Partially out of actual belief in the talent and partially out of sheer necessity, the Red Sox continued to try Colten Brewer as a starter in Monday’s series opener against the Braves. The righty was not particularly sharp all night long, but for the most part he was solid through four innings. So far this year, that’s been about his limit, and with the middle of the Braves order coming up for a third time, it seemed like a good time to pull him here as well. Instead, the Red Sox tried to push him a little bit more, and that was essentially the difference in this one. That fifth inning certainly wasn’t the only reason the Red Sox lost, to be fair, as the offense had a quiet night after losing Mitch Moreland and Kevin Pillar to trade and J.D. Martinez to a minor injury. Combine those two things, and you get a Monday evening loss to drop the team’s record to 12-23.
The Red Sox were not exactly in the driver’s seat for this one in terms of the pitching matchup, as they were sending Colten Brewer to the mound for just his fourth career start in the continuation of this experiment to turn him into something close to a starter. Once again, he struggled to get through clean innings, and it came back to bite him early. The righty gave up a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson to put a runner on right off the bat. Brewer did come back with a couple of big outs after that, but he couldn’t get Nick Markakis. The veteran lefty poked one into the left field corner for a double, and Swanson was able to come around and score fairly easily in part because José Peraza couldn’t cleanly play the ricochet off the wall. Brewer gave up another base hit to put runners on the corners, too, but avoided more damage.
So, the Red Sox found themselves down 1-0 early and they were going up against a guy in Max Fried who hasn’t allowed more than one run since his first start of the year, a start in which he allowed a whopping two runs. Fried has been particularly tough against lefties, too, but Alex Verdugo didn’t seem to mind. He led off the bottom of the first with his first of three doubles on the night. A couple batters later, Rafael Devers continued his hot streak at the plate with a base hit through the middle, and just like that we were all tied up at one.
Both sides had their chances in the second, with Atlanta managing a leadoff single but nothing else and the Red Sox wasting a one-out double from Jackie Bradley Jr., but the score was still 1-1 heading into the third. This was another scary inning for Brewer, who issued another leadoff single and then quickly throwing a wild pitch — on a ball that Christian Vázquez probably should have kept in front of him — to put the runner on second. A deep fly ball then moved Freddie Freeman up to third with just one out, but Brewer managed to walk the tightrope and get through a scoreless inning despite the trouble.
The Red Sox then thanked him in the bottom of the third with a lead, though it wasn’t exactly the prettiest way to take the lead. It did start off with Verdugo’s second double, and he’d quickly move up to third with just one out. Devers couldn’t come through this time, leaving it up to Xander Bogaerts. Or so we thought. Instead, Fried made a mistake with a twitch of the glove, and he was called on it. The balk brought Verdugo home, and the Red Sox had the 2-1 lead.
Said lead would not last very long, though. Brewer’s first batter of the fourth was Adam Duvall, who took a cutter above the zone and absolutely demolished it over everything in left field. Just like that, three pitches into the inning, the game was tied up at two runs apiece.
The Red Sox then had a quiet bottom half of the inning, and Brewer was pushed a little too far. He was trying to get outs in the fifth for the first time this season, but was facing the heart of this order for a third time. He did not get any outs. Instead, he gave up a walk, a double — one that should have resulted in an out at second base but Jonathan Araúz couldn’t handle the throw in from Jackie Bradley Jr. — and another walk. Phillips Valdez then had the pleasure of coming in to face Austin Riley with the bases loaded and nobody out in a tie game. Riley won the battle, just missing a grand slam out to right field. Instead, it hit off the short wall in the corner and resulted in a bases-clearing triple to give the Braves a 5-2 lead. Valdez came back with three strikeouts after that, but the damage was done.
Boston had a chance to answer back in the bottom of the inning thanks to yet another double from Verdugo and a Vázquez walk to put two on with one out for Devers, but he hit into a double play to end the inning without any runs.
That brought Robinson Leyer out for his major-league debut in the sixth. The righty got the first batter out, but that was followed by a walk and a base hit to put two on with one out. Leyer almost got out of it after a big strikeout against Marcell Ozuna, but Markakis smoked one to the right side and Araúz couldn’t handle it. The ball bounced off the glove into center field, and Atlanta had a 6-2 lead.
Now, it was on the Red Sox offense to get things going. The good news was Fried was out of the game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t making much of a difference, as they went down in order in both the sixth and seventh innings. On the other side, Robert Stock tossed a scoreless seventh before Jeffrey Springs did the same in the eighth.
In the bottom half of the eighth with Will Smith on the mound, the Red Sox did get going a bit at the plate. After a quick first out, Vázquez, Devers and Bogaerts smacked three straight singles, and suddenly it was three-run game with one out and Michael Chavis coming up representing the tying run. He couldn’t come through, going down swinging, leaving things up to Bobby Dalbec, who came to the plate 0-3 with three strikeouts to that point on the night. He got the sombrero, going down looking to leave a pair on in the three-run game.
After Springs came out for another three-batter inning, the Red Sox had one more chance against Braves closer and old friend Mark Melancon. They went down in order, and that was that. A 6-3 loss to fall to 12-23.
The Red Sox will look to even this series up on Tuesday. They have Ryan Weber jumping back into the rotation for this one while Atlanta sends out Ian Anderson for his second career start. First pitch is set for 7:30 PM ET.