The Red Sox Bullpen Needs Some Help from the Outside

The Red Sox bullpen blew a 6-1 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday with the help of four straight walks from both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the eighth inning.

Per FanGraphs, the Boston ‘pen has been the fifth best in the American League so far this season in terms of ERA (4.00) and fWAR (2.9), but they also lead the AL in blown saves with 15 on the year. All this without a set closer.

Matt Barnes entered June with a 2.08 ERA on the season. Since then, the right-hander has posted an ERA of 7.15 while appearing in 12 of the 22 games the Red Sox have played this month. He is on pace to make 71 relief appearances in 2019, nine more than he made all of last year.

Brandon Workman has become one of the more valuable members of Boston’s relief corps after not making last season’s Opening Day roster and being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket three times. He appeared in a total of 43 games in 2018 and is only five outings away from reaching that mark this year.

In those 38 appearances, the right-hander has really limited the hits he has given up, but walks remain a legitimate issue, as he is averaging nearly seven per nine innings.

Ryan Brasier, meanwhile, was not even up with the big league club at this point in 2018. He may have played an important tole in Boston’s success then, but, in what is now his first full season in the majors, it’s clear to see that the 31-year-old has regressed, which had to have been expected.

From July 8th to the end of the 2018 campaign, Brasier appeared in 34 games for the Sox, posting a 1.60 ERA and .171 batting average against over 33 2/3 innings of work.

This year, the right-hander has already made 35 appearances out of the ‘pen, and has yielded 12 earned runs on 25 hits and 10 walks in 31 1/3 frames of relief.

The bottom line here is that, at this rate, the big three of Barnes, Brasier, and Workman will be worked into the ground with the way things are going.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been given no other choice in order to give his club the best chance to win. Contributions from guys like Heath Hembree, Marcus Walden, and now Josh Taylor have helped, but the Red Sox bullpen needs some legitimate support from the outside.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a veteran reliever with closing experience. If a move is not made in the coming weeks leading up to the trading deadline, then it may be too late to think about clinching a fourth straight American League East title.

I will post a list of a few relievers I would like to see the Red Sox pursue before July 31st very soon, so stay tuned for that.

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Red Sox Bullpen Blows Another Save in 8-7 Meltdown Loss to Blue Jays

After battling their way back from a pair of four-run deficits in a 7-5 extra innings win on Friday, the Red Sox essentially did the exact opposite less than 24 hours later, as they blew a late six-run lead and fell to the Toronto Blue Jays by a final score of 8-7 on Saturday.

Making his second start of the season for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who worked in relief his last time out and ended up taking the loss in that 17-inning marathon against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

This time around, the left-hander put together a solid performance, yielding just one unearned run while scattering four hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over five solid innings.

That lone Toronto tally came in the top half of the fourth, when with no outs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at second following a leadoff single and a wild pitch from Johnson, a grounder off the bat of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could not be handled cleanly by an off-balanced Xander Bogaerts, and he wound up unable to make a clean throw over to Michael Chavis at first, which gave Guerrero enough time to score his side’s first run of the afternoon.

Other than that one mishap, Johnson managed to sit down five of the last six Blue Jays hitters he faced leading into the middle of the fifth, where his outing came to a close.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (50 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 37% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 91.6 MPH with the pitch.

Unable to pick up the winning decision despite a worthy performance of one, Johnson will look to lower his ERA of 6.43 even further in his next time out, which at the moment, probably won’t happen until the Red Sox return from London.

In relief of Johnson, Mike Shawaryn entered the sixth with a five-run cushion and got things off to an encouraging start by retiring the side in order.

From there, though, is where this one began to fall apart for Boston. That would be because Shawaryn, in his second frame of relief, gave up three straight one-out hits, with the last two being home runs from Freddy Galvis and Rowdy Tellez to cut Toronto’s deficit to two.

Marcus Walden was inserted with the bases empty and two outs to get in the seventh, and he walked the first man he saw in Luke Maile.

Three batters later, with Maile having moved up to third on a Guerrero Jr. single, Walden complicated matters further by mislocating 1-1 slider that got past Christian Vazquez and allowed the runner from third to come in and score with Gurriel Jr. at the plate to make it a 6-5 contest. Walden was able to escape the inning with that slim lead still in tact, setting up Matt Barnes in the eighth.

There, the frequently used righty saw that one-run lead disappear on a one-out RBI single from Cavan Biggio that drove in Teoscar Hernandez from second and knotted this one up at six.

