Red Sox Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.

Red Sox Trade Travis Lakins to Cubs, Outright Bobby Poyner to Triple-A Pawtucket

In a series of roster moves made Tuesday, the Red Sox have essentially moved on from two bullpen pieces, as right-handed reliever Travis Lakins was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later or cash considerations and left-handed reliever Bobby Poyner was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

The move to deal Lakins comes four days after the 25-year-old hurler was somewhat surprisingly designated for assignment last Friday in order to make room on the Sox’ 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Matt Hall.

In 16 appearances (three starts) in 2019, Lakins posted an ERA of 3.86 and FIP of 3.64 over 23 1/3 innings of work during his rookie year.

The Ohio State product, taken in the sixth round of the 2015 amateur draft, opened some eyes while serving as the opener on three separate occasions for Boston in September, which made the decision to take him off the 40-man roster on Friday all the more puzzling.

Now, Lakins will have the chance to start fresh with a new organization, all while having two minor-league options remaining on his current contract.

As for Poyner, the 27-year-old was designated for assignment by the Red Sox last Wednesday after the club had acquired fellow southpaw Jeffrey Springs from the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis.

In his second year in the majors, Poyner surrendered nine earned runs on 10 hits and five walks over 13 outings (one start) and 11 2/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.29. He’ll look to provide left-handed depth for Boston while with Pawtucket, where he fared much better in 2019 (3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).

Red Sox Trade Sam Travis to Rangers for Reliever Jeffrey Springs, Designate Bobby Poyner for Assignment

On a busy Wednesday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox made their first series of roster moves of the post-Alex Cora era, acquiring left-hander Jeffrey Springs from the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis.

In order to make room for Springs on Boston’s 40-man roster, fellow left-hander Bobby Poyner was designated for assignment. The club made the transactions official earlier Wednesday.

The move to trade Travis comes nearly two weeks after the 26-year-old was designated for assignment in order to make room for then-newly-signed catcher Kevin Plawecki on the Sox’ 40-man roster. Travis was then subsequently outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket last week after going unclaimed on waivers.

The former 2014 second-round pick posted a .215/.274/.382 slash line to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI over a career-high 59 games played in 2019. He’ll look to catch on with the Rangers in the spring, although he is without any more minor-league options.

As for the hurler the Red Sox acquired in this deal, the 27-year-old Springs posted an ERA of 6.40 and FIP of 4.98 over 25 relief appearances and 32 1/3 innings of work. He was designated by Texas on the same day he was traded.

Per Statcast, Springs, a former 30th-round pick out of Appalachian State University in 2015, threw his slider 58% of the time he was on the mound in 2019. His pitch arsenal also includes a changeup and slider.

Springs now joins an interesting group of major-league relievers that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has acquired this offseason in Austin Brice, Chris Mazza, and Josh Osich.

Poyner, meanwhile, was a 40-man casualty even though he still has one minor-league option remaining. Like Travis earlier in the month, the 27-year-old lefty will either be released, traded, or waived by this time next week.

Xander Bogaerts and J.D Martinez Both Homer but Red Sox Drop Second Straight to Orioles

After managing just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak increase to three on Saturday, as they fell to the O’s by a final score of 9-4 to guarantee at best a series loss at Fenway Park to cap off the 2019 season.

Making his fifth and final start of the season for Boston was Jhoulys Chacin, who came into the weekend having given up four runs in back-to-back outings.

Working into the third inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered another four runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first pair of those Baltimore tallies came right away in the top half of the first, when with no outs and Jonathan Villar at second following a leadoff double, D.J Stewart unloaded on a 1-1, down and in, 91 MPH four-seam fastball from Chacin and sent it 408 feet over the Orioles’ bullpen to get his side on the board early.

An inning later, after the Sox offense pushed across three runs of their own in their half of the first, the home run ball came back to bite Chacin once more, as the Venezuela native served up a one-out solo shot to Richie Martin off a 1-1, 90 MPH two-seamer on the inner half of the plate. 3-3 ballgame.

