Game 138: Red Sox at Chicago White Sox (September 2, 2018)

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the Red Sox looked almost invincible and like they would win every time they took the field. Then they stumbled a bit in the Cleveland series, earning a split but still feeling pretty good about themselves. It wasn't until they were swept in Tampa that some unrest set in among the citizens of Red Sox Nation. Two hard fought games against the Marlins (which shouldn't have been hard fought at all) led to this series in Chicago against a White Sox team that has proven to be the very definition of pesky. Boston has been almost bipolar in their play through the first three games of the series, but had won two games and set themselves nicely to win it heading into the finale.

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Sunday's series finale in Chicago pitted Red Sox starter Brian Johnson against White Sox starter James Shields. With the two teams alternating wins through the first three games of the series and with Boston having won two of them, the Red Sox were guaranteed at least a split. However, a series win would be nicer heading in to the next series in Atlanta on Labor Day. Johnson has been serviceable in his starts the last couple of months, usually giving the Red Sox some quality innings and keeping the games close enough to keep them in it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case on Sunday. For the third time in four games, the White Sox scored in the first inning (and in fact, would score in every inning Sunday except for the fifth and seventh). Tim Anderson homered in the first to give Chicago their first run and Kevan Smith hit an RBI single to give the other Sox a 2-0 lead. It only got worse and worse as the afternoon went on. Matt Davidson doubled to drive in two in the second and that was it for Johnson. Recent call-up Bobby Poyner came on in relief and fared no better, surrendering an RBI single to Adam Engel in the third. At this point it was clear Alex Cora was just emptying out the bullpen to see what he had (especially from the new arrivals). William Cuevas gave up a solo home run to Daniel Palka in the fourth and a run on a fielder's choice Jose Rondon hit into in the sixth. That made it 7-0 and the rout was on. The White Sox completed their scoring in the eighth off of Hector Velazquez when Yolmer Sanchez singled to drive in Rondon in the eighth. Boston got nothing going with their bats (being outhit 15-5) and were shut out in an 8-0 loss. Only three Red Sox batters accounted for those hits: two each from Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez, and one from Blake Swihart. Meanwhile every White Sox starter got at least one hit as they completely roughed up the Red Sox pitching. Yes, the Red Sox at least got the split but the schizophrenic manner in which they played during this series was maddening and more than a little concerning. They alternated two wins where they bashed a ton of hits and runs with two losses where they could barely get on base and mustered a combined one run. The only thing that made it bearable was that the Yankees lost their series to Detroit (at home, no less!) and so remained 7.5 back in the division.

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The uneven play as of late is more than a little worrisome especially against some of the weaker teams in the league like Tampa, Miami, and now Chicago. The Red Sox head to Atlanta for a series with the NL East leaders next and after that host the defending champion Astros. That's a tough stretch that will go a long way toward telling us what this team is capable of doing in October. For now, though, it's one game at a time with the hope that Nathan Eovaldi can finally turn in another good performance in this next start of his.