Red Sox’ offensive woes continue as Bo Bichette’s go-ahead grand slam lifts Blue Jays to 6-2 win

The Red Sox’ offensive struggles continued on Monday as they opened their four-game series against the Blue Jays with yet another loss. Boston fell to Toronto by a final score of 6-2 at Rogers Centre to drop to 7-10 on the season.

Nathan Eovaldi, making his fourth start of the year for the Sox, was extremely effective and did not factor into Monday’s decision. The veteran right-hander allowed just two earned run on five hits, no walks, and five strikeouts over seven economic innings of work.

Both runs Eovaldi surrendered to Toronto came by way of the long ball. After tossing four scoreless frames to start his day, the righty served up a 380-foot solo shot to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to lead off the bottom of the fifth.

In his seventh and final inning, Eovaldi yielded another solo homer to Matt Chapman. This one left Chapman’s bat at 107.2 mph, traveled 422 feet to left-center field, and gave the Jays a 2-0 lead.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 72 (56 strikes), Eovaldi induced a total of 10 swings-and-misses while throwing 29 four-seam fastballs, 22 curveballs, 12 sliders, six splitters, and three cutters. The hard-throwing 32-year-old also topped out at 98.8 mph with his heater.

Shortly after Eovaldi’s night had ended, a Trevor Story-lessRed Sox lineup finally got something going against his counterpart in Blue Jays starter Jose Berrios. Up until the eighth inning, Boston had been held in check by Berrios despite having a few scoring opportunities.

Earlier in the second inning, J.D. Martinez made his presence felt after a four-game absence by ripping a one-out double to center field. A four-pitch walk drawn by Jackie Bradley Jr. and line-drive single from Bobby Dalbec then loaded the bases for Christian Arroyo.

Arroyo, however, was unable to come through with a pair of runners in scoring position as he grounded into a back-breaking, 1-2-3 double play that extinguished the threat.

In the top of the fourth, Xander Bogaerts led off with a hard-hit single of his own and moved up to second on a Rafael Devers groundout. But he left on base after Martinez and Bradley Jr. both flew out themselves.

An inning later, Blue Jays center fielder George Springer robbed Kevin Plawecki of a two-out extra-base hit when he sprawled out and made a sensational diving catch on a 101.7 mph liner off the bat of the Red Sox catcher.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and the Sox ultimately chased Berrios on back-to-back singles from Dalbec and Arroyo to lead off the inning. With Adam Cimber now on the mound for Toronto, Plawecki advanced both runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt.

With the lineup turning back over, Enrique Hernandez broke the seal with an RBI single to left field that brought in Dalbec. Alex Verdugo followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Arroyo and knotted things up at two runs apiece.

That 2-2 tie did not last long, though. With Eovaldi done after seven, Matt Strahm got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from acting manager Will Venable in the middle of the eighth.

Strahm got the first out of the frame but issued a one-out single to Raynel Espinal. Bradley Zimmer then dropped a drag bunt down the first base line that Strahm fielded cleanly and flipped to Dalbec covering first base. Dalbec could not squeeze the ball into his glove, though, and that allowed both runners to reach base safely.

That sequence prompted Venable to give Strahm the hook in favor of Tyler Danish, who gave up a single to Springer that loaded the bases for Bichette. Bichette, in turn, crushed a 1-0, 92 mph sinker from Danish and sent it 344 feet over the right field wall for the go-ahead grand slam.

Bichette’s slam gave the Blue Jays a commanding 6-2 lead heading into the ninth. Devers doubled to lead off the inning but was stranded there as Martinez, Bradley Jr., and Dalbec went down in order to Julian Merryweather to seal the defeat.

Some notes from this loss:

Nathan Eovaldi gave up 15 home runs in 182 2/3 innings last season. He has already given up seven home runs in just 21 2/3 innings this season.

The Red Sox went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Monday and left five runners on base as a team.

At 7-10, Boston has now lost five of its last six games. They are averaging less than 2.2 runs per game and have been outscored 26-13 during this rough stretch.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Gausman

It does not get any easier for the Red Sox as they will go up against Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman on Tuesday night. Boston will counter with Canadian-born righty Nick Pivetta.

First pitch from Rogers Centre is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Bo Bichette: Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Might Red Sox consider adding George Springer if free-agent outfielder remains unsigned going into spring training?

Alongside the likes of Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto, outfielder George Springer remains one of the top free-agents still on the market.

The 31-year-old is coming off a 2020 season with the Astros in which he posted a .265/.359/.540 slash to go along with 14 home runs and 32 RBI over 51 games played, which was enough to finish 13th in American League MVP voting.

While there have not been too many definitive rumblings as to where Springer could land this offseason, it is apparent that the Blue Jays and the Mets are pursuing the three-time All-Star the hardest.

That being the case because according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, “indications are [Toronto’s] No. 1 free-agent priority is still center fielder George Springer.”

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi, meanwhile, notes that Springer “has drawn the most significant interest from the Blue Jays and Mets” and “the 31-year-old is said to have a preference to play near his home state of Connecticut.”

Given that reported preference, Springer — a UCONN product — would seem more likely to lean towards signing with the Mets, although New York might be limited in what they can do now in order to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

As SNY’s Andy Martino wrote on Friday, “Once the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco last week, their pursuit of Springer downshifted significantly, according to people involved in the talks.”

Martino also reports that Springer, who does not turn 32 until September, has a five-year deal on the table from the Blue Jays worth anywhere from $115 million to $125 million.

Assuming what has already been reported is true, it does not seem like the two-time Silver Slugger will remain on the open market for too much longer.

That being said, the possibility still remains that Springer could remain unsigned going into the start of spring training, as has been the case with past coveted free-agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2019.

