Revisiting Christian Vazquez’s Contract Extension and Looking Ahead to J.T. Realmuto’s Upcoming Free Agency

Two years ago last month, the Red Sox and catcher Christian Vazquez reached agreement on a three-year, $13.35 million contract extension that included a club option for 2022.

Since that time, Vazquez, now 29 years old, has had the worst and best seasons of his major-league career in several categories, including OPS, wRC+, and fWAR.

In an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, Vazquez slashed a measly .207/.257/.283 with three home runs and 24 runs driven in in just 80 games played. He missed most of July and all of August due to a right pinky fracture.

That led many skeptics to believe that giving the Puerto Rican backstop an extension may have been a mistake, but he rebounded in a tremendous way in 2019.

Emerging as the everyday catcher, Vazquez posted a .276/.320/.477 slash line to go along with a career-high 23 home runs and career-high 72 RBI over 138 games played.

Among the 14 major-league catchers who accrued at least 400 plate appearances last year, Vazquez ranked third in fWAR (3.5). Defensively, he also ranked third among qualified catchers in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (22.2) while throwing out 38% of the 58 base runners who tried to steal against him. That effort behind the plate was good enough for Vazquez to be named a Gold Glove Award finalist, although Indians backstop Roberto Perez was the won that received the honor in the end.

Still, a three-win season in the official first year of that aforementioned three-year extension is nothing to hang your head on.

Vazquez is set to earn approximately $4.2 million this year headed into his age-29 season. Although he’ll likely make less than that in the event of a shortened or cancelled season, that amount currently ranks 16th among salaried catchers, per Spotrac. In other words, if Vazquez continues to make strides offensively and stays consistent as a defender, that could be a bargain.

However, in the event that Vazquez takes a step back if baseball is played in 2020, would it be out of the realm of possibilities for the Red Sox to look to upgrade at catcher this winter?

The 2020-2021 free agency class includes names such as Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Semien, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, and maybe most importantly in this scenario, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Realmuto is set to become a free agent for the first time this winter after spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Phillies.

Coming off a year in which he finished 14th in National League MVP voting while picking up his first Gold Glove and second Silver Slugger Awards, Realmuto is without a doubt one of, if not the best backstop in baseball at the moment.

A client of CAA Sports, Realmuto, who is a little more than five months younger than Vazquez, is likely to demand a lucrative contract if he does indeed hit the open market later this year.

The Phillies, led by general manager and Medfield native Matt Klentak, are probably going to be intent on retaining his services. But, if the Red Sox, led by another Ivy League graduate in the form of Chaim Bloom, want to make a splash this winter, which they should have the ability to do now that they got under the luxury tax threshold, Realmuto could be an appealing option.

As noted great Twitter follow @RedSoxStats points out, Realmuto “forms a great long-term catcher situation with [prospect] Connor Wong. You get the best catcher in the game [who] won’t be a contract monstrosity, [and you] can auction off two years of Vazquez.”

If another club views the remaining two years on Vazquez’s deal after 2020 as a relative bargain for a quality starting catcher, the plan for the Sox could then pertain to “bringing in an elite player and limiting the spread of mediocrity across the team” in a potential trade for Vazquez.

As unlikely as it looks now, the idea of Bloom and Co. pursuing Realmuto and shopping Vazquez this winter is certainly something to think about. If he performs in 2020 as he did in 2019, Vazquez may just be the safe way to go thanks to his relatively cheap salary, but if you have the chance to acquire the services of one of the best players at their respective positions, you at least have to do your due diligence, right?

Brian Johnson Tosses Three Innings as Red Sox Win Third Straight

After squeaking past the Braves on Monday night, the Red Sox won their third consecutive one-run contest on Tuesday, as they topped the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 3-2 at JetBlue Park to improve to 8-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his second start and fifth overall appearance of the spring for Boston was Brian Johnson, who recently survived the second round of roster cuts as a non-roster invitee over the weekend.

Working the first three innings on Tuesday, the left-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and three walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Those two Cardinals tallies came on one swing of the bat right away in the top half of the first inning of this one, when after loading the bases with two outs in the frame, Johnson served up a two-run single to Brad Miller to put his side in an early hole.

