Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Appears Confident Andrew Benintendi Can Bounce Back in 2021

On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.

Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.

An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.

As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.

On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”

With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.

Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.

Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.

“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”

From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.

Red Sox Outfielder Andrew Benintendi ‘Available’ in Trade Talks, per Report

With exactly one week to go until the trade deadline, the Red Sox have reportedly made injured outfielder Andrew Benintendi available in trade talks, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Per Rosenthal, the subject of Benintendi being on the trading block came up when discussing what the Indians’ plans are in regards to right-handers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac.

Earlier this month, both Clevinger and Plesac broke the Indians’ COVID-19 protocols when the pair of hurlers broke curfew and didn’t stay in the team hotel after a game against the White Sox in Chicago.

The two were subsequently optioned to Cleveland’s alternate training site on August 14, and one or the other could be dealt before August 31 seeing how their teammates may not accept them back due to a lack of accountability on their part.

That being said, Rosenthal notes that the Indians “trading one of them for a power-hitting outfielder would be a logical step for a team that ranks last in the majors in OPS from its outfielders.”

This is where Benintendi comes into the picture. Not necessarily because he is a power-hitting outfielder, but rather, like Clevinger, the 26-year-old outfielder has amassed three-plus years of service time and is set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

Despite that common link, Benintendi is currently on the 10-day injured list due to a strained rib cage that will likely sideline him well into September. Even before that, the former first-round pick had struggled at the plate to begin the year, going 4-for-his-first-39 (.103) with one RBI and four runs scored through 14 games played.

Clevinger, on the other hand, posted a 3.24 ERA and .802 OPS against over his first three starts and 16 2/3 innings pitched this season before getting demoted.

As Rosenthal notes, Clevinger was originally slated to make $4.1 million this season, and that figure will only go up in the 29-year-old’s final two years of arbitration eligibility. For a frugal team such as the Indians, they may want to get out from under Clevinger’s contract before it becomes too much of a burden.

Benintendi, meanwhile, is on a much more cost-controlled deal after inking a two-year, $10 million extension back in February that buys out his first two years of arbitration eligibility.

If you want to boil this all down, it basically comes down to the notion that the Indians are a team in need of outfield help, while the Red Sox, who currently boast the second-worst starters’ ERA in baseball (6.04), are in need of starting pitching help.

As noted by Rosenthal, this sort of scenario “demonstrate[s] the challenge of finding the right fit” in trade talks going forward.

If Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is aggressive and active enough, though, Benintendi, and a plethora of other Sox players, could be moved between now and the end of the month. It likely all depends on the return that Boston would be getting back.

Red Sox’ Andrew Benintendi Could Miss Significant Amount of Time While Recovering From Rib Cage Strain

Before Wednesday’s eventual 9-5 loss to the Rays, the Red Sox placed outfielder Andrew Benintendi on the 10-day injured list due to a right rib cage strain.

At the time that move was announced, Sox manager Ron Roenicke appeared hopeful that Benintendi would only be out the minimum 10 days. But, after further testing, it seems more likely now that the 26-year-old could miss a significant amount of time.

“He did strain it so he’s going to be a while,” Roenicke said of Benintendi’s injury during his postgame media availability on Wednesday night. “It will probably be more than that 10 days that we talked about.”

Prior to straining his rib cage after tripping and falling down while rounding second base in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s loss to Tampa Bay, Benintendi had put together his best game of the season at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. It seemed like that could have gotten the slumping outfielder going offensively, but he will now have to wait a while to get back on the field.

“This is really unfortunate that it happened,” Roenicke said earlier Wednesday. “what [Benintendi] did yesterday could [have gotten] him going. So I think it’s a tough break and hopefully that he’s not out too long to where he loses that feeling of his swing that he’s been working so hard on.”

In the meantime, Alex Verdugo, Kevin Pillar, J.D. Martinez, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Jose Peraza could all see an uptick in playing time patrolling the outfield while Benintendi is on the mend.