That stalemate would not last long, unfortunately, as Barnes walked the bases loaded to make way for Ryan Brasier, who proceeded to walk in the go-ahead run himself on four straight out of the strike zone against Blue Jays leadoff man Eric Sogard.

Another free pass drawn by Guerrero Jr., the fourth straight given up by Red Sox pitching, gave his side a two-run edge before Brasier stopped the bleeding by getting Gurriel Jr. to pop out to first.

And finally, Josh Smith struck out the side in order in the ninth to keep Boston within the two runs they trailed by, although the damage had already been done.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against right-hander Derek Law, serving as the opener for the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Jackie Bradley Jr. broke open the scoring for Boston in the second inning, where with JD Martinez at second and Brock Holt at first, the center fielder ripped an opposite field two-run double, plating both runners to make it a 2-0 game early on.

Michael Chavis added on to that while simultaneously extending his hitting streak to 11 games by driving in Bradley Jr. on a softy-hit RBI single back up the middle. That led to a pitching change that saw right-hander Sam Gaviglio take over for Law.

Walking the second hitter he faced in Mookie Betts to put runners on first and second, Andrew Benintendi made Gaviglio pay with a two-run, opposite field double on an 0-1 84 MPH slider that put the Sox up by five.

Friday night’s hero Christian Vazquez padded that lead in the bottom half of the third with his 10th home run of the season, a 340 foot shot just past Pesky’s Pole in right field that gave the Red Sox a six-run advantage.

With that large of a lead, you would figure with the way they’ve been playing lately, the defending World Series champions had this one in the bag. Sure, it’s easy to blame the bullpen for the way things turned out on Saturday, but to go hitless from the bottom of the fifth until the last half of the ninth isn’t great either.

In that ninth inning, trailing by two runs, Mookie Betts provided some life by drawing a one-out walk off Blue Jays closer Ken Giles after the pinch-hitting Rafael Devers fanned in the prior at-bat.

Betts managed to steal second off Giles, but Andrew Benintendi was unable to advance him any further, as he too struck out.

Down to their final out, it looked as though Xander Bogaerts was about to wrap this contest up by flying out to shallow left field, but with the way Toronto was playing him in the shift, said ball fell between Galvis and Hernandez and bounced over the wall into foul territory for a ground-rule double to score Betts from second.

Now only trailing by one, JD Martinez came to the plate representing the go=ahead run.

With the chance to send the Fenway crowd home with a walk-off win for the second consecutive day, the Sox slugger came up swinging on a rising 2-2 98 MPH fastball from Giles, but could not come through with any contact, as he fanned to put this disappointing 8-7 loss to bed.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox have blown 15 saves this season, the most in the American League and second-most in all of baseball behind only the New York Mets.

Per FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a 97.4% chance to win this game after Teoscar Hernandez flew out to second for the first out of the seventh inning.

From the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll look to bounce back from this ugly loss in the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.

Right-hander Rick Porcello is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Marcus Stroman will do the same for Toronto.

Fresh off seven scoreless innings and a win in his last time out against the Twins, Porcello has posted an ERA of 2.75 through three June starts.

In 26 career outings (25 starts) against the Jays, the 31-year-old owns a lifetime 5.39 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 148 2/3 innings pitched.

Stroman, meanwhile, picked up the win the last time he faced off against the Sox back on May 21st at Rogers Centre, where he allowed one earned run over six quality innings of work.

In his career at Fenway Park, the Duke University product is 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts and 24 1/3 total innings.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the series win.

 

 

 

Christian Vazquez Walks off Blue Jays with Two-Run Shot in 10th Inning as Red Sox Complete Comeback with 7-5 Win

After a series win over the Minnesota Twins and an off day on Thursday, the Red Sox opened their final homestand before heading to London with a 7-5, 10-inning, walk-off victory in the first of three against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday to improve to 42-35 on the season.

Making his 16th start of the season for Boston was Chris Sale, who saw his run of consecutive double-digit strikeout performances end at four in this one.

Tossing just five full innings Friday, the left-hander yielded four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits, two walks, and one HBP to go along with eight punchouts on the night.

Right from the jump, it looked as though Sale was not going to be at his sharpest. That much was evident in how he lost an 11-pitch matchup to the very first hitter he faced iin Toronto leadoff man Eric Sogard.

Back-to-back walks in the same inning, Sale’s only two of the night, eventually led to the Blue Jays tacking on their first two runs on a two-out, two-run single off the bat of Freddy Galvis.