In what would turn out to be his final frame, Chacin was just one out away from getting through three full, but he could not sneak a 1-0, 91 MPH two-seamer past a seemingly red-hot Renato Nunez, who proceeded to crush his second homer of the series to make it a 4-3 contest.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 60 (38 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler relied on his slider nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing five swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 91.7 MPH with his heater, a pitch he threw nine times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately getting hit with his 12th loss while raising his ERA on the year up to 6.01, Chacin’s tenure with the Red Sox may indeed be over.

Since inking a minor-league deal with the club in late August, the ex-Milwaukee Brewer posted a 7.36 ERA in six outings (five starts) and 14 2/3 innings pitched with Boston.

In relief of Chacin, left-hander Bobby Poyner entered the top of the third with one out to get, and he walked Chris Davis on six pitches before doing just that.

From there, Heath Hembree fanned one in a perfect fourth inning, Ryan Brasier walked one and punched out two in a scoreless fifth, Andrew Cashner struggled and yielded four runs on five hits while only recording the first two outs of the sixth, Colten Brewer retired the side in the sixth before tossing a scoreless seventh, and Josh Smith walked one in the eighth before getting taken deep by Trey Mancini in the ninth to increase his side’s deficit to five at 9-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up a fairly familiar foe in Orioles rookie left-hander John Means, someone who held them to two runs over six innings the last time he faced them back on July 19th.

Down by two runs before even taking their first at-bats, Jackie Bradley Jr. quickly got things going in the bottom half of the first with a leadoff single.

Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts knotted things up with one swing of the bat, as he came through with his 33rd home run of the season, this one coming off a 2-2, 81 MPH changeup from Means and being hit a projected 414 feet over the Green Monster.

Before fans even had the chance to settle down from that two-run blast, J.D. Martinez followed suit by mashing his 36th big fly of the year, a 389-foot bomb, to put the Sox in front at 3-2.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it looked as though the top half of the lineup was about to come through again, with Rafael Devers representing the tying run at second and Bogaerts the go-ahead at first with two outs and Martinez coming to the plate.

A las, Martinez could not deliver this time up, as he flew out deep to right and would wind up being the last hitter Means faced.

An inning later, a leadoff walk drawn by Sam Travis against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong in a now five-run game would result in another Boston run coming across to score with Sandy Leon picking up his 19th ribbie of 2019 on a bloop of a two-out RBI single. 8-4.

In the seventh, a one-out single from Bogaerts followed by a one-out walk from Martinez and fielder’s choice off the bat of Travis put runners at second and third for Brock Holt against right-hander Branden Kline.

Having never faced Kline before Saturday, all Holt could do was ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, thus killing another shot at a potential rally.

And after squandering another chance in the eighth, Devers, Bogaerts, and Martinez went down in order in the ninth, as 9-4 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left nine men on base as a team.

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

Well, this is it. One last game to wrap up what has been an underwhelming World Series-defending campaign.

In terms of season milestones, Mookie Betts is one homer away from 30, Rafael Devers is two hits away from 200, and Sunday’s starter Eduardo Rodriguez is 3 2/3 innings away from 200 and one win away from 20.

Through three starts against Baltimore this season, Rodriguez is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.29 and OPS against of .522 over 21 total innings pitched.

The Orioles’ starter for Sunday, meanwhile, will be former Red Sox prospect Chandler Shepherd.

The 27-year-old right-hander was designated by Boston back on May 17th of this year in order to add catcher Oscar Hernandez to the 40-man roster when Sandy Leon was placed on the paternity leave list.

In four appearances (two starts) for Baltimore, Shepherd owns a 7.71 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 14 total innings of work.

Sunday could very well be the last time we see the core members of the 2018 Red Sox on the field together.

Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and Rick Porcello are all soon-to-be free agents, J.D. Martinez could opt out of his current deal to become a free agent, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. may be traded, and even though he will not be playing, Steve Pearce might retire from baseball.

With all this uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox headed into the offseason, Sunday will provide us with one last chance to soak it all in.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 3:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to end the season on a high note.

