On a day where they had a legitimate shot to make up some ground in the American League Wild Card race, the Red Sox fell flat on Sunday, as they saw their mini two-game winning streak come to an end in a series-closing 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres.
Making his seventh start of the season for Boston and fifth since returning from the injured list earlier in the month was Brian Johnson, who came into the weekend fresh off allowing three runs over three innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies this past Tuesday.
Tossing three full innings this time around, it was more of the same for the left-hander on Sunday, as he yielded another three runs, all of which were earned, on four hits and three walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.
All three of those Padres runs came across the plate right away in the bottom half of the first, when without even recording his first out yet, Johnson served up a leadoff double to Manuel Margot and an RBI single to Francisco Mejia to make it a 1-0 game early.
Just four pitches into his next at-bat following that single, the Florida native could not sneak a 2-1, 76 MPH curveball past a familiar foe in Manny Machado, who deposited said pitch 397 feet into the seats in left-center field for a two-run blast.
That all transpired with still no outs in the first, and it appeared as though the Sox would have to turn to their bullpen earlier than they would have liked.
Fortunately though, Johnson did settle in a bit by retiring eight of the final 11 hitters he faced before Ty France nearly drove in Eric Hosmer in all the way from first on a two-out double down the left field line.
A well-executed relay from J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts prevented that from happening though, and Johnson’s day came to a close with his side trailing by three instead of four.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 61 (34 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 44% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 91.8 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately falling to 1-3 while inflating his ERA on the year up to 6.83, Johnson continues to struggle in the first inning of his starts. He’ll look to buck that trend in his next time out, which should come against the Los Angeles Angels next weekend.
In relief of Johnson, Ryan Brasier entered in the middle of the fourth with a two-run deficit to maintain, and he did so with the help of Jackie Bradley Jr. and by punching out a pair in a scoreless frame.
From there, Andrew Cashner walked only one over two no-hit innings of relief in the fifth and sixth, Marcus Walden worked his way around a two-out walk in a shutout seventh, and Matt Barnes fanned two in an eight-pitch eighth to keep the score at 3-1.
All in all, the Sox bullpen combined for zero runs on one hit, two walks, and six strikeouts over five total innings of relief.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Padres left-hander Joey Lucchesi, someone they had never seen before Sunday, as you may have guessed.
Trailing by three runs before they even had the chance to take their second at-bats, J.D. Martinez kicked off the scoring for Boston in the top half of the fourth, as he came through with his team’s first hit of the afternoon, which just so happened to be a 411-foot solo shot off the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field with two outs in the inning.
“Flaco’s” 31st home run of the season and third of this series cut the Padres’ advantage down to two runs at 3-1, but the Red Sox bats were held in check from there.
Yup, Lucchesi stranded Sam Travis at first following a two-out single on a groundout off the bat of Christian Vazquez to end the fourth before stranding the pinch-hitting Marco Hernandez and Mookie Betts at first and second on another grounder off the bat of Rafael Devers to conclude matters in the fifth.
In the eighth, up against Padres reliever Andres Munoz, a pinch-hit leadoff single from Brock Holt, followed by Betts reaching base safely on a Machado fielding error, put runners at first and second with no outs for the middle portion of the order.
Devers could not capitalize though, as he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to leave Holt at third with two outs.
A five-pitch walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts kept any shot at a rally alive for Martinez, presumably the man you would want at the plate in this situation on any given night.
Up against Munoz for the second time in this series, Martinez initially fell behind the count at 0-2, but battled his way back even at 2-2 before fouling off two straight heaters in the zone.
On the seventh pitch of this particular at-bat, Munoz opted to go with his slider for the second time, and he got Martinez to bite on one that was well out of the strike zone to retire the side and leave runners at first and third.
And in the ninth, after getting to Kirby Yates on Saturday, the same could not be said for what went down on Sunday, as the Padres All-Star closer sat down Travis, Vazquez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in order to notch his 37th save of 2019 and hand the Red Sox a 3-1 defeat.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. They left six men on base as a team.
From MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
The Red Sox went 2-1 this weekend to improve to 2-7 all-time in Players’ Weekend games.
With the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, and Tampa Bay Rays all falling on Sunday, the Red Sox had the chance to move to within five games of the second American League Wild Card spot. Instead, they’ll have to settle for remaining six games off the pace.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s an off day on Monday before beginning another interleague series against the 58-73 Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.
Right-hander Rick Porcello gets the ball for Boston in the first of the two-game set, while Colorado has yet to name a starter.
Porcello has been the victim of the home run ball as of late, as he’s served up 13 homers over his last nine starts dating back to July 6th, tied second-most among American League starters in that span.
In his career in interleague play, the 30-year-old owns a lifetime 4.31 ERA and .275 batting average against over 43 appearances (41 starts) and 246 1/3 innings pitched. He is also 8-for-44 (.195) with two doubles, both of which came last year, and five RBI in his career at the plate.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 8:40 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to start a new winning streak in Denver.