Anthony Ranaudo pitched, and the homers followed.
That, more or less, is how games go with Anthony Ranaudo on the mound. With a few other conditions: plenty of contact, a few walks, and little hope. That's the formula for a start from the team's first round pick in 2010, and it's showing no signs of changing.
Strangely, the Anthony Ranaudo experience also features little in the way of actual disasters. Tuesday night was no different. The Pirates hardly destroyed Ranaudo, only getting to him for four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings of work. He left with the Red Sox still in the game, only down 3-0.
But even tonight, with his fastball playing up more than usual against a National League lineup, Ranaudo's lack of deception and one-note nature meant that, when the Pirates hit him, they hit him hard. In the second, it was Russell Martin picking on one of those straight-as-an-arrow fastballs over the heart of the plate, taking Ranaudo very deep to straightaway center, just a few rows away from leaving PNC Park altogether. Then, in the sixth, it was a changeup--that third pitch that Ranaudo doesn't really have--floating helplessly in to Starling Marte, and then screaming its way into the bullpen.
Altogether, given that sort of contact, it feels like Ranaudo is simply faking it. His numbers are far from good right now, but it seems like it's only a matter of time until opposing batters start getting hits that don't just leave the park altogether. It's bad right now, but it's just going to get worse, to the point where a night like tonight--5.2 innings of three-run ball--might seem downright positive in comparison.
All of this is not to lay the blame for this loss solely at the feet of Anthony Ranaudo. After all, what pitcher can win when his offense scores not a single run? There were few enough bright spots for the Red Sox lineup tonight, with Xander Bogaerts the only man to reach base twice. Charlie Morton was consistently ahead in the count in his five innings of work, with the Red Sox proving neither aggressive nor simply dangerous enough to make him pay for it.
While the Red Sox did get into the bullpen early enough, the Pirates' relievers proved easily up to the task. A two-out single from Xander Bogaerts and double from Allen Craig in the eighth against Tony Watson were the brightese signs of life against the bullpen. With an errant throw from Mookie Betts allowing the Pirates to increase their lead to four runs in the seventh, and former Boston reliever Mark Melancon coming in to pitch a scoreless ninth, the Sox were left with few enough silver linings on the night the A.L. East went to Baltimore.