Other than that one blip though, the 29-year-old fanned Harrison Bader to retire the side in the first before sitting down four of the final six hitters he faced.

Johnson’s next outing could come within the next few days depending on whether or not he pitches out of the bullpen.

In relief of Johnson, fellow left-hander Josh Taylor got the call in the fourth for his fourth appearance of the spring, and he worked a 1-2-3 inning.

From there, Matt Barnes punched out the side in a perfect fifth, Colten Brewer fanned three and scattered one hit over 2 2/3 innings of work to eventually pick up the winning decision, and Robinson Leyer recorded the final out of the eighth before stranding the tying run at third in a scoreless ninth to secure the 3-2 victory.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jonathan Arauz was matched up against a formidable opponent in Cardinals ace right-hander Jack Flaherty to begin things on Tuesday.

Despite getting on base five times against him through the first three innings, nothing came against Flaherty. In fact, it wasn’t until Flaherty’s first inning off the mound when the Boston bats got it going.

There, in their second trip through the lineup, Pillar led things off against new Cardinals reliever Johan Oviedo with a double off the left field wall. Vazquez followed with a two-base hit of his own, this one plating Pillar to cut the two-run deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Jantzen Witte came up to the plate with the bases loaded ahead of him, and he delivered in his lone plate appearance by plating two of those runners on a rwo-run single down the right field line.

That base hit drove in both Pillar and De La Guerra to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-12 with seven strikeouts so far this spring.

Kevin Pillar, meanwhile, has a .932 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy on Tuesday: 0-for-1 with one walk. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another game under the lights against the Rays in Port Charlotte on Wednesday.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Dylan Covey will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez is coming off an outing in which he fanned four over four two-run innings against the Braves last Friday.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Austin Brice are also expected to pitch.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 6:35 PM EDT on NESN.

Martín Pérez Punches out Seven Over Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Hold on to Defeat Twins

After splitting a split-squad doubleheader on Saturday, the Red Sox improved to 6-10-2 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a tight 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston was Martin Perez, coming off just 2/3 of an inning of work in his last time out against the Yankees this past Tuesday.

Tossing four full innings this time around, the left-hander experienced much better results as he kept his former team off the scoreboard while scattering four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

Despite dealing with a fair share of traffic on the base paths, Perez was able to avoid any real damage with the help of ground ball and strikeout-inducing pitches.

The most impressive takeaways, for me at least, were how Perez worked his way around a leadoff walk in the second by inducing a 4-6-3 double play before striking out the side in order in the third. He retired three of the final five hitters he faced in the fourth.

Finishing with a rather high final pitch count of 84, Perez’s next start should come sometime next weekend depending on if he gets four or five days of rest in between outings.

In relief of Perez, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth for his third appearance of the spring, and he retired the only three Twins he faced in order.

From there, Heath Hembree surrendered the first run of the contest on two hits in the sixth, left-hander Matt Hall yielded another pair of runs on three hits and one walk in the seventh, Chris Mazza maneuvered his way around a one-out double in an otherwise clean eighth before being charged with three runs on three hits while only being able to record the first two outs of the ninth, and pitching prospect Durbin Feltman allowed one of his inherited runners to score before closing things out to secure the 7-6 win for his side.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up six earned runs on 14 hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts over nine innings in a contest that turned out to be much closer than initially anticipated.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jose Peraza was matched up against a familiar foe in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda to begin things on Sunday.

Nothing came against Maeda, who like Perez also tossed four scoreless innings, but Martinez did eventually get the Sox on the board in the bottom half of the sixth.

There, matched up against Twins reliever Matt Wisler, the slugger drove in Pillar from second on a two-out RBI single laced down the left field line that knotted things up at one run apiece.

In the seventh, after falling behind by two runs, Worcester native John Andreoli cut that deficit in half by driving in fellow Massachusetts native Nick Longhi in from third on a run-scoring single to left off of Cory Gearrin.

One groundout and walk later, Jonathan Lucroy stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, and he came through with arguably his biggest hit of the spring to this point, a two-run double blistered off the wall in left field to plate Jantzen Witte and John Andreoli.

