I’ve run out of ways to talk about how bad this Red Sox offense is, which doesn’t seem great considering it’s May 6, and the season started late. But it’s where we are. After getting dominated by Shohei Ohtani on Thursday, they looked only marginally better against Vince Velasquez on Friday. Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t great, but was able to grind through a five-inning outing to keep Boston in the game, but the offense had no inclination to pick up the slack. It’s a day that ends in Y.
More robust game notes below.
The Red Sox were coming off perhaps their worst offensive performance in a year full of bad ones on Thursday, but it was at least a bit excusable given they were facing Shohei Ohtani, who Alex Cora said pitched better than any pitcher he’s seen face this team since he started managing here in 2018. They weren’t going to have that built-in excuse on Friday, though, facing a pitcher in Vince Velasquez who, frankly, is just a fringe starter in this league. His stuff is good enough to string together some good innings, but a good lineup should be able to take advantage of his shaky command.
Unfortunately, this Boston lineup is not currently a good one, even if the talent in the lineup suggests they should be. In the series preview, I said they had to be patient and not do Velasquez’ job for him, so it was fitting that Jarren Duran, in his first game back up in the majors, flew out on the first pitch he saw. (In fairness, it was a fastball over the plate and up in the zone, so I don’t have a problem with him swinging at that particular pitch, but it’s a symptom of a greater problem for this group.) They did get a runner into scoring position in that first inning, too, on a Trevor Story single and then a ground ball, but they were kept off the scoreboard.
That was the case for the next three innings as well, and they didn’t even manage a hit during that stretch. Instead, they only had a pair of walks, coming in separate innings, one in which Bobby Dalbec failed to drive extremely hittable pitches and another that was immediately followed by an inning-ending double play. It’s just the way things are going for this offense, whether they’re facing Ohtani or Velasquez or whoever else you want to put on the mound.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had their ace in Nathan Eovaldi on the mound, but he didn’t look quite as crisp as we’ve gotten used to over the last few years. He certainly wasn’t bad, but the stuff was a tick below his best, and his command was just a bit off, which led to a lot of pitches, many of them of the high stress variety. And sure enough, in the first inning Tim Anderson started things off with a base hit, and Eovaldi would give up another single and issue a walk to load the bases. But he buckled down, throwing a good curveball when he needed it to set down Jake Burger and leave them loaded and keep the game scoreless.
It was still scoreless heading into the third, when the White Sox again put the pressure on. Two straight singles started off the frame, putting runners on the corners for José Abreu. The 2020 MVP is a prototypical run producer, and he produced a run here on a sacrifice fly to put Chicago up 1-0. That brought Luis Robert to the plate, and he extended the lead. It wasn’t a terrible pitch from Eovaldi, throwing a curveball down and in at the corner of the zone, but it also wasn’t the biggest break on that pitch we’ve seen from him. Regardless, Robert was all over it, sending it over everything in left field for a two-run shot, and extending Chicago’s lead to three.
It seemed like Eovaldi might be unraveling, and this game was going to get away from this team. Good pitchers are able to grind through these kinds of outings, though, and keep their team in the game. That’s exactly what happened here. Eovaldi wasn’t flawless the rest of the way, but after giving up three in the first three innings on 72 pitches, he managed to get through five still only allowing the three runs. It was certainly not the best version of himself, but it was an acceptable one, and frankly this is the kind of outing where an offense is supposed to pick up their ace.
They did make some strides in that direction in the fifth, to be fair, starting with Alex Verdugo. He led off the inning with the best contact from any Red Sox pitcher to that point in the game, smoking a double off the wall in center field. A couple batters later, Jackie Bradley Jr. put one off the Monster, and the Red Sox had their first run of the day, making it a 3-1 game. They had a chance to add close the deficit further, too, but the inning ended with Story striking out with runners on the corners, albeit on a questionable (read: bad) check swing call.
That brought Austin Davis out of the bullpen, who should have only faced three batters. He did issue a one-out walk, but then came back with what looked like a tailor-made double play ball. The turn was good, the throw to second from Rafael Devers (they were playing in the shift, so he was in the shortstop position) was on point, but Dalbec just... missed it. That extended the inning, and after Davis gave up a single Alex Cora called upon John Schreiber to try and get out of the inning. An infield single from Anderson loaded the bases, but Schreiber was able to wriggle out of it with a huge strikeout to keep the deficit at two.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense sent just three batters to the plate in the next inning — and inning that featured Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez — in part thanks to Devers getting himself doubled up on a soft liner to the second baseman.
It was still a 3-1 game heading into the eighth, with Schreiber now exiting and Ryan Brasier taking his place. This was the Adam Engel inning, with Chicago’s speedy outfielder leading the inning off with a sinlge, stealing second, getting to third on a fly ball to right despite a strong throw from Bradley, then scoring on a sacrifice fly, again beating out an excellent throw from Bradley. Brasier also gave up a ground rule double after that, but managed to limit the damage to the one run, making it a three-run deficit for the offense to make up with six outs to go.
They did get one run back quickly in the bottom of the eighth, with Duran putting a soft liner into right field that was misplayed by Engel. Once it got by the outfielder, Duran got on his horse and made his way to third (on what was inexplicably called a triple). Story then brought him home on a ground ball. They’d continue to push in the inning too, with Devers and Martinez reaching on singles, but they were both stranded.
After Matt Barnes came through with a scoreless top half of the ninth (with some help from Bradley, who finally got his outfield assist gunning down AJ Pollock at the plate), there were three more outs for the Red Sox offense. They gave themselves a chance when Christian Vázquez came in as a pinch hitter and drew a walk, bringing Duran up representing the tying run, but he’d strike out to end the game.
The Red Sox will look to recover on Saturday in some late-afternoon action, sending Nick Pivetta to the mound. First pitch is set for 4:10 PM ET.