I was lucky enough to be present in Toronto last weekend to see the Red Sox sweep the Blue Jays, thanks to some key moments and clutch hitting. Sure, they still had some blunders by their bullpen, which I’ll allow some slack for on account of the fact that half their rotation is out on injury, which I’ll certainly address later. They also stranded some batters throughout the series; but, overall, whenever they needed a hit there were a lot of guys who stepped in to contribute.
On a rainy Independence Day game against the Texas Rangers, they didn’t even look like the same team. This felt very much like not only a game that the Red Sox were destined to lose, but almost like they were navigating their own ship into complacency with the game 1 loss against the contending Texas Rangers.
The game started out excitingly enough, as Jarren Duran hit a lead-off signature Duran triple that would probably be a two-bagger for anyone else. Alex Verdugo grounded out to drive Duran in. This, of course, was off Dane Dunning, a surprising gem on a very good — and efficient, and did I say dependable and healthy? — Rangers rotation. Dunning is having the season of his career for a strong Texas team. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for Dunning, though, that was about how far the offense went for a long while.
In the bottom of the first inning, Brennan Bernardino, making his first career start as the opener, retired the side quite easily. But the biggest blunder of the game came via an extremely controversial decision by Alex Cora in just the second inning. Bernardino had retired the first four Rangers in order, and Alex Cora decided Bernardino walking his fifth batter, Nathaniel Lowe, was it; 18 pitches in, Bernardino was hitting the showers in exchange for Kaleb Ort, who is, well, not good. Ort’s ERA almost doubles Bernardino, and although I’m not expecting the reliever to walk in to a start and go six innings, or even four, especially after pitching against Toronto on Sunday afternoon, don’t pull him after the first base runner! Ride the hot hand! And don’t make the substitution for Kaleb Ort, of all people, when the leverage hasn’t even been assessed! I’m not sure why Kaleb Ort, who now owns a 6.26 ERA and has give up 8 home runs in just 23 innings of play, is even on a Major League roster, let alone coming in in the first trimester of two consecutive games. It gives the notion that Cora is punting the game away, which is unacceptable for a .500 team this early into a game and the season.
My yells into the void were answered just two batters later, as Mitch Garver hit a 3-run tater amidst a chorus of justified Fenway boos to make it 3-1, Rangers. Ort would finish the inning, and lefty prospect Chris Murphy, who was recently brought back up from Worcester, was brought in to start the third. He’s actually been looking better facing Major League hitters than he had been down in Worcester. He did allow another Garver run on a Robbie Grossman double, making the score 4-1. He also struck out just one, all the way in his last of four (well, 3 2⁄3) innings, and you’d like to see him strike out more than that, but he was the multi-inning reliever the Sox needed today, especially given that he could be getting the call at some point before the break to do the same thing. And for what it’s worth, he was efficient, throwing just 55 pitches, and he kept the team within a puncher’s chance of competing. Let’s not address that this lead Texas got would have been quite a bit worse had it not been for plays like Verdugo’s over-the-shoulder grab below, and at least be thankful for four innings of relief work by Murphy.
The bats, however, struggled with something else I’ve been critical of: stranding runners. Though Boston stranded fewer than Texas, they still left a runner on in all but two innings. This includes Alex Verdugo’s fly-out after a fantastic double by Jarren Duran, his sixth extra base hit in seven at-bats, and David Hamilton batting into a double play in the fifth following a Christian Arroyo leadoff single. These squandered opportunities will end up hurting the Red Sox for the rest of this series, since we know how this depth is overworked — if also somewhat not good — right now.
Therein came another Cora blunder, as with two outs, he pulled a hot Jarren Duran in favor of Rob Refsnyder, because lefty metrics, or whatever. Refsnyder popped out and stranded one. Same result, with management looking doubly foolish. I’ll put it bluntly: the Red Sox simply do not capitalize on enough opportunities, and it’s becoming a liability. If even 25% more of those runs were driven in, and perhaps (and this is a non-issue today) if the Red Sox didn’t lead the league in bases-loaded strikeouts, we’d be looking at a quite different record.