Tyler Esplin followed with a run-scoring groundout that brought in Johan Mieses from third, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 5-3 advantage.

What would turn out to be much-needed insurance was added on to that two-run lead an inning later, with Witte and Andreoli both reaching on two-out singles off of Sam Clay and Chad De La Guerra driving in the pair on a two-run triple to the opposite field.

That three-base hit put the Red Sox up 7-3, and after the Twins stormed back with three runs of their own in their half of the ninth, 7-6 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Martin Perez has a solid cutter.

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-9 this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy, off the bench, on Sunday: 1-for-2 with one double and two RBI. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Heath Hembree, Matt Hall, and Chris Mazza all had far from impressive showings on Sunday. Ryan Brasier, on the other hand, looked sharp.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll once again head to North Port for their first night game of the spring against the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Felix Hernandez will do the same for Atlanta.

Through his first two outings of the spring, Weber has surrendered one unearned run over his first five innings pitched. He appears to have a strong grip on a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation to begin the new season.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 6:05 PM EDT on NESN.

 

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

New Red Sox Catcher Jonathan Lucroy: ‘I Feel a Lot Better Than I Have in a Long Time’

New Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy is entering uncharted territory as he enters his 13th season in professional baseball. That being a veteran on a minor-league deal when just a few years ago you could argue he was one of the top catchers in the game.

When speaking to reporters at JetBlue Park for the first time on Thursday, the 33-year-old backstop did not make light of how he ended up in his current predicament.

“It’s a little strange,” Lucroy said on attending big league camp as a non-roster invite. “This is the first time I have had to do this. But, it’s OK. It’s just a part of the business side of baseball. Honestly, it’s what I deserve. I haven’t played good. So, it’s kind of where we’re at. You make your bed, you got to sleep in it. It’s just something I have to deal with and that’s OK. It’s a part of life.”

Spending last season with the Angels and Cubs, Lucroy posted an unimpressive .232/.305/.355 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games played. He also ranked as one of the worst defensive catchers who caught at least 500 innings, according to FanGraphs.

The Florida native did miss time last year due to a broken nose and concussion, and he underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that he discussed in detail on Thursday.

“I had a herniated disc in my neck the past three years,” said Lucroy. “I’d like to sit here and make excuses to say that was the reason I haven’t played good, but I’m not going to. It did effect me, but I got it taken care of and I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.”

Going back to his days with the Brewers, Lucroy does have some familiarity with Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who served as Lucroy’s skipper from 2011 until May 2015.

“I’ve known Ron for a long time,” Lucroy said. “We had a lot of good times together. He’s a really good guy, a really good manager. He’s a quality pickup for the Red Sox. Speaking from experience with him, he’s a huge positive for the Red Sox for sure.”

Lucroy also said that before signing with Boston, he received a call from Roenicke to essentially recruit him.

“He called me and wanted me to come,” Lucroy said of Roenicke. “He was like ‘Look, you got an opportunity here. You come here and you got an opportunity to make a team’ and right now, that’s all you can ask for as a guy in my position.”

The two-time All-Star also mentioned how enticing it was to get the chance to work with Jason Varitek, as the former Sox captain “is very respected in the catching world.”

The road for Lucroy to break camp on Boston’s Opening Day roster is not an easy one, with the club already having former Mets and Indians backstop Kevin Plawecki on its 40-man roster and on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, albeit for only $900,000.

Lucroy did not sound all that concerned about playing time in the majors for the time being though, as he emphasized how he has to “make the team first and contribute where he can to help the [Red Sox] win.”

For someone who has the kind of résumé Lucroy does, you might think he would be one to feel disrespected by the notion of not receiving a major-league contract offer, but as previously mentioned, he was brutally honest about his recent performance over the last few years.

“Analytically, I’ve been terrible,” he said. “Seriously, I’m not trying to make excuses. So, I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer. Not at all.”

If he is able to regain some of the form he put on display during the middle parts of the previous decade, Lucroy could be an intriguing addition to a Red Sox team that dealt Sandy Leon to the Indians back in December.

According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lucroy would earn $1.5 million if he plays in the majors this season. He will be wearing the No. 12.

