Timely Evan Gattis homer powers Braves past Dodgers

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The Evan Gattis story keeps on getting better. With the Braves struggling to put together any kind of offensive threat against Dodgers starter Chris Capuano, trailing 1-0 heading into the eighth, Evan Gattis provided a pinch-hit two-run home run against reliever Kenley Jansen to give the Braves the 2-1 lead and eventually the win.

A catcher by trade, Gattis was bumped down on the depth chart when Brian McCann returned from the DL after dealing with a shoulder injury. The Braves have tried to find a spot in the lineup for Gattis by slotting him in at first base and, more recently, left field when he isn’t riding the pine. The 26-year-old entered the night with seven home runs in 126 trips to the plate, the Braves’ best power threat thus far behind Justin Upton.

The Gattis story is quite interesting — he was a college baseball bust battling substance abuse, taking various odd jobs across the country, including working in a pizza parlor, as a parking valet, as a ski-lift operator, and as a janitor. He got the itch to play baseball again, earning a spot with the University of Texas of the Permian Basin team. He hit .403 with 11 home runs, which was good enough to merit a selection in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft by the Braves. Gattis quickly moved his way up the ladder and, with McCann on the sidelines throughout spring, earned a spot on the big league roster going into the 2013 season.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better redemption story, and even harder-pressed not to be happy for what Gattis is accomplishing on the field.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.