Friday, May 4, 2018

Game 31: Red Sox at Texas Rangers (May 3, 2018)

Well, that was thoroughly embarrassing. On a night where both the Red Sox and Celtics games started after I got home from coaching travel baseball, I figured I'd watch the Red Sox on TV and the Celtics on my phone. Surely against one of the worst teams in the league, the Red Sox could make some hay and pick up a win, right? Wrong. David Price, coming off two straight losses, was surely due for a quality start and a return to form against this terrible lineup, right? Wrong again. Before I go further, I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to pile on David Price. I've tried very hard to give him the benefit of the doubt since he joined the Sox in 2016, but he's made it very difficult and increasingly so with each start. His performance on the field, which is first and foremost the most important criterion, has been wildly inconsistent. While he did win 17 games in 2016, last season was a total disaster apart from his excellent relief appearances in the postseason against the Astros. Add in last season's run-ins with the media and his pathetic and petty feud with Dennis Eckersley last season and it's been increasingly hard to stay positive about the guy. That being said, I came into this season fully intending to hope he could regain the form that made him so effective early in his career when he was with Tampa. Unfortunately, what we saw in this game has been more of the recent norm. In just 3.2 innings of work, he gave up nine runs (seven of them earned) and looked awful the whole time. Walking the final batter he faced with the bases loaded added the final insult to injury. By the time reliever Hector Velasquez threw a wild pitch to allow a run and then gave up a three-run homer to Nomar Mazara, the Sox were in a deep 10-3 hole from which they wouldn't dig out. As a final kick in the teeth, the eleven runs the Rangers scored were the first time all season they hit double digits in runs. The only bright spot for the Sox was (who else?) Mookie Betts, who hit another (solo) home run in the third inning to bring his season total to 12. He also drove in three more runs later in the game (a sacrifice fly in the fourth followed by a two-RBI double in the eighth). In addition to the dismal pitching, this was also an ugly defensive game with five errors committed between the two teams (three for the Sox, two for the Rangers). With the 11-5 loss, the Sox are now just one game ahead of the Yankees for the division lead and only have three more games against Texas before a big showdown in the Bronx.

I had previously said that the second game against the Royals earlier in the week was the worst loss of the season for the Sox so far, but I think that game gets a reprieve with this latest stinker in the books. The main goat has to be David Price who was just awful. He's now 2-4 on the season with an ERA over 5 and even in his two wins this season, he hasn't looked great. I don't know what the deal is with this guy, but it's approaching critical mass. If his elbow is not fully healed from last season or if he has some new injury that needs attention, it might be best to put him on the DL so he can get his body and his mind right. While whoever the Sox put in the rotation in his place would be a downgrade in terms of raw talent, I'm not sure they can afford games like this every fifth day if they keep sending Price out. Turning to the offense, while they did score five runs tonight it should have been more against this lousy Texas team although I guess it probably doesn't matter anyway when you're giving up eleven runs. It's hard to win any games, regardless of how much you score, when your pitching is giving up eleven runs.  

My final gripe for this game is with Alex Cora. Alex, you're doing a great job overall and I know you won't see this and that it doesn't matter what I'm about to say, but please stop tinkering with the lineups Every. Single. Game. People were making fun of the Cleveland Cavaliers a few days ago for having used 34 different starting lineups this past NBA season, but it feels as though the Red Sox are going to blow past that mark next week (I'm exaggerating, of course, but not much!). If it's as frustrating for the players as it is for me that where guys play and hit in the order changes like the weather, then that's too much. Stability is as much a factor as is managerial acumen and the constant messing about with the lineup is a bit ridiculous at this point when we're not quite 20% into the season. It's hard for guys to get into a good rhythm hitting out of a different spot every night or to get comfortable in the field when they're sitting every second or third game for reasons not related to any injuries. I realize Cora and the Red Sox front office are slaves to analytics and playing the match-ups, but at some point the entirety of the human element is being taken out the decision making. When you then have to send real flesh-and-blood men out there to play the game, it comes off as awkward and leads to inconsistencies in performance both mental and physical. I'd like to see a more or less finalized lineup settled on for the remainder of the season, but like I said I don't think that's going to happen. I guess I'll just have to buckle up and get ready for a consistently bumpy ride for the next 131 games.

My last words on this game: the Red Sox had better tighten some things up and start playing better baseball or they're going to find themselves in second place behind the Yankees before they even get to the Bronx on Tuesday.

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