After a win on Friday night, the Red Sox were looking for their second straight victory and one that would give them a 1.5 game lead in the division. Instead, they continued to struggle with one of their biggest weaknesses of the 2017 season and it cost them once again.
Specifically, I’m talking about Boston’s lack of success against starting pitchers. Generally speaking, they’ve been solid against bullpens this season, but they have not gotten off to good starts. Heading into this game, their .747 OPS against starters was the 22nd best in baseball. That OPS did not improve on Saturday against JC Ramirez.
To be fair to the Angels starter, he had some impressive stuff going. The former reliever was consistently tossing his fastball in the mid-to-high 90s while locating it where he intended more often than not. To go along with it, he spun more than a few nasty sliders that just destroyed right-handed hitters.
Even with that, it was still disappointing to see such a lack of production early in this game from the Red Sox. They did get a single in the first inning, but Dustin Pedroia was quickly eliminated by a double play. The one bit of offense the team did get came to lead off the second inning. There, Ramirez made one of his few mistakes of the game, leaving a fastball right over the heart of the plate to Mitch Moreland. The first baseman took advantage and launched it over the Green Monster in left-center field.
The Red Sox would get a couple more base runners in that inning, but couldn’t advance either one to the plate. After that, Ramirez settled into a groove. Between the end of that second inning through the fifth inning, the Angels fireballer retired eleven Red Sox in a row. They’d finally get another base runner in the sixth — down 3-1 at this point — on a leadoff double from Mookie Betts. It seemed like they’d be able to get a rally going with the top of the order up and Ramirez up over 90 pitches. Instead, they followed the double up with three quick outs and the inning and rally was over just like that.
Unfortunately, this time around things didn’t get any better in the next couple innings as the Red Sox failed to do much of anything against David Hernandez, Kenyan Middleton in the seventh and eighth.
This performance by the offense was particularly discouraging because the Red Sox finally got another solid start from David Price. It wasn’t the lefty’s best start of the season, but he showed much better command than he had in his last few outings.
It wasn’t perfect, though, and it got off to a rough start. In the first inning he allowed three singles to allow one run. It wasn’t a matter of bad luck, either, as they were all hit decently well and two of them were on a line. From there, Price settled down for a couple innings as he allowed no runs and just one runner between the second and third frames.
More trouble came in the fourth, although this time it wouldn’t be on Price. Things started when Danny Espinosa hit a one-out ground ball to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. Bogaerts had time to set his feet but instead threw it off-balance, and sure enough the ball sailed way past Moreland to allow Espinosa to reach. In the next at bat, Espinosa went for second on the first move from Price, who was throwing over to first. Moreland’s throw to Bogaerts at the second base bag was a little high, but it was easily catchable. Unfortunately, the ball bounced off Bogaerts’ glove, giving Espinosa yet another free base. The Angels would take advantage as Espinosa eventually scored on an RBI double from Eric Young.
After a quick fifth inning, Price came back out for the sixth and got into a little more trouble. This time, he gave up a leadoff double that was followed by a ground out to move the runner to short. Incidentally, Bogaerts may have made another defensive blunder here, as it looked to me that he had a play on the runner heading to third base. Instead, he took the easy out at first. That would prove costly as the Angels scored their third run on a sacrifice fly.
That was all Price would allow in the inning, and it would be the end of his outing. As I said, it wasn’t perfect as he did allow a bit too much contact, but he still finished with five strikeouts in his six innings of work. More importantly, he seemingly figured out the control issues that have plagued him of late, walking only one batter on Saturday. There’s still work to be done, but this was a step in the right direction for the southpaw.
After Price exited, Fernando Abad took over and had himself a rough seventh. After a quick first out, he allowed a single followed by an RBI double from Cameron Maybin, who would then steal third base. Abad remained in after that, and was called for an extremely questionable balk call that resulted in a run and a 5-1 lead for the Angels. I would argue more emphatically against it but I legitimately have no idea what a balk is anymore. What I do know is that it got John Farrell fired up, and eventually ejected.
Blaine Boyer finished the seventh and pitched a solid eighth before Matt Barnes came in for the ninth and allowed another run.
In the bottom of the ninth, the offense finally got going when it was too little, too late. At this point, the Angels were up 6-1 and they had Cam Bedrosian in the game to shut things down. Bogaerts started the rally with a one-out double, and after Andrew Benintendi drew a two-out walk, Hanley Ramirez knocked in a run with a weak ground rule double to right field. After Jackie Bradley walked to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate, Christian Vazquez came to the plate. He would strike out, but the ball got by Angels catcher Martin Maldonado, allowing Vazquez to reach and the Red Sox to pull to 6-3. Unfortunately, pinch hitter Chris Young couldn’t keep it going, as he struck out to end the game.
There weren’t many positives to take out of this one, although Price’s performance was somewhat encouraging at least. The offense was quiet early on again, though, and the defense has certainly had better games. They’ll look to quickly put this one behind them Sunday afternoon with Doug Fister taking the mound for the first time in a Red Sox uniform.