The Red Sox had won three straight series as they got started with their three-game set against the Angels this weekend, and after a win in the first game it looked set up for a fourth. But they were beaten by the Shohei Ohtani Show on Saturday, and then Eduardo Rodriguez had a frustrating day to close things out. It was frustrating at first because he was being beaten by almost comically weak-hit baseballs, and then it got frustrating later when he gave up two big homers right after his team had re-captured momentum. The offense is not without faults here, nor is the bullpen, but really it was just a frustrating getaway day for a team that has been otherwise red hot and can really use tomorrow’s day off.
Wednesday was set up to be a really interesting day for Rodriguez, who in some ways looks poised for a big second half of the season. There are obviously some worry points considering he didn’t pitch at all last season and his results have been so poor this year, but his peripherals have pretty much always outpaced those results by a wide margin this entire season. On top of that, his last few outings have seen him put up good results to go with the peripherals. It seemed like things were falling into place, and he was finally over these weak batted balls hurting him.
And then the first inning on Wednesday happened, and the baseball gods laughed in the face of anyone who dared believe anything I wrote in the paragraph above. The Angels, to put it simply, dinked and dunked their way to an early lead. It was still scoreless when they came to the plate in the bottom half of the first, but the first two men quickly got on base with bloop singles, neither hit harder than 70 mph. The latter, from Shohei Ohtani, resulted in a pair in scoring position after the Red Sox tried (and failed) to cut David Fletcher down at third base, with Ohtani moving up on the attempt.
Once they got the pair in scoring position on bloops, they scored their first run on a ground out (on a ball that was hit hard, to be fair), and then scored their second run right after that on yet another bloop single, this one coming in at 79.9 mph. That number would remain important, because while the first inning was the first in the early going for Rodriguez, the weak hits continued to come against him.
The lefty did get into a little more trouble in that second inning, however. After a couple of quick outs, the Angels put two men on after back-to-back infield singles, with the combined exit velocity of 93 mph. The two hits in that inning combined don’t even qualify as hard-hit. Fortunately, Rodriguez did get out of it without any runs coming across. He’d give up two more two-out singles in the third — still, the hardest hit base hit of the day against him was the 79.9 mph ball in the first — before finally getting through his first perfect inning of the day in the fourth.
So Rodriguez had given up seven hits through the first four innings, but all of them were singles and none of them even reached 80 mph in terms of exit velocity. He also gave up two runs, though, so the offense had to show some signs of life against Andrew Heaney after being largely shut down by Ohtani Tuesday night. Instead, they looked very much like a team that has been playing a lot of baseball of late coming to the end of a west-coast trip. The Red Sox managed just one baserunner the first time through the order with Kiké Hernández drawing a leadoff walk at the start of the game and then immediately having it wiped out on a double play in the next at bat.
So they were still trailing 2-0 when the lineup came back around for a second time in the fourth. They didn’t score here, but they did get a couple of runners, including one on a single from Xander Bogaerts to break up the no-hitter. With that done, they were ready to really get to work in the fifth, and they caught a few breaks along the way. Things started when Chrisitan Arroyo reached on an infield single, and then he’d move on up to third on a base hit.
With runners on the corners, Bobby Dalbec stepped to the dish. Off the bat, he looked like he may have put the Red Sox in front with one swing, but he just missed it. However, Phil Gosselin out in left field seemingly never had a good eye on the ball. He got turned around, and the ball fell at the base of the wall to get Arroyo home and cut the deficit to one. Christian Vázquez was at first, but he decided to try and tag on the ball in the air — a bad decision in my view — and only got to second as a result. Fortunately, it wouldn’t matter because a couple batters later Alex Verdugo took a page out of the Angels book with a little bloop into shallow left field down the line, allowing Vázquez to come in from second to tie the game up at two.
So now it was a whole new ballgame with Rodriguez finally starting to get some support from his offense, and the Angels chose this point to start hitting the ball hard. Ohtani got things started to lead off the inning, and after fouling two balls off himself back-to-back, he took the next pitch and launched his league-leading 32nd homer out to right field, giving the Angels their lead right back. For good measure, Jared Walsh came up next and hit a solo shot of his own, and the Angels were back in front. These were two bad two-strike pitches from Rodriguez — Ohtani’s homer came on a changeup middle-in, Walsh’s on a cutter up in the zone — and they put the momentum right back in L.A.’s hands.
The job now was for the offense to try and get it back in their own right. They certainly got off to a good start with Bogaerts ripping a leadoff double, and then they caught a break when Steve Cishek came in the game and, on a weak ground ball to back to the mound, his throw was off the mark. That put men on the corners with just one out, and Arroyo quickly came through with a base hit to bring the Red Sox back to within one. After that, Vázquez hit a ground ball up the middle, but the Angels were able to turn what looked like a beautiful double play. However, replay showed that José Iglesias did not touch the second base bag. Despite that being fairly clear, the play was upheld and the inning was over on the call.
Hirokazu Sawamura got the call for Boston in the sixth, keeping the deficit at just one run. The Red Sox had no answers themselves in the top of the inning, going down in order. It was Darwinzon Hernandez coming in for the seventh, and he looked good at first with two quick outs, but then Walsh struck again. The slugger got a 96 mph fastball right in his wheelhouse, sending a no-doubt solo shot to right field to extend the lead back to two.
But this Red Sox team has not shown quit at all this season, and they weren’t going to here. Martinez hit a deep fly ball out to right field to start off the inning, but just like in the fourth the outfielder did not read it well off the bat, and it hit off the bottom of the wall. The result was a triple for Martinez — his third of the season! — who would immediately be brought home on a Bogaerts double to bring Boston right back to within one. They had the tying run standing in scoring position with nobody out, too, but they weren’t able to get that final hit they needed. Bogaerts was left standing at second, and the Red Sox were still railing by one.
After Garrett Whitlock struck out the side in the eighth, the offense had one more chance. Going up against Raisel Iglesias, the bottom of the Red Sox order couldn’t get it done, going down in order to finish off the game.
The 5-4 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 54-34. With the Rays winning both ends of their doubleheader this afternoon, Boston’s lead in the division shrinks to 2.5 games.
The Red Sox have a much-needed day off on Thursday before welcoming the Phillies to town for a three-game set over the weekend. The series opener will have Garrett Richards going up against Vince Velasquez, with first pitch set for 7:10 PM ET.