record only four outs (1.1-7-6-2-0, 48) before he was ordered to the showers, as Boston again struck early and often, winning their fourth consecutive game. David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez drove in runs in the first inning and Dustin Pedroia poked a grand slam off the right field foul pole in the second as the team batted around for the third time in two games. Pedroia added a solo shot in the eighth - which came one pitch after Atlanta catcher A.J. Pierzynski and third baseman Daniel Castro watched a two-out foul pop fall untouched between them - to finish the night with five RBI.
Ortiz doubled in each of his first three at-bats; the third two-bagger missed being a home run by less than one inch, as it hit the top of the center field fence just under the bottom of the yellow line on the Wall. Big Papi scored twice and drove in two runs. He now has 1,119 extra-base hits, which ties him with George Brett for 16th all-time. The next batter in his sights is Manny Ramirez (#15, 1,122). Ortiz also has 595 career doubles, good for 16th place all-time.
Steven Wright (7-3-2-3-8, 116) was solid once again, though the unpredictability of his knuckleball caused no end of grief for Ryan Hanigan behind the plate. Hanigan was charged with four passed balls, including three in the fourth inning. Wright - who has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 15 career starts - lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.37.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on Ortiz's double into the right field corner. Ramirez followed with a bloop single to center to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Ramirez then stole second base, giving the Red Sox 20 steals in 22 attempts this season.
Hanigan began the second inning with a single to left. Jackie Bradley walked and Mookie Betts singled to right, loading the bases. Pedroia then homered on a 1-0 pitch, his third career grand slam. Bogaerts grounded out and Ortiz doubled off the Wall - and that was the end of Norris's night. John Gant, who ended up pitching 4.2 innings of relief, kept things quiet until the fourth, when Bogaerts walked and scored on Ortiz's third double/near-home run to center. After Ramirez fanned, Travis Shaw hit the first triple of his career, which upped the score to 8-2.
NESN Note: Before the game started, NESN showed a graphic illustrating how the top three batters in the Red Sox order - Betts, Pedroia, and Bogaerts - had "set the table" during the five-game road trip. Yet in attempting to show how often those three hitters reached base, NESN did not use on-base percentage, but emphasized their batting averages. Despite the Red Sox's embrace of and reliance upon advanced metrics, NESN remains in the dark ages. Its continued use of fielding percentage to measure the strength of a team's defense is perhaps Exhibit A in that regard. Many baseball observers exposed the flaws in fielding percentage way back in the 1880s. NESN has yet to see the light.
Betts, RFIt would be great to start the series against the Yankees on Friday with the Red Sox (now 0.5 GB) in first place and the MFY in the cellar. There are two weekend series against the Yankees in the next two weeks: April 29, 30, and May 1 at Fenway, and May 6-8 in New York.