Another day, another poor performance for the Red Sox offense. I’m still firmly in the camp of it being too early to panic, but as I’ve said before that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. On the pitching side of things, Steven Wright looked good for a few innings before just completely losing it all at once.
We’re gonna start with the offense, though, because it wasn’t just the story of the game but it’s been the story of the early part of this season. Once again, they were playing short-handed. On Saturday, Dustin Pedroia was out after the play at second base with Manny Machado on Friday. Andrew Benintendi also got the day off, as they wanted to get Chris Young in against the lefty and Benintendi was the logical choice to get a day off.
The other option would have been Jackie Bradley, but he just got back from the disabled list and it’s probably a good idea to get him some consistent at bats. As it turned out, it was incredibly smart to leave him in as he was the only source of offense for the Red Sox on Saturday night. That came in the top of the third, after Xander Bogaerts reached on a one-out single. With the shortstop on base, Bradley got a hanging breaking ball from Jayson Aquino and launched it onto Eutaw Street out in right field. As is tradition at Camden Yards, Bradley will get a bronze ball to mark the landing spot on the street in Baltimore.
Besides that, though, the Red Sox didn’t have any sort of offensive pulse against Aquino or the bullpen. This game was particularly frustrating as it was against a lefty who was making his first career start; it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get guys like Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez going. Instead, the former didn’t get the ball out of the infield in his first four at bats. He popped out his first three times up and then was out on a grounder back to the pitcher. The same would go for Ramirez in his first three at bats as he started the game with a pop out, a ground out and a strikeout. In his fourth at bat, this time against Mychal Givens, he finally made some good contact but Adam Jones made the catch right in front of the warning track in center field.
It wasn’t just those two that struggled, though. They just stood out the most. Overall, the Red Sox managed just six hits in the game with all of them being singles save for Bradley’s massive home run. They also walked three times and struck out five times.
As has ended up being the Red Sox way of late, they were able to get at least one runner on in each of the first five innings. The most frustrating inning in this one was likely the sixth. Young would get on via a fielder’s choice and then move to second on a wild pitch before heading over to third on a swinging bunt single from Pablo Sandoval. It was one of just two opportunities Red Sox hitters had with runners in scoring position on Saturday. Marco Hernandez — starting in place of Pedroia — hit a routine grounder to second base, though, and the inning was over without a score.
Moving over to the other side of the game, Wright was out looking for a big game after getting shelled by the Orioles just last week. It always felt like it’d be a little shaky, as we all know about his issue when the weather conditions are questionable. This game was delayed by about 30 minutes due to rain, and there was moisture in the air all night.
It’s tough to make that excuse for him, though, since things were looking pretty good to start. The knuckleball was knuckling and the Orioles weren’t able to do much in the first three innings. He’d allow one single in each of those frames, but they all came on grounders and none of the runners advanced beyond first base.
Then, the fourth inning rolled around and it all changed. It seemed Baltimore hitters were ready to be aggressive against the knuckleball. They knew what was coming and they were fixated on destroying everything in their path. Mark Trumbo started things off with a line out, and that should’ve been a sign of things to come. Chris Davis doubled on a shot off the wall in right field to start the rally. Then, Trey Mancini — who hit a couple homers off Wright in that first outing — launched one into the seats in left-center field to tie the game. Immediately following that, Jonathan Schoop took a knuckleball of his own and deposited it over the fence in left field. Just like that, the Orioles had the lead. The weird thing is, while those knuckleballs were far from perfect and could have used plenty more movement, the placement was bad. Both home run swings came on pitches out of the strike zone.
Wright would give up three more hits that resulted in one more run before leaving the game after throwing just 3 2⁄3 innings. Heath Hembree entered with a 4-2 deficit, and while he couldn’t do anything to close the margin, he did his job in maintaining it. He was the one positive from this frustrating game, going 3 1⁄3 scoreless frames without allowing a run. In fact, he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five. This could’ve been another game in which the bullpen was decimated, but Hembree stopped that from happening. Robbie Ross would finish things off in the eighth by facing the minimum.
At some point, something’s got to give with this lineup. Sure, they haven’t had a full-strength group since Opening Day, but that’s not a good excuse. There are plenty of talented hitters playing right now and they’re not doing their jobs. This was a perfect opportunity to get going, and besides Bradley and to a lesser extent Leon, they couldn’t. Wright’s outing was concerning in its own right, but at this moment the focus has to be on the offense’s inability to get any sort of rally going.