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Fake Sox Game Five: Collin McHugh and Alex Verdugo make good first impressions

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The Red Sox take a series-opening win in Baltimore.

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The following simulation is courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21

Our Fake Sox had a tough opening weekend north of the border with four close games up in Toronto and the Blue Jays taking three of them. They were looking for some better luck as they headed south to Baltimore to start off their three-game set against the Orioles. They had a few new faces in there as well with both Collin McHugh and Alex Verdugo returning from the IL and Tzu-Wei Lin in at second for his first start of the year.

After the Red Sox struggled to get much of anything going in the first, McHugh wasn’t exactly sharp in his first start of 2020. He gave up a pair of singles in his first three at bats to give Baltimore runners on the corners with just one out, but he escaped trouble with a strikeout and a ground out. The offense then continued to have some issues with Orioles starter Kyle Lloyd in the second with two quick outs before Christian Vázquez came to the plate. The catcher had struggled a bit in Toronto outside of one home run, and he doubled that total here. Vázquez drove a 2-2 pitch 427 feet out to left-center field for a solo home run, and just like that the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead.

The bad news is that McHugh then found himself in yet another jam in the bottom of the second. After a quick first out Baltimore once again got runners on the corners with just one down thanks to a walk and a single. The good news is McHugh once again escaped trouble, and once again did so with a strikeout and a ground out. The Fake Sox got him a little more insurance in the next inning two with a bit of two-out magic as Verdugo got his first hit of the year with a double down the line in right field followed by a base hit from J.D. Martinez to make it 2-0 Boston.

McHugh would continue to struggle a bit with his command and efficiency, and in the bottom of the third Baltimore once again got a runner in scoring position, this time with Trey Mancini smacking a one-out double. McHugh was a master at walking this tightrope all day, though, and he gave once again stranded the runner to keep the shutout going. He’d then come back and allow just one baserunner over the next two innings.

So, we headed into the top of the sixth with Boston still up 2-0. Lloyd had to leave the game in the fourth with an elbow injury — nothing serious and he should make his next start for Baltimore — and old friend Travis Lakins had come in and retired five in a row. Martinez came up to lead off the sixth and he changed that trend quickly. It wasn’t a moonshot for Martinez, but he hit one right down the line in right field that stayed fair and left the yard for a solo shot, giving the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.

McHugh would come back out for the sixth with 90 pitches, and he immediately gave up a double to Renato Nuñez, which ended the righty’s day. It wasn’t the cleanest of starts, but he was solid and there were still no runs on the board. Colten Brewer came on with the runner on second and nobody out, and Nuñez would quickly move to third on a ground out. With the runner now 90 feet away, Brewer made a bat mistake and it got away from Vázquez for a wild pitch, and all of a sudden it was 3-1 Boston. Brewer settled down from there, though, with two straight outs before coming back out for the seventh and allowing just a walk.

After Xander Bogaerts stranded a pair in scoring position in the top of the eighth, Brewer came back out to face one batter, who he struck out. Ryan Brasier would come in after that and got a strike out and a fly out to keep the two run lead heading into the ninth. That final frame belonged to closer Matt Barnes who continued his strong start to the year, getting an easy 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout to close it out and give Boston a 3-1 victory.

Their record for the year now lies at 2-3. After the game, Matt Hall was brought back up to the majors with Bryan Mata, who had not pitched, going down to the minors.