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Red Sox - 5, Blue Jays - 3: Alex Verdugo for MVP!

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Verdugo won the ball game!

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Futility.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines futility as such:

  1. The quality or state of being futile : uselessness
  2. A useless act or gesture

In general, useless may be too harsh of a term, but futility seems to describe the 2020 Boston Red Sox very well. After typing all of 44 words for this recap as prep work, Cavan Biggio unloaded a Ryan Weber offering into the Monster seats. Usually, the Red Sox do not do well when I’m recapping games that start off at 1-0 or worse in the first inning.

Weber was able to catch a break following the dinger though. An error by Rafael Devers allowed Bo Bichette to reach. Bichette ended up out at third on an ill-advised decision to run to third on a ball in front of him. Then Rowdy Tellez, the Red Sox Slayer, flied out weakly. Up stepped Vladimir Guerrero Jr... who promptly grounded out to third in a no-drama play that I’m sure no one was expecting.

Weird.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Red Sox needed a big game from their bats in the worst way. Not just because Ryan Weber inspires a lack of confidence in our ability to win a low scoring ball-game, but also because the Red Sox offense has been too listless for the star talent that populates the lineup.

I’m not entirely sure why Andrew Benintendi is still batting leadoff. Ron Roenicke says he’s not married to the idea, and that he’s not going to “stubbornly” keep him in the spot forever, but you could pretty easily argue that the Benintendi leadoff experiment is going about as terribly as it could possibly go. He at least was able to draw a walk again, which has been about his only form of offense through the first two weeks of the season. But he’s not walking nearly enough for it to be his only form of offense. Swings need to connect, and he needs to get those hits to fall. Shortly thereafter, Rafael Devers also drew a walk, and got some silliness to ensue. On the fourth ball of the plate appearance, Danny Jansen uncorked a throw to second base on a perceived steal attempt (ignore for the moment that a walk gives Benintendi second base right away) that hit the bag and almost rocketed into right field. That was funny at least.

Following a J.D. Martinez flyout, Xander Bogaerts also drew a walk. As it turns out, while Weber isn’t very good, Tanner Roark may also be a subscriber to the school of not being very good. Would it become a battle of which team had the worst pitching?

Then the unthinkable happened... Roark walked Mitch Moreland too, bringing in the tying run!

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Unfortunately Christian Vazquez grounding into a double play ended the first inning before the Red Sox offense could really get going. 1-1 after 1, and it already has the feeling that it’s going to be a long night.

While Weber recovered nicely in the second inning, Roark was not so fortunate. Roark left a hanger right over the heart of the plate and Alex Verdugo certainly let Roark know it. Letting one loose into the Monster seats, Verdugo put the Red Sox ahead 2-1, with no outs on the board. The Red Sox did nothing with those other three outs, however.

I hope you weren’t taking the second inning success of Weber as a reason to be confident. Remember Bo Bichette? He’s pretty good at baseball I’ve heard. He hit a ball pretty much perfectly down the line to the monster. Andrew Benintendi struggles to get the ball out from underneath one of the ledges in foul territory. Cavan Biggio, who had reached earlier on a single, scored. The game was tied yet again after 2 12 innings.

Have you ever ridden on a see-saw? If not, I am very sorry, they are pretty fun I guess. If so, you totally understand how the first three innings went. In the bottom half of the third, Bogaerts hit a single of his own, and then Mitch Moreland launched a home run into deep right field, to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. For some reason, the Blue Jays decided it was a good idea to keep Tanner Roark out there. Yes, the same Tanner Roark who had been missing all over the strike zone in the first two innings, walking everyone. This same Tanner Roark engaged Alex Verdugo in a 10 pitch at-bat. Yes, it ended in a ground-out, but it was an impressive at bat nonetheless. Inning over, 4-2 Red Sox after three innings of play.

Ryan Weber’s outing ended after he gave up a single to lead off the fourth inning. All told, his final line reads as 3.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 2 earned runs allowed. His ERA went down to 9.90. That’s not great.