In that scenario, it might not be too crazy for a team that has not been seriously linked to the right-handed hitting, 6-foot-3, 221 lb. outfielder to this point, like the Red Sox for instance, to explore a potential deal there.

Of course, any team outside of the Astros that signs Springer would have to forfeit a second-round draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money due to the fact that Houston extended a qualifying offer, which was later rejected, to its former first-round draft pick in November.

Even with that caveat in mind, though, the Sox could at least consider negotiating with Springer if he is still a free agent come mid to late-February.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo discussed that possibility with MLB.com’s Ian Browne and The Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam on the latest installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast.

“I think if the bottom falls out of this George Springer market, and he is unsigned into spring training, which it feels like the Mets aren’t going there, the Blue Jays are a lot of talk and not a lot of action like another team we know… If the bottom really falls out of that, I think [the Red Sox] will legitimately consider whether it’s worth giving up a second-round pick for him. He might be the one exception to that rule there,” Cotillo said.

“He has the talent of somebody you would give up a second-round pick for. That would justify cheaping out on some of these other guys if they go out and get George Springer,” Browne added.

“He solves a ton of problems. He gives you an above-average defender in center — I don’t think he’s equal to [Jackie Bradley Jr.] but he’s good — but more importantly…he’s a terrific leadoff option. So you don’t have to worry about, in the event that [Andrew] Benintendi somehow stayed, putting [Benintendi] there since he’s not crazy about it. [Alex] Verdugo, I think, has made it well known that while he’ll do it, he’d prefer to hit lower. So it takes care of your leadoff guy.

“And as we know, Springer has shown himself to be a fabulous October player. He’s had a ton of experience on the big stage with Houston the last four years. So, presumably, if someone can do that in the big moment in October, then playing in Boston with expectations would not be anything that would rattle him. Of course, he’s got a New England background having gone to UCONN,” said McAdam.

“And Alex Cora. There are some damaged relationships from all the fallout of the Astros’ scandal. That’s not one of them. Alex has said that he communicates with Springer pretty frequently, so that won’t be an issue,” concluded Cotillo.

So, even though Queens may be slightly closer to New Britain, Conn. — Springer’s hometown — than Boston, it’s probably fair to say that the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, cannot be ruled out of the Springer sweepstakes at this point in time.

If push were to come to shove within the next few weeks, then perhaps former UCONN right-hander turned Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who was teammates with Springer on the Huskies baseball team from 2009-2011, would be willing to do some recruiting as well.

(Picture of George Springer: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

MLB free agency: Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. have talked about outfielder returning to Boston, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly approached Jackie Bradley Jr. about bringing the free-agent outfielder back for the 2021 season “and beyond,” according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Per Bradford, the Red Sox “are far from the only suitors for Bradley Jr., with the Astros showing strong interest and one American League Central team putting the 30-year-old at the top of its free agent wish-list.”

Bradley Jr., who does not turn 31 until next April, is coming off one of his better all-around seasons in the majors in 2020. Primarily serving as Boston’s centerfielder, the former first-round draft pick slashed a robust .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played.

Those impressive numbers, as well as still proving to be one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, will certainly help Bradley Jr.’s case as he embarks on free agency for the first time in his career.

Based off industry speculation, which can best be highlighted by MLB Trade Rumors’ free agency predictions, the Boras Corp. client is projected to land a two-year deal worth somewhere around $16 million this winter after not receiving a qualifying offer from Boston earlier this month.

MLBTR, in correspondence with the aforementioned report from Bradford, have Bradley Jr. joining the Astros on that two-year pact, but it would appear that the Red Sox can not be ruled out as favorites to retain the South Carolina product’s services.

“We love Jackie,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters back in August. “That shouldn’t be news. He’s been here for a long time. He means an enormous amount to this organization. For me personally, not having known him as long, I’ve still come to regard him so highly and see what an incredible person he is. We know he’s a good player. We’d love to have him for a long time. But that was the case months ago. It’s the case yesterday. It’s the case today. It’s the case tomorrow.”

Besides Bradley Jr., this year’s free agency class is not exactly filled to the brim with starting-caliber centerfielders save for three-time All-Star George Springer, who has a qualifying offer attached to him. The likes of Jarrod Dyson, Brett Gardner, Jake Marisnick, and Kevin Pillar represent some of the other possibilities on that front.

Internally, the Sox could move either one of Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo to center, both of whom have logged a combined 147 games at the position at the major-league level. Neither would likely provide the level of defensive prowess Bradley Jr. would, though, and another vacancy at either corner outfield spot would open up as a result.

Looking at the prospect pipeline, outfielder Jarren Duran, Boston’s No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is without a doubt one of the Sox’ most exciting young talents.

The 24-year-old had a terrific spring and consistently put on a show at the alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer, but he still may be at the point where he needs just a little more time to develop before getting the call.

Marcus Wilson, who is currently on Boston’s 40-man roster, and Jeisson Rosario, who will presumably be on Boston’s 40-man roster within the next 12 days, are also intriguing options, but like Duran, neither have played above the Double-A level yet.

At the end of the day, who Bloom and Co. decide to roll with at center field moving forward will be no simple decision. Perhaps the Sox will take advantage of what looks to be a slow-moving market this winter, but if a savvy team like the Astros are that interested in acquiring Bradley Jr.’s services, they will surely be aggressive in doing so.

On another note, it should be fascinating to see how Bradley Jr., who described free agency as “cool” because “you get to weigh out your options,” goes about fielding offers this winter. Will he allow the Red Sox to counter any offer he may get? Or, will he just take the best deal possible due to the current economic climate? We will have to wait and see on that.