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Mitch's Sports Report: Red Sox Pen Weak Again But Bats Save Day; The Kaepernick-Robinson Connection

In a getaway game as frantic as a getaway from a bank heist, the Boston Red Sox got away with an 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park yesterday, and no doubt had a happier flight out west to begin a nine-game road trip than they would have had otherwise.

This one looked bad early, as Steven Wright gave up four runs, all earned, and was gone by the fifth inning with the Sox trailing 4-1. But in the bottom of the fifth the Red Sox loaded the bases, and while this has been a puzzling weak spot for a team that's scored more runs than any other in the American League this season, with a team average barely over .200 with ducks on all the ponds, Hanley Ramirez raised that average with one swing on the first pitch he saw, blasting a grand slam into the Monster seats to give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. Jackie Bradley Jr. would add a solo homer the next inning and with a 6-4 lead it looked like the Sox would cruise to a nice comeback victory.

But the eighth inning, which has been the Bermuda Triangle for Red Sox leads of late, proved treacherous once again, although there's no mystery as to why. It's the Boston bullpen, and they did nothing to ease the nerves of manager John Farrell yesterday. First, it was lefty Fernando Abad loading the bases, and then Junichi Tazawa gave up a two-run single that tied the game at six, and it looked like the Ramirez grand slam might go for naught.

Luckily, the Red Sox offense, which has been so prolific before hitting a recent lull, came alive again. Aaron Hill, who was mired in an 0 for 20 stretch at the plate, hit a clutch RBI single to the opposite field to break the tie. Jackie Bradley Jr. then added his second big hit of the day with an RBI double, and closer Craig Kimbrel made sure there would be no further drama, working the ninth for his twenty-fourth save of the season.  

Another key play in the game happened earlier, before Ramirez hit his grand slam, and it's a cautionary tale for the kids who may want to play baseball: never stop hustling, or it can cost you a run, and your spot on the team. With the Rays already up 4-1 in the fourth and Tim Beckham on second, Kevin Kiermaier hit a ball to the gap in the outfield that Mookie Betts raced over to grab. Beckham casually rounded third and jogged home. What he didn't see was that Kiermaier tried to stretch the single to a double and was thrown out at second by Betts, and was tagged out before Beckham had crossed home plate. If Beckham had been hustling all the way Kiermaier still would have been out but the run would have scored and the Rays would have been up 5-1 instead of 4-1 and perhaps the game goes the other way. Just goes to show you can't take anything for granted in baseball, and by the way, Beckham was demoted to Triple A after the game, where one has to assume he won't mosey his way home on any future chances he gets.

One final note that with rookie sensation Andrew Benintendi on the DL, another potential rookie star is getting his chance to shine. Third baseman Yoan Moncada, a young Cuban prospect as highly touted as Benintendi, is being called up and will join the Red Sox when the open a series Friday in Oakland.

The NY Yankees are in the baseball version of the playoff side view mirror, and that object may be closer than it appears. For the second straight night the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals in extra innings, this one a thirteen inning affair that the Yankees won 5-4, overcoming a four-run deficit in doing so. Didi Gregorious and Starlin Castro had back to back hits in the thirteenth before Brian McCann's sac fly brought home the eventual winning run. The Yankee bullpen cobbled together seven shutout innings after starter Luis Cessa had fallen behind 4-0 and the Yanks comeback was anchored by a two-run homer from Castro in the sixth. Dellin Betances got the save in the bottom of the thirteenth and the Yankees are just two and a half games out of the second wild card playoff spot, now a half game ahead of the team they just beat, the defending world series champs.

The NY Mets are making a big playoff push as well, and Kelly Johnson's three-run double that broke a tie in the eighth against the Miami Marlins was a part of that effort yesterday, powering the Mets to a 5-2 win. The Mets have now won three in a row and are winning despite a pile of injuries, the latest of which has slugger Neil Walker lost for the season as he opts for surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. Jeurys Familia got the save, his forty-fourth of the season, and that sets a new Mets franchise saves record. The Metropolitans are now just a game and a half behind St. Louis for the second wild card berth.

The Vermont Lake Monsters got their second win in a row, topping the Tri City Valley Cats at Centennial Field last night. JaVon Shelby broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run homer to power the Monsters to the victory.

The first real upsets have been scored at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, with American Ryan Harrison topping number five seed Milos Raonic of Canada in four sets. Harrison is only in the tournament after winning qualifying matches so this is a shocker, even as Raonic suffered from cramps during the match that no doubt had him off his game. On the womens' defending French Open champ and number three seed Gabrine Muguruza was ousted by Latvia's Anastasja Sevastova 7-5, 6-4.

Finally, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, will start in a preseason NFL game tonight and is standing by his decision not to stand for the National Anthem, citing what he says is oppression faced by minorities in the U.S. If you're wondering if other prominent African American athletes have refused to stand for the anthem look no further than the late Jackie Robinson, who wrote about his own refusal to stand for the anthem in his autobiography.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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