Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke made a very interesting decision to pinch hit outfielder Kevin Pillar for Andrew Benintendi in the fourth inning with Boston leading the Toronto Blue Jays by one run and searching for more offense.
It was, certainly at the time, a move predicated by offense. But it actually didn’t prove well worth it until two innings later, with the Red Sox benefitting from Pillar’s defense in right field.
Either way, Roenicke said it was a “tough” decision he wish he didn’t have to make.
“It’s still tough. And I still didn’t like it. I know it worked out where Pillar got two at-bats, he played great defense, threw a guy out, made a great play at the fence, or at the wall. But I still didn’t like it. I actually would have rather not have done that,” Roenicke told reporters on a video conference following Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
“It’s kind of the same thing, so we don’t score runs and I start doing things that I would rather not do. So, I guess it affects everybody,” Roenicke continued. “I would’ve never done it in 162 games. I shouldn’t say never, but I probably wouldn’t have done that in 162. And for sure, if we were swinging the bats well, I wouldn’t have done that either.”
Pillar grounded out with runners on first and second in the pinch-hit scenario, ending Boston’s offensive threat in the fourth. He put together a pair of highlight-reel defensive plays, which went a long way in the Red Sox staying competitive in the game.
The right fielder threw out Toronto’s Travis Shaw at home plate for what was then the game’s tying run in the sixth inning. And, just one inning later, Pillar tracked down a Rowdy Tellez fly ball in front of the right-field wall and actually made an impressive grab before running into the barrier.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s game:
— Pillar said his “football mentality” was what helped him haul in the seventh-inning catch.
“Yeah, it’s a difficult play, but it makes it even more difficult here just with the lack of foul territory,” he told reporters postgame. “… In a tight game, you got to be willing to hit the wall. It just kind of goes back to my football mentality, catch the ball and you got to be ready for a little contact and try and help this team win some games.”
— J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers continued to struggle at the plate — 0-for-15 combined during Boston’s last two games — but Roenicke explained how the Sox are looking to stick with them until they get out of their “funk.”
“Well, it’s obviously huge where they are in the lineup and what they mean to us. The thing is, you know, sometimes you may want to give a guy a day off to get them going, but we know we have to play those guys to get them out of their little funk that they’re in. So, you keep putting them out there and you hope that it clicks and we get it going, but we certainly need those guys,” Roenicke said.
“And we’re pitching great right now, so we need that offense to come through like we know that they can,” he added. “You look at those names down the lineup, and it’s a tough lineup, and yet right now we’re just not swinging the bat.
— Roenicke was impressed with the start back Zack Godley, who went four full innings and didn’t allow a run. The right-hander recorded three hits allowed with three strikeouts.
“He pitched great,” Roenicke said. “(He) was efficient with his pitches, pitch count didn’t get up high. I know he got behind on a couple counts, but he did a great job. Curveball was good, fastball, threw some nice change ups. Not much more we can ask for than what he did.”
— The Red Sox will return to Fenway Park on Saturday to host the Blue Jays in the third and final game of the series. The contest will begin at 1:35 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images