Red Sox Struggles Continue: Shutout Two Nights In A Row

FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Matt Chapman clobbered an 89 MPH fastball off Chris Sale with one out in the top of the first inning last night, Red Sox Nation cringed. The ball did not have much loft to it. Right off the bat, I thought the ball had a chance at staying in the yard. But as it kept carrying, and as I saw the left-center field fence only 367 feet away, my doubts sunk in, and a split-second later, a Red Sox starter had given up its 12th home run. As Chapman rounded the bases, one thought crept into my head: the Red Sox struggles continue.

However, to everyone’s surprise, the Sox pitched phenomenally the rest of the way. SaleRed Sox Struggles Continue pitched 6 innings, walked two, and allowed only two more hits, one of which was an infield single and the other a single to center. He threw 87 total pitches. The Sox only had to tax two relievers as well, Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier. Workman pitched the 7th and Brasier pitched the 8th; both of them did not allow a run.

Where Boston struggled in this one was at the plate. More specifically, failing to capitalize when runners were in scoring position. Hitters went 0-7 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Mookie Betts reached second base after doubling off Mike Fiers in the 3rd with two outs. Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second to end the inning.

To lead off the 4th, Rafael Devers singled to right-center field. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts followed with two consecutive flyouts. Devers could not tag up to advance from first base. Mitch Moreland, next up, singled to right field. Devers rounded second and reached third base. Brock Holt then grounded out to end the frame.

In the top of the 6th, Benintendi recorded Boston’s fifth hit of the evening with an infield single. Subsequently, he stole second. Two batters later, Martinez was able to move Benintendi to third. Following that, with two outs, Bogaerts struck out swinging.

An inning later, Christian Vazquez also reached third base, after a double and a stolen base. To end the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging. My thinking: the Red Sox struggles continue.

Laureano Again?!

Bogaerts came to the plate in the 9th with one out. He launched a deep fly ball to center field. Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano, who gunned down Bogaerts at home plate the night before, went up for the catch, but missed. The ball ricochetted off the wall and rolled back onto the outfield grass. Laureano picked up the ball and threw a one-hop dart to Chapman at third base. Chapman caught it cleanly, slapped his glove down on Bogaerts’ side, and the call was ‘out’!

From there, even with Moreland coming to the plate, the life had been sucked out of the Red Sox. Holt eventually struck out to end the game.

Alex Cora frustrated, but still satisfied

“Right now nothing’s going our way,” the Sox manager was quoted as saying on NESN.com. “Honestly, after tonight, I feel better. I feel better because it was a game. 1-0, we had a chance. We competed. … I know what the record is, but honestly I can go home and get some sleep.”

The Sox have now lost four games in a row. Almost a full week into the 2019 season, they find themselves solidified into last place in the AL East.

The Red Sox struggles continue into tonight’s third game out of four against the A’s. First pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET.

Shockingly Poor Start For The Red Sox

Not what you expected to happen, right? The Sox played four meaningful games in March, one last night, and now it’s April 2nd. The team lost 3 of 4 in Seattle and were shut out last night in Oakland. To say the least, 2019 has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The starting pitching has been horrific. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez,shockingly poor start Rick Porcello, and David Price have now all pitched. The results are ugly: 26 earned runs and eleven home runs allowed in 21 innings. The bullpen has not been much better. The club’s eight relievers have all been used, and in 20 innings, have surrendered 20 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 home runs, and eight walks. Matt Barnes has collected the team’s lone save.

In regards to hitting, reigning MVP Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, who bat one-and-two in the lineup, both have on-base percentages (OBP) of .250. Only Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez own an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .800. In comparison to other teams, Boston ranks in the top-5 in all hitting categories, but in the bottom-5 in most pitching ranks.

Now that we know all of that, we must address the key question, which is: what is going on with the Red Sox and why have they come out “flat” after winning the World Series last year?

Pitching is the problem

The starting pitching, besides Price’s performance last night, have not given the offense a chance to get going. 7 runs were allowed in the first 3 innings of game-1, 3 runs through two innings in game-2, 2 runs in the first inning of game-3, and 9 runs through 3 innings of game-4.

