April 6, 2019

G10: Diamondbacks 5, Red Sox 4

Red Sox      - 030 000 100 - 4  6  0
Diamondbacks - 040 000 001 - 5 11  0
After the Red Sox tied the game in the seventh and Brandon Workman took over on the mound, I figured we'd see Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes in the eighth and ninth innings. But manager Alex Cora went with Brasier and Colten Brewer instead. It did not work out.

In the bottom of the ninth, Brewer struck out his first batter, pinch-hitter Alex Avila, and then allowed three straight singles. Mookie Betts raced to his left to cut off Eduardo Escobar's line drive down the line in right and hold Escobar to one base. But then Brewer's first pitch to Nick Ahmed clanked off Christian Vazquez's right shin guard for a passed ball and Escobar went to second anyway.

Ahmed grounded Brewer's 2-2 pitch into right. Escobar was waved around and Betts fired a perfect one-hop throw to the plate. Vazquez gloved it and remained standing as Escobar was out by 15 feet and did not slide. Vazquez applied a two-handed tag for the second out. Whew! Bullet dodged, right?

Well ... Ahmed ran hard after hitting the ball and sprinted to second as Betts's throw went home, despite the possibility of the game being over in three seconds. It was a key play because the next batter, Carson Kelly, lined a 1-1 pitch to left. There was a lot of grass between J.D. Martinez and the foul line and Kelly's hit rolled down the middle of that vast space. Martinez took a few perfunctory steps to his right, but stopping chasing the ball, because there was no point. Ahmed scored easily from second base.

The Red Sox are now 2-8. ... Last season, their eighth loss came on May 1. ... This year's stumble out of the gate is the team's worst since the 2011 club began 2-10.

Matt Barnes last pitched on Wednesday. I praised Cora only a couple of days ago for using common sense and relying on his best arms when the game on was the line, but I don't think he did that tonight. After the game, Cora explained:
Where they were in the lineup; the way he's been throwing the ball. We like him there. We felt the matchups were good for us. It just didn't work out.
And for the third time in seven games, the Red Sox blew a 3-0 lead. (They are also 0-5 this year when scoring first! They were 74-15 last season.) Xander Bogaerts walked to begin the second inning. Rafael Devers singled to right-center, giving Boston men at first and third. Eduardo Nunez's groundout to second scored X and moved Devers to second. Jackie Bradley lined out to center. With two outs, Arizona walked Vazquez intentionally to face David Price - who shocked the world by grounding Luke Weaver's first pitch into right for a run-scoring single! It was the first RBI of Price's 11-year career - and his fourth hit in 49 AB. Andrew Benintendi followed with a ground-rule double to left-center, scoring Vazquez for a 3-0 lead that the Red Sox held tightly for perhaps 10-15 minutes.

Price had needed only eight pitches in the first, but ended up throwing 28 in the second, allowing five hits and four runs. David Perlata lined a single to right. One out later, Escobar doubled on a sinking line drive to left that Benintendi dove for, but could not reach. Ahmed's single to short right dropped in front of Betts for one run and Kelly's double into the gap in left-center went to the wall, tying the game at at 3-3. Price struck out Weaver for the second out, but Adam Jones singled to right, scoring Kelly with the go-ahead run. Jones stretched his hit into a double, beating Betts's throw to Bogaerts. But as Jones stood up, his foot came off the bag for a millisecond and Bogaerts still had his glove on him.

After a review, Jones was called out. That particular call benefited the Red Sox, but I think it's a bullshit rule. It's certainly not the kind of play for which replay was instituted. Jones did not slide past the bag and fail to reach back and maintain contact. I could see that resulting in an out, probably. There is little point in a detailed explanation of why I'm against this kind of play. I suppose you are either okay with it or not. ... I am also wondering why Jones did not get credit for a double since he reached second base safely and was then tagged out after coming off the base.

Price (6-7-4-1-4, 83) then breezed through the next four innings, allowing two singles and facing only two batters over the minimum.

The Red Sox had the leadoff batter on base in the fourth (followed by a fielder's choice at second and two strikeouts) and fifth (double play and strikeout). Their best chance to get some runs came in the seventh, when they tied the game, but left the bases loaded. Yoshihisa Hirano started off by walking Bradley and striking out Vazquez. Martinez, batting for Price, singled to left-center and Bradley went to third. Lefty Andrew Chafin relieved Hiriano and walked Benintendi after an eight-pitch battle, loading the bases. Arizona changed pitchers once again, bringing in Archie Bradley and moving three fielders around as well. Betts lofted a fly to right that was caught but also brought JBJ in to tie the game at 4-4. Mitch Moreland hit for Steve Pearce and walked, re-loading the bases. But everything came to an end when Bogaerts grounded to shortstop and Moreland was forced at second.

In the eighth, Devers walked and was bunted to second. But, again, Boston came up empty, with Bradley striking out and Vazquez flying to the track in left. The Red Sox went in order in the ninth as both Brewer and Barnes were warming up. One can only wonder how things might have turned out if the better, more experienced pitcher had come into the game.
David Price / Luke Weaver
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Pearce, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Núñez, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vázquez, C
Price, P
The Red Sox are 2-7. When they lost their seventh game last year - on April 28 - they had 19 wins.

Brock Holt - 10-day injured list: scratched cornea (right eye)
Brian Johnson - 10-day injured list: left elbow inflammation
Tzu-Wei Lin - infielder recalled from Pawtucket
Marcus Walden - pitcher recalled from Pawtucket
Sean McAdam, Boston Sports Journal:
Name the category, and the Sox are failing miserably. They've given up 23 homers in nine games. They have a minus-26 run differential, the worst for a defending World Series team since the 1984 Baltimore Orioles. They have one quality start from their rotation in nine games. Heck, they've had one game in which the starter has gotten into the sixth inning.

Offensively, they're stranding runners at an alarming rate, with 20 left on base in the last two games alone. Their .384 slugging percentage before Friday's clunker left them in the bottom half of American League teams. On Friday, they went down in order five times in the first seven innings, and after bunching together three hits in the third, didn't come up with another hit until the eighth when the game was ridiculously out of hand.

Defensively, the Sox aren't converting balls in play into outs. Among AL teams, only the Mariners have committed more errors. But errors, of course, don't tell the whole story. There was no error charged when two outfielders pulled up and allowed a ball to drop on the warning track Thursday afternoon in Oakland and none charged in the fourth inning Friday night either, despite three misplays in the span of three hitters — a blooper that fell in between three fielders; a low line drive that went off an infielder's glove for a single; and a juggled grounder which enabled a baserunner to score from third.

It's not one thing, in other words. It's everything. All at once. ...

"For how great it was last year, I understand what a big league season is," said Cora. "You're going to have your ups and downs. We've got to stay calm. The same way we did things last year, we're going to do them again. ... At one point, we're going to get hot and we're going to start playing good baseball and when we look back (on the first 10 days), we'll be like, 'That wasn't fun baseball.'"

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