Through the club’s first 18 games this season, Red Sox outfielders rank 25th in baseball in collective OPS (.650) and 25th in collective wRC+ (80).

Red Sox Place Andrew Benintendi on Injured List Due to Rib Cage Strain, Recall Ryan Weber From Pawtucket

Prior to taking on the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, the Red Sox have placed outfielder Andrew Benintendi on the 10-day injured list due to a right rib cage strain and in a corresponding move recalled right-hander Ryan Weber from the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Per Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, Benintendi suffered the strain when he tripped and fell down after rounding second base in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The hope is that the 26-year-old will only miss the minimum 10 days on the shelf while J.D. Martinez and Jose Peraza will play more outfield in his place. In the meantime, Alex Verdugo will see the majority of his playing time come in left field and Kevin Pillar will see the majority of his come in right.

Prior to straining the right side of his rib cage on Tuesday night, Benintendi had put together his first two-hit game of the 2020 season, so this news comes at a less than ideal time for the struggling outfielder.

“I think it’s a tough break,” Roenicke said of Benintendi being placed on the injured list. “Hopefully he’s not out too long where he loses that feeling of his swing that he’s been working on.”

As for the guy who will be called up in Benintendi’s place, Ryan Weber is back with the big-league club just four days after he was optioned to the alternate training site.

The 30-year-old hurler struggled as the Sox’ No. 3 starter to begin the season, posting a 9.90 ERA over his first three starts. He will be available to pitch in relief of Zack Godley on Wednesday and would otherwise be a “full go” to pitch in relief of Kyle Hart in Thursday’s series finale against Tampa Bay.

With this transaction made, the Red Sox now have 15 pitchers and 13 position players on their active roster. Expect another move to be made on Thursday in lieu of Hart needing to be added before making his first career major-league start.

Red Sox Endure More Pitching Struggles Out of Bullpen in 8-2 Loss to Rays

It was a close game until it wasn’t. In other words, the Red Sox trailed the Rays by just one run going into the seventh inning of Tuesday’s contest, and wound up dropping their second straight to Tampa Bay by a final score of 8-2.

Martin Perez made his fourth start of the season for Boston in this one and his second straight against the Rays as he was coming off five strong, scoreless innings in his last time out on August 5 at Tropicana Field.

Working 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park on Tuesday, the left-hander held the opposition to two runs while scattering three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night.

The first of those two Tampa Bay tallies came right off the bat in the first, when on his sixth pitch, Perez served up a leadoff homer to Mike Brosseau on a 3-2, 91 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate.

That certainly was not a promising way to begin a ballgame, but Perez was able to settle down a bit. As a matter of fact, the only other time the Rays got to the Sox starter came in the third inning on a one-out RBI single from Yandy Diaz.

Other than those two slight mishaps, Perez looked relatively solid once more, as he retired 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced before a two-out walk to Jose Martinez in the top of the sixth marked the end of his evening.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (57 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler turned to his vaunted changeup 34% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing seven swings-and-misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 93 mph with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw seven times.

Unfortunately hit with the tough luck loss to fall to 2-2 on the season, Perez did manage to lower his ERA to 3.38. He’ll look to bring that down even more in his next time out, which could come against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.

In relief of Perez, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, inherited the man Perez had walked, and ended the top half of the sixth by getting Hunter Renfroe to ground out right back to him.

From there, well, let’s just say things got ugly, as Brice and the recently-recalled right-hander Robert Stock combined to surrender six runs on four hits and two walks in the seventh. Christian Vazquez was also charged with a passed ball in the process that saw the Sox’ deficit grow from one run to seven.

Stock came back out for the eighth, loaded the bases while recording the first two outs of the inning, and was replaced by another relative newcomer in Dylan Covey, who got out of the jam and also worked a scoreless ninth to hold the Rays at eight runs. Not like it mattered much in the end, but still another positive development there.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against Andrew Kittredge, who had closed things out for the Rays on Monday, yet opened for them on Tuesday.