Eduardo Rodriguez Falls Short of 20th Win, Rafael Devers Picks up 200th Hit, and Mookie Betts Scores Winning Run as Red Sox Walk off Orioles in 2019 Season Finale

After dropping their penultimate game of the year with a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Red Sox bounced back and wrapped up their 2019 season in style, as they walked off the O’s in nine innings in a 5-4 victory on Sunday.

Making his 34th and final start of the season for Boston on Sunday was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the weekend just one winning decision of 20 and 3 2/3 innings shy of 200.

Tossing seven full innings to surpass that 200-mark on the season, the left-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned against his former club on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three of those Baltimore tallies came in the top half of the third, when with one out and runners on the corners, back-to-back RBI knocks from Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays got the Orioles on the board first.

One mound visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie later, and Rodriguez allowed the third run of the frame to come in on a fielder’s choice out off the bat of Trey Mancini.

Other than that bit of trouble though, the Venezuela native settled in nicely from the beginning of the fourth inning on, retiring 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, the point in which his outing came to an impressive close with an emphatic six-pitch punchout of Richie Martin.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 115 (71 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing 14 swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately unable to get that vaunted 20th win due to what transpired later on, Rodriguez finishes his fourth full season with the Red Sox with a 19-6 record, a 3.91 ERA, and a career-high 231 strikeouts over 34 outings and 203 1/3 total innings pitched.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on for one final time in the eighth with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he could not do that, as he allowed the game-tying run, which was unearned, to cross the plate on a two-out RBI single from Jonathan Villar.

No 20th win for Rodriguez, all while Barnes was charged with his eighth blown save of 2019.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman fanned the only three Orioles he faced on just 15 pitches to send this one to the bottom half of the inning with a 4-4 stalemate intact, and that eventually earned him his 10th and final winning decision.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an old friend in Orioles right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was with the PawSox up until May of this year before being designated for assignment.

Kicking off the scoring in the third just as Baltimore did, the Boston bats quickly responded from an early three-run hole by plating two of their own on back-to-back one-out, run-scoring hits courtesy of Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts, single from J.D. Martinez, and another walk drawn by Mitch Moreland brought Christian Vazquez to the plate in a one-run game with the bases full.

Up against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, Vazquez delivered with a line-drive RBI single to left to drive in Bogaerts and knot things up at three runs apiece.

An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting things done once more, this time with Devers reaching base with a one-out double off Evan Phillips, his 200th hit of the season, and Bogaerts scoring him on an RBI single to the opposite field. 4-3.

That probably should have been good enough to get Rodriguez his 20th win, but as already mentioned, the Orioles rallied and tied things up in their half of the eighth.

In the bottom half of that eighth, it looked as though the Sox had jumped in front again, as Jackie Bradley Jr. crushed an 0-1, 95 MPH heater from Mychal Givens with two outs and Brock Holt on at first.

Instead of mashing his 22nd homer of the year though, Bradley Jr. was downright robbed by Stevie Wilkerson in right field, as the O’s outfielder sprawled out to take away what surely was a two-run shot. The .980 xBA on that line drive is quite evident of that statement.

So, the two sides headed into the ninth still in a 4-4 tie, and after Brandon Workman did what he had to do in the top half, Betts did what he had to do to lead off the bottom half.

Yup, the reigning American League MVP drew a six-pitch walk off of Dillon Tate in what very well could have been his last plate appearance as a Red Sox.

That brought Devers up to the plate for a fifth time, and all he did was rip a single through the right side of the infield. One that was certainly good enough to advance the runner on base up to third, but as he is known to do, Betts caught the opposition off guard and made the trek towards the promised land.

By the time the right fielder Wilkerson caught on to this, Betts was well on his way to sliding safely into home, as the Red Sox came away with a 5-4 walk-off win in their final game of 2019.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

 

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

So, the Red Sox finish their World Series-defending campaign with a final mark of 84-78, 19 games off the pace of the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and 12 games off the pace of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.

To say the 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement, but there was still plenty to remember and definitely plenty to reflect on and learn from.

As I have said before, there are plenty of questions surrounding this club headed into the offseason, and they’ll have about four weeks to get a head start on those discussions.

