Red Sox Held to Just One Run in Loss to Blue Jays as Offensive Struggles Continue for Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez

For the second time this season, the Red Sox had a chance to string together their first three-game winning streak of the year. And for the second time this season, that effory fell short, this time coming in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Zack Godley made his second start and third overall appearance of the year for Boston in this one, and unlike his last time out against the Yankees looked much more poised against his former club. That being the case because over four innings pitched, the right-hander kept Toronto off the scoreboard while scattering three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

The only real trouble Godley ran into came in his final inning of work, when he served up back-to-back two-out singles to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to put runners, which at the time put the tying run in scoring position for Randal Grichuk.

Fortunately for Boston, Godley managed to get the Blue Jays outfielder to pop out to first to strand what would have been the tying run at second and end his outing on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 67 (41 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his cutter and curveball a combined 79% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing six total swings-and-misses with the two pitches while topping out at 91 mph with that cut-fastball.

Hit with the no decision later on, Godley was at least able to lower his ERA on the season down to 3.97. He’ll look to bring that number down even more in his next time out, which should come against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

In relief of Godley, left-hander Josh Osich got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to begin things in the fifth, and he faced the minimum three batters thanks to an inning-ending double play courtesy of Mitch Moreland.

From there, Phillips Valdez nearly surrendered a run in the sixth by walking one and giving up two hits, but was bailed out by Kevin Pillar in right field, who corralled a two-out single off the bat of Guerrero Jr. and gunned down old friend Travis Shaw trying to score from second on play. A rough weekend for the former Sox infielder thus far.

In the seventh, Heath Hembree looked human for the first time this season in that he allowed the Blue Jays to tie this contest up at one run apiece on a Bo Bichette two-out, run-scoring double before a six-pitch walk of Shaw filled the bases for Toronto and resulted in the right-hander getting an early hook in favor of Brasier.

Braiser came into Saturday with a 9.82 ERA on the year, but to his credit, fanned Teoscar Hernandez on three straight strikes to escape the jam and keep the score tied.

Marcus Walden was responsible for the top half of the eighth, and he saw a 1-1 tie turn into a one-run deficit after yielding a leadoff walk to Gurriel Jr., a one-out single to Grichuk, and a run-scoring groundout to Rowdy Tellez. If there’s any consolation for Walden, it’s the fact that he got out of the inning without giving anything else up, although he was ultimately charged with his first loss of 2020.

And in the ninth, left-hander Jeffrey Springs put together his second consecutive scoreless appearance, retiring three of the four hitters he faced in a quick and painless top of the ninth to hold the Blue Jays at two runs.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup that featured Alex Verdugo batting leadoff for the first time was matched up against another veteran right-hander for the Blue Jays in ex-Brewers hurler Chase Anderson.

Kicking off the scoring in the second, the Boston bats made Anderson pay for walking Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland to begin the inning by driving one of those runners in thanks to a Christian Vazquez RBI single right back up the middle moments later.

Andrew Benintendi had a chance to keep the early rally going, but instead grounded into a 4-6-3 double play before Jackie Bradley Jr. flew out to left field to extinguish the threat.

As it would later turn out, that second inning was it for the Sox in terms of meaningful offensive production on Saturday, with Anderson, as well as Blue Jays relievers Wilmer Font, Anthony Kay, Jordan Romano, and Anthony Bass keeping the home side in check the rest of the way en route to a 2-1 loss for Boston.

Some notes and observations from this defeat:

The Red Sox went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and left seven men on base as a team.

Andrew Benintendi was pinch-hit for by Kevin Pillar in the bottom of the fourth inning after just one at-bat.

Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez went a combined 0-for-7 with one walk and two strikeouts. The former now has an OPS of .543, the latter now has an OPS of .639.

From MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Would have been interesting to see the new extra-inning rules come into play on Saturday night. Maybe another time.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday night afternoon.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Matt Shoemaker will do the same for Toronto.

The Sox’ de facto ace surrendered four earned runs over five innings of work his last time out against the Rays. He owns a lifetime 4.22 ERA and .799 OPS against in six career outings (five starts) and 32 innings pitched against the Blue Jays.

Shoemaker, meanwhile, has allowed seven earned runs through his first two starts and 10 2/3 innings pitched of the 2020 campaign. The 33-year-old has made three career starts at Fenway Park and has yielded seven earned runs over 18 total innings. That’s god for an ERA of 3.50.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN+ and WEEI, but as mentioned in Saturday’s broadcast, the game will shift over to NESN at the conclusion of the Bruins game.

