After their initial series opener was rained out on Thursday, the Red Sox opened up a now three-game weekend series against the New York Yankees in disappointing fashion Friday night, as they fell to 0-3 on the season against their division rivals in another frustrating 4-1 loss in the Bronx.
Making his 12th start of the season and second at Yankee Stadium for Boston was Chris Sale, who gave up four earned runs in five innings of work against New York back on April 16th.
This time around, more than six weeks later, the left-hander had a similar experience, as he yielded another four earned runs on seven hits and just one walk to go along with 10 strikeouts over six so-so innings.
From the jump, it seemed as though Sale was locked in with three consecutive punchouts on 13 pitches in the first and another quick 13 pitch scoreless inning in the second. But, that good fortune all changed beginning in the third.
Allowing four of the seven hitters he faced in the frame to reach base, the initial blow came on a one-out double from DJ LeMahieu to plate Gio Urshela from second to tie this game at one and also advance Brett Gardner to third.
A four-pitch strikeout of Luke Voit gave Sale the chance to escape the third with just the one run given up, and that looked even more possible when he had Aaron Hicks down 0-2 on the first two pitches of his his at-bat.
Instead of getting out of the jam though, the Florida native folded a bit with three straight out of the strike zone, and then left a hanging 82 MPH slider out on the outer-middle part of the plate, one in which Hicks took full advantage of by driving in both runners on a two-run single through the infield to left.
Fast forward to the fifth, and it was LeMahieu who got to Sale yet again, as the ex-Rockies infielder belted his sixth home run of the year off the Red Sox lefty, a solo shot to right-center that put his team up 4-1.
Capping off his night by sitting down the last four hitters he faced through the conclusion of the sixth, Sale finished with a final pitch count of 108, 72 of which went for strikes.
Out of those 108, the 30-year-old turned to his slider more than 46% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing 11 swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at a modest 97.4 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 30 times with Sandy Leon behind the plate.
Falling to an unsightly 1-7 while his ERA jumped back up to 4.35 on the season, Sale will look to get back on track in his next time out, which should come next Thursday against the Kansas City Royals.
In relief of Sale, Ryan Brasier bounced back from a rough Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians with a two-strikeout, scoreless seventh inning, while rookie Josh Taylor fanned one and stranded one in a shutout eighth to keep it a three-run game.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in veteran left-hander JA Happ for the Yankees, who entered Friday with a 5.61 ERA in five starts since the beginning of May.
Despite those recently poor numbers though, Happ held the opposition in check, as he limited the Sox bats to one lone run over the first five innings Friday night.
That lone run came courtesy of the red-hot Rafael Devers, whose solo blast to leadoff the second extended his hitting streak to 11 games and also put Boston on the board first. Devers’ eighth of the year.
Other than that, there wasn’t much to talk about up until Happ’s final frame of work in the top half of the fifth.
With two outs, Eduardo Nunez at second following a leadoff single, Mookie Betts at first following an intentional walk, and Andrew Benintendi at the plate in a then two-run game, the Red Sox saw their best run scoring chance of the night go by the wayside as Nunez was picked off by Gary Sanchez at second after trying to over-extend his lead.
An embarrassing and frustration decision to say the least would be how Boston’s fifth inning came to a close, and they did not advance a runner past first for the remainder of the night in what would turn out to be a 4-1 defeat.
Some notes from this loss:
Steve Pearce, who initially started at first and batted fourth, departed from this contest in the second inning after only one at-bat due to back spasms. He was ruled day-to-day and replaced by Michael Chavis.
Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, JD Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts, the top four in Boston’s lineup, went a combined 1-for-13 with three walks, three strikeouts, and three left on base Friday.
Rafael Devers in May: .351/.380/.640 with eight home runs and 24 RBI. Should be a serious contender for American League Player of the Month.
With another two hits on Friday, Jackie Bradley Jr. now has a total of seven base knocks over his last four games. His OPS is up to .612.
Chris Sale finishes his May with 66 strikeouts in 38.1 total innings pitched. That’s good for a K/9 of 15.6.
The Red Sox finish May losers of their last three and are now 8.5 games off the pace for first place in the American League East.
With two more games remaining in their series against the Yankees, now would be the time to make up some ground if you’re serious about contention this season.
For the middle game in the Bronx, it will be a pitching matchup featuring a pair of right-handers, with Rick Porcello getting the ball for Boston and Domingo German doing the same for New York.
In his last five starts, Porcello, a native of New Jersey, is 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA and .218 batting average against over 32.1 innings pitched. The Red Sox are 4-1 in those games.
In seven career starts at Yankee Stadium, Porcello owns a lifetime 5.56 ERA over seven starts and 43.2 innings of work.
Opposite Porcello, German, a 26-year-old hurler out of the Dominican Republic, has been a huge boost to the Yankees pitching staff with ace Luis Severino currently on the injured list.
Through 11 games (10 starts this season), German currently leads all of baseball with nine wins to go along with a 3.43 ERA over a span of 60.1 total innings pitched.
In his career against the Red Sox, German has posted a 2.08 ERA in a very small sample of two games (one start) and 4.1 innings pitched.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:15 PM EDT on FOX. Red Sox looking to get back on track. for real this time.