The Red Sox dealt a crushing blow to the Yankees’ over-inflated egos on Friday, winning 5-0. The fact that it was a Spring Training game is irrelevant; all Red Sox-Yankee games carry more weight than other matchups. And this time, the Yankees actually brought Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton along.
The win came in large part thanks to Brian Johnson, who helped shut down the Yankees lineup. In 4 2/3 innings, he only allowed 2 hits and 1 walk. He had 5 K’s and threw 48 of his 77 pitches for strikes. The only batter to reach in those 4+ innings was Giancarlo Stanton, on a 7-pitch walk. If Sam Travis is the offensive hero of the team’s 2018 Grapefruit League season, Johnson is surely his pitching equivalent. His 1.72 ERA is the lowest of any Boston pitcher with more than one start. Facing off against the Yankees’ most powerful hitters, the 27-year-old who’s only ever made 6 career starts in the Majors – though he did go 2-0 – more than held his own.
Afterward, Alex Cora told Johnson that he will start one of the first five games of the regular season, and told reporters “He’s one of our best five options to start games right now, so he’ll do that.” Johnson has been a dominant substitute for the injured Drew Pomeranz; only giving 3 runs on 10 hits in 15 2/3 innings in the last five games he’s pitched, and he has 13 strikeouts.
Johnson’s presence on the roster surely comes as a relief to the new manager, who currently only has three starting pitchers, Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. The aforementioned Pomeranz is still an uncertainty, and Steven Wright has a 15-game suspension waiting for him when he gets off the Disabled List. Hector Velazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez are the only current options for the 5th spot in the starting rotation, but Rodriguez has yet to pitch in a game after his off-season knee surgery and Velazquez has a 6.75 ERA in five starts.
Ultimately, we’ll probably see Johnson as both a starter and bullpen guy, someone whose fastball can shut down the opposing lineup in later innings but also pitch a solid start to take some of the pressure off of Sale and Price. Sale is working on staying consistent down the stretch after his dominance experienced a steep drop-off in the last two months of the season, and Price’s issues are more than well-documented.
Photo: Over The Monster