Game 74: Red Sox at Minnesota Twins (June 19, 2018)

One would think that after having a much-needed day off Monday following a tough shoulda-been-a-sweep-instead-of-a-split in Seattle that the Red Sox would be refreshed and ready to beat up on the good-but-not-great Twins. We had Chris Sale starting and surely they'd give him some run support. Right? Wrong. In a season that is rapidly starting to feel like the last two under John Farrell, the Red Sox played inconsistent and unintelligent baseball as they dropped this first game to Minnesota. With Houston recently ripping off twelve game winning streak and the Yankees winning again, we now find ourselves a game behind in the division and no longer in possession of the best record in all of baseball. A far cry from 17-2, no?

Before anyone accuses me of panicking or giving up on the season (which I most certainly am NOT doing), I do realize we're still one of the three best teams in baseball and that there are still eighty-eight games left to play; it's a long season and the Sox will still be in the thick of things come October. But it seems as though since the end of April Boston has not been able to consistently put it all together on a consistent basis. They'll have weeks where they'll play .500 ball, then a week where they win every game, and then a week where they lose two out of every three. Rinse and repeat. While other teams (i.e the Yankees and Astros) are putting together long winning streaks and beating up on the bad teams they face, it always seems as though the Red Sox are in a dogfight every night whether they're playing a good team like Seattle or a doormat like Baltimore. Combined with the often bizarre lineups Cora put out there and his stubborn adherence to the rest schedules for players, no matter how red hot they may currently be, and it's fast becoming as maddening and frustrating a season as 2016 and 2017 were, at least for me.

As for the game itself, Sale was phenomenal as usual. He pitched seven spectacular innings, striking out eleven and only walking one. He gave up two runs on three hits...what's that thing I always say about "if your starter only gives up one or two runs...?" Of course, he got no run support from the offense. They plated a run in the sixth when Rafael Devers hit a solo homer and another in the eighth to tie the game at two when Sandy Leon hit an RBI single to drive in Devers. At that point the two runs Sale had given up in the bottom of the sixth on Eduardo Escobar's two-RBI double didn't hurt. But for whatever reason known only to himself, Cora put Robby Scott, who just came off the DL, into a tie game. He has never inspired confidence as a reliever and as expected, he promptly gave up two runs in his 0.1 inning of work. Joe Kelly was equally as bad, failing to record an out as he gave up two more runs. Just like that, yet another fantastic Sale start was squandered and a 2-2 game rapidly spiraled out of control as the Sox went down in ugly fashion to the final score of 6-2. This game had it all: there was even a rare Jackie Bradley error in the outfield. Fun fact: after the game, Scott's ERA for the season was 54.00. Even better news: Alex Cora said after the game that Dustin Pedroia is "not even close" to returning from his knee injury. With the way Eduardo Nunez has been playing lately, I'd almost rather see a hobbled Pedroia out there instead of Nunez. Finally, it wouldn't surprise me at this point if Chris Sale secretly hated his teammates for the way they play when he starts. They'll score ten runs for Porcello or Pomeranz when they give up eight, but when Sale holds the other team to one or two, they'll do nothing. It's the same thing that used to happen to Pedro Martinez in the late 1990s/early 2000s (for those of you old enough to remember) and it's got to be even more maddening for the pitchers as it is for the fans.

I just don't know what to make of this team right now. They have nights where they look unbeatable and sometimes even string a few games in a row together. Then they have multiple nights where they look like the PawSox would beat them. There's been no consistency since April and it really makes you appreciate that 17-2 start. If they had even gone just 12-7 during that stretch they'd be six games behind the Yankees by now. Yes, they're still a great team and yes, they'll most likely be in play for a postseason slot, but the way they're schizophrenically playing (shut out one night, scoring ten runs the next, and so on) doesn't inspire much confidence.