2019 Red Sox Week in Review: 3/30-4/6

The Red Sox got off to a slow start in their first two games last week, going 1-1 and looking woefully unprepared. The starting pitching was bad but the bats were producing so it seemed only a matter or time before they'd put it all together, right? Well, if you watched any one of the eight games they played in between then and now, you'll know that it wasn't the case; if you didn't, well, you're in for one heck of a baseball horror story...

(3/30 at Seattle Mariners): Eduardo Rodriguez' first start of the season showed that the hype he was getting all spring training was unwarranted; he was the same old frustrating tease that he's been his entire career. The Sox tied the game at two in the third inning, but E-Rod had his unexpected meltdown and left with a 6-2 deficit. It took him 105 pitches just to get through 4.1 innings and it was too big of a hole for the team to dig out of. Boston made a valiant comeback in the ninth but fell short as Xander Bogaerts had a brutal strikeout looking to end the game 6-5 Mariners. Mookie Betts made an incredible catch in right field, but overall the defense was shaky again and it would only get worse as the week went on.

(3/31 at Seattle Mariners): The Sox went for the series split and struck first, scoring three runs in the first inning. Would that be enough for Rick Porcello to give the team their first win by a starting pitcher? Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding "no." They had a complete meltdown in the third inning which was catalyzed by an error on a fly ball by JD Martinez in left field. A walk and a home run wiped out the Red Sox lead and when the dust settled, they were down 9-3. The Sox again mounted a late comeback, but again it was too little too late. The final tally was 10-8 and a loss in the first series of the season for Boston. They must have been all too happy to leave Seattle, too, because the Mariners were just killing the ball all four games. It was then off to Oakland to see if the Sox could get back on track and in the win column.

(4/1 at Oakland Athletics): David Price made his first start of the season and ended up giving the Red Sox their best performance from a starting pitcher in the young season so far. He was good and gave the team the rotation's best performance by far, giving up four runs over six innings, but that still wasn't enough to stave off defeat. The bullpen, including my least favorite reliever ever in Heath Hembree, gave up another three runs and the bats did nothing as the Sox went down meekly to the tune of 7-0. They finally got a decent performance from a starter and couldn't take advantage of it...somehow, only five games into the season that seemed to sum up the entire campaign so far.

(4/2 at Oakland Athletics): Chris Sale looked to bounce back from his dismal Opening Day start in his second start of the season. It was clear from the beginning that something was wrong with him...his stuff was flat, he labored to get through the first few innings, and his fastball was averaging a slow (for him) 89-90 mph. And yet, somehow he gutted out six innings of one-run ball. He only struck out one batter, but he used his guile and off-speed stuff to stifle the A's and keep the Red Sox in it. So of course, the team mustered exactly zero runs of support and lost the game 1-0. Even when the Sox get two solid pitching performances from their starters, they can't convert them into wins. It's a troubling pattern for the season already and it's only been six games.

(4/3 at Oakland Athletics): It was Nathan Eovaldi's turn to try and have a solid second start, but once again Red Sox starting pitching couldn't come through. He made it through five innings and gave up three runs, but those three runs erased the early 3-0 lead the Sox had built earlier in the game. It took a freak hit from Mookie, a scorching liner that hit the third base bag and ricocheted into left field for a two-out two-RBI double, to put the team back on top late in the game. That proved to be the difference maker (although Andrew Benintendi added an insurance run for good measure) as the Sox held on to win their second game of the season 6-3. 

(4/4 at Oakland Athletics): The series finale gave Boston a great chance to try and earn a series sweep as well as some redemption for Eduardo Rodriguez. Boston got out to another early lead which E-Rod gave right back with a monster three-run blast to Stephen Piscotty which tied it up. From there, the A's kept pouring it on and the final indignity came when Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley didn't communicate on a routine fly ball and allowed it to bounce in between them and over the fence for a two-RBI ground rule double. Oakland won this game 7-3 and knocked E-Rod out after less than four innings. It was hard to believe he'd be worse than his first start, but he managed the feat just the same. After the game Alex Cora said "we're not paying attention to details," to which I replied "well, who's fault is that, Alex?" It's almost as though those of us who warned that they took it too easy in spring training were right in saying that they weren't ready to begin the season. As the Sox limped out of Oakland, it didn't seem like things could get any worse...but they did. 

(4/5 at Arizona Diamondbacks): In a young season already full of low moments, the Sox wasted no time in reaching their nadir. Rick Porcello was absolutely awful as were the Sox relievers. They went down 14-1 in this game and only a late and meaningless rally in the late innings prevented this from being a horrendous blowout. The final margin of defeat was 15-8, but that score makes the game look much closer than it really was. There had already been a few instances of the team visibly showing their frustration, from Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts pounding the ground after they each got thrown out at third base, to Jackie Bradley pouting in the dugout after a strikeout, but the low point was seeing Porcello trashing the dugout and throwing a water cooler after his night was through.  That and Eduardo Nunez actually pitching an inning...it's never a good thing when a position player ends up on the mound! There are some major, major issues with this team and that's a very concerning thing to see after so few games.

(4/6 at Arizona Diamondbacks): As the only Red Sox starter who has given the team a decent start, David Price was well on his way to doing it again when the team jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead; he even helped his own cause by hitting an RBI single. It all came crashing down immediately afterward when Arizona scored four runs to take the lead. The Sox squandered a golden opportunity to blow the game wide open in the eighth when they loaded the bases twice and only came away with a single run to tie it. It came back to haunt them when Alex Cora left Colten Brewer (who the Diamondbacks were hitting hard all inning) in too long in the ninth. Mookie bailed them out by gunning down the would-be winning run at the plate, but Carson Kelly followed with a single to left field that ended the game 5-4 in favor of Arizona. It was another gut-punch loss in a young season full of them so far.

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Quick Hits: Boston's starting pitching continued to be awful, giving up at least a home run in every game until the second Arizona game...that made it TEN straight games to start the season where their opponent hit at least one homer. They also committed at least an error in every game except two during this entire stretch. For a team that was one of the top defensive squads in all of 2018, it's been shocking how many mental mistakes they've been making in the field. Between the bad pitching, shaky defense, and angry outbursts, it's been a complete 180 from how this team was last year. In 2018, they led a charmed existence and everything went right for them. So far in 2019, almost nothing has gone right and they haven't exactly handled it with grace or resolve. Even Alex Cora has been snippy and snarky with the press which isn't a good look. There's one more game against Arizona and a day off before the home opener at Fenway Park...it'll be fascinating to see the reception they get from the home crowd and how/if they bounce back and start playing up to their talent level.

2-8 record, 5th in AL East (4.5 GB the Rays)

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