Last year was amazing because it seemed like every day the Red Sox were able to find a new way to win a baseball game. It was thrilling. This year is the total opposite, and thrilling in the worst possible way. In 2019, this team is finding a new way to lose a baseball game seemingly every night. Sometimes, the starting pitcher implodes. Sometimes, the lineup just fails to do anything at all. Sometimes, both sides of the ball combine forces to result in an embarrassing blowout. In this one, the Red Sox had a lead almost all night. They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and Nathan Eovaldi was phenomenal. Then, in the seventh, Brandon Workman came on to protect a two-run lead and loaded the bases with just one out. Ryan Brasier tried to clean up the damage, and instead grooved an 0-2 fastball to Brett Gardner that resulted in a go-ahead grand slam. Good times! The bullpen will get the brunt of the criticism here, and they deserve it, but don’t sleep on this lineup. After scoring three runs in two innings they were totally lost the rest of the game. It never should have come to this. Just utterly frustrating.
The Red Sox came into Wednesday’s game just looking for a little bit of positive momentum to start. They’ve trailed in almost every inning they’ve played this year — at least it feels that way — and after the embarrassment on Tuesday it could’ve been easy to see a slow start quickly pile up into another disaster. This was a rare instance of being on the road representing a good chance as they had the first chance to put the bats in their hand and do damage. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts led off with more of the same, meaning relatively quick at bats with contact that didn’t elicit fear. Then, J.D. Martinez came to the plate and changed things. He’s been one of the very few consistently productive players this year, and he made J.A. Happ pay for a middle-middle fastball. The slugger smashed it out to straightaway center field into the netting above Monument Park, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
They got right back to work in the second, too. There, Mitch Moreland got on right away with a base hit before the Sox made a couple of quick outs behind him. With Christian Vázquez coming up with two outs, it seemed like they’d have to start over in the third. The catcher had different ideas, and he took advantage of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium in the process. Vázquez hit a fly ball out towards right field that didn’t appear too intimidating off the bat, but it kept carrying and made it just over the wall. Just like that, it was a 3-0 lead for the Red Sox.
Now they just needed some good pitching from Nathan Eovaldi. That’s been a lot harder to come by in 2019 than it was in 2018, as his first three starts were marred by poor command and long innings. That wasn’t the case here, at least early on. His stuff was there, but that had been the case for the most part to start the year too. More importantly, he wasn’t really pounding the middle of the strike zone and when he missed the zone, he at least made it close enough for the batter to think about swinging. Those had each been major issues for the righty to start the season.
After his team got on the board in the first, Eovaldi did get two quick outs including a beautiful sequence to get Aaron Judge to strike out on three pitches. Luke Voit did follow that up with a double, but he’d be stranded at second when Gleyber Torres was Eovaldi’s second strikeout victim of the evening.
He’d come back and allow just a single in the second before getting a 1-2-3 third. Entering the bottom half of the fourth, it was still a 3-0 lead for the Sox and Eovaldi found himself in his first bit of real trouble of the night. Voit found himself involved once again, this time leading off and drawing a walk. Torres then followed that up with a ground ball to shortstop. Bogaerts made the play and had to throw to second on the run, and that throw was a bit off the mark. Eduardo Núñez had to lunge a bit and he couldn’t make the play, allowing both runners to reach. It wasn’t a routine play, but the ball hit the middle of Núñez’ glove. Ultimately, it’s a play he has to make, plain and simple. Anyway, that put two on with nobody out. After getting a strikeout, Eovaldi couldn’t set down Clint Frazier, who put a double down the left field line to score one and put two in scoring position. Eovaldi got a huge strikeout after that RBI double, but then it looked like Giovanny Urshela tied the game with a ground ball to the right side. Instead, Steve Pearce made a phenomenal diving stab for the final out of the inning, keeping the Red Sox ahead by two.
Things were much cleaner in the next couple innings, though. Eovaldi got two more 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth and that was the end of his night. It was exactly what the team needed to see from him, as he tossed six innings with just the one run being allowed on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
With the lineup failing to get anything going after scoring in each of the first two innings, the Red Sox bullpen was tasked with protecting the two-run lead with three more innings to go. Brandon Workman was up first, and he gave up a solid single on the first pitch he threw before walking the next guy. All of a sudden, the tying run was on first base and there was nobody out. After getting a big strikeout, Workman issued another walk and the bases were loaded with the top of the lineup coming up.
Cora had seen enough at that point, and Ryan Brasier came in. It was a little strange that he got the call instead of Matt Barnes, but Brasier had been good enough to this point that eyebrows weren’t raised too high. The righty got two quick strikes against Brett Gardner on sliders, then tried to sneak a fastball by him. Instead, he left one right down the heart of the plate and the veteran outfielder blasted a grand slam. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the Yankees were up by two. That’s you’re 2019 Red Sox right there. He did get the next two batters to end the inning, but the damage was done.
So, now the offense had to snap out of the funk it had been in since that second inning going up against a Yankees bullpen that is still very intimidating. After getting two quick outs to start the eighth, the Red Sox did load the bases on an infield hit, a regular single and a walk. That gave Núñez a huge chance for a big hit, but instead he swung at a first pitch below the strike zone and popped up a routine fly ball out to right field to end the threat and keep the deficit at two.
After Heath Hembree tossed a clean eighth, the offense had one more chance with Aroldis Chapman now on the mound. They went down in order, because of course.
I’m not sure who needs Thursday’s off-day more: The Red Sox or their fans. After this two-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees the Red Sox get a day to think about what they’ve done before playing three on the road against the red-hot Rays. Should be fun!