Latest Red Sox homestand offers hope for winning streak

After a crucial weekend series in Tampa that resulted in a sweep, the latest Red Sox homestand presented the team an opportunity to do damage on some beatable opponents. The team remains under .500, but did start to show signs of rising up from the ashes of a losing April. Following the sweep of the Rays, optimism was abound as the fan base thought, “maybe this is when the team turns it around!” A lopsided Detroit series followed by a part of tightly contested losses to Tampa got the homestand offer to an undesirable start. A strong finish over Oakland pulled Boston back above water though. Let’s look back at the key points of each series.

Series One: Detroit (10-10), split series 2-2

  • In game one of a doubleheader, following a rainout the night before, the Red Sox Red Sox homestandhomestand started off with a strong start from Chris Sale, but a start that only saw him work five innings.
  • 2019 rising star Matthew Boyd tossed a quality start (7 IP, 3 R, 3 K) and led Detroit to a 7-4 day-game victory.
  • In game two, rookie hurlers Darwinzon Hernandez (2.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 K) and Travis Lakins (2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 K) appeared out of the bullpen in impressive fashion in their major league debuts.
  • Much like in game one, the Red Sox offense had a quiet evening at the plate, losing 4-2.
  • In game three, the Sox bats broke out for the first time, powered by a balance attack that saw Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Christian Vazquez drive in a pair of runs each
  • The Sox were also powered by Eduardo Rodriguez’s best start of the season to date (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 7 K) in an 11-3 laugher.
  • In the finale, the Red Sox bat’s again showed burst, leaning on a home run from rookie Michael Chavis and a two-run double from Devers, as well as quality start from Rick Porcello in a 7-3 victory.

Series Two: Tampa Bay (18-9), lose series 0-2

  • A strong start by David Price (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 K) but a poor night from the Red Sox offense in a 2-1 loss in game one.
  • In the second matchup, Chris Sale rebounded after allowing four runs in the first two innings to go seven strong. It was not enough though as the Red Sox fell to Tyler Glasnow and the Rays 5-2.
  • Charlie Morton and Glasnow both shined in their starts against Boston, allowing just three earned runs combined.
  • The loss was Sale’s fifth on the season, and he remains without a victory.

Series Three: Oakland 14-16), win series 3-0

  • With the Red Sox homestand looking like yet another setback, the team rebounded well to pound Oakland over three games.
  • In game one, another spread out offensive attack, including three RBI from Chavis and three hits from Mookie Betts, helped the Sox come back from a 4-0 deficit to claim an eventual 9-4 victory.
  • The bullpen allowed just one hit and no runs in 4.1 innings of work among the six players that appeared.
  • Game two received a gem for Porcello (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 K) as Boston rose victorious 5-1.
  • Game three featured strong work out of the stable, as six relievers combined to allow three runs.

The Red Sox are in the midst of a seven-game road trip. They will play the White Sox before stopping in Baltimore.

Red Sox Bullpen Has Become A Mess

To begin the season, Boston’s starting pitching was the team’s biggest weak link. Now, the starters have begun to settle down. Chris Sale allowed two runs yesterday and struck out 10 through five frames. Rick Porcello is coming off his best start (5.2 innings, 2 earned runs). After allowing 11 earned runs in his first two starts, Eduardo Rodriguez has permitted just 5 earned runs in his past two. Hector Velázquez has started three games since April 7 and has done a nice job in his role as a spot-start pitcher. And David Price has been the club’s best starter through four starts: 3.75 ERA,1.04 WHIP, 30 k’s in 24 innings. The Red Sox bullpen, however, after having started the season on a strong note, has reverted to become a complete liability.

In yesterday’s day-night double header against the Tigers, in game 1’s top of the 5thRed Sox Bullpen inning, Chris Sale escaped a jam. Runners were on first and third with Detroit’s best hitter (Niko Goodrum – .838 OPS) at the plate. Sale struck him out looking to keep the game tied at two. Heath Hembree then relieved Sale in the 6th, and allowed a solo home run to Detroit’s Ronny Rodriguez (career .645 OPS). The Red Sox were now suddenly playing from behind.

Two innings later, with the score tied 3-3, Colten Brewer was called on to pitch. He eventually escaped the inning on a double play, but not before he allowed 3 runs to cross the plate. Going into the bottom of the 8th, with six outs left for Boston, Detroit had taken a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox ended up losing 7-4.

Game 2

In the night cap, the first reliever out of the ‘pen was Marcus Walden. He came on in the top of the 4th inning, with the bases loaded and one out. He did not deliver and, consequently, surrendered a bases-clearing double to Brandon Dixon (career .636 OPS). The Tigers took a 3-0 lead.

In the next inning, manager Alex Cora called on southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez. It was his major league debut after being (temporarily) recalled earlier that day as Boston’s 26th player for the double header. He threw 50 pitches in 2.1 innings, allowed four hits, one walk, and struck out four.

With one out in the top of the 7th, with the Tigers still leading 3-0, Hernandez was replaced by Travis Lakins, making his ML debut. Lakins was recalled between games for reliever Bobby Poyner, who, in two appearances, owns a 18.00 ERA for the Red Sox. Lakins pitched 2.2 innings. He threw 34 pitches and allowed 1 earned run.

The Red Sox bullpen has become a mess

David Dombrowski’s Red Sox bullpen experiment is starting to become embarrassing. In an interview with NESN correspondent Tom Caron on April 11, Dombrowski was quoted saying, “Overall, we’re very happy with them (bullpen) and they have good stuff and we think they’ll continue to pitch well for us.” We now find ourselves just two weeks removed from that conversation. Things have changed.

