Red Sox Trade Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Cash To Phillies in Exchange for Right-Handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold

The Red Sox have traded right-handed relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman, as well as cash considerations and a player to be named later or cash considerations, to the Phillies for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, the club announced Friday night.

With this trade made, the first domino has fell for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. leading up to the August 31 trading deadline.

Workman was set to become a free agent this winter, while Hembree is under team control through the end of the 2021 season.

The Phillies, who came into the weekend with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball (8.07), are clearly trying to upgrade their pen as they look to vie for a playoff spot despite a 9-12 start to the season.

By acquiring Hembree and Workman from Boston, Philadelphia has accomplished this in at least some capacity.

Hembree, 31, carried a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against through his first 10 appearances and 9 2/3 innings of the year before getting lit up for four runs against the Phils on Tuesday.

Workman, meanwhile, turned 32 last week and had yielded three runs on eight hits, four walks, and eight strikeouts through his first seven outings and 6 2/3 innings of 2020. That’s good for a 4.05 ERA and 2.57 FIP.

The two now-former Sox hurlers will likely become two of the top late-inning relief options out of the Phillies bullpen from now until the end of the season.

As for what the Red Sox got back in this deal, let’s start with Nick Pivetta.

A 27-year-old right-hander out of British Columbia, Pivetta appeared in three games for the Phillies prior to being optioned to the club’s alternate training site on August 11.

In those three outings, the former fourth-round pick surrendered 10 earned runs over just 5 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to 2020, Pivetta owned a 5.34 ERA and 4.56 FIP through his first 89 appearances (71 starts) and 390 2/3 innings with the Phillies dating back to 2017.

Per Statcast, Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., is a four-pitch pitcher who primarily relies on his four-seam fastball and has a curveball, changeup, and slider in his arsenal as well.

Turning to Connor Seabold now, the 24-year-old was the Phillies’ third-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Regarded by MLB Pipeine as Philadelphia’s No. 23 prospect, Seabold, listed at 6-foor-2 and 190 lbs., posted a 2.24 ERA and .224 batting average against in 12 total appearances (11 starts) and 56 1/3 innings pitched between three minor-league levels in 2019.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Seabold “will always be a command and control pitcher, one who has to rely on changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. His swing-and-miss rate went up in the Arizona Fall League and if that’s for real, he could fit into the back end of a big league rotation soon.”

Because the Red Sox traded Hembree and Workman, they opened up two spots on their 60-man player pool, which will now presumably be filled by Pivetta and Seabold. The former was on Philly’s 40-man roster, while the latter was not.

Update: For clarity, Pivetta was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket following the move.

Advertisement

Red Sox Falter in Sixth Inning, Fall To Phillies 13-6 as Losing Streak Grows To Nine Consecutive Games

Another night, another venue, another opponent, and another loss for the Red Sox on Tuesday. This one came in 13-6 fashion at the hands of the Phillies at Fenway Park, marking the Sox’ ninth consecutive defeat to drop them to 6-18 on the year.

Zack Godley made his fourth start and fifth overall appearance of the season for Boston in this one, and he looked significantly better than he did in his last time out against the Rays on Wednesday.

That being the case because over four innings of work, the right-hander held the Phillies to just one run on four hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

Philadelphia’s lone run off Godley came in a laborious top half of the fourth, when with one out in the frame the Sox starter allowed three straight base runners to reach, with the last of those three, Jay Bruce, plating Didi Gregorius on an RBI single to right field.

Fortunately, Godley was able to dance his way around any more trouble, as he retired the final two hitters he faced to end his outing on a somewhat more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 84, 49 of which were strikes, the 30-year-old hurler turned to his cutter and curveball 83% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing six swings-and-misses with the combination of pitches. He also topped out at 91.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he went to just three times.

Hit with the no-decision on account while lowering his ERA on the season to 6.87, Godley likely did enough here to earn himself another start, which would presumably come against the Orioles on Sunday.

In relief of Godley, Phillips Valdez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to begin things in the fifth, and he served up a solo homer to Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in an otherwise clean frame of work.

From there, left-hander Josh Taylor made his second appearance in as many days after getting activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Monday, and he was only able to record the first two outs of the inning while allowing the Phillies to come back and knot this contest up at four runs apiece.