 

Red Sox Blow Another Late Lead, Get Walked off on by Rays in 11 Innings for Second Straight Night

For the second straight night, the Red Sox fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 5-4 in 11 innings on Saturday, this time squandering a one-run lead in the 11th, compared to doing so in the seventh on Friday, to drop back down to 80-74 on the season.

Making his second start of the season for Boston and 15th appearance overall was Travis Lakins, who tossed two perfect innings in his first go at being an opener against the New York Yankees back on September 7th.

Working into the second inning this time around, the right-hander kept the Rays off the scoreboard while yielding one hit and one walk to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

A one-out double from Matt Duffy, followed by Joey Wendle reaching on a fielding error committed by Marco Hernandez in that bottom half of the second put runners at first and second for Tampa Bay.

Lakins was able to get Kevin Kiermaier to ground into a force out for out number two, but Sox manager Alex Cora did not leave him in to face Willy Adames with runners on the corners, instead opting to turn to his bullpen.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 29 (16 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing one swing and miss and topping out at 95.8 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Obviously not pitching deep enough to factor into the decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 4.22, Lakins should continue to see some more work out of the ‘pen before seasons end.

In relief of Lakins, left-hander Bobby Poyner inherited a situation in which there were runners at the corners for the Rays with one out to get in the second, and he got that out by fanning Adames on four pitches.

From there, Mike Shawaryn allowed Tampa Bay’s first run of the night to cross the plate in the third on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Travis d’Arnaud and was charged with another when Colten Brewer served up a run-scoring single to the first man he faced in Joey Wendle.

Fortunately for Boston, Wendle’s single got to Mookie Betts in right field rather quickly, and the reigning AL MVP put his arm strength on full display to nab d’Arnaud at home and retire the side.

Ryan Weber sat down the first eight Rays he faced from the middle of the fourth up until Wendle reached on a two-out single in the sixth, making way for Josh Taylor to come in to face the left-handed Kiermaier.

As it turned out though, Taylor did not even have to throw a pitch in the sixth, as Vazquez snuffed out Wendle trying to swipe second base for the third out.

Taylor also came back out for the seventh, but could not sneak a one-out, 1-0, 95 MPH two-seamer past Adamas, who deposited said pitch 462 feet to dead center to make it a 3-1 contest.

Another base hit to follow that mammoth shot up marked the end of Taylor’s evening, so Ryan Brasier wrapped up the seventh by retiring the only two hitters he faced in consecutive order.

Andrew Cashner did the same in the eighth, except with three Rays instead of two and Matt Barnes punched out the side in the ninth to send this one into extra innings knotted at three runs apiece.

In that first extra inning, Brandon Workman did not get off to the best of starts, as he yielded a leadoff walk to Austin Meadows. That would not come back to bite him however. Not with Sandy Leon and Hernandez connecting on a bang-bang play at second to catch Meadows and extinguish the threat.

And in the 11th, moments after his side went up 4-3 on a Mitch Moreland solo blast, Josh Smith began his frame of work by allowing d’Arnaud to reach on a leadoff double moments before giving the game away on a two-run home run off the bat of Nate Lowe.

That homer, coming off a 2-0, 91 MPH heater right down the heart of the plate, put the Rays up 5-4. Another walk-off loss.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay, someone they had not seen in nearly five months going into the weekend.

Unable to get anything going against the Rays starter, Xander Bogaerts kicked off the scoring for Boston in the fourth by greeting new reliever Yonny Chirinos with a leadoff solo shot to get his side on the board and cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, now down by two runs, it was the top of the lineup responding once again, this time with Mookie Betts reaching on a one-out single off of Nick Anderson to bring Rafael Devers to the plate for the second time ever against the Rays right-hander.

On the third pitch he saw from Anderson, a 1-1, 96 MPH four-seamer at the top of the zone, Devers made history on one swing of the bat, becoming the first Red Sox third baseman to ever hit more than 30 home runs in a single season with his 31st of the year.

That 421-foot two-run blast pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 3-3 and ultimately sent this contest into extra innings for the second straight day.

In extras, or the top of the 11th more specifically, just when it looked like Boston was going to have to settle with trying to force this one to the 12th with two outs in the frame, Mitch Moreland came through in the clutch yet again.

