Biggest Problems From The Red Sox, Rays Series

With Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the Red Sox now sit a half game behind the Rays in the AL East. Despite six and two-thirds no hit innings from Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox were unable to get the win and ended up losing the series 2-1.  Throughout the course of this crucial AL East series, the Red Sox showed that they still have a lot to clean up. 

Base Running

Base running for the Red Sox has not been great this season, and this was on display again this series. Key base running errors late in games proved to be costly for the Boston Red Sox. Most notably in the seventh inning of Thursday night’s game with Hunter Renfroe being thrown out at the plate.

What Happened?

With just one out in the inning and Renfroe on second, Christian Vazquez hit the ball over the head of Rays shortstop Wander Franco. The ball rolled into left-center field where it was picked up by Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Renfroe had a bad jump on the ball rounding second and was thrown out at the plate by Kiermaier. Had Renfroe held at third, the Red Sox would’ve had runners on first and second with just one out. Instead there were two outs, and Vazquez ended up getting picked off at second base. 

The Red Sox were thrown at home twice this series, Hunter Renfroe once, and Bobby Dalbec once. They were also caught trying to steal three times in this series. The Red Sox base running hurt their offense’s ability to score and they paid for it, especially on Thursday. 

First Base-

The lack of production from the first base position continues to be a problem for the Boston Red Sox. 

Tuesday- Bobby Dalbec 0-5 with a fly out and four strikeouts.  He was also thrown out at home due to a bad base running decision. 

Wednesday- Bobby Dalbec was 0-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. 

Thursday- Bobby Dalbec was 0-2 with two strikeouts, before he was replaced by Marwin Gonzalez. Michael Chavis was then moved to first base and he finished 0-3 with two strikeouts and a ground out. 

In total, that is 11 strikeouts in three games for Red Sox first baseman. The Red Sox continue to get little to no production from their first basemen, which was on full display this series. This may be something Chaim Bloom needs to address before the July 30th trade deadline. 

Lead off- 

Much like the first base position, the leadoff spot has also been a lingering problem for the Boston Red Sox. 

Tuesday-  Danny Santana 1-4 with a walk and a strikeout. 

Wednesday- Danny Santana 0-5 with three strikeouts. 

Thursday- Michael Chavis 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts 

It was interesting to see Alex Cora having Danny Santana bat lead off with Kike Hernandez healthy. Santana has just .123 batting average and Kike has seen a lot from the lead off position this season. When Christian Arroyo is off the 10 Day DL, Chavis will likely be sent down and the lead off position will be between Arroyo and Hernandez. Regardless of who has been leading off for the Sox, it has not been good, and this series was another harsh reminder.

Garrett Richards

Garrett Richards seems to be the only pitcher on the Red Sox staff affected by the MLB’s crackdown on sticky substances. Richards’ spin rate has been way down since the crackdown and he was unable to get out out of the second inning on Wednesday night. Richards threw just an inning and two-thirds finishing with four earned runs, three hits allowed, and four walked batters. He also threw 54 pitches, and of those 54 pitches, only 28 of them were strikes.

This was Richards’ second start since the MLB announced they would be cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances, with his last start coming June 16th against the Braves. In that start, Richards threw just four innings allowing seven hits, four earned runs, and walking one batter.

The Red Sox Battle For First Place In Tampa

The Red Sox will be in Tampa Bay for the next three days as they battle for first place with the Rays. Both teams are having a great 2021 season. Right now, the Rays are 0.5 games back of Boston, who took over first place in the American League East this past weekend. After three games, the standings may look a bit different. Either Boston will remain in first, or the Rays will reclaim the top shelf.

This will be a series to remember after Thursday’s game. The Rays top prospect, Wander Franco, will be making his Major League debut against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. His highly anticipated debut will come with a lot of pressure, as all eyes will be on him. The 20-year-old shortstop has been tearing it up in AAA Durham. He has a .315 average in 39 games with 7 homeruns. The Rays hope he can continue his success in the Major Leagues.

The Red Sox Battle For First Place Matchups

Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball in game one for Boston against the Rays’ Andrew Kittredge. Rodriguez is 5-4 on the season with a 6.21 ERA in 13 games. Last time out for E-Rod was a no decision in Atlanta. He went 4 innings, giving up 6 hits and 4 runs, while striking out 8. Kittredge is 5-1 with a 1.34 in 2021. He got the no decision his last time out vs Seattle, only going 1.1 innings, and had one strikeout.

Wednesday’s game will feature Garrett Richards vs Rich Hill. Richards is 4-4 with a 4.36 ERA this season. His last start came against Atlanta, where he went 4 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs while striking out 3. Former Red Sox pitcher Rich Hill will be going in game 2 for Tampa. He’s 5-2 with a 3.64 ERA this season. He went 5 innings in his last game vs Seattle, where he allowed 6 hits, 4 runs and had 5 strikeouts.

Thursday’s final game will have Nick Pivetta for Boston. Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter for the game. Pivetta is currently 6-3 with a 4.36 ERA. He took the loss against Kansas City on June 18th. He went 5 innings, allowing 6 hits, and three runs while striking out 6 batters.

Players To Watch In The Series

While the world will have their eyes on Wander Franco, there are some other players to take note of in this series. Tampa Bay third baseman, Joey Wendle, has been doing great so far this season. The 31-year-old leads the team in five categories, including batting average and doubles. Currently, he has a .292 average, with 19 doubles on the season. He also has a slugging percentage of .491 and an on base percentage of .841. Even though he has 5 stolen bases on the season, he also has been caught 5 times, which leads the team. All in all, Wendle might be the difference maker for Tampa as they battle for first place.

Another player to take note of in the series is Red Sox starter, Nick Pivetta. In 14 games this season, he is 6-3 with a 4.36 ERA and has 86 strikeouts. The 28-year-old starter has the most strikeouts on the team, and batters are hitting .231 against him, which is the lowest of all the Red Sox pitchers. Pivetta started the season by winning six games in ten starts before getting the loss in June vs the Astros. Pivetta looks to get his first win of June against Tampa on Thursday.

All Star Game Update

Voting for the 2021 All Star Game concludes on Thursday. Right now, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez are slated to represent the Red Sox in Colorado on July 13th. Both Devers and Bogaerts are leading in their categories, while Martinez is in second place, behind Angels designated hitter, Shohei Ohtani. Alex Verdugo is currently in eighth place in the All Star Game voting, behind Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Byron Buxton. This will be Devers’ first All Star game, while Bogaerts will be making his third appearance, and Martinez will be making his fourth.

This looks to be an interesting All Star game for sure, as two former Colorado Rockies players may be on the roster. DJ LeMehieu is in third place to play second base in the American League. LeMehieu played for Colorado from 2012 to 2018 before signing with the Yankees prior to the 2019 season. Former Rockies star, Nolan Arenado, is in second place for the National League third basemen behind Kris Bryant of the Cubs. Arenado is in his first season with the Cardinals after being traded this past offseason. Arenado was drafted by Colorado, and was their third baseman from 2013 to 2020. His cousin, Joshua Fuentes is the current third baseman for the Rockies.