The right-hander only recorded one out in the first inning though, as he had to depart earlier than expected due to an apparent right arm injury.

After the dust had settled from all that and right-hander John Curtiss was dispatched by Tampa Bay, Michael Chavis opened up the scoring for his side in the second.

Celebrating his 25th birthday on Tuesday, the second baseman followed up a Christian Vazquez two-out double with a hard-hit RBI single to drive in the backstop and tie things up at one run apiece.

Despite all that early adversity, Curtiss and the rest of the Rays pitching staff held things down against a rather stagnant Red Sox offense.

The only other run Boston pushed across in this one came in the eighth inning on an Alex Verdugo RBI single, but even then, Andrew Benintendi cost his side an out by tripping and getting caught in between second and third base on the play. Very on brand for this season.

Verdugo’s fifth RBI of the year made it an 8-2 game in favor of Tampa Bay, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

In his second straight start at third base in place of Rafael Devers, Jonathan Arauz went 2-for-3 after going 3-for-4 on Monday.

Michael Chavis, meanwhile, may have made a mental error at second base in that troublesome seventh inning, but he did go 2-for-4 at the plate on Tuesday and is now 6-for-his-last-13.

Andrew Benintendi also had a multi-hit game to raise his batting average on the season to .103.

Martin Perez has allowed four earned runs over his last 19 1/3 innings pitched.

Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get any easier with Blake Snell getting the start for the Rays on Wednesday night. The Red Sox will send out Zack Godley to oppose the 2018 American League Cy Young winner.

Snell has yet to face the Sox this season, but he does own a lifetime 3.75 ERA and .683 OPS against in four career starts and 24 total innings pitched at Fenway Park.

Godley, meanwhile, is coming off four scoreless frames in his second start with the Red Sox against the Blue Jays on August 8. The 30-year-old has only pitched against the Rays twice before in his career and has given up three total runs in those outings.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time.

Mitch Moreland Comes Through With Two Homers, Walks It off for Red Sox in Series-Clinching 5-3 Victory Over Blue Jays

For the first time in nearly a full calendar year, the Red Sox have won a series at home following a 4-3, walk-off victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Nathan Eovaldi made his fourth start of the season for Boston to close out the weekend, and he had a nice bounce-back outing coming off a somewhat rough go of things in Tampa Bay last week.

Working six innings on Sunday, the right-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and zero walks to go along with 10 strikeouts on the afternoon to tie a career-high.

All three Toronto tallies yielded by Eovaldi were driven in by the sons of former major-leaguers, with Cavan Biggio lifting a two-out solo shot in the third, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. plating Teoscar Hernandez on a two-out RBI single in the fourth, and Bo Bichette crushing a solo homer of his own to lead things off in the sixth.

Other than those mishaps, Eovaldi was fairly effective, missed plenty of bats, and escaped the top half of the sixth inning without giving anything else up to end his day on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (63 strikes), the 30-year-old flamethrower turned to his vaunted four-seam fastball 40% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing four swings-and-misses and topping out at 100.2 mph with the pitch.

Hit with the no-decision while raising his ERA on the year to 4.09, Eovaldi will look to build on this start in his next time out, which should come against the Yankees in the Bronx this coming Friday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Osich got the call to begin things in the seventh, and he got the first two outs of the frame before a two-out walk of Biggio resulted in Sox manager Ron Roenicke turning to Austin Brice with the dangerous Bichette due up next.

As Roenicke had intended, Brice got the Blue Jays shortstop to ground into an inning-ending forceout, and then proceeded to punch out the side in the eighth on 17 pitches.

From there, Matt Barnes kept a 3-3 tie intact during a two-strikeout top of the ninth, and he would later be credited with his first winning decision of 2020 because of it.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against yet another veteran right-hander for the Blue Jays in the form of ex-Angels hurler Matt Shoemaker.

