The Red Sox are in the midst of a really bad three-game stretch that is particularly distressing considering how well they’d been playing to this point and the close divisional race in which they find themselves. They were not able to break out of it on Saturday, insteading digging themselves into a deep hole once again and the lineup showing no signs of life in their attempt to get out. Eduardo Rodriguez had one really bad inning and it was indicative of something he needs to work on, but the offense’s anemic performance was the real story in this rough ballgame.
Rodriguez’ day was not as bad as the performances put forth by Chris Sale and Rick Porcello the previous two nights. He does have that going for him, at least. That being said, he did not get the job done and for the third consecutive game the Red Sox starter put the team in a bad position nearly right off the bat. For Rodriguez, as we’ve discussed many times, consistency is the key. He has so many flashes of being at least a midrotation starter, but he always matches them with flat outings like this. His pitch selection in particular can be frustrating. If you’ve been watching the southpaw for as long as most of us have, you know that the key for him has always been his secondaries. He is the owner of a solid fastball, but he has a tendency to rely far too heavily on the pitch. When he’s at his best, he’s mixing in his changeup, slider and cutter.
Early on in this game, that wasn’t the case. Rodriguez was all fastballs all the time in the first couple of innings. That’s not totally abnormal for any pitcher, as they’ll generally try to establish that pitch before getting too fancy, but Rodriguez was taking it to another extreme. He actually had a very good first inning in which he set the Orioles down 1-2-3 on eleven pitches. All eleven offerings were fastball.
In the second inning, Rodriguez decided to stick to that playbook and Baltimore was ready for it. Things started with a first-pitch double from Adam Jones, and though Jones would end up getting caught in a rundown in the next at bat, the hard contact to start the inning was a sign of things to come. A walk put two runners on, and Mark Trumbo knocked in the first run on a well-hit ball through the left side. After the second out of the inning, Baltimore got one more on another single, though this one wasn’t well hit. Instead, it was a bloop out to center field that was just hit to the perfect spot. With a 2-0 lead, Rodriguez got into a tough at bat with Tim Beckham, and the former Ray ended it by hitting the ninth pitch way over the Monster in left field. All nine pitches in the at bat were fastballs, so all Beckham had to do in a full count was wait for either a ball or a pitch right down the heart of the plate. He got the latter.
After that home run, Rodriguez settled down in a big way. Not coincidentally, it was at this point that he and Christian Vazquez altered their strategy and started to lean much more heavily on his secondaries. As a result, he followed that second inning with four scoreless in which he really didn’t get into too much trouble. In the end, he did make it through 6 2⁄3 innings, which was a bit of a boost for a bullpen that has worked a ton over the last few games. While one bad inning isn’t usually something to get too worked up over, it was largely due to a poor strategy from Rodriguez and Vazquez.
Brandon Workman was called upon after Rodriguez left, and he quickly ended the seventh inning in one at bat. He’d come back out for the eighth and, after recording a quick first out he left a fastball down in the zone to Jonathan Schoop and the underrated Orioles smacked it off the flagpole in center field to give Baltimore a 6-0 lead. He’d finish the frame without allowing any more runs. Fernando Abad came on for the ninth, and he did allow one run in his mop-up duty to leave with a 7-0 deficit.
While Rodriguez put the team in an early hole, the Red Sox offense never really looked like a group that was going to get out of it with much of a fight. They were going up against Kevin Gausman, who they’ve had success against in the past and who many teams have been able to hit of late. That being said, the young righty does have some talent and has shown plenty of flashes suggesting this kind of outing is always possible in the past. Still, it didn’t make things any less frustrating knowing that Gausman does have more talent than his numbers suggest.
The Red Sox actually had one of their best chances way back in the first inning when this game was still tied at zero. With one out, Mookie Betts singled on a line drive out to center field and a misplay by Jones moved him over to second. With the three/four hitters coming up, Boston couldn’t do anything else as Andrew Benintendi lined out and Hanley Ramirez grounded out.
There were a couple more chances throughout the game, though nothing that inspired a ton of confidence. In the third, now down 5-0, they did get a couple runners on with two out due to a couple of walks, but Benintendi struck out to end that rally. Two innings later in the fifth, they got two on with one out after a single and a walk. Eduardo Nuñez had a chance to chip away at the lead, but instead grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The offense has been mostly very good in the month of August, but this game was reminiscent of earlier months. The pitching put them in an early hole, and Rodriguez certainly has things to work on, but the offense simply needs to be better than this.
So, that’s three losses in a row for the Red Sox, and to make matters even worse this one came on a day the Yankees won. That cuts the lead in the division to 3.5. They are going to be back out at Fenway tomorrow afternoon as they try to get on the right track and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Orioles. Doug Fister will be on the bump for Boston at 1:35.