The flu claimed several victims of the Boston Red Sox family this week, but two players rose above it all with solid performances.
In a stretch ravaged by rain and sickness, the Boston Red Sox got in four of their five scheduled games and finished the first week of the season sluggishly with a 2-2 record. Four players were sidelined by the flu passing through the Red Sox clubhouse, while two more players were added to the bereavement list in the middle of the week. The Red Sox were forced to slap together a makeshift lineup that did not include Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, or Xander Bogaerts for Friday’s and Saturday’s games. Despite this, Sandy Leon and Chris Sale still delivered impressive performances to earn Red Sox Player of the Week honors for the week of April 4th to April 8th.
Batter of the Week: C, Sandy Leon
Though questions surrounded whether or not he should be the starting catcher for the Red Sox, Sandy Leon delivered the best offensive week of any Red Sox batter. He played three of the four games and went 5 for 12 with two runs scored, a double, and a massive walk-off home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 6th.
Leon broke a scoreless tie in the twelfth inning with a blast into the Green Monster seats to lead the Red Sox a 3-0 victory for their second win of the season. It was Leon’s first career walk-off hit. He also delivered behind the plate, throwing out both baserunners who attempted a steal against him this week.
With so many players forced out with the flu, Leon’s ability to provide a little offense was important. No Red Sox hitters were really able to get anything very consistent going because of the lineup shuffle and the scheduled off-day plus the rain out, so Leon’s .417 average over his first three games proved to be the best performance of the week. So far, it looks as though Leon was the correct choice for the starting catcher job.
Pitcher of the Week: SP, Chris Sale
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Probably as expected, Chris Sale’s seven innings of dominance against the Pittsburgh Pirates this week was the best pitching performance by any Red Sox pitcher this week. Sale ended up with a no-decision as his offense could not muster a run until the twelfth inning, but he more than deserved a win. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out seven. It may only be one start, but the shutout performance did drop his career ERA to 2.98.
Sale’s start proved “difficult to watch” for his former pitching coach with the White Sox, Don Cooper.
“If his fastball is still there, his changeup is still there and his breaking is still there I think he’ll fit in nicely. And he did really good. But it actually was a little difficult to watch.”
For one night at least (and likely more to come), Sale showed Boston that trading for him was the right move to make. Unfortunately, Jameson Taillon pitched equally well for the Pirates, but the Red Sox offense should manage to get some run support for Sale next time out against the Detroit Tigers on Monday. Sale has faced the Tigers plenty of times as a member of the White Sox, spinning a 3.05 ERA over nineteen career starts.
This week the Red Sox finish their series with the Detroit Tigers before heading home to Fenway to face the Orioles, Pirates for one game, and the Rays.