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.

 

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 Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.