--Let's get right into the biggest story of the weekend, which was the fallout from Manny Machado's hard slide into Dustin Pedroia Friday night. There's already been a lot said and written about this so I don't want to spend too much time on the matter. My thoughts are that Machado was definitely intending to slide hard into second base. However, he was definitely not trying to cleat Pedroia, as evidenced by how he immediately went to help him up. I think what happened was that he slid harder than he wanted to, realized he had come in too hard, and then went to help Pedey up.
--Still, Machado slid hard at one of our best players so he deserved to get beaned in the ass. Or in the shoulder. Not the head. Absolutely not the head. Maybe Matt Barnes' pitch slipped a little but he definitely shouldn't have done what he did. On one hand good for Matty B for protecting one of his best players. He just should have been smarter about where he was throwing the ball. On the other hand if you're the Orioles you're now going to be seeking revenge. Baltimore comes to Fenway a week from today, Monday May 1st, and I have a feeling we haven't seen the end of this drama yet.
--What is getting lost in yesterday's fiasco is how well the Red Sox played. Markus Lynn Betts continued his streak of hitting homers at Camden Yards and Hanley Ramirez finally hit his first of the season, but the day belonged to Andrew Benintendi. Benny Baseball became the youngest Red Sox player since Tony Conigliario in 1967 to record five hits in a game. Benny went a perfect 5-for-5 (all singles) to raise his batting average on the year to .347 (!!!), which is good for fourth best in the American League. Even more impressive right now is his .415 on base percentage. I cautioned fans after his Opening Day homer to temper expectations from him in the power department. Well he hasn't homered since but that's alright. The contact skills and batting eye are legit. So far Benny is rewarding manager John Farrell's faith to bat him second at just 22 years old.
--On the pitching side of things, the Barnes/Machado incident overshadowed a brilliant start by Eduardo Rodriguez, who threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts. This outing was particularly impressive since the left handed Rodriguez was dealing with a murderers row of right handed Baltimore bats. This was easily Fast Eddy's best start of the year and his ERA on the season now sits at 3.12 to go along with 22 strikeouts in 17 1/13 innings pitched. The concern for him right now, other than continuing to develop a reliable third pitch, would be the 12 walks he has allowed. I'm skeptical as to whether or not he will ever become a top of the rotation starter, but if he gets the walks under control the upside is immense.
--It would have been interesting to see what Chris "Best Pitcher in the American League" Sale would have done had he been starting over the weekend. He's intense enough to plunk Machado but also seems like the type who would prefer to just strike him out three times. Regardless Sale has been even better than we could have hoped for so far in 2017. Last Thursday afternoon he dominated a pathetic Blue Jays lineup for eight shutout innings while racking up 13 K's. Through his first four starts as a Red Sox Sale has pitched 29.2 innings while giving up just three runs (0.91 ERA) and has struck out a league leading 42 batters. His 0.71 WHIP ranks second in the majors and only Mike Trout (1.9) has accumulated more WAR than Sale so far (1.8) according to baseball-reference.
--I have zero problem with Farrell pulling Sale after 102 pitches against the Blue Jays on Thursday. We want him fresh come October and he was handing the ball off to one of the best relief pitchers in baseball so far in 2017. Many fans were nervous about Craig Kimbrel entering the year. How could you not be after he walked 5.1 per nine in his first season in Boston? Yet through his first 9 1/3 innings Kimbrel has been dominant this year. He has a 1.93 ERA with a 17-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio. His 1.9 walks per nine right now would be the best of his career if the season ended today.
--I want to take a moment to recognize the job done by manager John Farrell thus far this year. Farrell receives a ton of well deserved shit from fans and the media year after year. No, he is not a great (or even good) in game manager, but so far I think he's managed the bullpen very nicely. For the most part Matty B and Heath Hembree have been used in the right spots to close the bridge to Kimbrel.
--David Price is scheduled to throw a 45-50 pitch bullpen at Fenway on Monday. He's going to be taking breaks in between to simulate an actual start and if all goes well the team will design a plan for him to start pitching in rehab games. We aren't out of the woods yet but if this session goes well we should receive an actual timetable for his return to Boston.
--The Sox now return to Boston for a 10 game home stand against some good competition. They'll face the Yankees three times, the Cubs three times, and the Orioles four times. Through 19 games the Sox have a record of 11-8, but we'll know a lot more about how good we are after this week and a half.