 

 

Red Sox Lineup: Alex Verdugo Leading off for First Time This Season While Andrew Benintendi Drops to Seven-Hole Against Blue Jays

After primarily batting out of the six and-seven hole to begin his Red Sox career, Alex Verdugo will be batting leadoff for Boston against the Blue Jays on Saturday night.

The 24-year-old went 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs and a pair of RBI in Friday’s victory over Toronto, raising his OPS on the season to .927 through 11 games played thus far.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke had teased the idea of Verdugo batting leadoff sometime soon during his pregame media availability on Friday. Now, that possibility has become a reality following the Arizona native’s most impressive performance with Boston to this point in time.

Prior to coming over to the Sox, Verdugo only started one game as a leadoff hitter with the Dodgers, which came against Matt Grace and the Washington Nationals last July. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in that contest.

Against Chase Anderson, who the Red Sox will be facing to begin things on Saturday, Verdugo is 1-for-1 with one career home run off the veteran right-hander.

As for how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up against Anderson and behind fellow veteran right-hander Zack Godley in this one, Rafael Devers will follow Verdugo, while Andrew Benintendi, who had served as Boston’s primary leadoff hitter, has dropped down to the No. 7 spot.

Among the other six hitters in Saturday’s lineup, Jose Peraza has seen Anderson the best, as the 26-year-old is a lifetime .333/.368/.667 hitter in 18 career at-bats against the Blue Jays starter.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to string together three straight wins for the first time this season.

Red Sox Option Ryan Weber to Pawtucket, Call up Dylan Covey

Before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, the Red Sox swapped one right-handed pitcher for another, as the club recalled Dylan Covey from their alternate training site in Pawtucket and in a corresponding move, optioned Ryan Weber.

Covey, who turns 29 next week, will be making his second stint with the Sox after allowing two runs over two innings of relief in a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on July 25. The California native was sent down to Pawtucket shortly after his team debut with the goal of getting him stretched out in mind, manager Ron Roenicke said at the time.

Originally acquired by Boston from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 21, Covey came into the 2020 season with a career 6.54 ERA and 5.56 FIP over 63 outings (45 starts) and 250 1/3 innings pitched with the Chicago White Sox from 2017 through 2019.

Weber, meanwhile, entered the 2020 campaign as the Sox’ No. 3 starter but struggled in that role, most recently surrendering two runs in just three innings of work against the Blue Jays on Friday night.

Through three starts at the big-league level thus far in 2020, the soon-to-be-30-year-old hurler has posted an ERA of 9.90 and OPS against of 1.220 over 10 total innings pitched.

With Weber off the major-league roster for the time being, it will be fascinating to see how the Red Sox approach the vacancy in their starting rotation. Roenicke will likely have more to say about that later Saturday.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo: ‘I’m Not Replacing’ Mookie Betts

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was the centerpiece for Boston in the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. That much is true.

However, the 24-year-old wants everyone to know he is not here to replace the four-time All-Star in right field. He said as much following a two-homer, home run-robbing performance as part of a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night.

“I’m not replacing him,” Verdugo said of Betts during his postgame media availability. “Yeah, he played here, but this is a game. This is a business. He decided to go elsewhere. I’m not replacing him. That’s what you guys say. That’s what everybody else says. I’m going out there and playing right field, playing my game.”

Verdugo was acquired by the Sox from the Dodgers as part of a blockbuster five-player trade that included Betts back on February 10. The two are both capable of playing all three outfield positions, so the comparisons between them have essentially been nonstop since then. Still, the exuberant outfielder is not a huge fan of that.

“I don’t think about Mookie,” Verdugo added. “I think he’s a great player, he did a lot for Boston, and he’s going to do a lot for the Dodgers. I think about me being here and what I’m going to do and bring to the team. It’s not a comparable thing. I don’t like comparing it. I don’t like when people bring it up. Obviously, the nature of the trade, it’s going to happen. People are going to say it. I’m going to go out there. I’m gonna play my game and bring the energy that I bring. That’s how I always have been. I don’t care about shoes to fill or anything like that. I’m playing my game.”

Adding on to that, Verdugo does not feel any added pressure playing in the same outfield Betts had patrolled since 2014. Again, he’s here to play his game and that’s what he’s going to do.

“Like I said, (the media) sees me going into right field replacing Mookie,” he continued. “I don’t see it like that. I see that I’m playing right field for Boston. That’s it. It’s just another team, another organization. Got to go out there and compete, and do what you do. The same way he’s doing it over there, we’ve got to do it over here.”