With that, Heath Hembree was dispatched to get out of the mess Taylor had created, but the right-hander was only able to dig a bigger hole for his side by serving up a 409-foot three-run blast to Bryce Harper and a run-scoring base hit to Gregorius before getting the hook in favor of Colten Brewer.

Brewer did manage to end things in the sixth without yielding anything else, but he did give up a leadoff home run to Phil Gosselin in the seventh, which put the Phillies up 10-4 an inning after they had been trailing 4-2.

Marcus Walden did not fare much better in the eighth, as he could not sneak a two-out, 1-1, 91 mph cutter past Jay Bruce, who deposited that pitch just over the wall in center field for another three-run home run. 13-5.

Ryan Brasier, meanwhile, faced five hitters in the ninth but did not give anything up to keep the deficit for his side at eight runs. It did not make all that much of a difference in the end, but still.

All in all, the Boston bullpen combined to allow 12 earned runs on 12 hits (four home runs), and two walks over five innings pitched on Tuesday. Not exactly what you want.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup absent of Christian Vazquez and Jackie Bradley Jr. was matched up against someone making his first ever start at Fenway Park in the form of Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin.

Getting the scoring right away on Tuesday, Rafael Devers got a nice day at the plate started with a one-out single off Eflin in the first and was almost immediately driven in by Xander Bogaerts moments later. 1-0 Boston.

Fast forward to the third, and the top portion of the Sox lineup struck once more, as Alex Verdugo led things off with a wall-ball double to left, and Devers plated him on an RBI double of his own.

J.D. Martinez proceeded with yet another run-scoring two-base hit, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 3-0 lead.

In the fifth, after the Phillies had tacked on two runs of their own, Bogaerts provided what looked to be important insurance at the time with a sacrifice fly off new reliever Blake Barker that brought in Verdugo from third.

Bogaerts’ second RBI of the night put the Sox up 4-2, but as it would later turn out, that would be the last lead they held on Tuesday as the Philadelphia offense went off the rest of the way.

Mitch Moreland got a run back on a run-scoring single in the seventh, and another on a run-scoring double in the ninth, but it would not be enough as 13-6 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

J.D. Martinez was removed from this game in the fifth inning due to dehydration.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Michael Chavis struck out five times in his five plate appearances on Tuesday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they will close out this brief two-game interleague series and homestand against the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon.

Left-hander Kyle Hart will make his second start of the season for Boston, while veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta will get the ball for Philadelphia.

Hart, 27, is coming off a rough major-league debut against the Rays at Fenway last Thursday in which he surrendered five earned runs on seven hits and four walks in just two-plus innings pitched in an eventual loss.

The Red Sox are sticking with the rookie southpaw for at least one more start despite that shaky debut though, so perhaps that will give him a boost ahead of his first career interleague outing.

Arrieta, meanwhile, has posted a 4.02 ERA and 3.37 FIP through his first three starts and 15 2/3 innings of the 2020 season.

In six career appearances (five starts) at Fenway Park, the 34-year-old owns a lifetime 4.45 ERA and .755 OPS against over 30 1/3 total innings pitched.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN, MLB Network, and WEEI. Red Sox looking to avoid extending their losing streak to double digits.

Red Sox Serve up Four Home Runs in Yet Another Defeat To Yankees To Extend Losing Streak To Eight Consecutive Games

In their final game at Yankee Stadium in 2020, the Red Sox fell to the first-place Yankees by a final score of 6-3 on Monday, which extended their losing streak to a season-worst eight consecutive games.

Martin Perez made his fifth start of the season for Boston in this one, and he came into the week having made just one career start in the Bronx prior to Monday.

Only able to work the first three innings due to a 1 hour and 22 minute rain delay, the left-hander yielded three runs, all of which were earned, on two hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with one lone strikeout on the night.

All three of those New York tallies came in the bottom half of the second, when after plunking Tyler Wade, the Yanks’ No. 9 hitter, with two outs, Perez served up an RBI double to Aaron Hicks and followed that by serving up a 428-foot two-run to Luke Voit on a 2-2, 83 mph changeup right down the chute moments later.

