Game 42: Oakland Athletics at Red Sox (May 15, 2018)

On a night when the Celtics played up to the level of their competition and won a thrilling Game 2 in their Eastern Conference Finals series, the Red Sox played down to the level of their competition and lost yet again to the sub-.500 A's. The game was delayed ninety minutes due to rain so the first pitch wasn't until 8:30pm, the same time that the Celtics and Cavaliers tipped off across town at the Boston Garden. I spent most of the night flipping between the two, although I confess I watched mainly the Celtics game before switching for good to the Sox in the seventh inning after the C's were finished. From what I was seeing early in the Sox game, though, I didn't miss anything worth watching.

What this game was from the beginning was ugly. Eduardo Rodriguez started for the Sox and only got through five innings on 98 pitches. He struck out four and didn't walk anybody, but gave up three earned runs and made everything look like a real chore. He gave up a two-RBI double to Matt Chapman in the first and a solo home run to Stephen Piscotty in the second, and that 3-0 lead just felt insurmountable all night (and it was). JD Martinez scored in the fourth and Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer in the fifth to cut it to 3-2, but as has been this team's bane of late, they let the lead get away from them shortly after. Stephen Wright made his return from the DL and pitched 2.1 innings of effective relief, although he left the game after giving up two consecutive singles in the eighth. Bobby Poyner, also back from the DL, came in and promptly gave up a two-RBI double to Mark Canha to make it 5-2 A's. Mookie Betts drove in Rafael Devers on a groundout in the ninth, but the Red Sox again went quietly and dropped this game 5-3. With the loss, the Sox have lost the series and fall another half game behind the idle Yankees (who were rained out). The Yankees now have a one game lead in the division and they didn't even have to play a game.

It's officially time to be concerned with this team. Since the 17-2 start, they've now played sub-.500 baseball, going 11-12. They continue to play down to the level of their competition...coming into this series, Oakland was 19-21 yet they're now a .500 team thanks to these two wins. The fact that the Red Sox have lost two very winnable games at home is enough of a cause for concern, but how they've looked doing it has been even worse. The starting pitching has been bad, the bullpen continues to quickly let games get away from them, and there are still too many mental lapses. In this one, it was Andrew Benintendi making yet another out on the basepaths when he overran third base, got caught in a pickle, and was easily picked off to end the first inning. It's a shame, too, because in addition to his homer he had a 3-5 night and has been swinging a hot bat lately. Mookie Betts, though, went 0-5, which is not going to help, especially when he's the leadoff hitter. Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland both had two hit nights, but the team's situational hitting has been non-existent lately and the aggressive-but-smart approach at the plate that scored so many runs in April has morphed back into the long (and unproductive) at bats of previous seasons.

As if all of this wasn't bad enough, word came through before the game that Carson Smith suffered what could be a "significant" injury to his throwing shoulder last game when he...threw his glove down in the dugout. Folks, you just cannot make this stuff up and as I've said for my entire life, this type of stuff could only happen to the Red Sox. I guess one way of looking at it is that it's just another way in which the bullpen is letting this team down as Smith was one of the few (relatively) consistently effective relief pitchers the team has. Now we'll have to hope Wright can take his place for the near future. With Chris Sale pitching tonight, I hope they can avoid the series sweep, but given how they supported him in his last start, I don't have any idea of what to expect. One thing is for sure: we'll see how different of a manager Alex Cora really is from John Farrell by how he navigates the team through this stretch. Losing the first two games of a homestand to Oakland is inexcusable, but getting swept would be even worse. We'll know a lot more about the 2018 Red Sox tomorrow, that's for sure.