West Coast Problems: Sox Stuck With Struggling

The Red Sox could not hold their lead after scoring the first 3 runs in yesterday’s game. Making his second start of the season was Eduardo Rodriguez, and for the second consecutive start, Rodriguez looked awful. In his first outing in Seattle last Saturday, E-Rod could not make it out of the 4th inning, as he allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), a home run, and 3 walks on 105 pitches. Yesterday, the left-hander could not make it out of the 3rd. He again allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), a home run, and 3 walks. He threw just 84 pitches and, with the loss, his record now stands at 0-2. The Sox west coast problems have been a combination of mental mistakes, poor pitching, and poor teamplay.

West Coast Problems: Cora at the forefront

“I pay attention to details,” manager Alex Cora told nbcsportsboston.com. “I love payingWest Coast Problems attention to details and that’s something I took pride [in] last year. And right now, we’re not paying attention to details. So that’s on me. That’s on the staff.”

There were several examples of unacceptable decision making from the entire series, but especially from yesterday’s loss. In the 4th inning, Rodriguez allowed a RBI double to Robbie Grossman that gave Oakland a 4-3 lead. Marcus Semien then flied out to center for the inning’s second out. Stephen Piscotty then came to the plate. After hitting a 3-run bomb in his previous at-bat, Piscotty sent a flyball towards the right-center warning track. A miscommunication occurred between two Gold Glove outfielders, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The ball landed between them and hopped over the wall for a two-run, ground rule double. 6-3, Oakland.

West Coast Problems: Laureano for sure

Later in the game, in the 9th inning, the Sox found themselves down 7-3. Betts had reached first base on a walk. Andrew Benintendi subsequently sent a blooper to short-center field that dropped between Ramon Laureano and Semien. Betts aggressively rounded second and headed towards third, only to be thrown out by Laureano for his third outfield assist of the series. The Red Sox could of had runners on first and second with no outs. Instead, Benintendi was stuck at first with one out. The game ended two batters later.

Red Sox starting pitching this season looks like this: 0-5, 8.44 ERA, 13 home runs allowed, and a .301 BAA. Opponents have compiled a 1.052 OPS. Just to compare apples to apples, here is what the current division leader, Tampa Bay Rays, starting pitching looks like: 4-1, 2.19 ERA, 5 home runs allowed, a .190 BAA and a .570 OPS.

The Sox will attempt to ease the pain of their west coast problems as they play Arizona next starting tonight. Things do not get easier for Boston’s starters, as the team heads into the final series before returning to Fenway for the home opener on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks rank second in runs, home runs, and RBI in the National League through 7 games. They rank first in hits, doubles, and total bases.

Something that is not seen in the box score is how a team cooperates together from a visual perspective. One note I wanted to hit on is what Red Sox Nation knows as the ‘jump hug’ between Brock Holt and J.D. Martinez. Every time Martinez homers, Holt greets him in the dugout with a childlike, inseparable hug and the two jump together to celebrate. The tradition has lasted for about a full year now. I understand that baseball is full of quirky rituals and superstitions, but my question is, why are two grown men celebrating over one sequence when, overall, the team is in flux and in last place? It’s something that has been bugging me.

Boston’s record stands at 2-6 through their first two series. It is their worst start to a begin a season since 2011 when the team started 1-7 under former manager Terry Francona.

Huge Win For The Red Sox: Opportunity To Split Series Today

What a huge win for the Red Sox last night! Although the team remains in last place in the AL East, the victory snapped their four game losing streak. With the 6-3 victory over Oakland, Boston improved to 2-5 on the season.

The Sox won the game in the 9th inning when Mookie Betts doubled off the third baseHuge win bag. Two runners scored. Andrew Benintendi, next up, scored Betts with a stand up triple. Boston entered the bottom half of the inning with a 3-run lead and handed the ball to Ryan Brasier, who closed the door and gave the Sox their much needed second win of the season.

