Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox Salvage One Victory In Arizona

The Red Sox weekend wrap-up began Friday night in the desert with the opening contest of a three-game set against the Diamondbacks. Rick Porcello started his second game of the season. Porcello, after allowing 4 earned runs against Seattle in his first start two Sundays ago, got shelled again. He gave up 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings. What was encouraging to see, however, was the right-hander’s emotions when he returned to the dugout following the bottom half of the 4th inning. A camera showed him throw a Gatorade cooler against the dugout wall. It was nice to see some nerve from Boston’s lousy start to the season. Porcello, now in his eleventh season, has never accumulated an ERA above 4.92, nor a WHIP above 1.53.

Porcello was relieved with two outs in the 5th by Brian Johnson. Johnson, like Porcello,weekend wrap went on to allow 7 earned runs himself, including a grand slam, in just 1.1 innings. When the left-hander finally exited the game after the 6th, the score was 14-1 Arizona.

The Red Sox ended up scoring seven runs in the final two innings. The game was still far out of hand, though. Final score: D-backs 15, Sox 8.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox lose a tight one in second game of series

Saturday’s game was another loss, but this time much closer, 5-4. The Red Sox scored first for the third consecutive game. They put up three runs in the top of the 2nd inning. One of those runs was knocked in by pitcher David Price, which was his first career RBI. The Sox could not hold the lead, however. The D-backs responded promptly in the inning’s bottom half with four runs off Price to take the lead.

The game’s next run was not scored until the 7th inning when Mookie Betts drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. with a sacrifice fly to right field. Arizona 4, Boston 4.

The D-backs had a runner on second base, Eduardo Escobar, with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then Nick Ahmen hit a grounder under Moreland’s glove at first. Escobar came around third base and headed home for the winning run, only to be thrown out by Betts on a one-hopper. Carson Kelly was up next and socked a liner down the left field line that scored Ahmed easily from second. No throw. Final score: Arizona 5, Boston 4.

After losing Saturday’s game, the Red Sox fell to 2-8, which tied the franchise’s worst start through the first ten games.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Boston bullpen captures the team’s first shutout

Manager Alex Cora elected to start reliever Hector Velazquez in the series finale yesterday. The decision proved to be a good one. The right-hander pitched 3 innings and allowed no runs on one hit. The final six innings were handled by Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier. Just two hits and one walk were permitted. Walden and Barners each pitched two innings. Brasier earned his second save of the season.

Mookie Betts was given the day to rest. Mitch Moreland supplied the team its only run of the game. He sent a ball over the fence in the 7th inning for a solo shot. It was Moreland’s third homer of the campaign.

The Sox have their first break of the young season today. They get back to it tomorrow afternoon in the team’s home opener against the Blue Jays.

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-2 Recap

The following is a game-2 recap for the Boston Red Sox. Last night’s pitching matchup was between Nathan Eovaldi and Yusei Kikuchi. This past off-season, Eovaldi signed a 4-year/$70 million contract with the Red Sox and Kikuchi was signed to a 3-year/$43 million contract with a player option for a fourth year.

Eovaldi, who is pitching in his age-29 season, was brilliant with Boston last season. He made 11 starts, pitched just over 50 innings, allowed 18 runs and struck out 44 in the regular season. He was even more dominant in the postseason, appearing in six games (two starts) and posting an ERA of 1.61 and a WHIP of 0.81 in 22 innings.

Kikuchi made 23 starts for the Seibi Lions last season. He went 14-4 with an ERA of 3.08 and 153 k’s in 163 innings. He is 27 years old.

Friday night’s game began a 3-up and 3-down first inning for Kikuchi. In the bottom of the first, outfielder Mallex Smith took Eovaldi deep to left for his first homer of the year. He had two homers last year with Tampa Bay. Two batters later, Domingo Santana launched another home run, this time to left, for his third of the season. After one inning, 2-0 Seattle.

Game-2 recap: Red Sox starter allows three HRs in consecutive games

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts led off the second and smashed a home run to left-center. It was his first long shot of 2019. He had a career-high 23 last year. Kikuchi, in turn, struck out three of the next four. In the bottom half, Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez pulled a line-drive home run towards the right field foul pole. It stayed fair. 3-1, Seattle. It was Eovaldi’s third home run allowed of the night.

The third inning went scoreless. Then in the home half of the fourth, Tim Beckham led off with a screaming double to right field that sailed over Mookie Betts head. Narvaez, next up, singled to right-center, moving Beckham to third. Third baseman Ryon Healy then sent a double over Jackie Bradley Jr.’s head in center to score Beckham. 4-1, Seattle. Dee Gordon drove in Narvaez with a sacrifice fly, again to Bradley, Jr. 5-1. Mallex Smith then drove yet another ball to deep center and Bradley, Jr. made a catch up against the wall. Smith’s sac fly drove in Healy, 6-1.

The Sox responded in the fifth with back-to-back singles by Rafael Devers and Sam Travis. Bradley Jr. was next up and hit into a double play, but Devers was able to score. 6-2, Seattle.