Mitch Moreland, who had faced Shoemaker seven times in his career before Sunday, got the scoring started for Boston with a 414-foot solo home run with one out in the second inning.

In the third, the Sox took advantage of sloppy defense from Shoemaker when Jackie Bradley Jr. led the inning off with a single, advanced to second on a Tzu-Wei Lin sacrifice bunt, and came around to score when the Toronto starter misfielded a soft grounder off the bat of Alex Verdugo. That bizarre sequence made it a 2-1 contest in favor of the home side.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, another left-handed hitter got the best of Shoemaker, this time with Rafael Devers busting out of a cold spell and tying this one up at three runs apiece with a 449-foot blast to dead center coming off a first-pitch, 92 mph sinker on the inner half of the plate. The 23-year-old’s first Fenway big fly of 2020.

And in the ninth, a two-out walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts off Jays reliever Thomas Hatch brought Moreland to the plate for a fourth time. And with the chance to win this one, the 34-year-old did not waste anytime, as he swung at the first pitch he saw from the opposing right-hander and deposited an 86 mph slider well over the Green Monster to walk it off.

Moreland’s second long ball of the day and third of the weekend put the Red Sox up 5-3, which would of course go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this walk-off victory: 

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Mitch Moreland’s last seven games: 7-for-21 (.333) with four homers and nine RBI.

From The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch:

Red Sox pitchers faced 35 Blue Jays hitters on Sunday. They struck out 15 of them.

Look at Rafael Devers, man.

Now a quarter of the way through the truncated season, the Red Sox are a not-so-nice 6-9 on the season. The homestand rolls on with the first of four against the Rays on Monday night.

Ron Roenicke has yet to name a starter for the series opener, but Tampa Bay will go with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who surrendered five runs over five innings his last time out against Boston on August 5.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking for their second straight win.

Red Sox’ Kevin Pillar on Making Difficult Catch in Right Field Corner: ‘It Kind of Goes Back to My Football Mentality: Catch the Ball and Be Ready for a Little Contact’

The Red Sox may have lost on Saturday night, but Kevin Pillar arguably made the best defensive play of the entire game, and we’re not talking about him gunning down Travis Shaw at home plate here.

Instead, we’re talking about what Pillar did in the top half of the seventh inning, when with one out and Heath Hembree on the mound, Rowdy Tellez laced a screamer down the right field line that appeared to be headed towards home run or at least extra-base hit territory off the bat.

Rather than that happening though, a speeding Pillar dashed towards the right field corner, caught Tellez’s liner, collided with the short wall, and fell on his back all while holding onto the ball in his glove.

Per Statcast, that line-drive from Tellez had an exit velocity of 95 mph and had a 29% chance of being a hit. Pillar prevented that from happening, and in his postgame media availability, recalled his high school football days among other things when talking about the web gem.

“It’s a difficult play,” the outfielder said. “It makes it even more difficult [at Fenway Park] with the lack of foul territory… A ball like that’s not hit very often in BP. You can’t really recreate that off a fungo. I just felt like I was getting close when I hit the warning track and took one last peek at the wall and you got to make a decision. In a tight game, you got to be willing to hit the wall. It just kind of goes back to my football mentality: catch the ball and be ready for a little contact and try to help this team win some games.”

Interestingly enough, Pillar initially started Saturday’s contest on the bench but was dispatched as a pinch-hitter in place of the slumping Andrew Benintendi in the fourth inning. At the plate, the 31-year-old went 0-for-3 with a punchout, but nearly lifted a fly ball of his own over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth, which would have tied the game at two runs apiece had it gone over.

Through 11 games with Boston, Pillar is slashing .317/.333/.348 with one home run and five RBI.

Prior to embarking on his professional baseball career in 2011, the California native played wide receiver among a plethora of other positions on his high school football team at West Hills’ Chaminade College Prep., hence the callback on Saturday night.

For more on how Pillar brings what he learned playing football onto the baseball field, check out this 2017 story from TSN’s Scott Mitchell.

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.

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.