Last week's 4-3 showing was frustrating (losing that second game to the Astros still rankles), but the Red Sox were still playing pretty well coming into this critical week of games. Their first meeting of the season against the struggling Indians was at Fenway Park and looked like a good tune-up before a huge four game series against the Yankees in New York. Battling some injuries (during this week both Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland would go on the injured list) it was going to take contributions from everyone playing their best to get through without losing too much ground in the division. Coming into this week Boston was 6.5 games behind the Yankees with a chance to make up a lot of ground...if they could take advantage of the opportunity before them.
(5/27 vs. Cleveland Indians): It didn't look like things were off to a good start when the Indians jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Sox answered back quickly and by the end of the fifth inning had built up a 9-3 lead. It was a good thing, too, because the bullpen allowed a couple of runs and it looked like Cleveland, who has been struggling to score runs all season, might make a game of it. The Sox responded by plating three more runs late and ended up winning convincingly by the score of 12-5. It was nice to see an offensive explosion the likes we haven't seen in a while including Sandy Leon's first home run of the season (a three-run blast, no less!).
(5/28 vs. Cleveland Indians): After pummeling the Tribe in the series opener, it looked like Boston was well on their way to taking two straight and winning the series. Taking a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning, the Red Sox allowed a couple of runs to the Indians but answered in the bottom of the inning with two more to push their lead to 5-2. In the top of the ninth with a three-run lead it seemed a foregone conclusion that the game would be over, but once again the Boston bullpen failed to rise to the occasion. The end result was a complete and utter disaster. Ryan Brasier gave up a solo home run which wasn't a big deal as it was still 5-3 Sox. However, a couple of batters later he surrendered a two-run homer to a batter (Greg Allen) who was hitting .087 and just like that, the game was tied. After pulling Brasier, Alex Cora inserted Travis Lakins who gave up two more runs and the Red Sox managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and blow this game 7-5. I called it the nadir of the season after the game and that's being kind...it was truly a disgraceful and disgusting way to lose a game.
(5/29 vs. Cleveland Indians): Blindly hoping against hope based on what I've seen from this team this season, I was confident that the Sox would be angry about the way the game ended the night before and obliterate Cleveland. Instead, they spent this game looking like dead men walking and offered one of the most listless and pathetic performances I've ever seen. Ryan Weber, who looked so good against the Blue Jays last week, was a train wreck in this game and Cora left him out there as a sacrificial lamb to the tune of seven runs in four innings. The Sox made a game of it and pulled as close as 7-6, but the Indians went on a scoring rampage and put up seven more runs over the rest of the game. Boston cut it to 14-9 and had significant threats in the final two innings with the bases loaded and fewer than two outs but in both cases came away with nothing to drop this game and the series. If the night before was the nadir, this one may have taken over the title. I'm disgusted even just having to think and write about this game again.
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(5/31 at New York Yankees): With Chris Sale on the mound and an injury-addled Yankees team opposite, it seemed as good a time as any for the Sox to win their first game of the season against their hated rivals. Sale (mostly) did his part, striking out ten and only walking one while giving up four runs. It wasn't his greatest start but it was perfectly adequate to keep his team in the game. However, apart from Rafael Devers' solo home run in the second inning to give the Sox a 1-0 lead, the offense did nothing else. The 4-1 loss was ugly and disheartening and continued the long trend of the Red Sox failing to score runs for their best pitcher. Sale's 1-7 record on the season is not nearly indicative of how he's pitched for most of the season, but with this team playing scattershot baseball all season it's entirely unsurprising.
(6/1 at New York Yankees): If the last Yankees game was one where the Sox couldn't catch up, this one saw the Sox let their chance to win slip away. After taking another early 1-0 lead they spotted the Yankees three runs before tying the game heading into the fifth inning. Disaster struck when, on a two-strike count with a runner on base, Rick Porcello served up a fat pitch that Gary Sanchez hit over the center field wall to give New York a 5-3 lead. That's how the game ended and with the loss the Sox dropped a whopping 9.5 games behind the Yankees in the division. Even worse, it dropped their record to a perfect .500 at 29-29. After this loss the Sox were 0-4 against the Yankees in 2019 and had been outscored 22-7 in those games. The fact that the Yankees aren't even at full strength (albeit playing a really easy schedule thus far) and are playing as well as they are makes the Red Sox struggles even more inexcusable, infuriating, and contemptible.
(6/2 at New York Yankees): All I wanted was for the Sox to avoid the sweep and win a game this series. Rick Porcello called this a "must-win" beforehand and he wasn't exaggerating. It seems as though maybe his teammates finally got the message because for the third time in this series they took an early lead and this time, they didn't give it away. A 3-0 lead became 3-2 when David Price got into a bit of trouble in the fourth and gave up two to make it 3-2. However, Boston finally answered in the seventh and eighth innings when they got several clutch hits and took advantage of some atrocious outfield defense by Clint Frazier to score five runs and built an 8-2 lead. It's a good thing they did, too, because the bullpen (in this case, Matt Barnes) made their best effort to give this one away by allowing three Yankees runs in the eighth inning before settling down to close out a much-needed 8-5 win.
Quick Hits: The Sox went 16-11 in the month of May which was good but not good enough. Even worse, over this past week into June they went 2-4, completely botching two winnable games and dropping both of their series. They started the month 5.5 games out of first and ended it 8.5 back which is the exact opposite of what they needed to do. While there were some nice little stretches in there of winning games and playing consistently good baseball, far too often they either didn't show up against good teams (Houston twice, New York), they played down to the level of their competition (Cleveland, Colorado), or gave away games that were completely winnable and within their grasp. Had they not had such a wretched start to the season, there would be enough of a margin of error to absorb those disappointments which are a normal part of a long baseball season. However, in playing garbage baseball for most of April they've left themselves no wiggle room and so those accumulated games may very well mean the difference between contending for a postseason spot and staying at home in October. This upcoming week features a series in Kansas City against an awful Royals team that the Red Sox have no excuse not to sweep; then it's back home for a big series against the Rays. Winning the Rays series would definitely help their case to get back into the division race but if they don't take care of the dregs of the league like Kansas City, it's a moot point. We're long past the point where it's early and rapidly approaching the time when it's too late.
30-29 record, 3rd in AL East (8.5 GB the Yankees)
30-29 record, 3rd in AL East (8.5 GB the Yankees)
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