Well, the Red Sox are in a bit of a rut and they couldn’t find their way out of it on Tuesday. Going up against Shane Bieber on Tuesday, the Red Sox offense struggled against the impressive rookie. Although they did get going a bit later in the game, and it was certainly better than nothing, it was too little too late. The offense, particularly the stars, seem to all be hitting a little snag at the same time. Not ideal! On the other side, Nathan Eovaldi is starting to develop a pattern where he looks good early on but then hitters adjust and start to hit him hard. While he had some impressive stuff and mostly did a good job of keeping Cleveland’s studs in check, he ended up allowing five runs without getting through six. Combine that, and it was a frustrating loss.
The Red Sox offense continues to find itself in a bit of a funk, and going up against rookie Shane Bieber was not the cure they were looking for. Although he is neither a household name nor a former top-100 prospect, he is a very good pitcher and Boston’s hitters found that out quickly. He doesn’t have a massive arsenal of dominant pitches, but he was commanding the bottom edges of the zone on an extremely consistent basis on Tuesday, particularly with his two-seam fastball that had some nice movement on it to boot. The Red Sox struggled to figure it out, and really couldn’t get anything going against the young righty.
Really, there isn’t much to say beyond the fact that the Red Sox just...didn’t get anything going. The first time through the order, Bieber set down the side in three consecutive innings in a run that included three strikeouts. The Red Sox would finally get their first hit in the fourth when Andrew Benintendi poked a one-out single, but J.D. Martinez — who was moved up to the third spot in the lineup for this game — quickly followed that up with a double play to maintain Bieber’s streak of facing the minimum. That would continue in the fifth, though the Red Sox did get a couple of well-hit outs before an inning-ending strikeout to Ian Kinsler.
On the other side, Nathan Eovaldi was doing a solid job of keeping things close against a talented Indians offense, even if he wasn’t perfect. We’re starting to see the flaws from the righty, and even if they aren’t catastrophic they will get figured out by good offenses. We all know that Eovaldi throws gas, but he doesn’t mix in very many offspeed offerings. The Indians were well aware and ready to jump on early-count velocity every time up. His stuff was still good enough to put up solid numbers, but it’s clear teams are formulating a strategy.
The first inning, against the wildly talented top-third of Cleveland’s offense, was dominant for Eovaldi as he set the side down in order without a ball leaving the infield. The second wasn’t quite as sharp, but some help from his defense kept runs off the board. The Indians had Yandy Diaz reach on a leadoff single, and two batters later Melky Cabrera hit a double off the Monster. It seemed Diaz would be able to score from first, but Benintendi was able to deke the runner into thinking it was a catch. That caused just enough hesitation to hold Diaz at third. The next batter then ripped one to the right side, but Mitch Moreland made a nice pick behind the first base bag before firing a strike to the plate to get Diaz at home for the second out of the inning. Eovaldi would get out of it with a route fly ball and the Red Sox avoided what could have been a very tough inning.
After a strong third in which he allowed just a walk, Eovaldi started to lose it in the fourth. He did get a couple of quick outs there, but this is also when Cleveland started to look much more aggressive early in counts, and it worked. With two outs they got three consecutive singles to put one run on the board before Monday’s hero Greg Allen blooped a double into left field to score one more. Cleveland had a 2-0 lead by the end of the rally, and while it was certainly BABIP-aided, it was also a symptom of not being able to miss bats.
After Eovaldi worked around a leadoff double in the fifth, the righty found himself getting hit hard again in the sixth. It started with Cabrera yet again, as the former Yankee (and many other teams) outfielder has been a killer for the first half of this series, and that continued here. Eovaldi left a cutter right in the middle of the zone and Cabrera put it into the Sox bullpen to extend the lead to 3-0. Eovaldi would eventually give up two more singles while recording just one out, and Alex Cora had seen enough. He called upon Joe Kelly with two on and one out with the top of the lineup coming up. The righty did get a big strikeout against Francisco Lindor, but then Michael Brantley smacked an RBI single into center field. The inning did end there, however, as Brantley was thrown out trying to get to second on the throw home.
So, the Red Sox were now down by four and really needed to start to get going against Bieber and the Indians. They got started along that path in the bottom half of the sixth when Eduardo Núñez led off with a double, but he was stranded there after three quick outs.
Brandon Workman came on for the seventh with Boston still trailing 4-0, and he walked Jose Ramirez right off the bat. After a stolen base and a groundout moved Ramirez to third, Yonder Alonso knocked in Cleveland’s fifth run with a sacrifice fly.
Now trailing by five, the bottom of the seventh started similarly to the bottom of the sixth with Benintendi smacking a leadoff double. Martinez followed that up with a single, and the Sox had runners on the corners with nobody out. It was Xander Bogaerts up next, and with a double of his own the Red Sox had a run on the board, two in scoring position and still nobody out. Mitch Moreland came up next, and he crushed one, but unfortunately it was to the deepest part of the park and Allen made a great running grab in front of the wall. Boston did get a run and move another runner to third, but it felt like it should have been more.
Now, the Red Sox trailed 5-2 with one out and a runner on third, and Cleveland took Bieber out of the game and turned to Adam Cimber against Ian Kinsler. The veteran second baseman grounded out, but it did at least result in another run, cutting the deficit to two.
After the rally, it was up to Tyler Thornburg to hold on to the momentum and get through a quick eighth inning. He couldn’t quite get that done, as he allowed a solo home run to Yan Gomes with one out in the inning. To be fair, it was more good hitting than bad pitching, as the Indians catcher golfed a curveball that was well below the zone and put it into the Monster Seats. He’d get out of it after that, but the deficit was back to three.
In the bottom half of the inning, it was old friend Andrew Miller on the hill, and he’d set the side down in order. Drew Pomeranz followed that up with a scoreless top of the ninth, giving the Red Sox one more shot at a last-ditch comeback against Brad Hand. They couldn’t do it, going down without scoring a run and dropping their second game in a row to start this series, and third in a row overall.
Well, the Red Sox have lost three in a row for just the second time all year and on Wednesday they’ll be back in action trying to avoid making it four in a row for the first time in 2018. They’ll have Brian Johnson on the mound going up against Carlos Carrasco, and first pitch will come at 7:10 PM ET.
As for the division, well, as I write this the lead stands at nine games, but the Yankees and Marlins are still playing. The score in Miami is tied at one apiece in extras, and if New York pulls it out the lead will be down to eight. If not, well, it stays at nine. Math!