Red Sox' Bottom of Lineup Proved Value in 5th Inning

(April 2, 2017 - Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America) 
Evan Marinofsky
Contributing Writer 

For some, Christmas is their big time of year. For others, it's the annual family trip to Disney World. But for us, it's the Red Sox on Opening Day that is our big time of year.

There were a lot of positives that came out of yesterday's 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. One that I want to look at is the production done by the bottom of the lineup in that offensively-packed 5th inning.

Obviously Andrew Benintendi's home run was impressive and made our reckless optimism for the local nine burst out of us through standing up and cheering.

Ah, what a feeling.

But, if it wasn't for some "heroics" by the bottom three hitters, that home run never would have happened.
It all began with Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two out triple into right field. This gave the Red Sox' offense some life after being unable to generate any sort of production off of Pirates starter Gerrit Cole. That triple was also great for JBJ's morale. Coming into this season, lots of people doubted his ability to maintain consistency with regard to hitting. Hitting a triple in his first game doesn't prove it, but it does generate some confidence for him -- confidence that hopefully leads to consistency.

After JBJ's triple, it was a series of two plays that no one ever saw coming. Pablo Sandoval hustled out an infield single and Sandy Leon laid down a perfect bunt.

First is Sandoval's infield single.

If anyone needed a confidence-boosting play yesterday, it was Sandoval. Sandoval had six at-bats last year because he showed up to Spring Training fat and out of shape. He even got booed at Opening Day last year. This year, he showed up looking much slimmer. He had a monster spring hitting five home runs and batting .338.

With JBJ on third, Sandoval hit one into the hole between shortstop and third base. Here's what happened.
If Sandoval didn't hustle down that line, he would have been thrown out at first and the inning would have been over. Though it's not the prettiest play, it's a major sign that Sandoval is primed to have a comeback season.

Now onto Leon's bunt.

Plenty of people around baseball have become sick of the shift because it stymies offensive production. But Schemin' Sandy had an answer to the shift that the Pirates put on him by laying down a bunt that no one saw coming. This bunt accomplished two large objectives and both had huge impacts on the outcome of the game.

First, Leon beat the shift and got on base. That extra baserunner provided for an extra run on Benintendi's homer. The second big thing it did was it rattled Cole. Up until that point in the game, Cole was cruising. Not only did the bunt catch him off guard, but his inability to field it really hindered his focus.

All of these small plays led to this big one. Enjoy.
It's unfortunate that there's always that day off after Opening Day. Luckily enough for us, it just builds that excitement for tomorrow night when we get to watch Chris Sale pitch.

That should be something special.

Follow Evan Marinofsky on Twitter (@emarinofsky) for all of his latest Red Sox thoughts and opinions.