Through 11 games with his new club, Verdugo is slashing .294/.368/.559 with three homers and four RBI. He may not be Mookie Betts, but he is making a solid first impression in Boston and is looking forward to the challenges that await.

The pressure the former second-round pick feels has more to do with performing on the field to the best of his abilities, not replacing a former MVP in right field.

“To go out there and feel some type of pressure or feel some type of way about myself like I need to show something, to hit homers or rob homers all the time to fill this void that Mookie left, no. I don’t have that,” Verdugo said. My job is to get on base, to try to make this game a little bit easier for the guys coming up behind me and in front of me.”

On Saturday, we could see Verdugo bat out of the leadoff spot for the first time as a member of the Red Sox, so that’s something to look forward to.

Alex Verdugo Clubs Two Homers Over Green Monster, Takes One Back in Right Field as Red Sox Open Series Against Blue Jays With 5-3 Victory

For the second time this season, the Red Sox are on a winning streak, as they followed a 5-0 win over the Rays on Wednesday by opening up a seven-game homestand with a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday.

Ryan Weber made his third start of the season for Boston in this one, coming off back-to-back losing decisions to kick off his 2020 campaign.

Working three-plus innings on Friday, the right-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on five hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

The first of those two Toronto tallies off Weber came right away in the first inning, when after nearly striking out moments before, Cavan Biggio led things off with a 397-foot solo shot to left field coming off a 3-2, 89 mph sinker down the heart of the plate.

In the third, Biggio caused more trouble, this time leading off the frame with a line-drive single and coming around to score moments later on RBI double off the bat of Bo Bichette.

The sons of former players didn’t make things easy for Weber, but he did manage to strand Bichette by getting Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to ground out to retire the side in the third before a leadoff single from Travis Shaw in the fourth marked the end of his evening.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 64 (39 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker 48% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing one swing-and-miss and topping out at 89.6 mph with the pitch.

Able to halt his personal losing streak while lowering his ERA on the year to 9.90 despite getting hit with the no-decision, Weber’s next start, if he gets one that is, would likely come against the Tampa Bay Rays next Wednesday or Thursday.

In relief of Weber, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and managed to clean up his predecessor’s mess by getting Teoscar Hernandez to pop out to second before inducing a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play off the bat of Danny Jansen.

From there, Colten Brewer tossed a perfect top of the fifth, Ryan Brasier yielded one run on two hits and one walk in the sixth, Austin Brice danced his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean seventh, Matt Barnes walked a pair yet didn’t surrender anything in the eighth thanks to a 4-6-3 twin-killing started by Xander Bogaerts, and Brandon Workman, with the help of Alex Verdugo, worked a scoreless ninth to lock down the save and the 5-3 victory for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander Tanner Roark for Toronto, who had last pitched on July 28 due his team’s series against the Phillies last week getting postponed.

Perhaps a bit rusty because of all that time off, walked four of the first five Red Sox hitters he faced, allowing Mitch Moreland to pick up an RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk with one out in the bottom of the first.

A Christian Vazquez double-play extinguished any shot of doing more damage off Roark right away in this one, but the Boston bats were back at it again in the second.

There, on the very second pitch of the inning, Alex Verdugo crushed a 1-0, 77 mph changeup on the outer half of the plate from Roark and deposited it 366 feet into the Monster seats in left field. His second homer in as many games put the Sox up 2-1 early on.

An inning later, another left-handed hitter got to Roark, as Moreland followed a one-out Xander Bogaerts single with a first-pitch, 427-foot two-run blast over everything in right field to make it a 4-2 contest. His fourth home run of the season.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Verdugo put this one to bed with a leadoff solo shot over the fence in left field, his second of the contest, off Rafael Dolis.

That 331-foot shot put the Red Sox up 5-3, which would go on to be Friday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this win:

Alex Verdugo has a .927 OPS now. Wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the leadoff spot soon, maybe even on Saturday.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second of this three-game set against the Jays on Saturday night.

Veteran right-hander and one-time Blue Jay Zack Godley will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Chase Anderson will do the same for Toronto.

Godley, 30, surrendered five earned runs in just over three innings of work in his first start with the Sox against the Yankees last weekend. He owns a lifetime 4.70 ERA and .691 OPS against in three career outings (one start) and 7 2/3 innings pitched against the Jays.