Those three consecutive mistakes put Perez’s side in an early three-run hole, and his evening would unknowingly come to a close after a scoreless third inning due to that aforementioned inclement weather.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 58 (30 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler turned to his cutter and changeup a combined 58% of the time he was on the mound Monday, inducing three swings-and-misses with the combination of pitches while also topping out at 93 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 10 times.

Hit with his third losing decision of the year while also raising his ERA to 4.07, Perez will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come against the Orioles in Baltimore on Saturday.

In relief of Perez, left-hander Josh Osich got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen following that 83-minute rain delay, and he surrendered a pair of leadoff homers to Thairo Estrada and Voit in the bottom halves of the fourth and fifth innings.

From there, fellow southpaw Josh Taylor made his 2020 debut after getting activated from the injured list and needed just nine pitches to toss a scoreless bottom of the sixth, while Austin Brice gave up another solo shot to Aaron Hicks in the seventh and Heath Hembree fanned a pair in a perfect eighth inning.

Hembree’s impressive work kept Boston’s deficit at three runs, but it would prove to not be enough in the end.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly familiar foe in Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery, whose 2020 debut came against Boston back on July 31.

The 27-year-old had a no-hitter going through his first 3 2/3 innings on Monday, but a string of three straight two-out hits in the fourth from J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Christian Vazquez broke that up, with Vazquez plating Martinez on an RBI single that was just out of the reach of Gleyber Torres.

As it would almost immediately turn out, Vazquez’s 12th RBI of the season came at just the right time as the Yankees ground crew began to roll the tarp onto the field almost as soon as Vazquez had reached first base safely.

The Red Sox headed into a lengthy weather delay with two outs and runners on the corners in the fourth, but they could not do anything with that opportunity once the rain lifted.

That being the case because after Michael Chavis drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases, Alex Verdugo was the victim of a swinging strikeout at the hands of Luis Avilan to extinguish the threat and end the inning.

Verdugo did redeem himself in the top of the sixth, though, when with two outs and Vazquez at second, the outfielder drove the catcher in on a run-scoring double off reliever Michael King. 5-2 New York.

Fast forward all the way to the ninth, with the Yankees up 6-2, vaunted fireballer Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance of the season out of the New York bullpen. Perhaps taking advantage of some of Chapman’s expected rustiness, the Sox made somewhat of a comeback attempt with Jose Peraza ripping a one-out triple and Jonathan Arauz scoring him on an RBI double down the left field line.

That pushed the Red Sox’ deficit to three runs at 6-3, but alas, that would go on to be Monday’s final score after Kevin Pillar and Rafael Devers struck out back-to-back to end the game.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

The Red Sox have lost their last 11 games at Yankee Stadium.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

Next up for the Red Sox, they will return to Fenway Park and open up a two-game interleague series against the Phillies beginning on Monday night.

Right-hander Zack Godley will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Zach Eflin will do the same for Philadelphia.

In four career appearances (two starts) against the Phillies, the 30-year-old Godley owns a lifetime 1.53 ERA and .528 OPS against over 17 2/3 total innings pitched.

Eflin, meanwhile, will be making his first career start against the Red Sox and his first career start at Fenway Park.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to finally to put an end to this dreadful skid, maybe?

Nathan Eovaldi Surrenders Three Home Runs as Red Sox’ Struggles Against Yankees Continue in 11-5 Loss

Another night, another game allowing eight-plus runs, and another blowout loss for the Red Sox on Saturday. This one came in 11-5 fashion at the hands of the Yankees once again.

Nathan Eovaldi made his fifth start of the season for Boston in this one, and he had a tough time missing Yankees bats in his first go-around at the Stadium since last season.

That being the case because over 5 1/3 innings of work, the right-hander got shelled for eight runs, all of which were earned, on nine hits and two walks to go along with just three strikeouts on the night.

The first two of those New York tallies came right away in their half of the first, when after retiring two of the first three hitters he faced, Eovaldi served up a two-run home run to Gio Urshela off a 1-0, 98 mph heater on the outer half of the plate. 2-0 Yankees.