Will Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. be traded? Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his current deal? Will Brock Holt be offered a new contract? These are all uncertainties at the moment, and only time will tell on how these issues are resolved.

That is for another time though. For now, it’s a good time to unpack, reflect, and say thanks.

Pitchers and catchers report in a little under five months.

Nathan Eovaldi Walks Four, Allows Three Runs in Final Start of Season as Red Sox Fall to Orioles

After falling to the Texas Rangers 7-5 in their final road contest of the season on Thursday, the Red Sox opened up the final weekend of the 2019 campaign with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

Making his 12th and final start of the season for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who came into the weekend fresh off his first quality outing of 2019 in his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Working five full innings this time around, the right-hander surrendered another three runs, all of which were earned, on three hits and four walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

All three of those Orioles tallies came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when with two outs and two runners on following a one-out double from Austin Hays and a one-out walk drawn by Trey Mancini in consecutive order, Eovaldi was just one pitch away from escaping a tight spot, but instead served up a hanging, 0-2, 81 MPH curveball to Renato Nunez, who crushed said pitch well over the Green Monster to get his side on the board first at 3-0.

Other than that one costly mistake though, Eovaldi settled in nicely enough, retiring six of the final eight Orioles he faced with the help of a 6-3 double play turned in the fifth, which would wind up being the Texas native’s last inning of work.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (50 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 41% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing three swings and misses and topping out at 99.6 MPH with the pitch while Juan Centeno was behind the plate.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year despite lowering his ERA down to 5.99, Eovaldi’s first full season in Boston is in the books.

The flame throwing righty finishes with a 2-1 record, a 5.99 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP, and a .276 batting average against over 23 total appearances (12 starts) and 67 2/3 innings pitched.

In relief of Eovaldi, Hector Velazquez entered the sixth with a three-run deficit to maintain, and he filled the bases with two outs before getting Jonathan Villar to pop out to Brock Holt in shallow center to get out of the jam.

From there, Colten Brewer walked one and fanned two in a scoreless seventh, Andrew Cashner walked two in an otherwise clean eighth, and Marcus Walden allowed the O’s to score their fourth run of the night on a leadoff walk of Hays and two-out RBI single off the bat of Nunez in the ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Adrian Wojciechowski, someone they had only gotten two total runs off of over two seperate starts and 11 2/3 innings of work leading into Friday.

Unable to get anything going against Wojciechowski once again in this one, it was not until the last half of the ninth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, with left-handed reliever Richard Bleier on the mound for Baltimore, Rafael Devers led things off with a scorching leadoff double, his 53rd of the year.

That set up Xander Bogaerts in a prime run-scoring spot, and he delivered with an RBI single right back up the middle to plate Devers from second and finally get his team on the board.

Bogaert’s 500th career run driven in did make it seem as though a late rally was about to get off the ground.

Any momentum that was built up quickly dissipated though, as Bogaerts was picked off at first for the first out of the ninth, Mitch Moreland whiffed on four pitches for the second, and Christian Vazquez grounded out to third for the last out, ending Friday’s contest with a final score of 4-1.

Some notes from this loss:

With their 77th loss of the season and 40th at Fenway Park, the Red Sox guarantee that they will finish with a losing record at Fenway.

Rafael Devers is three hits away from 200 on the season.

From Red Sox Notes:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

Friday was certainly an eventful day for the Red Sox. They capped it off with an uneventful loss to one of the worst teams in all of baseball.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the final Saturday game of the season, with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin getting the ball for Boston and rookie left-hander John Means doing the same for Baltimore.

Chacin has posted a 6.00 ERA and .831 OPS against in five total outings (four starts) and 12 total innings of work since joining the Sox at the beginning of the month.

His first start against the O’s should serve as one last final 2020 audition for the 31-year-old.

Means, meanwhile, looks to wrap up a solid rookie campaign on a positive note.

In terms of Game Score, the 2019 All-Star’s best start of 2019 came against the Red Sox back on May 6th, when Means tossed seven innings of one-run ball in an eventual winning effort at Camden Yards.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Two games left on the year. Time to cherish what is left.