Another frustrating day for the Red Sox offense, as they couldn’t get anything going against Orioles starter Alec Asher. The righty has gotten solid results this year, as he did last year, and did throw some impressive pitches in this game. It’s often hard to think this way while you watch your team struggle mightily at the plate, but the pitcher almost always deserves credit when a game like this occurs.
With that being said, the offense has to be better than this. They have shown they are capable of being better and they should absolutely be better than this going forward, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to watch as it’s happening.
With Asher on the mound, the Red Sox had exactly one piece of good news. That came in the top half of the third inning when Pablo Sandoval took a fastball up in the zone over the fat part of the plate and hit it on a line out to left field. It cleared the wall by only two rows, but that’s the same as clearing it by twenty rows. It gave the Red Sox their first run of the game.
Beyond that, there wasn’t really much hard contact off Asher. For the second consecutive game, Mookie Betts led things off with a solid barrel on a ball to center field, but for the second consecutive game he flew out to center field to lead off the contest. He also had another well-hit out, and while he hasn’t produced much at the plate lately — at least relative to his standards — he feels like a hitter who is ready to go on a hot streak.
Other than those solid flyouts and the home run, it was a whole lotta nothing. They went down 1-2-3 in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings. At one point between the first and second innings, five consecutive hitters either popped out or struck out against Asher. It was not a pretty day for the offense, and for as well as Asher looked for times in this game the offense just didn’t have the approach against him it needed to succeed.
Asher did come back out for the seventh, facing only two batters. The first, Xander Bogaerts, reached on a double on a little liner in the right spot in right field. The second, Mitch Moreland, popped out behind the plate.
That led to the start of the night for the Orioles bullpen which started with Mychal Givens. Things kicked off well for the hard-throwing righty as he struck out the slumping Hanley Ramirez, but he followed that up by allowing an RBI single to Jackie Bradley to bring Boston within one. The inning would end soon after, though, when Bradley was caught stealing second. Aggressive baserunning has worked well for the Red Sox this year, but sometimes it’ll cost you. It’s all in the game yo.
Darren O’Day came out for the eighth, and while he did walk Sandy Leon he got out of the inning unscathed with two strikeouts. The ninth inning belonged to Brad Brach, and Baltimore’s closer took care of things with a relatively easy inning to finish off the brutal day for Boston’s offense.
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was on the hill for the Red Sox and things got off to an extremely shaky start. The Red Sox could have really used a solid start from the reigning Cy Young award winner given Eduardo Rodriguez’ injury and Porcello’s own struggles of late. They didn’t get a perfect start, but in the end he did well enough to win this game.
Of course, as I said, things got off to a very rough beginning. In the first at bat of the game, Porcello left a fastball right over the heart of the plate — something he’s had an issue with in 2017 — and it resulted in a leadoff home run for Seth Smith. After a strikeout to Adam Jones, he left another ball over the middle of the plate and this time Manny Machado demolished it into the left field seats. Just like that, the Orioles had a 2-0 lead with just one out in the first inning. He gave up hard contact in the next two at bats as well, but Baltimore couldn’t plate anymore runs in the frame.
From there, Porcello settled down a bit. He gave up a couple hits in the second but didn’t allow a run before setting the Orioles down 1-2-3 in the third. In the fourth, after striking out Chris Davis to start the inning, he allowed a single followed by an RBI double to Hyun-Soo Kim to give Baltimore their third run. It obviously wasn’t ideal, but it was actually a solid pitch up and in that Kim did a good job of getting around on to send it down the line.
That was all the damage Baltimore would put on Porcello. After a nearly 40-pitch first inning, it looked like the righty would be lucky to get through five innings, but he ended up throwing six innings in which he only allowed three runs. He still has some things he has to work on for sure, but on this night he did enough for his team to get a win, they just couldn’t oblige this time around.
Heath Hembree would come on in relief for Porcello and pitched a scoreless seventh inning in which he allowed just one single and was saved later in the frame by a great diving grab courtesy of Betts. He’d come out for one quick out in the eighth before handing things off to Robby Scott and Joe Kelly to finish things off.
The Red Sox offense is in a bad way right now. There is too much talent here to expect this to continue, but something needs to give. Whether that’s simply guys getting hot — which is probably the most likely fix — or some sort of spark from either a new face in the lineup or a shakeup in the order, a change needs to happen. They’ll look to start that change on Saturday night against Dylan Bundy with David Price taking the mound for Boston.