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Red Sox 3, Athletics 7: Leaving the left coast with a whimper

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That was brutal.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

This was another brutal loss in what has been a brutal start to the season out west for the Red Sox. They got off to a strong start on Thursday, picking up where they left off on Wednesday and jumping out to a 3-0 lead. However, even with the lead it felt like they could have and should have jumped on Brett Anderson for a bigger lead. They didn’t, and then later in the game the bats totally shut off. Meanwhile Eduardo Rodriguez also trended down as the game went on, starting off with a good approach and attacking hitters but eventually regressing to his regular, frustrating style. In the end, though, this game will be defined by a costly, uncharacteristic and frankly absurd misplay by Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox have now lost three of four in each of their first two series.

The Red Sox were riding high following their comeback win on Wednesday night when their offense finally started to get into something resembling a groove. After a disastrous first half of their season-opening road trip, they were looking to use that momentum and run off a couple of wins to finish things off. In the early going in Thursday’s getaway game in Oakland, they got off to a good start. The offense benefitted from some rare rough starting pitching from the Athletics, and Eduardo Rodriguez was attacking the zone and pitching efficiently.

In fact, the offense wasted no time whatsoever picking up where they had left off in Wednesday’s win. Mookie Betts led off the game with a well-struck base hit, and Andrew Benintendi followed that up with a bunt single. After Steve Pearce struck out in his return to action, J.D. Martinez ripped a single of his own before A’s starter Brett Anderson lost the zone. He’d walk Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt with the bases full, and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead after two.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In the third, they kept the offense going as well. Pearce started that inning with some hard contact and his first hit of 2019, but the play wouldn’t end well. The 2018 World Series MVP ripped one off the wall in left field, but he got greedy trying to stretch it to a double and was easily thrown out at second base. That would prove to cost Boston a run, as Martinez followed that up by driving a middle-middle fastball the other way for an opposite-field home run. It was only a solo shot, but it was still a 3-0 lead for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, it seemed that Rodriguez had come into this outing with a plan. He was, of course, called out by his manager and pitching coach after his last outing for abandoning the gameplan. Whether or not this was his decision or theirs is unclear, but Rodriguez was throwing fastballs and throwing strikes. He only needed 14 pitches to get through the first inning, and 12 of those were fastballs. The second was equally as efficient as he allowed just a single, and there he started to add in more changeups.

In the third, though, right after Boston extended their lead to three, the lefty started to fall into more habits and was starting to lose his pitch count in the blink of an eye. That inning started with Rodriguez going from a 1-2 count to Josh Phegley to a full count and eventually the A’s catcher ripped a leadoff double. Then, after issuing a one-out walk to Marcus Semien, Stephen Piscotty tied the game with one swing. Rodriguez fell behind 2-0 and then left a fastball middle-middle, and you can’t do that at this level. Piscotty launched it out over the wall in straightaway center field to make it a 3-3 game.

After the Red Sox offense squandered a chance when Pearce struck out with the bases loaded, Rodriguez’ day went from bad to a disaster. Once again, it was in frustrating fashion as this rally started when he lost an 0-2 count to Ramón Laureano and eventually walked him. After a base hit from Phegley, Robbie Grossman came up and knocked a double down the right field line to give Oakland a 4-3 lead. With two outs, the start of the Red Sox season was summed up with one play. Piscotty once again hit one deep to center field, but this one stayed in the yard. It looked like an easy play for both Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., but there was miscommunication and both watched it fall to the ground and bounce up over the wall for a ground-rule double. It was Bradley’s ball to be sure, but both are to blame for the lack of communication. The result was two more runs and the end of the day for Rodriguez. The lefty was charged with six runs on the day, but while he was not good he also only deserved to be charged with four.

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Hector Velázquez did come in and stop the bleeding for a bit, but he started to run out of luck with two outs in the sixth. There, the A’s poked three consecutive singles to push their lead up to four before the inning finally ended.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense wasn’t really doing too much as the game got deeper. They did get a runner to second in the sixth, but he was left there after both Betts and Benintendi went down looking.

Out of the bullpen, the Red Sox finished up with Heath Hembree getting the final two innings, which he handled without allowing a run. That left the offense with one last chance in the ninth, and sure enough they made another frustrating mistake. After Betts drew a leadoff walk, Benintendi came through with a bloop single that should have resulted in two runners on base to start the inning. Instead, Betts tried for third and for the third time in this series the Red Sox were reminded not to run on Laureano. Betts was cut down for the first out of the inning, and Benintendi would eventually be stranded at second to end the game.

The Red Sox will head slightly more east on Thursday as they get set to start a three-game set in Arizona on Friday. They’ll be sending Rick Porcello to the mound in the first game to take on Zack Godley. First pitch comes at 7:10 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs