How about that pitching, eh? The Red Sox have dropped their opening series of this 2020 season against the Orioles, who project to be the worst team in baseball. It’s not what you want. Unsurprisingly, it was the pitching that did the Red Sox in early with Ryan Weber just not getting the job done. With his lack of stuff he needs his command to be pretty much perfect if he’s going to succeed, and that just wasn’t the case here. His control was off and he made a couple of mistakes, and that was enough for six runs without even making it out of the fourth. The bullpen did a solid job behind him until the ninth, to be fair, but the Red Sox offense struggled early against Wade LeBlanc and couldn’t make up the difference against Baltimore’s bullpen. More positively, Boston did get a couple of dingers from Christian Vázquez and Kevin Pillar.
Every game for the Red Sox this season is going to be about the starting pitching and whether or not they can keep the team in the game. With this opening series coming against the Orioles, who look to be the worst team in all of baseball on paper, there was at least some optimism they could get off to a good start. Except, well, Martín Pérez got hit around early in Saturday’s game, and so it was on Ryan Weber’s shoulders to get things off to a good start on Sunday. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Weber is not the type of pitcher you expect to see succeed in today’s game as a right who throws a lot of soft stuff and needs to command the edges of the zone to have success. If he’s missing off the edge, not getting a big zone and not getting chases, it’s often a long day, and that’s what happened here.
In the first, he did get a couple of quick outs to start things off, but then José Iglesias continued to be a pest in the three-hole. Weber actually threw him a solid two-strike breaking ball off the outer edge, but Iglesias managed to keep the inning alive by depositing a soft liner into right field for a base hit. That brought Rio Ruiz to the plate, and he got a mistake. Weber threw a fastball up in the zone over the middle of the plate and the Orioles third baseman put it in the bullpen. That gave Baltimore the early 2-0 lead.
Weber was better in the second where he allowed just a walk, but the third went downhill once again. This one started with the righty’s second walk of the day before Iglesias came through again. This time he smacked a double into left-center field, and Anthony Santander made his way all the way around the bases to give the O’s their third run. Fortunately, Weber didn’t let that snowball and ended up leaving Iglesias standing at second.
That momentum didn’t carry into the fourth, though, and that’s where the wheels really fell off. Renato Núñez quickly started the inning by ripping a base hit through the left side, and that was immediately followed by another walk from Weber. With the first two men reaching, DJ Stewart for some reason dropped a bunt. It successfully moved the runners up, but it was a free out that Weber didn’t look like he was getting on his own. It did pay quick dividends, though, as Baltimore got their fourth run on a sacrifice fly. This brought Santander to the plate with a runner on second and two outs. The Orioles outfielder put up a tough at bat fouling off a few pitches, and then Weber tried to get him on a changeup below the zone. Somehow, Santander got to it and put it in the bullpen for Baltimore’s second homer of the game. That ended Weber’s day with six runs on the board. Colten Brewer came out of the bullpen and he got out of the inning without any more damage, though he did allow a couple of baserunners.
So, the starting pitching didn’t get it done, but the plan for this season was for the offense to make up for that lack of strong pitching. Going up against Wade LeBlanc, a lefty with underwhelming stuff, it seemed like the Red Sox bats had a good chance. Instead, it was a frustrating affair early on. They did get a little bit of early damage when Christian Vázquez hit his first homer of the year in the second, sending it over all the cardboard cutouts in the Monster Seats. That would be their only hit until the fifth, though, when Kevin Pillar hit one to a similar spot for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.
So, that made it a 6-2 game, and Marcus Walden came on in the sixth. He only had to face three batters thanks in part to Christian Vázquez catching his first base stealer of the season. Then, in the bottom of the inning the Red Sox had a chance to get right back in it after a leadoff infield single from Jackie Bradley Jr. and a two-out double from Rafael Devers, his first hit of the season.
That brought Xander Bogaerts to the plate with a pair in scoring position and Miguel Castro coming in out of Baltimore’s bullpen. Bogaerts won the battle, smacking a base hit through the left side to bring both runners home and just like that it was just a two-run game.
Walden then came back out in the seventh, and once again Iglesias continued to bother Red Sox pitching, this time by ripping a leadoff double after initially falling behind 0-2. Walden added another baserunner to the mix with a one-out walk, too. The righty did eventually get out of the inning, though, holding onto the two-run lead while leaving runners on the corners with an inning-ending strikeout.
After the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom of the inning, Matt Barnes came in for the eighth. His season didn’t get off to the best start as he walked the first two batters he faced (with some help from a tight strike zone), but the followed that up with a strikeout, a pop up and a ground out and kept the deficit at two.
In the bottom of the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. led things off with a base hit against the shift to put the leadoff man on, but that was immediately followed by a José Peraza double play. They caught a break after this with Iglesias making an error on a routine ground ball, but Devers couldn’t take advantage of the mistake, ending the inning with a grounder to first base.
Austin Brice came on for the ninth, and he didn’t get the job done. After a one-out single from Hanser Alberto, Chris Davis just missed a home run, instead settling for an RBI double to make it 7-4. Davis made it up to the Red Sox, though, forgetting how many outs were on the board on a routine fly ball to left field to end the inning by getting doubled up.
That gave the Red Sox one more chance in the ninth to make up the three-run deficit. Vázquez tried to get a rally going with a two-out single, but that was all they’d get as the inning ended without any runs, and the Orioles took the opening series of the year.
The Red Sox will look to shake off this very bad opening series as they take on the Mets starting Monday. Depending on how you look at things, it’s either one four-game series with two games in each park or back-to-back two-game series against the same team. Either way, the Mets come to Boston Monday to start things off at 7:30 PM ET. Michael Wacha goes for New York while the Red Sox have yet to announce their starter.