I’m about done with the Ryan Weber experiment. I don’t feel great about over 2 baserunners per inning, even if he was lucky enough to keep most of them stranded this time out. I’m not sure that Bryan Mata or Tanner Houck is a better option right this second, but one thing is clear to me, that both of those players will be part of the 2021 Red Sox and we really need to figure out what we have in them.

Heath Hembree came out of the bullpen. Hembree shut the door instantly. I can’t really say enough good things about Hembree early on this season. He’s just come out and done his job; he’s also done it very well. On the depth chart for relievers I trust, you can pretty much put Hembree in the top two or three, depending on which stadium Matt Barnes is pitching in.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Tanner Roark was replaced by Ryan Borucki, and he kept us off the board. Colten Brewer replaced Heath Hembree, and he kept them off the board. Jacob Waguespack (who was actually on the roster for sure this time) came in for the Blue Jays, and kept the Red Sox off the board too. The Red Sox then swapped out Brewer for Ryan Brasier. This should go well.

Just like that, the bullpen duel was over. He gave up an RBI double to Vlad Jr. Thankfully, he tried to stretch the double into a triple and failed because Christian Vazquez is a very good defensive catcher with eyes all over his helmet. A timely double play would stop the bleeding at one. Through the first 5 12 innings of baseball, the Red Sox lead 4-3.

One inning was all Ryan Brasier would grace the Red Sox with. Austin Brice replaced Brasier and continued the otherwise good bullpenning on display by the rest of the team.

Remember earlier, when I said that Matt Barnes may be in the top 3 relievers on the team, depending on the stadium he’s pitching in? Well, this time the stadium is Fenway Park, which is not a great park for Matt Barnes to be pitching in! I swear it, when Barnes inevitably leaves the team, he’s going to a better stadium for his skill set and becoming one of the most dominant relievers in the game.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

But while that is something that may be, we need to focus on what is. And that reality is Matt Barnes pitching against the best batters on the Blue Jays at Fenway Park in a one run game. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, I got nothing for you, you are watching the wrong sport, probably. To this point, the last several innings had been largely uneventful.

Then he walked Rowdy Tellez (who walked twice in the game). Anthony Alford came out to run for Tellez, because Tellez is not very fast, and Alford is very fast. Then Alford very predictably stole second base. Barnes walked Vlad Jr. next. Following this was another steal by Alford, who this time stole third, and was 90 feet away from tying the game.

Wanting to avoid an inning ending double play, to allow Alford to score the tying run, the Blue Jays brought in Billy McKinney for Vlad. With runners on the corners, one out, and Randal Grichuk at the plate...

Grichuk grounded into a double play, and the inning ended, with a 4-3 lead maintained heading into the bottom half of the 8th inning. What a roller coaster.

The Red Sox needed insurance runs.

Alex Verdugo was happy to provide. 5-3 Red Sox.

But don’t worry, your daily dose of futility struck again, as Benintendi struck out yet again later in the inning. That was his third strikeout of the game, and his 15th in 43 plate appearances. I have no idea what’s wrong with Benintendi. Either his timing is off, or he’s missing something mechanically. The eye appears to be there mostly, as he’s definitely been patient enough at the plate, and has laid off of some bad pitches. Whatever the case, he’s struggling hardcore right now, and you have to think with Verdugo’s explosion, and his lack of any offensive ability at the moment, that a change in the lineup is on the way, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

As bad as Benintendi is right now, Verdugo is just that much better. He hit two home runs, and then robbed a key home run in the top of the 9th, with Brandon Workman on the mound.

This would be the last bit of drama that the Red Sox would provide us with on this fine evening. The Red Sox won 5-3, and while there was futility present, none of it was present from Alex Verdugo.

Now? It’s Friday evening. Have a wonderful weekend, people.

The Good!

  • Alex Verdugo is incredible.
  • The bullpen was mostly great.
  • Nobody got hurt.

The Bad!

  • Whatever it is that Andrew Benintendi is doing up there.
  • Why is Ryan Weber still starting?

The Meh!

  • I guess I could have done without the heart attack inning by Matt Barnes.
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