In 2018, the Red Sox were the only team that qualified for the postseason to have four hitters (with at least 500 plate appearances) record an OPS of at least .830: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts. First baseman Steve Pearce, who played in just 50 regular season games with the team down the stretch, recorded a .901 OPS. One could attribute Betts’s .598 OPS, Benintendi’s .375 OPS, and Pearce’s absence (calf injury) to the poor start for the Red Sox.

Also in 2018, Boston was the only team (postseason eligible) to have a player save more than 40 games with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) less than 1.00. That player? Craig Kimbrel – he is not back with the club this year. Kimbrel’s presence in the bullpen could factor in nicely moving forward and take some pressure off relievers.

Poor attitude

One factor to the shockingly poor start for the Red Sox that cannot be measured by statistics is their attitude. Their leader, manager Alex Cora, was asked during postgame if there was any concern following the team’s loss last night.

“Not really. It’s five games. When you go through stretches like this, it (stinks) that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up.”

Cora’s nonchalant demeanor is not changing the way the team is approaching games. The top of the lineup needs to get going. Cora announced today on MLB Network that Betts will move back to the leadoff spot. The starting pitching now starts its second turn. So far this season, Sox pitchers have allowed the most runs in the American League. They rank second-to-last in earned run average (ERA) and batting average against (BAA). In addition, Boston is the only AL team to not record a quality start.

Tonight’s first pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET. We’ll see if things start to change this evening in what has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

Red Sox Game 4 Recap

Sunday’s pitching matchup was between Rick Porcello (career-high 190 strikeouts in 2018) vs. Wade LeBlanc (27 starts, 3.72 ERA in 2018). Andrew Benintendi was held out of the lineup for the first time in 2019. Mookie Betts led off for the first time since last year’s World Series Game 5. To begin Boston Red Sox 2019 game-4 recap, let’s see how Rafael Devers scored the Sox’s first run on Sunday.

The Sox scored first in this one. After a ground out by Betts to start the game, Deversgame 4 recap doubled to deep left and J.D. Martinez drove him in with a RBI single up the middle. Eduardo Nunez drove in two more later in the first inning, thanks to an error from third baseman Ryon Healy that loaded the bases.

Porcello breezed through the first with 2 k’s and a flyout. LeBlanc pitched a clean second. Jay Bruce led off the bottom of inning two with a stand up double to right and Omar Narvaez singled right after. Bruce to third. Later in the inning with two outs, Dee Gordon singled in both Bruce and Narvaez. Boston 3, Seattle 2.

Game 4 recap premier moment

In the top of the third, the Red Sox put two men in scoring position (Martinez and Mitch Moreland), but were unable to score. In the bottom half, Mitch Haniger drove a ball to left field and Martinez, who usually DH’s, dropped the ball in the sun. Haniger safe at second. Three batters later, Narvaez belted a three-run home run into the right field bleachers. Seattle 5, Boston 3. Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith added the next two runs via a sacrifice fly and a RBI single. 7-3, Seattle. Porcello was pulled after throwing 73 pitches in 2.2 innings. Brian Johnson came on in relief.

The Mariners still were not done in the third. With two outs, Haniger doubled in two more with a double, past Devers, down the left field line. Domingo Santana flew out to deep center to end the inning after seven runs scored. Seattle 9, Boston 3.

Game 4 recap: Sox strike right back

The Sox struck right back. With two men on (Betts, Devers) and two outs in the top of the fourth, Martinez hammered a ball far and gone, just inside the left field foul pole. The deficit was cut to three.

Jay Bruce responded immediately, though, with a solo shot to right-center off Johnson. The left-hander escaped the inning after allowing another extra-base hit – a double to Healy. Seattle 10, Boston 6.

Betts launched a solo shot in the sixth inning off Mariners reliever Nick Rumbelow to cut the lead back to three. Both teams went scoreless the next two and a half innings.

In the ninth inning with the bases loaded, M’s reliever Chasen Bradford walked pinch-hitter Blake Swihart to score Martinez. The tying run moved to scoring position at second base. Christian Vazquez then struck out and Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to end the game. Final score: Seattle 10, Boston 8.

