On a humid afternoon in Chicago where the White Sox honored legendary commentator Ken “The Hawk” Harrleson with a touching pregame ceremony, the Red Sox, a former team of Harrelson’s during his playing career, looked absolutely lifeless this afternoon.
Let’s get into where things went wrong.
Making his 12th start of the season on Sunday was Brian Johnson, who before today, had never faced the White Sox nor pitched at Guaranteed Rate Field in his three-year career.
Right from the get go, it was clear Chicago had the left-hander’s number, because they came out swinging early and they were making hard contact.
Only able to pitch into the second inning of this one, Johnson surrendered four runs, all earned, on seven hits and one walk to go along with two punch outs on the afternoon.
A pair of runs in the first on a Tim Anderson solo home run and Kevan Smith RBI single another pair of runs in the second on a two RBI double off the bat of Matt Davidson. That is how the White Sox collected all four runs off of Johnson, and his day would come to an end after giving up that Davidson two-bagger.
Facing 12 total batters, the Florida native could barely manage to record four outs before he got the hook with one out and a runner on second in favor of Bobby Poyner.
Finishing with a final low pitch count of 38 (28 strikes), Johnson relied on his four-seam fastball 50% of the time and topped out at 90.3 MPH with that same pitch in the first inning.
Falling to 4-4 with a 4.36 ERA on the season now, the 27-year-old will look to rebound from an awry start to September in his next time out, which should come against the Houston Astros next weekend.
In relief of Johnson, the Red Sox bullpen had a daunting talk on their hands in completing nearly seven innings to close this one out.
Three September call-ups, Bobby Poyner, William Cuevas, and Robby Scott combined for five-and-two-thirds innings of work, and they gave up three earned runs on six hits, which essentially put this game out of reach for the Red Sox.
Oddly enough, White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka ended up hitting a solo home run off of Cuevas in the fourth after it looked like he initially homered earlier in the same at bat, but it was ruled foul.
Despite the results, Scott, who was inserted into this contest after Cuevas had to exit due to a heat-related illness, was the only Boston hurler to not surrender a run, so credit to him for that I guess.
Hector Velazquez was last up, and he allowed one run to cross the plate on two hits in the bottom half of the eighth. He has now given up runs in six of his last seven outings dating back to the beginning of August, although three of those were starts.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar opponent in Chicago’s James Shields.
Having already faced Boston 28 previous times over his 13-year career between the Rays, Royals, Padres, and now the White Sox, Shields had himself a solid day with six scoreless frames on Sunday.
Only managing four hits and two walks off the veteran right-hander, things did not get much better once the White Sox bullpen took over in the seventh, as Boston’s lineup could scrape together just one hit in the final three frames against the likes of Caleb Frare, Juan Minaya, and Hector Santiago.
One note from this 8-0 loss:
80% of the Red Sox’s hits on Sunday came from Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez. Blake Swihart was responsible for the other one. None of the five hits went for extra bases.
All and all, the White Sox were tough opponent for the Red Sox this year, as they came away with the season-series win at 4-3.
Leaving the Windy City with a series-split under their belts, Boston will head south to Atlanta where they will be taking on a first place Atlanta Braves team.
Getting the start in the series opener tomorrow afternoon will be Nathan Eovaldi, who is able to pitch on such short rest because of that weather-shortened outing on Friday.
In 13 career starts against the Braves, Eovaldi has posted a solid 2.82 ERA and .235 BAA over 83 innings pitched.
Opposite Eovaldi will be rookie right-hander Touki Toussaint for Atlanta, who tossed six one-run innings against the Miami Marlins in his only other big league start back on August 13th.
First pitch of the series opener is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.