The 34-year-old went deep twice on Friday night, and on the first pitch he saw from Diego Castillo on Saturday, Moreland unloaded on an 87 MPH slider that was essentially right down the middle and sent it 430 feet to center for his 18th of the year.

Moreland’s fifth dinger since returning from the injured list in July gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 4-3, and it probably should have won them this game too, but as already mentioned, the Rays put together a rally of their own in their half of the 11th, one that led to Boston getting walked off on by a final score of 5-4.

Some notes from this loss:

From Red Sox Notes:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third installment of this four-game set on Sunday afternoon, with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough doing the same for Tampa Bay.

Since the calendar flipped to September, Eovaldi has allowed a total of nine earned runs over his last 13 1/3 innings pitched spanning three starts. That’s good for an ERA of 6.08.

In one prior appearance at Tropicana Field, the place Eovaldi once called home, this season, the 29-year-old surrendered three runs on five hits while only recording two outs back on July 22nd, in his first game back since returning from the injured list.

Yarbrough, meanwhile, has struggled recently for the Rays, posting an ERA of 5.40 and batting average against of .259 over his last five starts and 28 1/3 innings of work.

When facing the Red Sox this season, the 27-year-old is 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA over three total appearances (one start) and 15 innings pitched.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox STILL trying to play spoiler.

 

 

Red Sox Squander Late Lead, Eventually Fall to Rays in 11 Innings on Same Night They Are Eliminated From Postseason Contention

After salvaging their series against the San Francisco Giants with a 5-4 win on Thursday, the Red Sox kicked off their final road trip of the season and a four-game weekend set against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-4 loss in 11 innings on Friday.

While the Red Sox were in the process of losing their 73rd contest of the year, the Cleveland Indians won their 90th in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, officially eliminating the defending World Series champions from postseason contention in 2019.

Back to Friday’s game itself, making his 31st start of the season for Boston and fourth against Tampa Bay was Rick Porcello, coming off five strong, two-run innings in his last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tossing six full innings this time around, the right-hander held the opposition scoreless, scattering three hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

Two of those three hits came on back-to-back singles from Avisail Garcia and Matt Duffy to put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom half of the third.

Porcello did not back down though, as he fanned Willy Adames on six pitches, got Joey Wendle to fly out to shallow left to hold Garcia at third. and also fanned Austin Meadows on five pitches to escape the jam.

Other than that, the New Jersey native stranded Ji-Man Choi at first following a one-out single in the fourth before retiring the final eight hitters he faced in consecutive order leading into the conclusion of the sixth, the point in which his outing came to a close.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker more than 40% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing two swings and misses and 15 called strikes with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just seven times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately getting hit with the no-decision despite the impressive performance while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.56, Porcello will make his final start of 2019 in his next time out against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. It could be his last start in a Red Sox uniform as well, but I don’t want to think about that right now.

In relief of Porcello, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez entered in the seventh inning for his second-to-last appearance of 2019, and he filled the bases on three of the first four Rays he faced, making way for Marcus Walden to come on with still two outs to get in the frame.

Walden was unable to extinguish the flames left behind by Hernandez, however, as he saw his side’s 2-0 lead become a 2-2 tie on a Nate Lowe run-scoring forceout and Adames RBI ground-rule double.

That forced Josh Taylor to come in with two outs and two runners in scoring position, and he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch in the dirt with Wendle at the plate. A two-run lead turned into a one-run deficit just like that.

In the eighth, Andrew Cashner walked the first man he faced in Meadows, and that came back to bite him on a one-out RBI double off the bat of Ji-Man Choi to make it a 4-2 contest.

Some heroics on the part of Mitch Moreland that we’ll get to later knotted things up at four runs apiece in the top half of the ninth though, which set up Ryan Brasier to leave one runner on in a scoreless bottom half of the ninth.

Bobby Poyner followed suit by punching out a pair in a clean bottom of the 10th, but Trevor Kelley could not extend things in the 11th, as he walked back-to-back hitters with two outs before serving up a game-winning single to Adames.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Rays veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who held them to two runs over seven innings the last time he opposed Boston at Tropicana Field back on July 24th.

