After sweeping the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend and an off day on Monday, the Red Sox saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday, as they opened up a two-game, interleague series against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 3-2 loss to fall back down to 67-60 on the season.
Making his sixth start of the season for Boston and 11th overall appearance was Brian Johnson, taking the spot of the now-shelved Chris Sale, who appears to be out for the remainder of 2019.
Working into fourth inning of this one, the left-hander yielded three runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.
All three of those Philadelphia tallies were plated right away in the top half of the first, beginning with a one-out, two-run double off the bat of Jean Segura that drove in Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper from second and third.
Two batters later, Johnson was just one strike away from getting out of the first with just the two runs, as he had Scott Kingery in an 0-2 count on the first two pitches of the at-bat.
Instead of escaping though, the Florida native persisted with three straight balls before hanging a 74 MPH curveball over the heart of the plate, one in which Kingery roped down the left field line to drive in Segura and make it a 3-0 contest.
Another single from Cesar Hernandez put a runner in scoring position for Philadelphia once more, but Johnson did not falter this time around, as he got Adam Haseley to fly out to center to put an end to the first.
That flyout began a run for Johnson in which he retired eight of the last 11 Phillies he faced with the help of a successful inning-ending pickoff attempt on the part of Mitch Moreland to snuff out Kingery in the third.
In the fourth, with one out and Hasely at second following a wild pitch, Johnson managed to punch out Andrew Knapp on five pitches, and that would be how his evening came to a close as Sox manager Alex Cora turned to his bullpen with the Phillies lineup turning over.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 67 (42 strikes), the 28-year-old relied on his curveball more than 40% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing three swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 90 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 19 times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately hit with his second losing decision while inflating his ERA on the year up to 6.58, Johnson’s next start should come against the Colorado Rockies next week.
In relief of Johnson, Marcus Walden entered with an inherited runner on second and one out to get in the top of the fourth, and he got that out by fanning J.T. Realmuto on three straight strikes after giving up an infield single to Hoskins.
Walden also worked a 1-2-3 fifth before making way for left-hander Josh Taylor in the sixth, who also tossed a perfect inning of relief.
From there, Ryan Brasier struck out one in a scoreless seventh, Darwinzon Hernandez did the same in the eighth, and Matt Barnes worked his way around two straight hitters reaching base with two outs in a shutout top of the ninth.
All in all, Red Sox relievers sat down 16 of the 19 Phillies they collectively faced from the fourth until the middle of the ninth to keep the deficit at one run. Too bad it went in vain.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Phillies ace right-hander Aaron Nola, whose only other appearance at Fenway Park before Tuesday was an eight-inning gem back on July 30th of last season.
Down by three runs before they even had the chance to take their first at-bats, Mitch Moreland got things started against Nola beginning in the third inning with a leadoff single.
A Brock Holt flyout brought Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate with one out in the frame, and he came through by unloading on a first-pitch, 93 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate from Nola and depositing it 402 feet into the Red Sox bullpen.
Per Statcast, Bradley Jr.’s 15th home run of this season and third in his last six games had an exit velocity of 108.4 MPH, the hardest hit ball from either side all night.
That two-run blast cut Boston’s lead down to just one, and it certainly seemed as though they had Nola on the ropes on multiple occasions from there.
Like in the bottom of the fifth, when Christian Vazquez led off with a line-drive double. Moreland, Brock Holt, and Bradley Jr. all had their chances to drive the runner in, but neither of the three could deliver.
An inning later, Mookie Betts singled and stole second to lead off the sixth, setting up the Red Sox’ 2-3-4 hitters in a prime run-scoring spot. Again, none of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, nor J.D. Martinez answered with what would have been a game-tying knock.
Fast forward to the eighth, with Nola out and left-hander Jose Alvarez in for Philadelphia, and Bradley Jr. again reached base on one-out single, turning the lineup over against new reliever Mike Morin.
Betts looked helpless as he fanned on three straight hittable strikes, and Devers didn’t fare much better with an inning-ending lineout to center.
And in the ninth, all frustration boiled over as Xander Bogaerts laced a leadoff double off of Phillies closer Hector Neris.
Things were looking promising for Boston yet again, but on the very next pitch thrown by Neris, Martinez lined a grounder to Segura at short, prompting Bogaerts to try and advance to third despite the play being right in front of him.
Segura took advantage of this, as he snubbed out his positional counterpoint with a quick toss over to Kingery at third.
Bogaerts was out by a decent amount, and just like that, the Sox were down to their final two outs with a runner at first instead of at second.
Chris Owings came on to run for Martinez at first, but that did not make much of a difference, as Benintendi lined out to Segura in the shift more towards second, and he was able to double up Owings at first to end the ballgame with 3-2 being Tuesday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. They left three men on base as a team.
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s last seven games: .292/.333/.750 with three homers and six RBI.
With the Tampa Bay Rays falling to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, the Red Sox still remain six games off the pace for the second American League East.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second and final game of this two-game series, with right-hander Rick Porcello getting the start for Boston and left-hander Drew Smyly doing the same for Philadelphia. The two were part of the same starting rotation for the Detroit Tigers from 2012 until 2014.
Since the calendar flipped to August, Porcello has been, for the most part, solid, posting a 3.71 ERA and .206 batting average against over his last three starts and 17 innings pitched.
In his career in interleague play, the 30-year-old owns a lifetime 4.29 ERA and .277 batting average against over 42 total outings (40 starts) and 241 1/3 innings of work. He will not get to bat this time out.
Smyly, meanwhile, has surrendered 17 runs (15 earned) on 26 hits in five starts and 28 2/3 innings pitched since joining the Phillies on July 21st.
When pitching at Fenway Park over the course of his career, the 30-year-old is 1-1 with a 2.87 ERA and .198 batting average against over five prior starts that amount to 31 1/3 innings of work.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to rebound and start a new winning streak.