The Red Sox are in the midst of a trend, and it’s absolutely infuriating to watch. For the most part, games have started off well for Boston, at least on the pitching side. Their starting pitchers have regularly held off opponents for the first four or five innings game after game. But the offense does nothing, either not building any lead of sometimes building a small one, and then the bullpen comes in and everything goes downhill. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday, with Trevor Story taking center stage for fans’ dismay, going 0-4 with four strikeouts. In fairness, Shohei Ohtani was bananas good in this game, but that fact is less comforting given how the offense has been playing against every other hitter. In the end, it was another loss, and a fifth straight series loss.
More robust game notes below.
Thursday at Fenway gave fans a look at a truly fascinating pitching matchup featuring two of the more interesting and unique pitchers in the entire sport. On the Red Sox side, you had the 42-year-old Rich Hill, who doesn’t throw anything that cracks even 90 mph but still manages to get the best hitters in the world out. And for the Angels, you had Shohei Ohtani, who of course is the most fascinating player in the game with his ability to excel both on the mound and at the plate. And those in attendance looking to see the best version of that pitching matchup were not disappointed.
We’ll start with the Hill side of things. The veteran lefty has been on a nice streak for the Red Sox since his rough outing on Patriots Day, though obviously with his typical innings limitations. Thursday was no different. His curveball in particular was working at its best, with good command alongside his different arm angels to keep hitters off-balance. So, as has become a trend for Red Sox starters of late, he kept the Angels off the bases for the first three innings, setting down each of the first nine batters he faced.
His first, and really only, bit of adversity on the day came in the fourth, which started with a leadoff walk to Ward. A couple batters later, Ohtani drove one to deep center field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. — who shifted over to center for this game to cover for an under-the-weather Enrique Hernández — had to deal with the elements. The wind was messing with fly balls all afternoon, and the sun was shining bright. It was the latter that came into play here, with Bradley losing the ball in the sun and having it drop into the base of the triangle for one of the longest singles you’ll ever see.
So now Hill suddenly had to deal with a runners on the corners situation with just one out, and the meat of the Angels order still coming up. He managed to wriggle out of the jam with a huge strikeout and then a pop up to strand the runners. Hill had one more inning in him, retiring the side in order to finish his fifth inning of work, and his afternoon. The lefty has now not allowed a run since that aforementioned Patriots Day outing.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense has just been completely unable to provide any support for a rotation that has mostly been rolling, and Ohtani was just way too much for them in this game. They did get runners on in each of the first two innings, but one of those was on a strikeout that got by catcher Max Stassi, and neither runner advanced beyond first base.
The first chance for Boston came in the third with a two-out rally after both Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts poked singles. That gave J.D. Martinez to put the first run for either side on the board, but instead he struck out to strand the runners. They’d get another runner into scoring position in the fifth when Bradley started the inning off with a double, but he again was left there, in part thanks to back-to-back strikeouts from Trevor Story and Devers to end the inning.
That meant it was still scoreless as we headed into the sixth, and now it was Tanner Houck’s turn to get the ball for the Red Sox. After he came out and struck out the side in the top of the sixth, it looked like the offense was ready to finally get on the board in the bottom half. It started with a one-out double from Martinez (on which he probably should have been thrown out at second, but a bad throw let him get in safely). He then moved up to third on a ground out before Franchy Cordero poked a soft liner back up the middle. It looked like it’d drop into shallow center field, but Andrew Velazquez got there in time and made a great diving grab to save a run and keep the game scoreless.
The game would not remain scoreless for long. Houck came back out for the seventh, and after getting Ohtani to start the inning he issued a walk to Rendon to put his first runner on. A wild pitch (which should have been called a passed ball, in this writer’s humble opinion) moved him up to second, but it wouldn’t matter where he was standing. Jared Walsh was sitting on a 1-2 slider, and was ready for the one Houck threw below the zone. It wasn’t even that bad of a pitch, but Walsh went down and got it, hooking it around Pesky’s Pole in right for a two-run shot, putting the Angels up 2-0.
The offense had no answer in the bottom half of the inning, managing just a single in Ohtani’s final inning of the afternoon. And then the wheels came off for Houck and the Red Sox in the eighth. The Angels were all over Houck in the inning, starting with a leadoff single, then a hit batter, and then another single. That loaded up the bases, when both David Fletcher and Ohtani jumped on the first pitch and each ripped singles, making it a 4-0 game with the bases still loaded and still nobody out. Houck would finally get an out, but it still allowed a run and he left the game with runners on second and third, one out, and a 5-0 game.
That was the situation inherited by Kutter Crawford, who immediately allowed both inherited runs to come in, and that was pretty much that with the score suddenly 7-0 in the blink of an eye. The Angels would add one more on a homer in the ninth, and the series ended with a thud, Boston losing 8-0 to Los Angeles.
The Red Sox now start a new series on Friday night, welcoming the White Sox into town. Boston will have Nathan Eovaldi on the mound with Vince Velasquez getting the call for Chicago. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.