This was one Ron Roenicke deserves some credit for

Rob Bradford
July 30, 2020 - 7:45 am

It was a tough few days at Fenway Park for Ron Roenicke. Heck, for most everyone associated with the Red Sox.

While those four straight losses were a product of a lot of missteps by a lot of people, Roenicke was the one being put in the crosshairs. In some cases, it was rightfully so. Questionable pitching maneuvering and lineup construction, for starters, jumped to the top of the blame pie list. And when the answers to the equations are being relayed in the low-key, largely unemotional manner Roenicke projects, it makes it even easier for the ire to increase.

It was all just a small sample size, but this was the ultimate small sample size season. And while navigating through these COVID-19-driven days with a roster that hardly reflects an almost $200 million commitment isn't a walk in any empty ballpark, it is what it is. Like Kevin Pillar said, the time for excuses are over.

Expectations are expectations and the expectation for any Red Sox manager is that you are going to be more the solution than the problem.

Wednesday night Roenicke finally found his atta-boy moment.

The Red Sox not only beat the Mets 6-5 at Citi Field, but they did so with perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Jacob deGrom, on the mound for New York. (For a complete box score, click here.) And while much of the credit has to go to the likes of starter Nathan Eovaldi or key offensive contributors Mitch Moreland and Christian Vazquez, Roenicke deserves a Star of the Game, as well.

"I think we need to do what we can to win some games, get that good feeling back," Roenicke said. "Guys will relax, start playing better baseball. So whatever we can do to try to get some wins, I felt we needed to do."

Up until the late innings, the Red Sox' manager hadn't really distinguished himself. Let's just say his plus-minus was sitting at zero. It still made little sense that Pillar started the game on the bench considering he was the team's hottest hitter. (Analytics!) But the Red Sox' offense had done just enough against deGrom to enter the eighth with the Cy Young Award winner out of the game with both sides deadlocked. 

Bringing in Marcus Walden for the sixth inning after Eovaldi had thrown 89 pitches couldn't really be criticized. Neither could the use of Josh Osich for the seventh against the Mets' lefties. With no Darwinzon Hernandez or Josh Taylor, these were logical options. And when Roenicke chose to go with Heath Hembree with runners on second and third and two outs, that proved to be the wise decision, with the righty striking out pinch-hitter J.D. Davis.

But it was in that eighth Roenicke had his finest in-game moments as a Red Sox manager.

With southpaw Justin Wilson on the mound for the Mets and the game tied at 3-3, Roenicke didn't shy away from pinch-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. -- he of the .400 batting average -- in favor of Pillar. Bradley Jr. had had a tough run of at-bats despite his overall numbers, and even though he had one more hit (2) against Wilson than Pillar in the same amount of at-bats (7), the team's hottest hitter needed to be utilized. It paid off, with Pillar notching a leadoff single.

Roenicke proceeded to execute a no-brainer in the next at-bat, pinch-hitting Xander Bogaerts for Tzu-Wei Lin. The result was four straight balls and runners on first and second. Now, this is where you have to start putting the plusses on the side of the manager.

He didn't shy away from pinch-running Rule 5 rookie Jonathan Arauz (who would go on to help turn a pivotal double play later in the inning). And he wasn't afraid to not treat Andrew Benintendi like a middle of the order hitter, having the leadoff man lay down a perfectly-executed bunt. Roenicke also, as it turned out, had put the right guys in the right places for the right times, with Mitch Moreland managing a go-ahead, bases-loaded dribbler before Vazquez' second big hit of the game. (As much lineup criticism had been thrown Roenicke's way, placing the catcher in the No. 5 spot proved to be key.)

Sure, the ninth-inning proved to be ultra-uncomfortable. But that was a player thing. You are going to close out games with Brandon Workman, and the closer simply didn't have his 2019 stuff for much of that final frame. So be it.

Ultimately it was a step in the right direction for the Red Sox and Roenicke, one which both parties needed desperately.

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