Some things I liked from Sunday’s game were the three runs scored in the first inning, J.D. Martinez knocking in four runs, hitters going 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and the strong finish by Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier in relief. Things I did not like were a costly error by Martinez in the outfield that helped fuel a seven-run inning, hitters leaving ten men stranded on base, and Porcello’s inability to pitch 3 innings.

Game 4 recap: Opening Series takeaway

The Red Sox finished their first series of the season with one win and three losses. Spectacularly, each of their starting pitchers (Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Porcello) allowed at least six runs. Martinez and Devers combined for 13 hits. Andrew Benintendi had just one hit. Martinez had two home runs. The most effective relief pitchers were Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. Combined, the two allowed 2 hits and 2 walks in 4.1 innings.

Boston starts their next series tonight against the Oakland Athletics. First pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET.

Chris Sale, the Red Sox Ace of the Future

On Opening Day, the Red Sox ace, Chris Sale, will be on the mound. For Sale, this is the second time that he is opening for Alex Cora and the Red Sox. He currently joins a select group of Red Sox pitchers who have started in Opening Day, from Babe Ruth, to Rick Porcello.

Nearing the end of Spring Training, more good news came for Chris Sale when he signedRed Sox ace a five year contract extension to stay with the Red Sox. Sale, who went 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 158 innings last season, deserved this contract extension. So far in his career, he is 103-32 with a 2.89 ERA through 9 seasons.

Red Sox Ace, Chris Sale

The former Chicago White Sox ace has fit in nicely since being acquired by the Red Sox prior to the 2017 season. His resume keeps improving, and in his first season in Boston he started out with a bang. Sale struck out 10 or more batters in a row for eight consecutive games, which is tied for the major league record. He also led the majors with 308 strikeouts. His efforts on the mound have caught the eye of many over the years, and this was no different. Boston finally got its well deserved ace in Sale.

In Chicago, Chris Sale was known to wear the number 49. However, after being traded to Boston, he changed it to number 41, out of respect to former Red Sox pitcher, Tim Wakefield. For those who were fans of the knuckleballer, this was a great display of respect from Sale.

At the rate he is going, one can only wonder if #41 will be up in the rafters alongside other Red Sox greats, and the only other pitcher, Pedro Martinez.

Another Year, Another Sale Day

For those who follow the Boston Red Sox on social media, you’re well aware of the Sale Day hashtag. Now, we get to see it until the end of the 2024 season. The Condor, as he is known, is looking to continue to make history on the mound. Being able to play in Boston is part of that history.

In the 2018 postseason, his second in his career, Sale pitched in Game One of both the ALDS and the ALCS, as well as Game One of the World Series. Sale also did something else remarkable in the World Series as well – closing out Game 5 to seal the deal in LA. Who was the last pitcher to start Game 1 then close out the final game? Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series.

What will this season bring to those glorious Sale Days that we long live for? For many, it’s another chance to watch the strikeout machine at work. At 29 years old, the sky’s the limit for Sale. So far, he has been selected to 7 straight All-Star games, and has led the American League in strikeouts twice. in 2017, Sale became the fastest pitcher to record 1,500 strikeouts, and he is 211 away from 2,000.

Another goal for Red Sox ace Sale – To win another World Series in Boston…

Red Sox Update: Two Days Until Opening Day

With two days until Opening Day in Seattle and with ample activity occurring in the past week, here is a quick Red Sox update. Chris Sale signed a 5-yr/$145 million contract on Saturday to remain with the team through 2024. Also on Saturday, the Red Sox made the final cuts to their bullpen. Darwinzon Hernandez was sent to Double-A Portland, while Bobby Poyner and Marcus Walden were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager Alex Cora stated that Jenrry Mejia would not make the Opening Day roster as well.

Bullpen is set…for now

The Sox bullpen will consist of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree,Red Sox Update Brian Johnson, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez and Brandon Workman to begin 2019.

On Monday, Sandy Leon, who had been with the Red Sox since 2015, was placed on waivers. Later that day, Rick Porcello was hit in the head with a ‘comebacker’ by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. He “laughed” it off and stayed in the game. What?!?