After settling in a bit in the second and third innings, Eovaldi was again the victim of the two-run home run ball when Gary Sanchez took the fireballer deep to left off a 2-2, 90 mph splitter down the chute, which actually gave the Yankees the lead again at 4-3.

In the sixth, the long ball came back to bite Eovaldi once more. There, two straight hits from Gleyber Torres and Mike Tauchman to lead off the frame brought Clint Frazier to the plate with one out and runners in scoring position, and the Yankees outfielder took full advantage by crushing a three-run blast to right field off a first-pitch cutter to simultaneously give his side a 7-3 lead and put an end to Eovaldi’s outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his cut-fastball 44% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing six swings-and-misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 99.3 mph with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 19 times.

Hit with his second losing decision of the year while seeing his ERA inflate to 5.93, Eovaldi will look to bounce back in his next time out, which should come against the Orioles in Baltimore on Thursday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Heath Hembree came on for Eovaldi with two outs to get in the bottom of the sixth, closed the book on the starter’s night by allowing one inherited runner to score, and sat down the final two Yankees he faced.

From there, Matt Barnes had a tough time of things in the seventh considering he yielded three runs (two earned) on one hit, one walk, and one hit batsman in the frame, while Phillips Valdez tossed a perfect ninth inning to keep his side’s deficit at eight runs. Not like it mattered much in the end, but still.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran left-hander James Paxton for the Yankees, who was coming off his best start of the season thus far in his last time out against the Rays.

Down by a pair after just one inning, the Boston bats got things going in the third starting with a leadoff walk drawn by Jose Peraza.

As the lineup flipped back over, Rafael Devers moved Peraza up to third on a one-out double, and the two infielders were subsequently driven in on a two-run single off the bat of J.D. Martinez that he tried to unsuccessfully turn into a double himself.

Xander Bogaerts followed by taking Paxton 380 feet to left-center field for his fourth big fly of the season. Just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 3-2 lead, which would actually only last 1 1/2 innings before the Yankees took this one over.

The only other offensive production the Sox were able to garner on Saturday came well after Paxton’s day had ended. In the top half of the ninth, Alex Verdugo deposited his fifth homer of 2020 433 feet deep into the right field seats, while Jose Peraza later scored off an RBI triple from Kevin Pillar.

Both run-producing hits from the pair of outfielders came off Luis Cessa, and they cut the Red Sox’ deficit down to six runs at 11-5, which would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

Alex Verdugo’s OPS on the season is now .848. Michael Chavis’ is now .857. Both are currently riding multi-game hitting streaks.

On a night the pitching was rather dismal, Phillips Valdez continues to impress.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third-game of this four-game set on Sunday night.

Right-hander Chris Mazza will make his first career start for Boston, while left-hander J.A. Happ will get the ball for New York.

Mazza, 30, will need to be recalled on Sunday, a little over two weeks after tossing  2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief at Yankee Stadium in his Red Sox debut on August 1.

Happ, meanwhile, has allowed four earned runs in each of his first two starts of 2020 and was actually skipped his last time through the Yankees’ rotation. The 37-year-old veteran southpaw owns a lifetime 3.00 ERA and .676 OPS against in 25 career outings (24 starts) and 141 1/3 innings pitched against the Red Sox.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to put an end to this six-game skid.

 

Sloppy Red Sox Commit Four Errors, Can’t Avoid Four-Game Sweep in 17-8 Loss to Rays

In a game that saw a drone delay, two position players pitch, and one utilityman catch, the Red Sox were on the wrong side of a 17-8 blowout against the Rays at Fenway Park on Thursday night.

Kyle Hart made his major-league debut and his first career start for Boston to close out this series and, even without fans in the stands and his brother watching from the Bleacher Bar in center field, had a tough go of things.

That being the case because in just two-plus innings of work, the rookie left-hander yielded seven runs, five of which were earned, on seven hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

The first two of those Tampa Bay tallies came right away in the top of the first, when after Mike Brosseau led off with a walk and Jose Martinez reached base on a fielding error committed by Jonathan Arauz, Hart gave up a pair of RBI singles to Yandy Diaz and Willy Adames to put his side in an early two-run hole.

A scoreless second inning made it appear as though Hart was beginning to figure it out on the mound, but even after getting a one-run lead to work with, things took a turn for the worse for the southpaw in the third.

