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Fake Sox Game 74: Too many wasted chances

The Red Sox offense had plenty of opportunity. They just couldn’t come through.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.

First off, my apologies for the late post today. I just straight-up forgot that this was supposed to be an afternoon game. We’ll call it a rain delay. Anyway, the Red Sox were looking to bounce back in this series opener after finishing their previous series against the Braves with a one-run loss. This was a second straight interleague series, as well as the second straight matchup against a disappointing club. Boston had Eduardo Rodriguez going against Yu Darvish.

The first inning was a nice preview of what was to come in this one for the Red Sox offense. They went down quickly for the first two outs — with Andrew Benintendi on the bench rather than his typical leadoff spot thanks to the lack of a DH moving J.D. Martinez to left field. They got a two-out rally going, though, with Martinez drawing a walk and Rafael Devers dropping a base hit into center field. Suddenly, there were two on with two outs for Xander Bogaerts, but he couldn’t come through, and Boston left a couple on.

Then, in the bottom of the first, Rodriguez simply did not have it. The Cubs jumped on the Red Sox lefty right away, with Nico Hoerner ripping a leadoff single and immediately stealing second base. Kris Bryant then followed that up with a double out to the left-center field gap, and just like that it was a 1-0 lead for the Cubs. A couple batters later, Javy Baez came to the plate and drove one way out to left field. It made it up and over the wall for a two-run shot, and it was a 3-0 lead for the Cubs.

Fortunately, Rodriguez didn’t let that bad first inning build into a bad overall start. The lefty settled down in a big way through the rest of his start, allowing just one batter to make it beyond first base in the next five innings. In all, he’d allow just the three runs over six innings over work.

The bad news is the offense just continued to waste their opportunities. In the second, they caught a couple of breaks early when Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a weak infield single and then Christian Vázquez reached on an error. That was followed up with three straight outs, though, including the final one by José Peraza with both runners in scoring position. That made four runners left on base through two.

In the third, they got a leadoff single but only sent three to the plate thanks to an inning-ending double play. They did get on the board in the fourth, though, when Bradley got ahold of a Darvish pitch, just barely clearing the wall in right field for a solo homer to make it a 3-1 game. They’d get a double later in the inning, too, but they once again left the runner on base.

They had their best overall inning in the fifth, when Peraza led off with a single, eventually stole second base and scored on a two-out single from Rafael Devers to make it a 3-2 game. The inning ended abruptly, though, as Devers unsuccessfully tried to swipe second base.

The low point of the game for this Red Sox offense came in the top of the seventh. They got things started with a double from Moreland, and then Michael Chavis came up to pinch hit for Rodriguez and drew a walk. With the team trialing by one, having two on and nobody out with the top of the order coming up was a massive, massive opportunity. So, of course, right on cue Peraza grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. It did move Moreland to third, but it took the air out of the rally. Alex Verdugo followed with a routine grounder, and the Red Sox couldn’t get anything in the inning.

Brandon Workman then came on for Rodriguez and struggled some in the bottom of the inning, walking the first two batters he faced. He came back with a strikeout, but then pinch hitter Jason Kipnis ripped a base hit through the left side to score a run, and it was back to a two-run lead for the Cubs. Josh Taylor did come back after that and get an inning-ending double play and then tossed a scoreless eighth as well.

The Red Sox offense, though, sent just three to the plate in the eighth before old friend Craig Kimbrel came on for the ninth. The former Boston closer started the inning with a strikeout, but then Christian Vázquez made things a little more interesting with his seventh homer of the year. The solo shot made it a 5-4 game. Kimbrel got two straight outs after that, though, and the game was over with a frustrating loss.

The 5-4 defeat dropped the Red Sox record down to 39-35. They are now four games behind the Yankees in the division. Down on the farm, Pawtucket split their two games the last two days with Bobby Dalbec, Josh Ockimey and Tanner Houck leading the way in the win, Portland split their two games with Nick Longhi hitting a homer in the win, Salem split their two games with Jay Groome tossing 7 13 shutout innings with eight strikeouts and no walks in the win, Greenville lost both games despite Brock Bell giving them a great start in the second game, Lowell won their first two games of the year with Cole Brannen hitting the teams’ first home run, and the DSL squads lost three of their four games.