Anderson, meanwhile, will be making his 2020 debut on Saturday after starting the season on the injured list due to an oblique strain. The 32-year-old has never pitched inside Fenway Park before in his career.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to put together their first three-game winning streak of the year.

Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke Has Considered Batting Alex Verdugo Out of Leadoff Spot ‘Over Last Few Days’

For the sixth time in his 10 starts for the Red Sox thus far, outfielder Alex Verdugo will be batting out of the seven-hole in Friday’s series opener against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

According to manager Ron Roenicke, though, Verdugo’s status as a bottom half of the lineup-type hitter could change quite soon, as the Sox skipper has considered batting the 24-year-old out of the leadoff spot “over the last few days.”

So far this season, fellow left-handed hitting outfielder Andrew Benintendi has primarily served as Boston’s leadoff man, and, as you may already be aware, has struggled in that role. Through his first 39 plate appearances of 2020, the former first-round pick has mustered just two hits, resulting in a dismal .069/.289/.103 slash line.

Even with that in mind, Benintendi is still batting leadoff for the Sox on Friday, but if his struggles do continue, Roenicke did say that he’s “not going to be stubborn and keep (the 26-year-old in the leadoff spot) forever.”

Prior to coming over from the Dodgers in February, only made one start for Los Angeles as a leadoff hitter, which came back on July 27, 2019. In that contest against the Nationals, the Arizona native went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

On the flip side of that, Verdugo does own a career .291/.345/.555 slash line over 119 plate appearances when leading off an inning.

Roenicke also mentioned that “it doesn’t seem [like] left or right-handers bother” Verdugo, so it would appear that the exuberant outfielder’s reputation as a “reverse splits guy” is here to stay.

Red Sox Lineup: Ryan Weber Looks to Bounce Back in First of Three Against Blue Jays

After an off day on Thursday, the Red Sox begin a stretch of 17 games in 17 days on Friday, starting with the first of three against the 4-6 Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will make his third start of the season to kick off the weekend for Boston, while veteran righty Tanner Roark will be doing the same for Toronto.

0-2 with an 11.57 ERA and 1.253 OPS against through his first two outings of 2020, Weber will look to rebound against the Jays, who he held to one run over six innings in his first start with the Red Sox last May.

Roark, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched since July 28 due to the Blue Jays’ series against the Phillies last weekend getting postponed. In his Toronto debut, the 33-year-old limited the Nationals to one run over five innings of work.

At Fenway Park, Roark has only made one career appearance as a reliever, which came back in April 2015. He yielded one run over 3 2/3 innings pitched in that outing.

More than five years later, here’s how the Red Sox will be lining up against Roark and behind Weber to begin things on Friday:

With the right-handed Roark on the mound for the opposition, the left-handed bats of Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all back in Boston’s lineup after all three got Wednesday off.

Also worth noting, J.D. Martinez is batting out of the three-hole once again, Alex Verdugo is starting in right field, and Jose Peraza is starting at second base.

Among these nine hitters, Xander Bogaerts has seen Roark the best without taking sample size into consideration. The 27-year-old shortstop is 3-for-3 with one home run, three RBI, and one walk in his career against the Jays starter.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox going for their second straight win over a divisional opponent.

Red Sox Add Right-Hander Seth Blair, Release Outfielder John Andreoli From Player Pool

Before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays on Friday, the Red Sox made a minor roster shake-up, as the club added right-handed pitcher Seth Blair to their player pool and in a corresponding move released outfielder John Andreoli.

Blair, 31, was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft out of Arizona State University and spent six years in the organization before getting released in April 2015.

From there, according to this New York Times feature on Blair, the Illinois native “took a five-year break from baseball” before signing a minor-league deal with the Padres last May.

While in San Diego’s farm system, Blair posted a 4.11 ERA and 3.64 xFIP over 17 outings (two starts) and 35 innings pitched for High-A Lake Elsinore before once again getting released on August 9.

Since then, again going back to that NYT piece, the former Sun Devil had been running a training facility for major and minor-leaguers in the backyard of his Scottsdale home to provide players a place to work out during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Based off said article and Blair’s own Instagram page, it would appear that the flame-throwing right-hander has bought into the whole Driveline revolution in baseball that was started by the likes of Trevor Bauer and Kyle Boddy in Washington state. What he’s learned there could be useful to other pitchers in the Red Sox organization who are currently working out in Pawtucket.

As for Andreoli, the 30-year-old outfielder out of Worcester, Mass. inked a minor-league pact with Boston back in December after spending the 2019 season with the Giants, Twins, and Mariners organizations.

