Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day four months later than usual on Friday night, the Red Sox fell to the Nationals by a final score of 7-1 at Fenway Park to drop to 10-22 on the year.
Martin Perez made his seventh start of the season for Boston in this one as he was coming off his best outing of 2020 thus far in his last time out against the Orioles.
Working just four innings this time around, the left-hander got rocked for six runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits and no walks to go along with one lone strikeout on the night.
The first five of those Washington tallies came in the top of the third, when after retiring the first six hitters he faced rather easily, Perez yielded a leadoff single to Josh Harrison.
That simple base hit would wind up being Perez’s undoing, as it was followed by a pair of one-out doubles from Victor Robles and Trea Turner, which brought in two runs, and a pair of one-out home runs from Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick, which brought in three additional home runs to put the Sox in a 5-0 hole.
In the fourth, the Venezuelan southpaw saw another Nationals run cross the plate when with two outs in the frame, runners on the corners, and Juan Soto at the plate, the speedy Trea Turner attempted, and failed, to steal second base, but gave Victor Robles enough time to score from third before getting tagged out to retire the side. That simultaneously marked the end of Perez’s evening as well.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (55 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler relied on his cutter 35% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing zero swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 95 mph with his heater, a pitch thrown 21 times.
Hit with his fourth losing decision while raising his ERA on the season to 4.58, Perez will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come against the Braves on Wednesday or Blue Jays on Thursday depending on how many days of rest he gets.
In relief of Perez, right-hander Robert Stock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he faced the minimum in a scoreless top of the fifth before surrendering one run on two hits, one of which was an infield single, and a walk in the sixth, which increased his side’s deficit to six runs.
From there, Jeffrey Springs, similarly enough to Stock, didn’t give up anything in his first frame of work in the seventh, but served up a two-run blast to Josh Harrison and an RBI double to Turner in the eighth before getting out of the inning. Josh Taylor, meanwhile, stranded a pair of base runners in an otherwise clean ninth to keep the Nats at 10 runs. It didn’t make too much of a difference in the end, but it was still something.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up their most accomplished opponent thus far in Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who was making his first appearance at Fenway Park since 2014.
Despite coming into the weekend with a 4.31 ERA through his first six starts of the season, the 36-year-old was dominant on Friday.
The only damage the Boston bats were able to do off Scherzer came in their half of the third inning.
There, after Alex Verdugo reached base on a two-out single, Rafael Devers drove the outfielder in on a blistering, 108 mph run-scoring double to the gap in left center field, which actually happened to be the 100th two-base hit of the 23-year-old’s young career.
Other than that, though, the Sox could not get anything going against Scherzer. Not even a single base on balls as the three-time Cy Young Award winner fanned 11 over six strong innings of work.
When Scherzer’s night ended after those six frames, the Washington bullpen didn’t make things any easier for the Red Sox, either.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the bottom half of the ninth when Boston got on the board again. That came courtesy of a Kevin Pillar RBI single to drive in Tzu-Wei Lin.
Alas, even after loading the bases with two outs, Verdugo flew out to shallow center field, and 10-2 would go down as Friday’s final score.
Some notes and observations from this defeat:
The Red Sox are now 4-11 at Fenway Park this season.
The Red Sox went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Friday and left eight runners on base as a team.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (.680) now has a higher OPS than J.D. Martinez (.663)
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game weekend series against the defending World Series champs.
Right-hander Chris Mazza will be serving as the opener for Boston, while veteran righty and former Red Sox minor-leaguer Anibal Sanchez will be doing the same for Washington.
A roster move will have to be made in order to add Mazza, who last started on August 16 against the Yankees, to the active roster.
Sanchez, meanwhile, will be making just his second career start at Fenway Park since debuting with the Marlins back in 2006.
Originally signed by Boston as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2001, the now 36-year-old Sanchez was part of the trade that brought Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett to the Red Sox in 2005.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to halt a two-game skid.
RIP, Chadwick Boseman.