“There is no such thing as a must win game in April.”
These are words that somebody said sometime, probably. Now, I don’t know if a loss in April is going to cause us to miss the playoffs in September, and neither does anyone else here, but all wins and losses are worth the same amount in April as they are in the last month of the season. In this respect, every game should (at least in theory) be exactly as important to win.
Chris Sale and the floptacular bullpen lost 12-4 to the Mariners that Nathan Eovaldi found himself facing. Somehow, despite it only being game 2 of the entire 162 game regular season, Eovaldi found himself shouldering all the hopes of Red Sox Nation right away (at least if you believe Twitter), because even though we won the World Series in 2018, it’s about 2019. It’s great to be grateful for last year, but that is that, and this is this, and as fans of the Red Sox, we all want to watch as much winning as possible.
Was Eovaldi up to the task?
In a word? No. In more than one? It was not a good game, and he gave up a lot of home runs to hitters who do not typically hit home runs. There were also hits that were not home runs that were deflating. I’m not sure what’s more deflated than a very-much-deflated balloon, but that’s where we’re at right now.
Mallex Smith took Eovaldi deep on his second pitch of the game. Yes, that Mallex Smith. He with 7 HR in 1046 PA entering tonight’s game. But that’s not all! Domingo Santana also hit a big shot! Somehow, the Mariners were now the Monstars from Space Jam. Twenty-two pitches into the game, Eovaldi finally got out of the first inning. With the Sox pen thin post-Kelly/Kimbrel, and five innings of work from what remained of said pen in last night’s game, this start was less than ideal.
Thankfully, the Red Sox would at least fight back a little (ok, a lot) and give us something fun to watch. Xander Bogaerts led off the second inning with his first home run of 2019, as he looks to cash in after the season in free agency. It’s possible this is our last season of Xandermania. If that is the case, I’ll take about 500 more of those, thanks, Xander.
Xander with the first HR of 2019! pic.twitter.com/LMKiM2dIGS— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 30, 2019
Before you get to feeling too good about that home run though, Eovaldi gave up another dinger to Omar Narvaez. That’s three tonight, and approximately seventy this series. I don’t know what they put in the baseballs this season, but if I had to hazard a guess, it would be kryptonite, because the Red Sox (also known as Superman, the baseball team, basically) couldn’t handle them on either side of the ball through the first 15 innings or so of the season.
The fourth inning brought more bad news. The Red Sox were completely lifeless on offense, and then Eovaldi gave up a string of loud hits and outs that led to a few runs. If not for Jackie Bradley Jr, we’d probably still be in the fourth inning. Yes, even now, when you read this after the game. Jackie is an American hero, and you will pay your respects. Tim “MVP” Beckham started the action with a loud double. Then Narvaez hit a loud single. Ryon Healy had a loud double right after. Dee Gordon didn’t hit it all that loud, but he did hit it very deep, which is concerning, because it’s Dee Gordon, and that scored Beckham. Then, Mallex Smith just missed his second home run of the game, just barely leaving it in the park for JBJ to make the play. He made the out, but another run scored. Suddenly it was 6-1 Mariners.
You would think at this point, the Sox would just get somebody up, just in case. But no help was on the way. The bullpen was quiet. The sentence was handed down: prison for life, no parole. Eovaldi was left for the Mariners to feast on. He responded by giving up a single to Mitch Haniger, and a walk to Domingo Santana. A weak grounder to the right side of the infield was scooped up by Xander, and finally, mercifully, the worst inning of tonight’s game ended.
Just to give you an idea of how loud everything was:
Last September-October, there were a total of 5 balls put in play vs Eovaldi with an exit velo > 95 mph and launch angle between 15 and 35 degrees. There have been 8 of those tonight.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) March 30, 2019
The Red Sox did get a second run, thanks to Bradley grounding into a double play that scored Rafael Devers (who got on-base because of an error). Sam Travis also got his second hit of the game, making him basically the best Red Sox hitter in 2019.