Another two reached base in the second, but nothing came out of it before more trouble arose in the top half of the third, where a simple grounder from Teoscar Hernandez should have gone for the first out of the frame, but instead was misplayed by Eduardo Nunez over at third.

Two pitches later, Randal Grichuk mashed on a 1-0 87 MPH changeup and sent it 379 feet to left field, making it a 4-0 contest.

If there was any solace, it would be that Sale retired nine of the last 12 Blue Jays he faced leading into the middle of the fifth, which is the point where his outing came to an underwhelming end.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (65 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 40% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 95.6 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately hit with the no-decision while raising his ERA up to 3.59, Sale will look for improved results in his next time out, which should come against his former club in the Chicago White Sox next Wednesday.

In relief of Sale, Colten Brewer got the first call to kick off the sixth inning, and he worked a scoreless frame before allowing two of the first three in the seventh to reach.

So, in came the left-hander Josh Taylor, and he, with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt, escaped the jam thanks to a smoothly-turned 6-4-3 double play.

From there, Taylor also fanned a pair in the eighth before Ryan Brasier came on for him, and he, in a one-run game his team was trailing in, surrendered singles to the first two men he faced but managed to get out of it by getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to fly out to right.

Matt Barnes, after the Sox tied things up in their half of the eighth, kept this contest tied with a 1-2-3 ninth, and Brandon Workman did the same while also picking up his sixth winning decision with a scoreless 10th.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie right-hander Trent Thornton, who had never pitched at Fenway Park nor against Boston prior to Friday.

Falling behind by four runs early on is never ideal, but Brock Holt got the scoring started for his side and began to chip away at that deficit by driving in Andrew Benintendi from third with a third inning RBI sacrifice fly hit deep enough to center.

Fast forward all the way to the seventh, after Toronto had regained their initial four-run advantage, and Mookie Betts would wind up being the catalyst for a three-run rally, as his one-out triple off Thornton would mark the Blue Jays starter’s final pitch of the evening.

With left-handed reliever Tim Mayza entered into this contest, Benintendi greeted him by plating Betts and reaching first on an RBI single to the opposite field. 5-2.

Another pitching change that saw right-hander Joe Biagini didn’t make much of a difference, as Xander Bogaerts scored Benintendi all the way from first with a line-drive RBI double that rolled all the way to the wall by the bullpens in right field. 5-3.

A wild pitch from Joe Biagini allowed Bogaerts to advance to third, and JD Martinez capitalized on that mistake by driving in the run on a ground ball single back up the middle. 5-4.

An inning later, and the one-out three-bagger was the Red Sox’ friend yet again, this time with Jackie Bradley Jr. collecting his first of the season against David Phelps.

Rafael Devers, who was out of Friday’s lineup due to tightening his right hamstring in Minnesota on Wednesday, came on to pinch-hit for Eduardo Nunez with the tying run just 90 feet away from home.

Swinging at the fifth pitch he saw from Phelps, an 81 MPH knuckle-curveball, after taking the first four, the budding infielder came through big time, as his RBI single through the left side of the infield gave Bradley Jr. more than enough time to score from third and knot this one up at five runs a piece.

And finally, in the 10th, down to their final out with Marco Hernandez at first and right-hander Jordan Romano on the hill, Christian Vazquez, who first pinch-hit for Sandy Leon in the eighth, activated his clutch gene and sent the Fenway Faithful home happy by blasting his ninth home run of the year on a 3-2, 93 MPH fastball.

Per Statcast, Vazquez’s walk-off bomb traveled approximately 403 feet over everything in right field and had an exit velocity of 102.4 MPH. That won this series opener for the Red Sox by a final score of 7-5.

Some notes from this win:

The Red Sox started Friday 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and finished 3-for-their-last-3.

From Red Sox Stats:

The Red Sox are 8-1 in their last nine games and have outscored opponents 60-30 in that span.

Quite a way to start a six-game homestand, and the Red Sox will be looking for more in the second of three against the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is set to get the ball for Boston, while Toronto has yet to name a starting pitcher.

Since being activated from the injured list on June 14th, Johnson has surrendered a total of two earned runs over two appearances, one being a start against the Baltimore Orioles last Sunday and the other a relief outing against the Twins this past Wednesday.

In his career against the Blue Jays, the 28-year-old owns a lifetime 7.15 ERA over six games (four starts) and 22 2/3 innings of work.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their third straight win.

