“You’ve got to act like you want to win to win.”
“It starts with one play.”
“A team is as strong as it’s weakest link.”
“The chickens come home to roost.”
“They’re winning against teams they should win against.”
I can speak in vague platitudes all night. I’m cynical, so I’d rather complain. But first, the context. The Red Sox came into tonight trying to wash away the bad taste in their mouths after the end of the Chicago series, which featured a couple of what we’re coming to know as characteristic losses this weekend. A save was blown, bats were cold, the same old story. The Red Sox had hoped that with a Garrett Whitlock start — even with a solid Sandy Alcantara on the other side of the mound, and even with the almost sure NL batting champion Luis Arraez leading off for Miami, who’s emerged as a great squad this season — that they’d be able to get back to the winning ways that appeared so easy just a week ago.
To say the least, it would appear very early on that the taste in everyone’s mouths would only get worse.
Garrett Whitlock allowed three quick runs in the first inning, including a Bryan De La Cruz two-run shot, and although the Sox did manage two consecutive doubles by Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo to score the former, that would be the only taste of success they had on the night. From there, the game was never in doubt.
Boston struggled mightily to get the ball out of the infield tonight. Meanwhile, Garrett Whitlock continued to get hit around. By the time he was pulled in the fifth inning, he had given up six runs on eleven hits. He at least struck out seven on zero walks, but it’s hard to walk guys when they’re guessing everything you’re throwing. Maybe it was the fact that he switched things up and threw his changeup just 11 times the entire game rather than relying on it, or maybe it was that it was the changeup that yielded the two extra-base hits in the first inning. Either way, the Marlins bats were eating up all three of his pitches all the same. I don’t want to harp on Whitlock for too long because despite this contest boosting his ERA to 5.15, he’s been a non-liability for the Red Sox. But it looked like batting practice out there, and that cannot happen, especially if the bats run this cold.
As per usual, this team didn’t capitalize off of their scoring chances either. And that’s when they got guys into scoring position... which was only six times all game. Remember: if that stat isn’t a cause for alarm for you, this team managed only one run. It’s hard to get anything going when your leadoff guy (Jarren Duran) strikes out three times in a game, when your team draws only two walks all game, and when the middle of your lineup is in a serious 0-fer (Adam Duvall.) I’ll give a returning Alex Verdugo and Triston Casas their due; in Verdugo’s first game back he recorded two doubles and Casas prevailed in a sea of struggling hitters, getting three hits. Casas truly has found his footing and, despite a shaky start to the season, he’s been dependable at the plate both in drawing walks and just getting on base in general.
But you can’t win games against a team that manages nineteen hits. You can’t win games against a team who’s nine hitter gets you for four hits, especially a team who can parlay those hits into another at-bat by a guy who’s hitting a hair away from an unheard of .400 at the end of June. Justin Garza looked like a batting practice pitcher out there in his first inning of work, and luckily recovered when he came out to pitch the ninth in a contest that was already decided. Joe Jacques before him looked even worse. By the way, Sandy Alcantara went seven innings despite only striking out five, but they were efficient innings, as only after seven did he approach the 100 pitch mark. He could’ve closed the game out without breaking a sweat, from the looks of it, as Archie Bradley came out to only a minimal amount of stress through his two innings. The game had already been won. What can you really say about a team that almost reaches 20 hits? Especially among echoes of twenty years to the day where the Red Sox scored 14 runs in the first inning with the help of a different roster composition and much different management. By the way, the Marlins ended up winning the World Series that 2003 season... and the Red Sox absolutely teed off against them.
I want to get ahead of anyone sharing the link of me saying everything would be fine back in May and say that “fine” is subjective. With this loss, Boston falls to 40-40... exactly .500, with the halfway point of the season being marked by tomorrow’s game. If this Boston team aspires for anything more than a .500 season, they have to create chances. They need the organizational depth to actually feel like depth rather than emergency waiver pickups with no consequence. They need that depth to play like they’ve been here before. They need heart. They need to be fun to watch again. And while I’d listen to any argument that states they were fun to watch against the Yankees, I’d counter that these enjoyable stretches are far and few between for any organization that claims to care about their fanbase.
But that’s the past... and this game, where it never once looked like Boston was going to come out of this ahead, is in the present. Let’s look to the future, even if it’s a future facing this contending Miami team and a trip to Toronto in a couple days, and then a good Texas team. It all starts, to use another platitude, by taking it one day at a time. Oh.... Kaleb Ort’s just been named as tomorrow’s starter? Okay, then.... great. Off to a wonderful start.
Alex Verdugo: 2-3, 2 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI
Triston Casas: 3-4
LOL we don’t get a third this game.
Adam Duvall: 0-4 (is now hitting .115 last ten days)
Garrett Whitlock: 4.2 IP, 6 R, 11 H, 2 HR, 7 K
Jarren Duran: 0-4, 3 K
Play of the Game
For the Red Sox, it was Verdugo’s double.... and it was all downhill from there. Otherwise, you can pick Jorge Soler’s double to score Joey Wendle in the fourth to make the game 5-1. Wendle simply had Boston’s number tonight. Remember the days people would say “easy out” about a nine hitter? With a team that seems to have no heart, especially defensively, there’s no such thing as an easy out.