The UCONN product was added the Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, but his stint there obviously did not last too long seeing how he was cut loose on Friday.

By essentially swapping Andreoli for Blair, the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool is still at full capacity. Blair will presumably report to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket within the next few days.

 

Red Sox Announce Schedule Changes for August and September

The remainder of the Red Sox’ 2020 schedule got shaken up a little bit by Major League Baseball on Thursday in order to accommodate other clubs who have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the changes, first pitch against the Phillies at Fenway Park on August 19 has been moved up to 1:35 p.m. eastern time, while a double-header against the Phis will now be played at Citizens Bank Park on September 8. On top of that, in addition to now having off-days on September 9 and 14, the Sox will wrap up a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami on September 17 rather than September 16.

Originally, first pitch against the Phillies on August 19 was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time, and a two-game series in Philadelphia was scheduled for September 8-9 while that series against the Marlins in Miami was slated to conclude on September 16.

As the tweet above points out, traditional double-headers this season will persist of two seven-inning games, something new for 2020.

If all goes according to plan, the Red Sox will hopefully still be able to get in a full 60 games this year. Of course, the threat of more teams other than the Marlins, Phillies, or Cardinals experiencing coronavirus outbreaks is still as prevalent as ever.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo on Crushing First Home Run of Season With New Team: ‘To Finally Be Able to Help Out and Get a Couple Runs for Us, It’s Huge’

Going into Wednesday night, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was without a home run or RBI through his first nine games and 30 plate appearances with his new team.

That all changed against Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough in the fourth inning of an eventual 5-0 win for Boston at Tropicana Field to close out a seven-game road trip.

After striking out on eight pitches in his first at-bat against the Rays starter, Verdugo come to the plate for a second time with two outs and a runner on first following a Michael Chavis single.

On the second pitch he saw in his second at-bat against Yarbrough, which was nearly identical to the first’s location, the 24-year-old unloaded on an 0-1, 71 mph curveball at the bottom of the zone and deposited it 352 feet to the right field seats for his first home run of 2020 and his first in a Red Sox uniform. It also gave his side an early two-run lead.

“It felt amazing, man,” Verdugo said of his homer during his postgame media availability. “It’s pretty obvious a lot of us are going through it right now trying to find our swings. There’s a lot of new things in baseball, not being able to see the videos until after the games and all that. Usually, the in-game adjustments have been hard. It felt really good to finally be able to stay on one, to stay through it and get one out.”

Per Statcast, Verdugo’s two-run blast had an Expected Batting Average (xBA) of .220, so it wasn’t exactly barreled, per se, but it was still encouraging to see him make relatively hard contact nonetheless. His manager, Ron Roenicke felt that way as well.

“He was pretty happy, I’ll tell you that, when he came to the dugout,” said the Sox skipper. “It was huge. At the time, it was huge. I thought Yarbrough was throwing the ball fantastic and the next thing you know, we’ve got two runs on the board. The players know it, they feel what’s going on. To get that lead, I’m sure Dugie felt pretty good about that.”

Indeed, Verdugo did feel pretty good about getting his first one out of here since coming over from the Dodgers in February. More importantly, he was happy it contributed to a victory.

“I think the biggest thing for me was just to help the team out,” Verdugo said. “It was a tie game, so just to get up there and give us a 2-0 lead, give the pitcher and everybody a little breath. Like, ‘Hey, alright, we’ve got some room to work.’ That was my biggest part. I came here to contribute. I’ve played the game hard and I want to contribute in everything that I do. To finally be able to help out and get a couple runs for us, it’s huge.”

Following Wednesday’s impressive performance, Verdugo is showing why he should be starting more against left-handed starters, especially when the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are mired in slumps.

While with Los Angeles for parts of the previous three seasons, the left-handed hitting Arizona native slashed .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, earning the reputation of being a “reverse splits” guy.

Thus far with the Red Sox, Verdugo now owns an OPS of 1.009 through his first 16 plate appearances against southpaws this year, again proving that he should be playing more. Even still, the outfielder understands that finding playing time for everyone is no easy task.

“I always mess around with that,” Verdugo said with a smile. “When I’m not in there against a lefty, I’m like, ‘Hey, Ron, just so you know, man, I can hit ‘em.’ I think he knows it, too. I think he also knows when players are pressing. He’s doing his job, he’s doing what he has to do. I take a lot of pride against lefties.”

Also, it’s probably about time Verdugo moves up in the lineup, too. Just a thought.