Coming off a successful weekend in Chicago, the Red Sox headed to Baltimore with the chance to improve their record to over .500 by the time they got back to Fenway Park this Friday, but instead took a few steps back in a frustrating 4-1 loss at the hands of the last place Orioles on Monday.
Making his first start and second appearance for the Red Sox in this one was Josh Smith, who last worked out of the bullpen in the club’s 6-1 win over the White Sox this past Friday.
Signed as a minor league free agent in January, the 31-year-old right-hander surrendered four runs, all earned, on five hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts over the first 3.1 innings Monday.
All four of those Baltimore runs came on one swing of the bat, when, after loading the bases with the first three hitters he faced in the second and striking out the next two, Smith served up a bases-clearing grand slam to Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar.
He nearly escaped the jam, but that granny would wind up being all the offense the O’s would need in this one.
After sitting down the next four Orioles in a row, Smith’s night would come to an end after allowing two of the first three hitters he faced to reach in the fourth, making way for Heath Hembree.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 70 (42 strikes), Smith relied on his four-seam fastball 33% of the time he was on the mound Monday, inducing three swings and misses and topping out at 92 MPH with the pitch.
In relief of Smith, as previously mentioned, Heath Hembree came on with runners on first and second and two outs to get.
Last working on Saturday, Hembree needed just four pitches to retire the side and lower his ERA on the year down to 3.86.
From the middle of the fifth inning on, Ryan Weber, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket Monday in correspondence with David Price being placed on the 10-day injured list, throughoughly impressed in his Red Sox debut.
Like Smith, Weber, 28, signed a minor league pact with Boston back in December and made five starts with the PawSox, where he posted a 5.04 ERA over 25 innings pitched.
Last appearing in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018, the right-hander held the Orioles scoreless in four innings of relief, yielding just three hits and one HBP as well as four punch outs on the night.
The Orioles had two real opportunities to pad their lead off Weber, once with a runner on third and one out in the seventh, and once with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth right after Steve Pearce robbed them of a run by nabbing Renato Nunez trying to score from third on a grounder off the bat of Stevie Wilkerson. They came up empty on both occasions though, sealing the solid debut for the newest member of Boston’s pitching staff.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was held in check by Orioles left-hander John Means and company, and that couldn’t be highlighted more by the fact that Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Michael Chavis, and Rafael Devers went a combined 0-for-19 with five strikeouts Monday. Not great.
The only two Red Sox to collect hits in this one were Christian Vazquez and Eduardo Nunez, whose fifth inning sacrifice fly to plate Vazquez from third provided Boston with their only run of the night.
No one even drew a walk.
Some notes from this 4-1 loss:
In two starts against the Red Sox this season, Means is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA over 12 total innings pitched.
Over his last 10 games (nine starts), Christian Vazquez is slashing .387.472/.516 with one home run and three RBI.
Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll look to rebound in the middle game of this three-game series Tuesday night.
Right-hander Hector Velazquez will be getting the start for Boston in the place of David Price, while right-hander David Hess will do the same for Baltimore.
In three career appearances (one start) at Orioles Park, Velazquez owns a lifetime 3.00 ERA over six total innings.
Hess, meanwhile, is 0-3 in three career starts against the Red Sox, so at least they have that going for them.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT on NESN.