The Red Sox commemorated the hundredth game of a horribly played season by losing a horribly played game Monday night, 10-8 to the Chicago White Sox.
There are times when this team--and other bad Red Sox teams of seasons past--have made an art of losing. They manage the ebbs and flows of a train wreck the way Picasso might wield a brush. Consider, for instance, their 13-10 loss to Toronto back in June. The one where they got ahead 8-1 and still found themselves down five runs by the end of the seventh. Masterful!
Tonight was not one of those nights. It was just...pathetic. The sort of game which makes you pity those players who deserve to be on the field with a better team rather than participating in this sort of travesty.
Really, any chance this game had for legitimacy went out the window the second the first pitch was thrown. That's because it was thrown by Joe Kelly. When lab rats are trained to run their mazes with punishment and reward systems, their punishment often amounts to little more than brief shocks. For the Red Sox, the process of discovering that Joe Kelly is not a viable major league starter includes multi-hour torture sessions in the role of "punishment," and it's taking them a lot more tries to figure out that maybe, just maybe "try, try again" isn't the right approach to this whole thing.
Tonight, at least, the torture was slightly shorter than usual. Kelly coughed up four runs in the first, even managing to screw up what should have been his first out defensively, and while he was able to persist until the fourth, he left with just one out in the inning with five runs squarely on his shoulders.
The Red Sox actually made a game of things thanks in part to their play at the plate and in part to Chicago's in the field. Fresh off a seven-RBI night, David Ortiz was good for two more in the first with his 20th homer of 2015, while Rusney Castillo returned to action to score Boston's third run in the bottom of the second, walking and then scoring as Ryan Hanigan and Mookie Betts both doubled to, at the time, tie the game at 4-4.
The Sox even wound up taking the lead in the fourth. Castillo again started things off, this time with a single. That started a strange series of events which saw the Red Sox load the bases and bring home two runs on three singles--only one of which reached the outfield--and an error from Tyler Saladino on a Hanley Ramirez ground ball. It was one of those innings where, if one side is certainly more happy about it than the other, neither can really be called proud.
And really, that characterizes the whole damn game. The White Sox got back on top against Craig Breslow and Robbie Ross Jr., the latter being allowed to start the seventh inning despite allowing a run in a 22-run sixth. He predictably fared no better there, allowing two more to come in, but sacrifices must be made when you get 3.1 innings out of your still-not-a-starter-no-matter-how-much-you-wish-otherwise.
What's there even to be said anymore? No, it wasn't the worst played game of all time. There were somehow only three errors, though all of them ended up bringing a run in to score. The bats did produce even if the arms involved reduced the legitimacy of the whole thing with their distinct lack of quality. Junichi Tazawa even provided a scoreless inning as a reminder that, yes, there are alternatives to bad pitching.
But this game felt cheap, no matter how much money might have been on the field tonight. It was put on by two teams which seemed to be less interested in actually winning a game than just getting through the night. That's not a condemnation of the players on the field--Joe Kelly was probably trying his damnedest, however insufficient it might be. It's a condemnation of the people that put them there. We all might just be trying to get through the night, the series, the season at this point. But given that we follow this team out of passion and they put it together as a job, it feels like they could try a bit harder even if there's no real end goal outside of getting it over with.
Because Joe Kelly? Again? There's just no excuse at this point.