After exploding for a season-high 17 runs on Saturday, the Red Sox were certainly held in check by the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, as they were shut out for the first time since April 16th in an underwhelming 5-0 loss, marking the first time they have dropped a series to their divisional foes in nearly two years.
Making his second start of the season for Boston and 19th overall was Andrew Cashner, who was dealt by Baltimore on July 14th for a pair of Dominican Summer League prospects.
Tossing six full innings against his former club, Cashner surrendered four runs, all of which were earned, on six hits, two walks, and one HBP to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.
All four of those Baltimore tallies came across to score within the first three innings Sunday, with Trey Mancini getting things started on a one-out, first-pitch solo home run off his old friend in the first.
A leadoff walk of Dwight Smith Jr. came back to bite Cashner in the second, with Smith Jr. advancing to second on the first out of the frame, and then scoring from second on a one-out RBI double off the bat of Chris Davis.
Cashner managed to sit down the next two Orioles he faced to strand Davis at second, but ran into additional trouble in the third, with Jonathan Villar reaching on an infield single to lead off the inning and Mancini blasting his second big fly of the day off a 3-1, 84 MPH changeup.
That put the Orioles up 5-0, and it seemed as though Cashner’s leash was shortening every at-bat, but fortunately for Boston, the Texas native settled in a bit and retired nine of the last 13 hitters he faced leading into the end of the sixth, where his outing came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 105 (62), the 32-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 49% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing five swings and misses and topping out at 95.6 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately falling to 0-2 as a Red Sox, Cashner’s first two starts with Boston certainly haven’t been memorable. I don’t want to make excuses, but when you consider that those first two starts have come against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team Cashner faced in his last start as an Oriole, and the Orioles, the team Cashner spent the season-and-a-half with, it’s not too crazy to think that they might have the slight advantage.
Cashner’s next start should come against neither of those teams and instead against the New York Yankees on Friday.
In relief of Cashner, Marcus Walden entered the seventh with his team trailing by four, and he maintained that deficit with a 1-2-3 inning.
Heath Hembree, on the other hand, saw that four-run gap widen to five by serving up a leadoff solo shot to Villar in an otherwise scoreless eighth.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against journeyman right-hander Asher Wojciechowski for Baltimore, who brought with him a 5.74 ERA through four appearances (three starts) this season.
Despite what those numbers may indicate, the Sox got Wojciechowski at his best, as the Orioles starter took a perfect game into the third and a no-hitter into a seventh.
There, Rafael Devers laced a leadoff, opposite-field double that nearly sneaked over the fence in right, but it was still good for his side’s first hit of the day.
Other than that one knock though, Devers was left at second and Jackie Bradley Jr. was left at first an inning later following a one-out walk.
Bradley Jr. would wind up being the final batter Wojciechowski faced in this one. His final line: 7 1/3 innings pitched, one hit, zero runs, two walks, one HBP, and a career-high 10 punchouts.
The Boston bats didn’t fare much better against the O’s bullpen either, with left-hander Paul Fry fanning the only two Red Sox hitters he faced to end the top half of the eighth, and Mychal Givens stranding Mookie Betts at third in the ninth after walking him to lead off the inning.
A first-pitch ground out to first from J.D. Martinez is how this one ended, and 5-0 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox dropped a series to the Orioles on Sunday for the first time since August 25th-27th, 2017.
One hit is the fewest the Red Sox have had in a single game since, you guessed it, when they were no-hit by Sean Manaea and the Oakland Athletics on April 21st, 2018. It’s also the first time they’ve been one-hit in the Alex Cora era.
The Red Sox are 5-5 out of the All-Star break.
With two losses in their last three games, the Red Sox are currently 11 games off the pace for first place in the American League East. They also sit three games back of the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild Card spot.
Boston’s next 14 games come against either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays, with the first three of those 14 taking place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston, while fellow southpaw and former Red Sox prospect Jalen Beeks will do the same for Tampa Bay.
Rodriguez has had himself a solid July thus far, pitching to the tune of a 1.96 ERA and .182 batting average against over his last three starts and 18 1/3 innings pitched. The Red Sox are 3-0 in those games.
In four career starts at the Trop, the 26-year-old is 0-2 with a lifetime ERA of 7.11 and batting average against of .333 over 19 total innings of work.
Beeks, meanwhile, will be making his first start of the season for the Rays after appearing in 20 games out of the bullpen.
The 26-year-old owns a 2.78 ERA to go along with a .244 batting average against over 64 2/3 total innings pitched.
In two prior meetings against the team that drafted him, Beeks has allowed a total of three runs over 9 1/3 innings. That’s good for an ERA of 2.89.
First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to prove that they can still contend.