This wasn’t the worst Red Sox loss of the season by a long shot. In fact, there was a fair amount to be stoked about! Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers both had very good games. Yairo Muñoz continued to be extremely fun. J.D. Martinez hit a home run on which he looked more like J.D. Martinez than any other swing this year. And yet, this game was one of my least favorite to watch all year. I don’t even really have a reason to articulate. It was just a slog. Mike Kickham was bad, and not in a particularly interesting way. The Red Sox used six different pitchers, and there’s a decent chance none of them make an impact next year. Phillips Valdez is the only one who may not be on that list, and he was in for one out. It was just not a fun game to watch, and I spent most of the night imagining what 162 games of this would do to my psyche. Sorry to be a bummer!
Last time out, Mike Kickham was bizarrely effective. It wasn’t perfect, but the soft-tossing southpaw somehow struck out eight Rays in four innings. Granted, Tampa strikes out at something close to the highest rate in baseball, but still. It was bizarre for Kickham, who is one of many Quad-A arms gracing the Red Sox roster at the moment. Maybe there was hope for him to be a diamond in the rough!
That, uh, didn’t carry over to Miami. The thing about Kickham is that he throws an absurd amount of offspeed and breaking stuff — it breaks Dennis Eckersley’s brain on a regular basis in the NESN booth — which can work right up until it doesn’t, if that makes sense. It did not work on Wednesday, as he was hit around a bit and had to throw a ton of pitches in the process.
Kickham got off to a decent enough start, getting two outs in the first three batters with a single mixed in there, though it took him 20 pitches to get that done. That brought Garrett Cooper to the base with a runner on base, though, and the Marlins first baseman worked a nice at bat himself. Kickham tried to get him with a 2-2 curveball, and it actually wasn’t a terrible pitch, breaking down below the zone. However, as I mentioned above, throwing all curveballs works until it doesn’t. When a batter is sitting on the breaking ball, even a solid pitch can be hit a long way. That’s exactly what Cooper did, blasting a two-run shot to make it 2-0 Marlins.
The second was actually a pretty good one from Kickham, throwing 14 pitches to get through a scoreless frame in which he allowed just a single. But the Marlins would get back to work in the third. Miguel Rojas started things off with a double, and then a couple batters later he’d come home on a Brian Anderson base hit. Kickham got another out to almost escape the inning, but the third out would prove to be elusive. Lewis Brinson attacked the first pitch he saw with the runner on first and two outs, ripping a double into the left field corner to give Miami their third run of the night. That brought Jorge Alfaro to the plate, and he got a hanging breaking ball right over the heart of plate that was deposited into the seats in right-center field to make it a four-run inning. Kickham’s night ended there, with Phillips Valdez coming on to end the inning.
On the other side, the Red Sox were going up against a rookie in Trevor Rogers, who was having trouble keeping his pitch count down as well. Unfortunately, the Red Sox weren’t as effective as taking advantage of opportunities. Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers got on to lead off the first, but the heart of the order failed to bring them in. Similarly, Yairo Muñoz led off the second with a walk and immediately stole second, but that was as far as he’d make it.
The third would get off to the same kind of start, with Verdugo and Devers once again getting things off to a strong start with a base hit before Devers was hit by a pitch. It wasn’t a big inning, but they did finally get on the board thanks to a grounder to move the runners up and a sacrifice fly from J.D. Martinez. Verdugo and Devers took care of things themselves in the fifth, continuing a big day for each of them with back-to-back doubles to lead things off, making it a 6-2 game.
The Marlins broke it open in the bottom of the fifth, though. After Chris Mazza came out for a scoreless fourth, Robinson Leyer got the call for the fifth. He sandwiched the first two outs with a walk, once again bringing Alfaro up with a man on and a pair of outs. Different pitcher, same result. This time Alfaro went out to left-center field, but it was another no-doubt shot to bring home two, breaking the game open to an 8-2 score.
This was still the score heading into the top of the seventh after Domingo Tapia worked around some trouble for a scoreless sixth, and the Red Sox got a swing they’ve been looking for all year. Martinez came up with a runner on first and no outs in the midst of looking as bad as he has since his breakout in the first half of last decade. This looked like vintage Martinez, though, as he drove one the other way for an opposite field shot, cutting the deficit down to four.
That was pretty much the last action of the night. To the credit of Robert Stock, he had himself a nice night, tossing a pair of scoreless innings to finish things off on the pitching side of things.
The Red Sox and Marlins have a rubber match on Thursday afternoon to finish off the series. It’s Nathan Eovaldi versus José Ureña. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.