Going into this afternoon’s game with the series against the Atlanta Braves already in hand, the Red Sox were looking for their third straight win and their fifth win in six days. Unfortunately, they ran into a good pitcher in Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves.
Chris Sale’s 12th start of the season was certainly not a memorable one. In his only other start against the Braves in his career. when he was with the White Sox, Sale gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits in five innings. Today’s performance certainly resembled that, as the lefty surrendered six earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4.1 innings pitched. Whatever it is about the Atlanta Braves, for some reason they appear to have an edge on an elite pitcher like Chris Sale.
Things got awry for Sale beginning in the second inning. Having pitched a clean first, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis got the ball rolling by drawing a leadoff walk. After Kurt Suzuki singled and Ender Inciarte popped out to third, Sale’s former teammate and catcher in Chicago, Tyler Flowers, launched a three-run shot into the Green Monster seats. That put the Braves up by three early, and they would not have to look back.
Fast forward to the top of the fifth, and another leadoff walk ended up biting Sale. Shortstop Dansby Swanson is the one who drew it this time, and he was able to score a few minutes later when Charlie Culberson ripped a single past Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field. After giving up his third walk of the day to Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, one of the better all around hitters in the National League, drove in both Culberson and Acuna by blasting a two-run double over everyone’s heads in left center field. Another three runs on the board for Atlanta in the inning, and that would be the end of things for Chris Sale on Sunday.
Since he finished with a pitch count of only 91 (59 strikes), perhaps this could be used to the Red Sox advantage when they head to Houston later next week for a four-game weekend series against the Astros. The team has yet to announce the starting pitcher for the Friday game, but if I had to guess, I would say it will be Sale. With the low pitch count from today in mind, I think it would make sense if Alex Cora let Sale go a little deeper into his next start, if he is pitching effectively, of course. When you consider that Drew Pomeranz is pitching on Thursday, and how much the bullpen has had to been used in his starts, the Red Sox could need Sale to get into the seventh or eighth inning before turning to the bullpen in a close game. I know I’m looking to far ahead, but I just thought I would throw it out there.
Anyway, with Sale departing earlier than usual, Brian Johnson received the first call put of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth. Another lefty, Johnson had himself a decent day in an extended relief role. The Florida native strung together 2.2 scoreless innings while allowing one hit and one walk from the fifth until the end of the top half of the seventh. After a shaky start to his season, Johnson has now gone eight innings in five innings without giving up a single run.
Speaking of extended relief, once Johnson retired the side in the seventh, Hector Velazquez came on in a bit of a mop-up role with the Red Sox trailing by five runs at the point. The native of Mexico was not as effective as he has been of late, as he surrendered one run in the ninth while allowing a total of four Braves to reach base. Not that it mattered, since the Red Sox lineup could barely do anything today.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox were without Mookie Betts and JD Martinez in this one. Martinez because of a scheduled day off, but Betts, who was originally in today’s lineup, was scratched due to “left side tightness.”
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who had pitched against the Red Sox before this season, but not started, came out dealing today. For the first five innings, the best the Red Sox could do is draw three walks against the righty from Illinois. It was not until the sixth when Andrew Benintendi lined a one out double off the wall in left field for his teams first hit of the contest.
One batter later, with Xander Bogaerts at the dish, Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies made a dazzling play with his glove to rob Bogaerts of a hit for the second out of the inning.
Luckily though, Benintendi was not stranded at second base, as Mitch Moreland drove him in by ripping a triple down the first base line, his second three bagger of the season.
That RBI triple prevented the shutout, and it was the only run of the day for the Red Sox. With the two biggest threats out of the lineup, offensive performances like today can be frustrating.
Some notes from this one:
Since Hanley Ramirez was DFA’d this past Friday, Mitch Moreland has hit one home run, two triples, one double, and driven in four in three games.
Ronald Acuna Jr. had to leave today’s game with knee and lower back pain in the seventh inning after an awkward occurrence as he was running out an infield single. I won’t post the video, but I sincerely hope he is okay and has a speedy recovery. Never want to see anything like that happen to an athlete, never mind a 20-year-old rookie.
On a more uplifting note, the Red Sox will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into town for a three game series that begins tomorrow. The Blue Jays had a decent start to their season, but are just 3-7 in their last 10 games. David Price will get the ball for Boston, while it will be righty Aaron Sanchez going for Toronto. Another 1:05 start time, should be a good way to spend some of Memorial Day.