Justin Garza had a better-than-usual-but-still-not-good-at-all outing, as he allowed two runs that his FIP would argue weren’t entirely his fault. Still, he walked 4 in as many outs, and that can’t happen, either. Hey, I get it! Sometimes on a holiday, your mind shuts off... I almost did Minor Lines today because I thought it was Sunday because I have work tomorrow.
Brandon Walter fared much better in the eighth, as the only runner that reached in that inning came on a bad fielding error by David Hamilton. In the bottom of the eighth, after a Masataka Yoshida was driven in by Justin Turner to make the score 6-2, Bruce Bochy pulled Brock Burke for Josh Sborz, and Cora made another pinch hitting decision because metrics or whatever, bringing in Adam Duvall for Triston Casas, and the rain crew brought a tarp for the wet grounds.
It was at this point that I was caught in between fuming at the Red Sox’s luck with rain delays this season and knowing they were about to strand more runners, that NESN played the Jonathan Papelbon-fronted Milli Vanilli “Blame It On The Rain” cover with Manny Delcarmen, the latter of whom I hadn’t thought of in almost a decade. Great track, by the way. For those who have never seen it, look no further. Maybe it’s just the subjective frustration that had me humming about it for the entirety of the rain delay. I’ll get back about the actual quality of this song in the future.
Following the hour and forty-seven minute rain delay, Adam Duvall swiftly struck out to a skeleton crew crowd that resembled what this team should actually be playing in front of in the eighth inning in games where they’ve played this poorly. Tayler Scott, a guy with a 9.00 ERA for the Dodgers season, trotted out in the ninth to make his Boston debut. After giving up a leadoff hit, David Hamilton somewhat redeemed himself for his sloppy fielding today by securing a double play for Scott. A center field shot that was easily fielded by Refsnyder capped off a scoreless frame by Scott. The bats couldn’t get anything going despite the Arroyo leadoff hit, as three straight batters struck out, and Boston fell back to .500 after less than 48 hours above that mark.
This game was a reality check from the euphoria that this weekend in Toronto resembled. I am not one to defend Chaim Bloom, as many of these guys should not be on a Major League roster, and filling a team with experienced depth pieces with injury histories leads to playing time for more guys who then turn into either bad players or more injured players. And I get it. We know injuries happen, but dealing with this many injuries (and paternity leaves, congrats, Big Maple!) in the pitching staff shouldn’t be treated as anything less than an emergency, and under emergencies, bullpen games will happen. Some of this blame can definitely be on Chaim Bloom for signing guys with significant injury histories and not getting better depth, or simply failing to keep guys like Nate Eovaldi around. (Sorry, I’m emotional from the pre-game recognition!) But, Alex Cora simply must be better at configuring the game in a way that wins us games rather than whatever it is he’s doing. Maybe it’s residual frustration from seeing Josh Winckowski and Kenley Jansen melt down an out too late, or from Kaleb Ort coming in and promptly giving up a home run twice in two games now. It looked clear from the Ort debacle that this was a game that couldn’t be won, but it was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that personnel decisions played the difference in this one.
The Red Sox have five games to play before the All-Star break. They face Oakland after this series with Texas. After the break, we should have more information on Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, and John Schreiber, as well as Trevor Story and Yu Chang. For today, we can blame this performance on roster configuration, bullpen and pinch hitting decisions, international travel, just a plain poor day, or if nothing else, we can blame it on the rain.
Chris Murphy: 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Jarren Duran: 2-3, 2B, 3B
Christian Arroyo: 2-4, K
Alex Cora: Self explanatory.
Kaleb Ort: 0.2 IP, 3 ER, 1 HR, 0 K
David Hamilton: 0-4, K, GIDP, E
Play of the Game:
It was the Mitch Garver home run that, in the second inning, changed the direction of this entire game, whether or not a certain manager wants to pretend it did or not.
Who was the Red Sox’s player of the game in their 6-2 loss to Texas on July 4th?
This poll is closed
Anyone who left the game in the rain delay