Eventually, the Red Sox offense did get going in this one. It was a little too little a little too late, though. They are still struggling to get anything going early in games, and it’s forcing them to play from behind far too often. This was another frustrating loss for the Red Sox.
I don’t even know where to begin with this lineup at this point. They scored some runs late in the game, but it was another impossibly slow start on Monday night. On the one hand, Marcus Stroman is an outstanding pitcher. He’s incredibly talented, has dynamic stuff and when he’s on he’s the master of ground balls and weak contact. On Monday night, his command was on point and he worked the edges of the zone more often than not. If the Red Sox weren’t in the midst of one of the worst offensive streaks for a team I can remember, that would be a fine excuse. They ran up against a good pitcher and got shut down. It’s tough to watch, but it happens.
They are in the midst of one of the worst offensive streaks for a team I can remember, though. That doesn’t change anything I said about Stroman, as he did pitch very well and deserves credit for that. Still, the offense deserves any and all criticism you want to send its way. Simply put: This lineup is way too talented to be doing this. The Red Sox went down 2-0 in the first inning of this game, and it felt like it was over already. That’s no fun.
It’s not just one guy struggling, either. It’s the whole lineup, including some players who you rarely see struggle like this. Take Mookie Betts, who is one of the best hitters in the league in terms of avoiding strikeouts. On Monday, he struck out twice and looked silly in the process. As a whole, the offense hit everything into the ground when they were able to make contact, sending just three balls into the outfield in the air through their first 23 at bats. One of those was a pop out that pushed the second baseman two or three steps into the outfield.
In terms of an inning-by-inning basis, the offense never really got anything going early on. They did get a couple of base hits in the second inning, but Moreland’s leadoff single was eliminated when Hanley Ramirez followed it up with a double play. In the fourth they got runners on the corners with two outs, but the inning ended on one of Betts’ strikeouts.
On the mound, Eduardo Rodriguez got off to a rocky start but ended up with a decent enough start for a guy making his first major-league appearance since June 1. Things got off to a really rough start for the lefty, though, as he got into a lot of trouble in the first after kicking things off with a three-pitch strikeout against Jose Bautista. He’d allow a single before getting another strikeout, then walked a batter before allowing a two-run double to Kendrys Morales. It wasn’t a cheapie, either, as the Blue Jays DH smoked it off the Green Monster.
Rodriguez would get out of that inning without allowing another run, but the 2-0 lead was already in place. He’d get into some more trouble in the next inning in the very first at bat. There, he left a fastball middle in to Steve Pearce and the righty turned on it and sent it over everything down the left field line to give Toronto a 3-0 lead.
From there, Rodriguez settled down a bit even though he was never really perfect. He’d end up allowing at least one runner to reach base in every inning and it seemed like almost every pitch he threw was of the high-stress variety. Despite that, he showed off strong stuff for someone who had missed so much time and limited the damage to just the three early runs. The Red Sox obviously hope he’ll be better than that moving forward, but that’s obviously the expectation for a pitcher returning from injury.
Rodriguez would finish up with 5 1⁄3 innings and handed the ball off to Fernando Abad. The left-handed reliever continued to produce quietly good results out of the Red Sox bullpen, retiring all five batters he faced in 1 2⁄3 innings and striking out two Blue Jays.
That brought us to the bottom of the seventh, when the Red Sox offense finally started to show some signs of life. In this inning, Andrew Benintendi started the rally with a one-out double out to right field. After that, Jackie Bradley reached on an error by Justin Smoak at first base and Christian Vazquez drew a walk to load the bases with just one out. This seemed like a make-or-break moment for this offense, and Brock Holt came through with a deep fly ball to give the Red Sox their first run of the game. With two outs, Betts finally came through with a single to score another run. Finally, with two runners on Dustin Pedroia ripped a double out to left field to tie the game. Unfortunately, the inning also ended on the play as Betts ran through a stop sign and was thrown out at home. Betts has some of the best baserunning instincts in the game, so it’s hard to be too upset at him running through a stop sign. Plus, it took a picture perfect relay from Toronto’s defense to get him at the plate. It ended up being a huge play in this game, but it was excusable in this writer’s opinion.
Just like that, we were back in a tie game and the Blue Jays were sending their best hitter (this year, at least) in Smoak to the plate to start the inning. It seemed like a spot for Matt Barnes, but John Farrell sent out Heath Hembree instead and it did not work. The righty walked Smoak to lead off the frame before allowing a single to Morales to put runners on the corners with nobody out. From there, he did get a huge pop out from Troy Tulowitzki for the first out, but followed that up by allowing an RBI single to Pearce. The damage would end there with a couple of strikeouts.
The Red Sox couldn’t get anything going in the bottom half when trailing by a run, going down 1-2-3. Matt Barnes followed suit in the top of the ninth by retiring Toronto in order, leaving the Red Sox with the task of mounting a comeback against Roberto Osuna.
The Red Sox are in a bad way right now. The good news is first place is still theirs and the pitching still looks good. The bad news is the offense is impossibly frustrating and we’re all starting to lose our minds a little bit. Whether it’s a trade or a lineup shakeup or just a little bit of magic, something needs to jump start this unit. They’ll try to make that happen against J.A. Happ on Tuesday. Boston will send Brian Johnson to the mound.