If you follow the Celtics on the internet, you’ve probably heard of the Hospital Celtics. This is when the Celtics have a number of injuries and have to play with strange lineups, yet they seem to win far more often than they ever should. Today, we saw the Hospital Red Sox, and it didn’t go as well. They had J.D. Martinez in right, Steve Pearce in left, and oh yeah Christian Vázquez was playing second base. The worst part is, defense (at least from those guys) wasn’t the issue here. Instead, the offense was totally lifeless against a very hittable pitcher, and they had to rely far too much on pitchers from the bottom of their depth chart. We’re still waiting for this Red Sox team to click, it seems.
I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to use a pitcher’s ERA on April 15 to make any grand statements about who they are as a player. It’s so early in the year with so much noise in this small sample, and I think most would probably agree for example that the Red Sox starting pitchers probably aren’t well-represented by their current ERA. So, when you say Dan Straily is a pitcher with a 19.29 ERA coming into this game, that’s probably not the good point it sounds like it is. Instead, you should say Dan Straily is a pitcher with a 19.29 ERA coming into this game and who has had one season with an ERA below 4.00 since 2013 and zero seasons with a FIP below 4.58 in that span. All of that is to say, Straily has never really been a good pitcher in the majors outside of a few flashes, and the Red Sox should have been in a good position to do some damage for Monday’s Patriots Day game.
They did make good on that position. There are certainly games like this in which the pitcher simply looks better than we expect and they get a lot of the credit. Aaron Brooks from the Oakland series earlier in the year comes immediately to mind for me. This did not strike me as one of these games. To be fair to Straily, he certainly wasn’t bad and he did mix his pitches extremely well. Red Sox hitters never knew what to expect in any given count, and that goes a long way. That said, the stuff generally wasn’t overpowering and his location wasn’t great. Instead, Boston’s bats just weren’t up to the task. They let hittable pitches go by, and when they did swing they couldn’t do anything with them. That’s not going to score many runs.
In fact, it didn’t even yield many hits, or any at all for the first few innings of the game. Over the first four innings, the Red Sox managed just one baserunner on a Rafael Devers walk, and even in that at bat the young third baseman got two consecutive 90 mph fastballs right in the middle of the strike zone. He was late on both and fouled them straight back.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox were giving their starting pitchers an extra day of rest and using sixth starter Hector Velázquez. The righty looked great in his spot start at the end of the season-opening road trip, but he couldn’t match that performance here. He struggled with control all day long and and was hurt by some bad location, too. With some help from the Orioles offense he did limit damage and his outing actually should have been worse.
Of course, the most notable part of the game while the Red Sox were in the field was Vázquez being at second base, and sure enough it didn’t take terribly long for him to be tested. With one on and one out, Dwight Smith hit a grounder right at the catcher-turned-second-baseman, and Vázquez made the stop and began the inning-ending double play. It was all smiles.
The smiles wouldn’t last much longer, though it wasn’t Vázquez’ fault. In fact, he helped not make things worse. The second inning began with a leadoff walk, and then Renato Núñez smashed a ball off the Monster in left-center field. Mookie Betts made a nice play off the wall and threw it into second, where Vázquez made a solid play catching a ball that was slightly off line, turning and applying a clean tag to get the runner going for a double. A run did score to put Baltimore up 1-0, but they lost another potential runner in scoring position. Velázquez would turn around and load up the bases on two walks and a bad error by Devers on a potential double play ball, but with a strikeout and a pop out the Orioles still only had the one run after two.
From here, we fast-forward to the top half of the fifth with Velázquez long out of the game and Marcus Walden about to start his second inning of work. He struck out the side in his first, but this one wouldn’t go as well. The fifth began with a walk that was followed by a ground out that moved the runner up to second base. Jonathan Villar then poked a single through the right side, giving Baltimore their second run of the day. A couple batters later, Smith utilized Fenway’s strange dimensions and put a home run right over the wall down the right field line, and just like that it was a 4-0 lead for the O’s.
Now, Boston’s offense really had to get going. They did that in the bottom of the fifth when Xander Bogaerts led off with an infield single, preventing any potential history in Fenway for this game. Devers followed that up with a single of his own, and the Red Sox had runners on the corners with nobody out. They did get one run on a fielder’s choice hit by Steve Pearce — and one that resulted in the ejection of Orioles manager Brandon Hyde after his review of Devers’ slide at second did not go his way — but couldn’t do any more with the inning, and it was still a three-run deficit.
That same deficit stood as we entered the bottom of the seventh, where J.D. Martinez started things with a double. As was on brand for the Red Sox offense in this game, though, he’d be stranded there.
The game would pretty much end in the next half-inning with Heath Hembree taking the mound. After Colten Brewer and Brandon Workman each tossed scoreless innings of relief before this, Hembree wouldn’t be able to say the same. The righty allowed a double to Núñez, bringing Chris Davis to the plate. Davis, of course, just got his first hit of the season on Saturday, and here he got his first homer. Hembree hung a slider right down the pipe and Davis sent it flying, making it 6-1 Baltimore. It only got worse in the ninth, too, when Tyler Thornburg came in to allow two more in the top of the inning. Ugly game from beginning to end.
The Red Sox will look to put this rough day behind them as they head out to New York for their first matchup against the Yankees of 2019. In the first game of the two-game set, Boston will send Chris Sale to the mound to take on James Paxton. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.