After snapping an eight-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday, the Red Sox were unable to gain any momentum from that win, as they dropped the middle game of this three-game set by a final score of 6-2 to fall back to 60-56 on the season.
Making his fifth start for Boston and 22nd of the season as a whole was Andrew Cashner, who came into the week having only faced off against divisional opponents since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles last month.
Working into the sixth inning of this one, the right-hander surrendered six runs, all of which were earned, on seven hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.
The first two of those Royals runs came across on one swing of the bat in the top half of the fourth, when with two outs and a runner at first, Cashner served up a two-run mammoth shot to Jorge Soler on a first-pitch, 94 MPH four-seam fastball on the inner half of the plate.
The Texas native had been cruising up until that point, retiring nine of the first 11 hitters he faced before walking Hunter Dozier on seven pitches to set up Soler in that spot.
A Cheslor Cuthbert ground out Cashner out of the fourth, but the home run ball came back to bite him an inning later, when Ryan O’Hearn led things off in the fifth by crushing a solo homer to right off a 3-2, 85 MPH changeup at the top of the zone to make it a 3-1 game.
In the sixth, a Whit Merrifield single, followed by a Cashner wild pitch and Alex Gordon groundout to short, set up Dozier in a prime run-scoring spot with a runner at third, and he capitalized with an RBI single to right. 4-1.
With Soler due up next to hit for Kansas City, Cashner remained in the game and proceeded to give up another two-run shot to the Royals slugger, this one coming off a 1-0, 87 MPH slider down the middle of the plate.
That put the lowly Royals up 6-1, and a single off the bat of Cuthbert would signal the end of the line for Cashner.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (58 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler relied on his four-seamer nearly 46% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 96.2 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately falling to 10-7 while raising his ERA on the year up to 4.68, Cashner’s first five starts with the Red Sox have been far from memorable.
Since the beginning of play of on July 16th, Cashner has given up six home runs in 28 2/3 innings pitched. Compare that to just the 11 homers he gave up in 96 1/3 innings pitched as an Oriole, and it becomes clear that something isn’t quite right.
Regardless, Cashner’s next start should come against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
In relief of Cashner, Josh Taylor entered the top of the sixth with one runner on and two outs to get, and he got both of those outs with the help of a 4-6-3 double play started by Michael Chavis off a ground ball from O’Hearn.
Taylor also worked his way around a two-out walk in a scoreless seventh before making way for Marcus Walden in the eighth.
There, Walden received some great help from a sprawling Chavis on a pop fly off the bat of Dozier while also walking one in another scoreless frame of relief.
And in the ninth, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez came on for his 11th appearance out of the Red Sox ‘pen, and he punched out the side on 20 pitches to keep the deficit at four runs.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Royals right-hander Jakob Junius, who only had one prior start at Fenway Park under his belt before Tuesday.
Kicking off the scoring in the bottom half of the third, Andrew Benintendi got his side on the board first by knocking in Rafael Devers from second on a two-out bloop of an RBI single to right.
Brock Holt managed to move Benintendi up to third on a single of his own, but Christian Vazquez could not come through, as he flew out to center to strand Benintendi and Holt at the corners.
An inning later, after falling behind by a run in the top half of the fourth, Devers had the chance to take that lead back with two outs and runners at first and second following a Betts walk.
Instead, the 23-year-old flew out to center on the first pitch he saw from Junis, thus extinguishing another threat.
Fast forward all the way to the eighth, with reliever Richard Lovelady in for Kansas City and the Red Sox trailing by five runs, and J.D. Martinez broke up a string of 10 straight Boston hitters being retired by lacing a leadoff ground-rule double down the right field line.
Neither Benintendi nor Holt were able to do anything with that, but Vazquez cut the deficit down to four runs with a line-drive RBI single to left-center.
That made it a 6-2 contest in favor of Kansas City, and that would go on to be Tuesday’s final score after Vazquez was stranded at second and Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Betts were retired in order by Ian Kennedy in the ninth.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. They left eight men on base as a team.
From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
So, the Red Sox are 1-9 in their last 10 games and now stand 6 1/2 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
They still have the chance to take this series from the Royals on Wednesday, but you have to beat inferior teams at home. Playing .500 baseball at Fenway Park is simply not a sustainable model of success.
With that, it will be left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez getting the ball for Boston in the series finale, while right-hander Glenn Sparkman will do the same for Kansas City.
Rodriguez took the loss in his last time out against the New York Yankees this past Friday, allowing four earned runs over 6 2/3 innings of work to mark his worst start in terms of runs given up since June 24th.
In his career against the Royals, the 26-year-old owns a lifetime 5.46 ERA and .285 batting average against over six starts and 31 1/3 innings pitched. That includes an outing back on June 4th at Kauffman Stadium, where he held the opposition to two runs over 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win.
Sparkman, meanwhile, has yielded 14 earned runs over his last two starts and 9 2/3 innings to raise his ERA on the season up to 5.58.
The 27-year-old also opposed Rodriguez in that June 4th tilt, and he too put together a solid performance where he allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings of work.
Sparkman has never pitched at Fenway Park.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the series win.