Kept off the scoreboard through the first six innings of this one, it wasn’t until Brock Holt reached base on a one-out double in the seventh when the bats finally got going.

That two-base hit set up Mitch Moreland with a runner in scoring position, and he delivered big time in his third at-bat of the night, taking Morton deep to dead center off an 0-2, 79 MPH curveball on the outer half of the plate.

Moreland’s 16th homer of the season plated the Sox’ first runs of the contest, but Tampa Bay responded with three runs of their own in their half of the seventh as well as another in the eighth.

So, now trailing by two runs headed into the ninth, a Gorkys Hernandez leadoff triple off of Rays closer Emilio Pagan brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Holt.

Holt was unable to come through, lining out to center on the first pitch he saw, meaning Boston was down to their final two outs.

Coming into the weekend, Moreland had only faced off against Pagan three times before Friday, but he came out well on top in round four.

Yup, the 34-year-old did it again, elevating a 1-2, 96 MPH heater from Pagan and depositing it 379 feet into the seats in left field.

That two-run blast, Moreland’s second of the night and 17th of 2019, pulled the Sox back even with the Rays at 4-4, and ultimately sent this one into extras.

Despite that fact though, Mookie Betts, Sandy Leon, and Rafael Devers went down in order in the 10th and Xander Bogaerts, Gorkys Hernandez, Holt, and Moreland were unable to push any runs across in the 11th.

Because of those late offensive struggles, the Rays eventually broke through in the 11th and went on to take the opener of this four-game series by a final score of 5-4 in walkoff fashion.

Some notes from this loss:

Andrew Benintendi left Friday’s game in the third inning due to a left thumb contusion suffered in his first at-bat of the night in the second. He is considered day-to-day.

Mookie Betts went 0-for-5 with one strikeout in his first game back since September 12th.

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

All in all, pretty brutal night for the Red Sox if we’re being totally honest. The chance to defend their 2018 crown has been squashed before the calendar even turned to October, which is not great.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the second game of this weekend series, with right-hander Travis Lakins getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Tyler Glasnow doing the same for Tampa Bay.

Last time he got the call to serve as the opener for the Sox, Lakins punched out three over two perfect innings back on September 7th against the New York Yankees.

The 25-year-old rookie has yet to face off against the Rays, nor pitch at Tropicana Field.

Glasnow, meanwhile, has posted a 3.60 ERA in two starts spanning five innings since returning from the injured list on September 8th. The Rays are 2-0 in those games.

In his only two starts against the Sox this season, which came in consecutive order back on April 21st and 28th, the 26-year-old surrendered a total of four runs on nine hits and four walks over 12 total innings of work.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 6:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox still looking to play spoiler.

 

 

Red Sox Held in Check by J.A. Happ, Fall to Yankees as Xander Bogaerts Picks up 1,000th Career Hit

After taking the opener of a four-game weekend series against the New York Yankees with a commanding 6-1 win on Friday, the Red Sox fell back to Earth on Saturday, as they managed just one run themselves in a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Bronx Bombers to fall back to 76-66 on the season.

Making the first start of his big league career for Boston and 11th appearance overall was Travis Lakins, who was named the opener for this one on Friday in what was another bullpen day for the Sox.

Tossing two no-hit innings like Jhoulys Chacin the day before, the rookie right-hander kept the Yankees off the scoreboard while fanning three of the six hitters he faced on the afternoon.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 29 (17 strikes), Lakins relied on his four-seam fastball more than 48% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 96.1 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate. Four of those heaters were the hardest pitches Lakins has thrown this year, per Red Sox Stats.

Ultimately hit with the no-decision while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.15, it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox turn to the 25-year-old hurler as an opener again given the level of success achieved in his first go at it.

In relief of Lakins, left-hander Bobby Poyner entered the top of the third in a scoreless contest, and he got another busy day for the Boston bullpen started by sitting down the only three Yankees he faced in order.