The game started slowly, as the first 3.5 innings were quite uneventful – one run was scored by the A’s in the 2nd on an infield RBI single by catcher Nick Hundley.

The A’s scored again in the fourth when Ramon Laureano sent a Nathan Eovaldi curveball into orbit. The home run traveled 438 feet, well beyond the center field fence. Other than the Laureano home run and lack of command, 4 walks allowed, Eovaldi pitched decently. He was pulled after five innings. He accumulated 96 pitches, but just 51 strikes.

Swihart, on his 27th birthday, goes 3-for-4 in huge win for the Red Sox

Boston had tallied just one hit before Blake Swihart put them on the board with a solo shot in the fifth. Oakland’s lead was cut to two.

Sox tie it up

Clutch hitting and superb pitching out of the bullpen is what fueled last night’s huge win for the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, Betts led off with a walk. Two batters later, Rafael Devers grounded the ball to A’s second baseman Jurickson Profar for a potential double play. But, Profar overthrew shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball had to be chased down by third baseman Matt Chapman and Betts was able to then advance to third without a throw. Both Betts and Devers were safe.

J.D. Martinez walked on five pitches to load the bases and Mitch Moreland came to the plate. A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced starter Marco Estrada with left-hander Ryan Buchter. Moreland jumped on the first pitch and doubled down the right field line. Two runs scored and the game was tied.

Red Sox relievers Colten Brewer and Matt Barnes pitched the following three innings (6, 7, and 8). They recorded a combined four strikeouts, all of which A’s hitters went down swinging.

After the game, manager Alex Cora’s energy was uplifting. While speaking to reporters, he said, “When we pitch, we have a chance to win the game … The energy was better today, the whole day … We need to start playing clean baseball, better baseball.”

Red Sox activate Pearce ahead of today’s game

Steve Pearce will have a chance to make his 2019 debut now that he was activated off the Injured List today. Sam Travis was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The series finale is today. After trailing in the each of the first three games, Boston has somehow found a way to win two of the four games. Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound in an important second start for the southpaw. He is opposed by fellow left-hander Brett Anderson. First pitch is at 3:37 PM/ET this afternoon. Enjoy the day game Sox fans!

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.

Red Sox Game 3 Recap

First pitch on Saturday night was sixty-three degrees. Pitching matchup: Mike Leake, 34 walks in 2018 – tied for 3rd fewest amongst pitchers to throw at least 180 innings, versus Eduardo Rodriguez, career-bests in wins (13), ERA (3.82), and WHIP (1.27) in 2018. The following is Boston Red Sox game-3 recap.

The game started with an out on a roller from Andrew Benintendi to Dee Gordon. Mookiegame 3 recap Betts then struck out, Rafael Devers hit a single to left, and J.D. Martinez flew out to deep left.

Seattle scored first. Tim Beckham connected on a Rodriguez changeup for a RBI single to center field, and Ryon Healy roped a RBI double to left. Rodriguez escaped the first inning by allowing two runs on 31 pitches.

Game-3 recap: Red Sox lone extra base hit

Mitch Moreland doubled to left-center in the top of the second and Jackie Bradley Jr. singled him in. It was Bradley Jr.’s first RBI of the season. Seattle 2, Boston 1.

In the third, Martinez smoked a line drive to left. Devers came in to score after stealing second base earlier in Martinez’s at-bat. Boston even the score, 2-2.

The next run came in the bottom of the fourth, when Dee Gordon punched a ball over Devers head at third base. Ryon Healy scored.

Game-3 recap: Rodriguez gets roughed up on mound

Seattle scored 3 more in the next inning on a 3-run shot by Jay Bruce. Seattle 6, Boston 2. Eduardo Rodriguez exited the game after pitching 4.1 innings. His pitches by inning were 31, 14, 16, 26, 19. He became the third straight Red Sox starter to allow at least 6 runs.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s Leake pitched a quality start: 6 innings, two earned runs.