 

Red Sox Promote No. 19 Prospect Kutter Crawford to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted right-handed pitcher Kutter Crawford to Double-A Portland, per SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Crawford’s MiLB.com page appears to indicate the promotion as well.

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Ranked as Boston’s 19th best overall prospect and seventh among right-handed pitchers, Crawford put together a first half of the 2019 season worthy enough of a Carolina League All-Star bid with High-A Salem, where he posted a 3.39 ERA and .262 batting average to go along with 77 strikeouts and 30 walks over 14 starts and a total of 69 innings pitched.

A 16th-round selection out of Chris Sale’s Florida Gulf Coast University back in 2017, the 23-year-old’s pitch arsenal includes a 91-94 MPH fastball, an 85-87 MPH cutter, a 77-78 MPH curveball, and a changeup.

Per MLB.com’s and SoxProspects.com’s scouting reports, Crawford seems to best profile as an option out of the bullpen rather than the starting rotation once he hits his ceiling. There’s still plenty of time for the young righty to prove otherwise, though.

In other minor league promotion news, right-hander Thad Ward was promoted from Class-A Greenville to Salem to take Crawford’s spot on the Red Sox’ roster, while right-hander Eduard Bazardo was promoted from Salem to Portland after also being named a 2019 Carolina League All-Star.

Rays Granted Permission by Major League Baseball to ‘Explore Possibility’ of Playing Split-Season Between Tampa Bay and Montreal

Per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, the Tampa Bay Rays have been granted permission from Major League Baseball’s executive council to look into playing their home games at two different venues in the same season. The plan would involve earlier home games taking place in the Tampa Bay area before the rest are played in Montreal, Canada.

Major League Baseball confirmed this news in a tweet earlier Thursday.

The specific number of games played in each city has yet to be determined, Passan notes, but new stadiums would be built in both Tampa Bay and Montreal.

The Rays’ current lease with Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season. Back in December, at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas, principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced that plans to build a new ballpark in the neighboring Ybor City would not be finalized, meaning that aforementioned lease would seemingly run its course.

But, with this most recent announcement, it appears that the Rays’ brass believes that a two-city approach is the best way to preserve Major League Baseball in that part of Florida.

As things stand right now, Tampa Bay, despite sporting the fourth-best record in the American League at 43-31, are pulling in an average of 14,545 people per home game, the second-worst attendance mark in all of baseball.

The team’s 2019 Opening Day payroll of just over $62 million was one of the lowest among the 30 clubs as well.

The idea of bringing baseball back to Quebec has long been there, that much is clear with how a pair of exhibition games hosted by the Toronto Blue Jays has been played at Olympic Stadium since 2014.

Last homing a Major League Baseball team in 2004, before the Expos were relocated to Washington, D.C., Montreal has been clamoring to get the sport back on a full-time basis.

Although that does not seem to be the case at the moment, it will be interesting to see how these discussions pan out and when they will come into effect. Stadiums take a decent amount of time to build, so I can’t imagine the Rays will be playing any of their home games outside of the Trop anytime soon.

 

Red Sox Bounce Back, Break out for Nine Runs to Take Competitive Series from Twins

After dropping a 17-inning marathon game earlier in the morning, the Red Sox bounced right back Wednesday night, topping the Twins 9-4 in nine innings to both take the three-game series from Minnesota and cap off a solid 5-1 six-game road trip.

Making his 14th start of the season for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered Wednesday fresh off seven quality one-run innings in his last time out against the Baltimore Orioles.

This time around, against a much more superior opponent, the left-hander once again worked seven full frames, as he surrendered four runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits and three walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

From the jump, it looked as though Rodriguez was not going to go too deep into this one. That much was evident with how three straight Twins reached in the first and scored their first run on an Eddie Rosario RBI single.

It could have been worse though, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not snuffed out CJ Cron trying to go from first to home on a Nelson Cruz double in the previous at-bat.

Walks became an issue for Rodriguez in the third, when with two outs and Cruz and Sano on base following a pair of free passes, Luis Arraez plated Cruz from second on another RBI single to make it a 3-2 contest.

An inning later, and it was the home run ball that bit the Venezuela native, with both Willians Astudillo and Max Kepler teaming up for two solo shots to put their team ahead 4-3.

Fortunately for Boston, Rodriguez flipped a switch and settled in a bit from the middle of the fifth on, as he sat down nine of the final 10 Twins he faced to end his outing on a much more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 111 (72 strikes), the 26-year-old relied on his two-seam fastball more than 34% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing four swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 95.4 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 31 times with Sandy Leon behind the plate.