Poyner and Erasmo Ramirez have both been summoned from Triple-A. They each pitched poorly and Ramirez was designated for assignment after being signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason. Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, and Colten Brewer all have earned-run-averages (ERA) above 5.50. Brewer’s sits at a disgusting 8.31.

Matt Barnes started the season superbly with just one earned run in his first 7 appearances. In his last two games, though, he has a blown win, a blown save, and has allowed two home runs in late-game situations.

Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, and Marcus Walden have all been terrific, with ERA’s of 1.59, 2.61, and 2.38, respectively. But, Walden was optioned to Triple-A by Dombrowski on April 15 after allowing earned runs in back-to-back appearances against the belittled Orioles. He was recalled on April 20.

How does Boston’s bullpen stack up?

In comparison to all other American League teams, Dombrowski’s bullpen has the fifth highest ERA (4.87). The bullpen has allowed the fourth-most hits and second-most runs, earned runs, and home runs. What’s most eye-opening is that Red Sox bullpen relievers have allowed 30 more runs than Houston Astros relievers this season.

Cemented starter Nathan Eovaldi underwent surgery yesterday on his elbow and will not pick up a baseball for six weeks. The club is now stuck with four starters. There is a chance that a fifth starter arrises before Eovaldi comes back, but that scenario seems unlikely. Hector Velázquez will continue to be a spot-starting option, especially with Brian Johnson still on the shelf. Perhaps Darwinzon Hernandez gets called back up and becomes a spot-starter? Nonetheless, the Red Sox bullpen will be subject to a heavy workload.

Dombrowski has reached into his pockets and has spent $335 million dollars on Sale, Eovaldi, and Xander Bogaerts since December. This is the Boston Red Sox. Hence, no one is going to scrutinize the front office for going all in. How do they do that? Cough up some more dough for Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel, who surprisingly still remain on the free agent market. Kimbrel would add stability to the ‘pen and Keuchel could eat up innings as a fifth starter. Keep Keuchel as a starter the rest of the way, and, when Eovaldi is ready to return, have him stay in the pen.

Trey Ball Dazzles in 5-1 Win Over New Hampshire

Portland, Maine – Trey Ball (2-6) pitched six shutout innings, leading the Portland Sea Dogs (33-38) to a 5-1 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (31-44) on Monday night at Hadlock Field.

Trey Ball earned his first win at Hadlock Field, allowing just one hit, five walks and fanned one.
Trey Ball
Portland went right to work in the first inning off starter Francisco Rios (L, 3-6). Danny Mars led off with a walk and scored when Henry Urrutia reached on an error. Urrutia finished 1-for-4, 2 RBI, extending his hit and RBI streak to six straight games.
In the third with two outs, Jeremy Barfield delivered a two-out, two-run single to right field, making it 3-0.  In the seventh, the ‘Dogs added back-to-back RBI singles by Urrutia and Nick Longhi. The offense has performed well considering top producer Tzu-Wei Lin was recently promoted.
New Hampshire got their lone run in the eighth inning on an RBI ground out by Richard Urena.
Luis Ysla relieved Ball in the seventh inning with two runners on base, and escaped the inning without allowing a run. Ysla earned his third hold of the season, working two innings on one hit and one run.
Mars finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and Chad De La Guerra went 2-for-4 and scored twice. Mars has upped his batting average to .315 over the homestand thus far.

Tuesday’s Matchup

The Sea Dogs and New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays’ affiliate) continue their four-game series on Tuesday night at Hadlock Field. RHP Travis Lakins makes the start for Portland. LHP Shane Dawson is on the hill for New Hampshire. New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett will be making a guest appearance. Tickets are available at seadogs.com or 207-879-9500.
Listen live on the U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network beginning at 6:45 PM EST and watch on MiLB.TV starting at 6:55 PM.

Scouting Report: Travis Lakins

After the Red Sox traded away Michael Kopech and Anderson Espinoza, Travis Lakins and Jay Groome became the top pitching prospects. Due to Groome’s notoriety as a number one draft pick, Lakins is the seemingly unknown one among Red Sox nation.

Travis Lakins

Lakins was drafted in the 6th round in 2015 after attending Ohio State University. He finished college with a 3.10 ERA and 40 games. His first pro appearance came in 2015, but he only had 2 IP with Lowell.

In 2016 he spent the whole season with Salem, however, his ERA was 5.93 and he only had 91 IP in 19 starts, an average of 4 2/3 innings per start. Despite that, Lakins was still highly regarded in the system and among scouts because of his pitch repertoire and potential. I had even suggested that he be packaged in a trade last July due to his value.

Scouting Report

His curveball is arguably his best pitch. It goes at about 75-76 MPH with tight rotation and a two-plane break. As he develops, it has the potential to be a plus offering that misses hitters.

Lakins also throws a changeup and a fastball. His four-seamer tops out at 95 and could rise as he matures. His changeup lives at 83-86 mph with a late dive away from lefties. He locates it well down and away and can miss hitters like his curveball.

At 6’1”, 180 lbs, he has room for added strength as he develops. He’s also only 22 after joining the Double-A Sea Dogs on May 17. In his last outing with Portland, Lakins went 5.0 IP with 6 K’s and only one hit allowed. The only problem being his high pitch count due to 4 walks. The Sea Dogs eventually won the game on a walk-off single by Denier Lopez.

Overall, I think he profiles best as a reliever – desirably in a seventh/eighth inning role. Mostly because he has the potential stuff to get guys out late in the game. His command consistency, especially for his fastball, will be keys going forward. If he cuts down on the walks and keeps the strikeout numbers where they are, he may stay in the rotation as he progresses to Pawtucket. Should he remain in the system, I expect to see Travis Lakins regularly in Boston by mid-2019.