Game-3 recap premier moment

The ninth inning was packed with excitement for the second straight night. Sox catcher Christian Vazquez pinch-hit for Blake Swihart and singled to start the frame. Seattle’s Zac Rosscup then got two quick outs, a Jackie Bradley Jr. strike out and an Eduardo Nunez ground out. Andrew Benintendi then walked. Mookie Betts was up next, and hit a screamer to third, where Dylan Moore juggled it, picked the ball up and threw it over Ryon Healy’s head at first. A run scored on the error. Seattle 6, Boston 3. Rafael Devers hit another hot-shot to Moore, and this time it ricocheted off his glove and past the infield dirt. Benintendi scored Boston’s fourth run and Betts was stopped at third.

Mariners skipper Scott Servais then replaced Rosscup with Nick Rumbelow. J.D. Martinez was up next and, sure enough, hit another ball to Moore at third. A third straight error was made! Martinez was safe at first and Betts scored. Seattle 6, Boston 5. Xander Bogaerts was at the plate with the tying run 90-feet away from home plate. He struck out on three straight pitches. Bogaerts went 0-5 Saturday night. Final score: Seattle 6, Boston 5.

It was a tough night for Red Sox hitters. Moreland had the sole extra-base hit. Betts and Bogaerts went a combined 0-10. The team went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Some things I liked were Devers reaching base 3 out of 5 times out of the 3-hole, Benintendi staying in the game after fouling a ball off his leg, the rally put on by Sox hitters for the second straight night, and the bullpen: 3.2 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 5 k’s.

The ugly? Rodriguez on the mound, Alex Cora’s decision to keep Rodriguez on the mound into the fifth inning, and Benintendi, Betts, and Bogaerts averaging a combined .200 at the plate. The Sox send Rick Porcello to the mound next for the series finale against Wade LeBlanc.

Next game is Sunday, March 31st at 4:00 PM/ET.

 

Can the 2019 Boston Red Sox Repeat as Champions?

The 2019 Major League Baseball regular season begins on March 28th with renewed hope, excitement, and expectations for the new season. There’s one club in particular that will be defending its World Series title with aspirations of repeating as champions. The last time any team repeated as champions was the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.

The Red Sox began Spring Training with key question marks surrounding the team in itsworld series champions quest to repeat as World Series Champions. This team certainly has the capability to pull off such a remarkable feat. However, the reality is that the 2019 Boston Red Sox  have concerns that will be a major factor in their ability (or lack thereof) to repeat as World Series Champions.

1. Red Sox Bullpen

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski took a gamble at the July 31st trade deadline by not adding any high quality relievers to the bullpen. It paid off, thanks to key starting pitchers  David Price and Nathan Eovaldi who pitched out of the bullpen. However, the Red Sox lost two major pieces of the bullpen to free angency in closers Craig Kimbrel  and Joe Kelly. The Red Sox as of now are planning to potentially use relief pitcher Matt Barnes as an option to close the 9th inning for the Red Sox. It remains to be seen if the bullpen will be able to duplicate last October’s success for the 2019 season.

2. Red Sox Starting Rotation

The Red Sox starting rotation is  one of the best in Major League Baseball when fully healthy. In 2017 and 2018, Chris Sale’s performance dipped in the second half of both seasons. Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi pitched a high amount of innings last season. All eyes will be on the rotation to watch for any potential dip in performance as a result of the heavy workload.

3. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez

When the Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez in February 2018, no one could have predicted the full impact that Martinez would bring to the entire lineup. No hitter benefited more than Mookie Betts, who won the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player with a career season batting .346 with 32 HR and 80 RBIs. Martinez had a Triple Crown caliber season batting .330 with 43 HRs and 130 RBIs. It will be worth watching to see if both Betts and Martinez can continue their offensive success in 2019.

The sky is the limit for the 2019 Boston Red Sox. However, a lot will have to fall into place if the Red Sox are to successfully defend their World Series crown. It will be fascinating to watch this team beginning on Opening Day in Seattle, as the Red Sox seek to become the first to repeat as champions in nearly 20 years.