Eovaldi surprisingly stayed on the mound for one more inning and did not allow another run. In the bottom of the sixth, Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez launched a bomb to deep center, off Kikuchi, for his first long ball of the season. Martinez had 43 home runs in 2018, which were two less of his career-best 45 that he had in 2017. Kikuchi went six innings and earned a quality start with two earned runs. He struck out five.

Game-2 recap: Bullpen comes on

Colten Brewer made his first appearance for Boston when he entered in relief in the bottom of the sixth. He allowed two Mariners to reach base (two walks), but did not allow a run.

A combination of Mariners relievers Matt Festa and Zac Rosscup pitched a scoreless seventh. Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman worked a scoreless seventh as well.

Then, to lead off the eighth, Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez hit his first home run of the year, a booming drive to deep left. The Sox then went on to load the bases in the same inning. Eduardo Nunez grounded into a double play to end things in the eighth. Seattle 6, Boston 4.

Game-2 recap premier moment

Brian Johnson made his second appearance in as many games for Boston in the ninth and struck out the side. Mariners closer Hunter Strickland was called in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, in attempt to save his third game of the young season. Rafael Devers led off with a double to left field. Next up was Blake Swihart to pinch hit for Travis. Strickland hit Swihart in the foot (right foot) to put the go-ahead run at home plate. No outs. Bradley Jr. then hit a grounder to first, Mariners Jay Bruce went home with it and Narvaez tagged Devers at the plate. 1 out, still two men on. Manager Alex Cora then called on another pinch hitter, this time Mitch Moreland, who had nine pinch-hitting appearances last year. On a 2-0 count, he hammered a pitch to right field. 3-run homer. Boston 7, Seattle 6.

Matt Barnes came on in the bottom of the ninth and did not allow a Mariner to reach base. He struck out two and picked up his first save of the season.

Boston picked up their first win of the season (1-1) and Seattle lost their first game of the season (3-1). Some good things I saw were the Red Sox’s composure, Rafael Devers speed on the base paths, the catchers’ coming up big in clutch moments, and the bullpen. Some bad things were Eovaldi’s three allowed home runs, Nunez’s poor base running, and Devers second error in as many games.

That’s the Red Sox’s game-2 recap. The Sox-Mariners pick it back up tonight at 9:10 PM/ET, with Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Leake scheduled to take the mound.

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.

The Case for Matt Barnes, 2019 Closer

If we’ve learned anything about how Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski, it is that when he says he is going or not going to make a particular move, that tends to be true. On numerous occasions this off-season, Dombrowski has been quoted as saying that “major moves will be unlikely” when addressing the bullpen. With Craig Kimbrel riding the free agency pine, the franchise turns to the arms that it already has. This is the case for Matt Barnes, 2019 closer.

Barnes has shown steady improvement each season

When Barnes was taken in the first round of the MLB June Draft in 2011, the Matt Barnes, 2019 closerConnecticut was taken out of UConn as a starting pitcher. Given his pitch arsenal and powerful four seam fastball, it made more sense to the organization that Barnes move to the bullpen to help the major league squad.

Initially, upon entering the big leagues, Barnes became slightly walk prone, and has posted particularly troublesome home/road splits thus far in his career. But the numbers do not lie. Barnes has shown consistent improvement across the board in each of his three full major league seasons.

If Matt Barnes, 2019 closer is going to be a legitimate thing, then he will need to continue that upward trend he has been on. Let’s take a look at Barnes’ 2016-2018 seasons to get a feel for how he has improved:

2016: 62 G, 66.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 62 H, 71 K, 3.72 FIP

2017: 72 G, 69.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 57 H, 83 K, 3.33 FIP

2018: 62 G, 61.2 IP, 3.65 ERA, 47 H, 96 K, 2.71 FIP

While these numbers might not show exponential increases, the statistics prove that Barnes has risen to the occasion. Barnes even finished among the top five in SO/9.0IP among American League relievers. And remember, Barnes’ role in 2018 increased to higher leverage situations, such as the 8th inning, in most games. More often than not, he delivered.

Barnes fared well against both righties and lefties in 2018

An advantage to Barnes’ case is how well he did against hitters from both sides of the plate. He held hitters, collectively, to an OPS under .650, and most outstandingly, held right-handed hitters to a lowly .191 average. The sample size is larger against righties, and the numbers are better still. A hurler that can reverse splits and still maintain dominance is on the path to success.

Barnes performed even better in the 2018 postseason

While the big righty featured stuff above league average last season, it was the playoffs where he really shined. Through 10.1 innings, Barnes allowed just one run and struck out ten batters, all in high leverage situations against three of the best lineups baseball has to offer. Barnes bounced around anywhere from the fifth through the ninth inning, and found success at each stop. A pitcher with the moxie to fit into different roles makes the Matt Barnes, 2019 closer decision an easy one.

There are no guarantees that Cora sticks with a traditional ninth inning closer this season. There is a good chance Barnes and fellow postseason standout Ryan Brasier switch roles on a match up basis. One night Barnes might get the call, and Brasier the other. After three years of gradual improvement, one thing is clear- if Barnes gets that call, he is going to answer.