Before we get started, just a quick note on our Fake Sox simulation. I’ve been trying to think about how to handle this now that there is a plan in place to start up the real life season. I was going to sim until last week, but I don’t want to do that because I am still skeptical of the season working out. Right now my plan is to keep dropping sims like this at least through the simulated All-Star break (July 13-16) and then re-evaluate from there.
The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.
Our Fake Sox had a bit of a frustrating week out west as they took on the Angels for four games in three days, but considering L.A. is one of the best teams in baseball the split they managed is not a terrible thing. Boston had Thursday off as they flew back across the country, but the schedule didn’t ease up with the Cardinals coming into Fenway. St. Louis enters the weekend leading the NL Central and as the second best team overall in the National League. The Sox had Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for this series opener going up against Dakota Hudson.
This was kind of a weird game for Eovaldi, who wasn’t really bad and missed a whole lot of bats, but he just couldn’t rein in the pitch count. Case in point: The righty struck out two in a 1-2-3 first, but threw 21 pitches in the process. On the other side, Hudson is a pitcher who gives up a decent amount of contact but can be tough to string together baserunners against. The Red Sox actually didn’t have any trouble with that, but as the game went ont they struggled to take advantage after said baserunners were strung together.
They did come through in the first, though, to their credit. Alex Verdugo got the rally started with a little one-out base hit before J.D. Martinez came up with two outs. He got the ball up in the air against the Cardinals’ ground baller and smacked a double out to left field. Verdugo would come all the way around to score and just like that it was a 1-0 lead. Xander Bogaerts followed that up with a base hit to bring Martinez home and make it 2-0, and even better he made it to second base on the throw to the plate. That gave the Red Sox a chance to score more, but Bogaerts would be left there.
Unfortunately, another theme for this game was Eovaldi not doing well with being handed a lead. It took very little time for the Cardinals to get to the righty in the second, beginning with a leadoff double from Matt Carpenter. A couple of batters later, Harrison Bader smacked a base hit to make it a 2-1 game. That was quickly followed up with a double from Tommy Edman, and just like that the game was tied. The good news is Eovaldi did get out of the inning from there, but it was still a 2-2 score.
This began a string of very frustrating innings for the Red Sox. In the second, they got a leadoff single but then immediately followed it up with a double play. Then that was followed with a double and walk, but both runners would be stranded. They’d get the first two men on in the third thanks to a walk and an error, and eventually the bases filled up with just one out. Boston did get one run out of it on a sacrifice fly, but it could have and should have been a bigger inning.
And, once again, Eovaldi was handed a lead but couldn’t hold onto it. This time it took virtually no time at all for the Red Sox’s 3-2 lead to be erased, with rookie Dylan Carlson starting the inning off with a solo shot out to right field. Just like that, we were all tied up yet again. The Red Sox righty then walked Bader, who made it to third on back-to-back ground outs before coming home to score on a base hit, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the day. Eovaldi would come back for one more perfect inning before his night ended after just five innings with 104 pitches.
On the other side, the Red Sox continued to frustrate on offense, stranding a runner on third in the fourth before stranding two more runners in the fifth and then two more yet again in the sixth. That gave the Red Sox ten runners left on base through six innings and at least one in each of them. It’s not what you want.
Thanks to a solid performance from the bullpen the score was still 4-3 St. Louis heading into the bottom of the seventh, and Bradley started things off there with a one-out double. He then quickly showed a sense of urgency by swiping third base before José Peraza drove him in with a single.
So, we were all tied up again, and neither team would have a particularly compelling chance again until we headed into extra innings. Ken Giles and Martín Pérez combined for a scoreless top half of the tenth, giving the Red Sox a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning. They got a good chance, too, with Peraza drawing a leadoff walk and then a couple batters later Andrew Benintendi drawing one of his own. That put two men on base, and with the heart of the order coming up it felt like a great situation. Verdugo hit one fairly well, but it was caught by Bader in center field. Then, however, Peraza made a disastrous decision to go for third base with Devers standing in the on deck circle. It was not a successful tag up attempt, and the inning ended with Devers not even getting a chance.
That felt like the end of the game there, and sure enough Pérez couldn’t keep the Cardinals at bay in the 11th. After a quick first out, the southpaw gave up three straight singles with the final one off the bat of Kolten Wong bringing in the go-ahead run. Pérez did get a double play after that to end the inning with just one run crossing, but the Red Sox were now trailing 5-4. They did get the tying run on base thanks to a two-out walk in the bottom of the inning, but they couldn’t do anything beyond that and the series started off with a frustrating loss.
The 5-4 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 43-38. The Yankees also lost, though, so the deficit in the division remains at 2.5 games. Around the league, a bad season got worse for the Braves as they lost Mike Soroka for the year with a torn rotator cuff.
Down on the farm, Pawtucket dropped both halves of their doubleheader despite a two-homer game from Chad De La Guerra in the opener, Portland lost despite a two-homer game for Connor Wong, Salem won in part thanks to a two-homer game for Tyler Esplin, Greenville lost both ends of their doubleheader with Yusniel Padron-Artilles getting hit around in the first game, Lowell picked up a shutout victory, Brainer Bonaci homered in a win for the GCL squad, and both DSL squads won.