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Red Sox 2, White Sox 3: Poor defense, poor luck dooms Red Sox

Houck pitched fine, even if he was giving up more contact than usual. The true problem was the defense.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Today the Red Sox took on the White Sox. Again they were wearing their yellow abominations meant to honor the city of Boston and the Boston Marathon proper, in advance of Patriots’ Day tomorrow. Unfortunately, the world isn’t quite ready for the Boston Marathon, which has been rescheduled to October 11th, but the meaning is still the same.

Tanner Houck was called up to make his third appearance (and second start) of 2021. Opposing him on the bump for the White Sox was Dallas Keuchel, a pitcher who entered today’s action trying to recover from a string of poor-to-mediocre performances. While his ERA has dropped with every start, it was still at a 2020 Red Soxian 6.43 before the Red Sox batters got a crack at him. The primary cause? You can blame either being very hittable, or walking a lot of guys, you really can’t go wrong.

On the first pitch of the game, Tim Anderson drove a Tanner Houck fastball into deep right field. 1-0 White Sox right away. That’s a fine how-do-you-do for the crowd. Usually they prefer to be awoken with coffee, not an opposite team dinger, but beggars can’t be choosers. Luckily that was all the White Sox got in the first inning, but the Red Sox started from behind, just as they did yesterday. We all know how that ended.

In the third inning, Hunter Renfroe made an excellent play in right field to steal a double from Leury Garcia. In our season superlatives thread before the season, I chose Renfroe as my defensive wizard. This isn’t the first good play he’s made, but it’s the first key one so far this season, I think.

Bobby Dalbec launched a massive shot that was only good for a double in the bottom half of the third. The Monster giveth, the Monster taketh away. The ball traveled 111 miles per hour off the bat, and hit the one part of the park that wouldn’t give him a home run. That’s the type of thing a visiting team might complain about, but is just one of the realities of playing at Fenway. You deal with the hand you are dealt.

The White Sox did just that. In the fourth inning, Jose Abreu singled with one out to set up the inning. There was some old-man-shaking-fist-in-the-air energy aimed at Bobby Dalbec being unable to scoop a poor throw from Xander Bogaerts, but it was a tough play to begin with. You can see the play for yourself here. After a Yermin Mercedes strike out, Yasmani Grandal hit a double off the Monster that seemed to hang in the air forever. Once it came down, Abreu was being sent around third base, and Enrique Hernandez had no chance to make a play at the plate. The White Sox took a 2-0 lead off of Houck, who to this point had been pitching very well.

The Red Sox had their first chance to threaten for real in the bottom half of the fourth inning. J.D Martinez had a single, Xander Bogaerts moved him over on a sacrifice grounder, and Rafael Devers hit a single of his own. Hunter Renfroe chopped a weak grounder over to third, and Yoan Moncada missed ball on a bad hop. Nobody could get to the ball, and Martinez scored, with Devers moving over to third as well in the exchange. They were unable to push him home, but the good guys now trailed 2-1, instead of 2-0.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Houck’s day ended with one out in the fifth inning, after a comebacker skimmed his leg for the third hit of the day by Tim Anderson. Houck is fine, so don’t panic, he was just giving up a little louder contact and it was time for a change. Houck went 4 13 innings, gave up six hits, walked nobody, and got two strikeouts. He also gave up three earned runs. Honestly the big story here is that his defense let him down. Two runs were caused by awful luck and bad defense. Nothing Houck could do about it with only two major league quality pitches.

Josh Taylor (to the confusion of many) relieved Houck, and was able to strike out Adam Eaton, but gave up an RBI single to Yoan Moncada, to make it 3-1. He was able to force a groundout to third that Devers bobbled and then threw (low) over to first. Bobby Dalbec saved an error (and probably a run) with a great pick at first base.

Meanwhile, the White Sox did not need a great pick at first base, because Yoan Moncada continues to be excellent defensively, as he turned a dandy of a defensive play to perform a twin killing, and end a Red Sox rally before it could even get started.

Enrique Hernandez said, “to hell with your stopping of our rallies, I’m just going to hit a dinger!”

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

‘Lo and behold, he did just that, as he sliced a home run to the shallowest part of the park, to make it a 3-2 ballgame. This was the final straw for Tony La Russa and the White Sox, who took Keuchel out of the game following the solo shot.

Dallas Keuchel (naturally) was the best he’s been all season, as he kept the Red Sox hitters positively flumoxed, although most of the credit can probably go to the defense behind him, that were able to take down any rallies the Red Sox attempted. They broke through for two runs, and that is it. 5 innings and two earned runs on six hits, with only one strikeout to show for his efforts. He lowered his season ERA yet again, this time to 5.68. I don’t know if White Sox fans will be happy with that, but over his last three outings, counting this one, he has given up eight earned runs in 15 innings (4.27 ERA).

The Red Sox attempted to rally further in the inning, but they didn’t learn one very important lesson from earlier in this game and series: do not hit to Yoan Moncada. Moncada turned another key double play to keep the Red Sox down, as everyone longed for defense like that at the hot corner. I will casually remind those longing for Moncada that he is not hitting well, entering today’s action at .180/.288/.260, compiling a grand 0.0 fWAR this season (Devers, for all his defensive warts, is a 0.6 fWAR player thus far).

If the Red Sox were going to win this game, they would have to start that road against Liam Hendriks in the 7th (and final) inning. Hendriks bounced pitches all over the place, and was unable to locate a lot of pitches competitively. One of his breaking pitches bounced five feet in front of the zone, and bounced so high it probably went over the strikezone. Even still, the Red Sox were unable to force the issue. Turns out, it doesn’t matter if you can’t locate your breaking pitches against the Red Sox. Just throw your fastball, they won’t hit it anyway.

Red Sox lose game one of the double header. It was pretty depressing. A winnable game snatched away by some bad defense and some worse luck. They try again in a couple hours. Don’t miss it.