Eovaldi had a nice fifth inning, but by this point, the lead was 6-2 Mariners, and it’s hard to take too many positives from his outing. You just can’t miss your locations like he did and have a good game. If we have to say something positive, to fill an imaginary quota, then that something would be that his stuff, when it was working, looked positively filthy. If Eovaldi can bounce back, and hit his locations, we could be in for a huge year from him.
On the other side, Yusei Kikuchi is the real deal. His control, his stuff (which while not overpowering, is pretty darned impressive), his hesitation mechanics, and how he hides the ball until the last possible second makes him a pitcher to be feared. There’s no data yet on how a team will look facing him the second time, but it would be hard to look worse than the Red Sox bats did against him tonight.
The fact that J.D. Martinez hit a home run off of him in the sixth inning, with Kikuchi at 81 pitches on his arm, does nothing to tarnish just how flummoxed he had the Red Sox hitters tonight. But boy did that ball travel. Kikuchi finished the game with 6 IP, 4 hits allowed (two by Travis), and 2 ER. He walked nobody, and struck out five.
Christian Vazquez led off the 8th inning with a home run off of Zac Rosscup, which put the Sox within two, the closest they’ve been to winning since the 3rd inning of the opening game. The Mariners put in Cory Gearrin after Rosscup walked Andrew Benintendi, and the following sequence of pitches to Mookie Betts took about 10 years, because Gearrin held the ball for the longest possible time, and kept throwing over to first base. Mookie did eventually poke a single through the left side of the infield, with Benintendi on the run (he ended up at third). Suddenly I understand the desire for a pitch clock, since it was around 12:49 AM EST when J.D. Martinez came to the plate in a capital H-U-G-E spot. J.D. struck out. After another 20 years passed, Bogaerts worked his own walk. Bringing up Eduardo Nunez.
Bases loaded. One out. Tying run on second. Nunez at the plate. Slowest pitcher on the planet on the mound. And somehow Nunez... grounded into a 1-2-3 double play? That shouldn’t be possible with Nunez’s speed, but here we are.
Yes, Nunez ducked instead of running through the path. If he tries to run through, he has a chance of getting the runner home. Nope. He ducked. Then stood still, and didn’t run to first. Easy double play, and the end of the Sox rally in the 8th. The game wasn’t over yet, but something that deflating (we still haven’t figured out what’s more deflated than a very-much-deflated balloon) left the feeling that this was all she wrote for tonight.
Brian Johnson did his job, and struck out the side promptly, getting the offense back on the field. Rafael Devers responded with a loud leadoff double that put the tying run back at the plate. In came pinch-hitter Blake Swihart, who was apparently a good luck charm because the Mariners catcher (Narvaez) botched a very easy pitch, and Devers snuck into third. Then Hunter Strickland hit Blake Swihart in the foot. Which was kind of unlucky in a way, because the pitch was so far out of the zone that it definitely would have been a wild pitch that scored Devers. No matter. First and third, no outs. Tying run on first.
Jackie Bradley Jr laces it on the ground to first. You’d be forgiven for thinking this would score a run, but Ryon Healy (who earlier switched over to first base over Jay Bruce) threw a bullet home, and took out Devers. First and second, 1 out, tying run on first.
Enter Mitch Moreland, pinch hitter.
The ball is gone. The Sox took the lead. Wait, what?
Matt Barnes ended up being the Red Sox choice of closer for tonight. He fell behind 3-1 to the first batter, but ended up getting a bullet ground-out. Second batter? Went “high cheese” as Eck would call it, and took him down without a swing.
Daniel Vogelbach is all that would stand between the Red Sox and their first win of 2019. A looping curveball inside, for strike one. A four seamer at 97 MPH down the pipe. Strike two. Another looping curveball down and in, swinging. The Red Sox... won?
I need to sit down. Oh wait. I already am. I need to sit down more than I already am.
- Mitch Moreland, obviously. He kind of hit the go-ahead HR.
- Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes. These two guys were nails tonight when we really needed it. Brandon Workman gets credit too.
- Sam Travis. He didn’t play a big role, but he got two hits, which is pretty impressive since both were off Kikuchi.
- Nate Eovaldi had a terrible, no-good, very bad day.
- Seriously, Nunez?
Thank you everyone, good night.