The fourth inning is where things got sticky, as Ryan Weber yielded a leadoff double to D.J. LeMahieu before punching out Aaron Judge on four pitches for the first out of the frame.

A line drive to right off the bat of Didi Gregorius should have gone for the second out of the fourth, but with the sun directly in his face, J.D. Martinez, not Mookie Betts, had trouble picking up the ball, and it ended up glancing off his glove before rolling to the wall for a one-out double.

So, with runners at second and third with only one out instead of one runner at first with two outs, Colten Brewer came on for Weber, and he got Gary Sanchez to hit a weak fly ball to shallow right field.

The only thing was, the ball was essentially in no-man’s land, and neither of Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt, nor Martinez were able to come up with it for what would have been the second out.

Nope, instead, Sanchez was credited with a two-run ground-rule double and the Yankees had themselves a 2-0 lead just like that.

Things would not improve for the Sox following that series of mishaps though, not with Edwin Encarnacion unloading on the very first pitch he saw from Brewer, a hanging 81 MPH curveball down the heart of the plate, and depositing it 423 feet over the Green Monster for a two-run blast to double his side’s lead at 4-0.

Brewer was able to escape the fourth without surrendering anything else following that Encarnacion homer, but the damage had already been done.

From there, Trevor Kelley worked his way around two walks in a scoreless fifth, Hector Velazquez stranded the bases loaded with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in a shutout sixth, and Josh Smith walked one and struck out another in a clean seventh to make way for Mike Shawaryn in the eighth.

Shawaryn proceeded to punch out the first two Yankees he faced before allowing the next two to reach base, but got out of it by getting LeMahieu to ground into a force out at second to retire the side.

In the ninth, Shawaryn again got the first two outs of the inning in simple fashion, but was unable to keep New York off the scoreboard this time as he plunked Sanchez and served up an RBI double to Encarnacion to increase the deficit to five runs before ending the frame.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ, who entered the weekend fresh off one of his better starts of the season in his last time out against the Oakland Athletics this past Sunday.

Winless against Happ in his first three outings against them this year, that trend continued for Boston on Saturday.

Two hits and one walk. That’s all the Sox bats could manage off of Happ, and none of those three runners made it up to second base either.

It was not until the bottom half of the eighth, with Happ out and right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle in for the Yankees, when back-to-back one-out singles from Mitch Moreland and the pinch-hitting Marco Hernandez finally put a runner in scoring position.

That led to left-hander Zack Britton taking over for Kahnle, and all Brock Holt could do was watch as strike three blew past him on a 1-2, 95 MPH slider at the knees.

Mookie Betts followed by making hard contact, but only on a ball that was hit right to Aaron Judge in right field to extinguish the threat.

And in the ninth, J.D. Martinez made things a bit interesting against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman as he took the lefty deep to the Red Sox bullpen off an 0-1, 99 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate for his 35th home run of the season.

That 397-foot solo shot, Martinez’s 16th of the year off a left-handed pitcher, cut the deficit to four runs at 5-1, but that would ultimately go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left four men on base as a team.

Xander Bogaerts collected the 1,000th hit of his major league career on Saturday with a fourth-inning single.

From Red Sox Notes:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

As of right now, the Red Sox are 6 1/2 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second American League Wild Card Spot. That is sure to change with the A’s, Cleveland Indians, and Tampa Bay Rays all in action on Saturday night.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third installment of this four-game set on Sunday Night Baseball, with right-hander Rick Porcello getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Masahiro Tanaka doing the same for New York.

Porcello struggled mightily in his first start of September against the Minnesota Twins, surrendering six earned runs on eight hits in an eventual 6-5 loss this past Tuesday.

In his last start against the Yankes, the 30-year-old toughed out a quality outing after allowing two runs in the second inning of a contest the Sox eventually won by a final score of 19-3.

Tanaka opposed Porcello in that game on July 25th, when he yielded 12 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work and ultimately got hit with the losing decision.

The 30-year-old has recovered nicely since then though, posting an ERA of 3.38 and batting average against of .250 over his last seven starts and 42 2/3 innings pitched. The Yankees are 5-2 in those games.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 8:05 PM EDT on ESPN.