It wasn’t always easy on Tuesday night, with the Red Sox offense playing a familiar card by failing to get much of anything going early and digging themselves in an early hole. To be fair to them they did get some hard contact against Glen Sparkman and failed to get anything to fall, but it was still a frustrating performance with runners being left in scoring position in each of the first couple innings. Fortunately, Eduardo Rodriguez was solid in allowing one homer but nothing else, giving his team a chance to come back. They did just that with a three-run sixth before Eduardo Núñez hit a big, three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth to really put the game away. This is a part of the schedule in which the Red Sox need to thrive, and that starts here.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what the most frustrating part of this Red Sox has been, which in and of itself is pretty frustrating! There’s so much holding this team back right now despite having essentially the exact same roster that went on a historic tear last season. It doesn’t make sense! On Monday, we discussed one issue being that the team is struggling to get off to good starts at the plate, and that having a way of snowballing into the rest of the game. That was what happened early against the Royals, one of the worst teams in all of baseball in no small part due to their pitching.
Glen Sparkman, to his credit, is not some scrub with no business in the majors. He’s not a great major-league pitcher, and probably not even a good one, but he made some good pitches on Tuesday. That said, the Red Sox had some chances early in this game to take an early lead but instead let the 27-year-old righty off the hook. Take the first inning, for example, when Andrew Benintendi poked a one-out pitch the other way for a double. He’d move on over to third on a ground out, but was left 90 feet from home plate.
The second went very similarly, when Brock Holt reached on a one-out walk and moved up to scoring position on a ground out. Again, though, Boston couldn’t get the two-out hit they needed to get on the scoreboard.
From there, Sparkman got into a rhythm while the Red Sox couldn’t catch a break. Through the fifth inning, the Royals righty allowed only one single with a pair of perfect innings mixed in. Ultimately, the Red Sox need to get hits and haven’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt this season. That said, they made good, solid contact on a good chunk of those outs. It was just that the contact was finding gloves.
So, the Red Sox offense went scoreless against the Royals in the first half of the game, putting some pressure on Eduardo Rodriguez to pitch perfectly. Now, Kansas City doesn’t exactly have a juggernaut of an offense, particularly with Hunter Dozier on the injured list, but they are better than some may think. It wasn’t going to be a breezy walk in the park for Rodriguez and bad pitches would be punished. To his credit, the Red Sox southpaw came out attacking and got through an easy 1-2-3 inning in the first that included a pair of strikeouts.
Things wouldn’t go quite as well in the second. Alex Gorgon gave Kansas City their first baserunner of the night when he led off that second inning with a double out to right field, where Mookie Betts was shifted out towards center field. A couple of batters later, Cheslor Cuthbert was at the plate. The righty got a cutter on the inner half and blasted it out to left field up and over the all for a two-run shot. Just like that, it was a 2-0 lead for the Royals.
This is a situation where Rodriguez can have a tendency to reel, but that wouldn’t the case here. He settled down in a big way after that home run and made sure not to dig the hole any deeper. The southpaw got two quick outs after the homer to end that inning, and then allowed just a bunt single in the third. The fourth did bring a little bit of trouble with the first two batters reaching, but a strikeout and a double play ended that rally in its tracks. Thanks in part to another inning-ending double play, Rodriguez made it through a scoreless fifth as well.
That would bring us to the top half of the sixth with Sparkman still in the game and the Royals still leading 2-0. This time, it was Betts starting off the inning in style with a double out to center field. After getting Andrew Benintendi, Sparkman was lifted to get a fresh arm in to face J.D. Martinez. That would be a mistake. Martinez missed a home run by mere inches, but the ball bounced off the very top of the wall back into play for an RBI triple, the slugger’s first three-bagger of the year. After a Rafael Devers walk, Xander Bogaerts was able to tie the game with a sacrifice fly out to center field. Then, Brock Holt came to the plate and smacked one into the right field corner. Devers was flying on contact and made it all the way around to score, and just like that it was a 3-2 lead for the Red Sox.
So, Rodriguez would come back out for the bottom of the sixth to pitch with a lead for the first time of the evening. He immediately got into trouble when the speedy Adalberto Mondesi singled on a soft grounder to third base and then turned around and stole second base in short order. That put a runner in scoring position with just one out. Rodriguez got a big strikeout after that, but that was the end of his night. It was a solid outing for the lefty, but he left a runner on second for Heath Hembree. The right-handed reliever allowed Jorge Soler to put a charge into one, but it was caught at the warning track in center field to end the inning.
After the Red Sox went down in a scoreless seventh, Marcus Walden came on for the bottom half of the inning. He issued a one-out walk but nothing else to preserve the one-run lead.
Then, in the eighth, things became a little more comfortable. The left-handed Jake Diekman was in the game and Martinez and Bogaerts got a pair of singles with just one out being recorded in between them. That put two on with Brock Holt due up, but Alex Cora decided to pinch hit the right-handed Eduardo Núñez. It was a strange decision as Núñez isn’t really better than Holt against lefties and the latter was having a big game. Last year, these strange moves always had a way of working out, and that was the case here as well. Núñez got a slider that caught too much of the plate and launched it way out to left field for a three-run shot, and suddenly it was a four-run lead.
With the more comfortable lead in hand, Brandon Workman came on for the bottom of the eighth and tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning. The Red Sox would then score two more on a double from Devers in the ninth, bumping the lead up to six for Ryan Brasier in the bottom of the ninth. He did allow a run, but otherwise closed out the game and locked up a Red Sox victory.
The Red Sox and Royals continue their series on Wednesday in Kansas City. Boston will send out Chris Sale to take on Jakob Junis, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.