Arguably the most substantial news happened last Wednesday. In an interview with reporters, reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts was asked about Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s new record breaking contract. “I love it here in Boston. It’s a great spot. I’ve definitely grown to love going up north in the cold. That doesn’t mean I want to sell myself short of my value.”

Also in this Red Sox Update

It was announced very early this morning that reigning World Series MVP Steve Pearce will begin 2019 on the Injured List (IL) due to a left calf injury. Sam Travis will serve as Boston’s backup first baseman in Seattle.

Just over a week ago on March 18, Cora announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will also begin the season on the Injured List. Pedroia could make his debut on April 9th on Boston’s first home game of the season versus Toronto.

2019 MLB Top Five Starting Pitchers

Pitchers do not only win Cy Young awards, they win MVPs. Two starting pitchers have been named Most Valuable Player since 2011, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Some other starting pitches to win a MVP: Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Roger Clemens. All of these players were top five starting pitchers for the majority of their respective careers.

Starting pitchers also get paid massive contracts. Both David Price (Red Sox) and ZackTop Five Starting Pitchers Greinke (Diamondbacks) signed free agent contracts in the 2016 off-season worth more than $30 million per year. Nationals ace Max Scherzer signed a 7-yr/$210 million contract a year earlier in 2015.

Starting pitchers also help teams by setting the tone. To begin last season’s World Series, Red Sox ace Chris Sale fired a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch to Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier. The Sox went on to win the series in five games to capture their 9th World Series championship. Below is a list of 2019 MLB Top Five Starting Pitchers.

 Top Five Starting Pitchers – 5 – Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)

Kluber’s strengths are his high strikeout volume and durability. He has recorded at least 222 strikeouts and 203 innings pitched in five consecutive seasons. “Klubot” is a two-time Cy Young award winner and has finished in the top-3 voting of the Cy Young in four of the past five years. He is the ace of the Cleveland Indians and is under team control through 2021. The 32-year-old turns 33 in early April. He is still very much in his prime, as Kluber has won at least 18 games in three straight seasons.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 4 – Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)

Baseball’s best pitcher in 2018 was arguably Jacob deGrom. He won his first Cy Young after leading the MLB in ERA (1.70). He also finished in the top-5 in innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP. Ironically deGrom and Kluber both pitched for Stetson University in Central Florida. deGrom is the ace on the Mets starting staff, a rotation that also includes Noah Syndergaard, and is set to become a free agent after next season.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 3 – Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox)

Sale would be higher on this list had he pitched more starts last season. He finished 2018 with 27 starts, missing time in the second half due to a nagging shoulder injury. His ERA (2.11), WHIP (0.86), and FIP (1.98) were career bests, however, his 158 innings were the fewest since 2012. Sale has also surprisingly never won a Cy Young, even though he has been voted an All-Star in each of the past seven seasons. He has started the past three for the American League. Sale and the Red Sox recently agreed to a five-year extension on March 23rd.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 2 – Justin Verlander (Houston Astros)

When asked who is the best pitcher of this generation, most fans would argue Clayton Kershaw. The correct answer might actually be Verlander. The right-hander just turned 36 in February and is very much still in his prime. He has thrown at least 200 innings in 11 of the past 12 seasons. JV has finished second in Cy Young voting three times, including last year, when recorded career-highs in strikeouts (290), hits allowed, FIP, WHIP, and strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. Like Sale, Verlander was just awarded a contract extension for 2 years and became official today. Verlander has a plethora of playoff experience. He owns a 13-7 record, 3.19 ERA, and a 1.02 WHIP in 152 postseason innings.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 1 – Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)

“Mad Max” has been baseball’s best pitcher for the past six seasons. Since 2013, he has made the All-Star Game each season (started 3), finished in the Cy Young voting top-5 each season (won 3), and has struck out at least 240 batters in each season. In the past three years, Scherzer has led the National League in WHIP and strikeouts. The only slight on Scherzer’s resume is that he has not won a playoff start since the 2013 ALDS.

Honorable mentions: Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays), Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies), Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Zack Greinke (Arizona Diamondbacks)