Ultimately improving to 8-4 while slightly raising his ERA on the season to 4.71, Rodriguez continues to be the benefactor of run support from his lineup. His next start should come against the Chicago White Sox sometime next week.

In relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen was not as heavily taxed as they were on Tuesday, with just two relievers, Matt Barnes and Marcus Walden, combining for two scoreless frames of relief to wrap up this 9-4 victory.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, owner of a career 2.68 ERA in six prior starts against Boston.

Through 13 starts on the season coming into Wednesday, Gibson was averaging just two walks per nine innings, but that was not the case in this particular contest as he gave out a season-high five free passes.

Kicking off the scoring for the Sox was Brock Holt, who came to the plate for the first time in the second inning with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers at first and second and no outs.

On the third pitch he saw from Gibson, a 95 MPH fastball on the bottom half of the strike zone, Holt grounded an RBI single back up the middle to get his team on the board.

Michael Chavis followed that up with an RBI knock of his own to drive in Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts also came through with a run-scoring single to drive in Holt. Just like that, the Red Sox were up 3-1.

Fast forward to the fifth, after Minnesota responded and took a one-run lead of their own, the Boston bats answered with another three-run rally, which was started by JD Martinez drawing a leadoff walk off Gibson.

Two batters later, Bogaerts stayed hot by plating Martinez from second and advancing Devers to third on an RBI line-drive double to left to knot things up at four runs each.

The stalemate would not last long, however, not with Eduardo Nunez pinch-running for Devers at third and Holt scoring him on an RBI sacrifice fly deep enough to center to make it a 5-4 game.

Another run-scoring single from Chavis, the last hitter Gibson faced, allowed Bogaerts to come in from third after that sac fly, and the Red Sox had themselves a brand new two-run advantage they would not have to look back from.

That being the case because in the top half of the eighth, with Harvard alum Scott Poppen on the mound for Minnesota, back-to-back RBI knocks off the bats of Andrew Benintendi and Martinez allowed the Sox to double up the Twins at 8-4.

And finally, still in the eighth, Holt essentially put this one to bed by drawing a four-pitch, bases loaded walk off Poppen to score Martinez from third and give his team the 9-4 led, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

Rafael Devers has been ruled day-to-day with right hamstring tightness. He probably won’t play Friday, per Sox manager Alex Cora.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

The Red Sox with runners in scoring position on Wednesday: 7-for-14

Michael Chavis during his nine-game hitting streak: 13-for-41 (.317) with one double, two home runs, and six RBI.

So, the Red Sox went into enemy territory against the team with the best record in the American League and came out with a series win, with the one loss coming in that 17-inning debacle on Tuesday.

Prior to this series, the negativity towards this Red Sox team was based around the idea that they could not beat other competitive clubs. Given what just went down this week, that narrative may be going by the wayside soon enough.

Next up for the Sox, it’s a well-deserved day off on Thursday before a six-game homestand begins back at Fenway Park on Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Left-hander Chris Sale is set to get the ball for Boston in the opener of that three-game weekend set, while rookie right-hander Trent Thornton will do the same for Toronto.

Since the start of June, Sale has allowed a total of two earned runs in his last 22 innings of work to go along with 32 punchouts in that same span.

In his career against the Jays, the 31-year-old has posted a lifetime 2.67 ERA over 16 appearances (13 starts) and 91 innings pitched.

Thornton, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive outing in his last time out against the high-octane Houston Astros, as he held the class of the American League West scoreless over 6 2/3 impressive innings while also fanning seven in the process.

Making his first Opening Day roster with Toronto back in March, the 25-year-old has never faced the Red Sox nor pitched at Fenway Park.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to start another winning streak.

Red Sox’ Rafael Devers Forced to Exit Wednesday’s Game Due to Tightness in Right Hamstring

Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was forced to depart from Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins in the top of the fifth inning due to tightness in his right hamstring, per club offiicials.

Devers, 22, came out in the fifth after appearing to strain something in his right knee while running out an infield single to advance JD Martinez to second base.

The young infielder remained at first and managed to move all the way up to third on a Xander Bogaerts double before being replaced by Eduardo Nunez.

Fortunately, just a few moments after heading into the Red Sox’ clubhouse, Devers was seen smiling in the dugout, so things don’t seem to be as dire as originally thought. He has been ruled day-to-day and I’m sure Sox manager Alex Cora will have another update following the conclusion of Wednesday night’s contest.