There, a leadoff walk drawn by Diaz, followed by back-to-back home runs off the bats of Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Lowe, as well as three more hits from Adames, Manuel Margot, and Yoshi Tsutsugo, resulted in the Rays jumping out to a 6-3 advantage before Hart got the hook from Sox manager Ron Roenicke earlier than he would have liked to.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 73 (44 strikes), the 27-year-old turned to his sinker and slider a combined 56% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing five swings and misses with the slider alone. He also topped out at 91.2 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 15 times.

Charged with his first loss in his first career start, Hart’s status is up in the air, as Roenicke told reporters postgame that the Red Sox “are not exactly sure” if the hurler will get another start.

In relief of Hart, right-hander Phillips Valdez was dispatched with three outs to get in the third. And he got those outs, but not before allowing one of the runners he inherited to score on an RBI forceout.

From there, like Hart before him, Valdez was also the recipient of some shoddy defensive work from the infielders playing behind him.

Upon giving up leadoff single to Diaz, the lanky righty induced a soft grounder off the bat of Hunter Renfroe, which was promptly fielded by the charging Rafael Devers. Rather than make an apt throw over to second for the force out though, Devers airmailed the throw into right field, allowing Diaz to reach third and Renfroe to reach first safely.

The ever-dangerous Lowe took full advantage of that mishap, as the Rays second baseman laced a sharp RBI single through the middle of the infield to drive in Diaz and make it an 8-4 second.

Just a few moments later, Devers was once again tested when Margot batted another soft grounder towards the hot corner. Once more, the 23-year-old picked the ball with his bare hand cleanly, but rushed his throw to Mitch Moreland over at first and the ball wound up by the tarp in foul territory. That, of course, gave Renfroe plenty of time to score from second. 9-4.

Tsustgo increased his side’s advantage even more with a sacrifice fly to right field, and the Rays were up by six runs just like that to no fault of Valdez, really.

That point was emphasized again an inning later, when Valdez retired the only three hitters he faced in the fifth before making way for Marcus Walden in the sixth.

Similarly enough to Hart three innings prior, Walden could not record a single out in his sixth appearance of the season. He instead served up two home runs, one of which being an absolute bomb to Kenmore Square from Renfroe, one triple, two singles, and one walk to the six hitters he faced by the time he was replaced by Josh Osich.

The lefty entered in a 16-5 game, and he kept it that way by recording the final three outs of the sixth in 1-2-3 fashion before punching out the side in a scoreless top of the seventh.

Heath Hembree made his first appearance since last Saturday by coming on for the eighth, and he fanned a pair in another shutout inning of relief.

In the ninth, we got our first and second position player pitching sightings of the season for the Red Sox when Jose Peraza took the mound after starting the game at second base. The 26-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, but then to add insult to injury, took a 105 mph comebacker from Lowe off his right knee, which marked the end of his evening.

Having to turn to another position player, Kevin Plawecki took the mound while Tzu-Wei Lin, yes, Tzu-Wei Lin, was put behind the plate.

The veteran backstop walked one and recorded two outs thanks to some nifty glove work from Alex Verdugo in left field, but it was too little too late.

On the other side of things, a Xander Bogaerts-less Red Sox lineup was matched up against Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow to begin things on Thursday.

Down by a pair of runs before even getting the chance to take their first at-bats, the Boston offense quickly erased that deficit with an RBI single from Devers and a two-run double from Plawecki.

By the time this one had reached the midway point of the third, the Sox’ deficit had grown to five runs, but the red-hot Jonathan Arauz cut into that by lacing a two-out, two-run double to right field, bringing in J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland to make it a 7-4 contest. The 22-year-old’s first career extra-base hit.

An inning later, Martinez picked up from where he left off on Wednesday with another run-scoring double off Glasnow. This one came with two outs in the fifth and brought in Peraza from second. 10-5.

As it would later turn out, five runs is the closest the Red Sox would get to the Rays from the start of the sixth inning on.

By the time Boston got on the board again in the ninth, Tampa Bay already had a 17-5 edge. But at least three straight two-out hits from Michael Chavis, Kevin Pillar, and Plawecki brought in three more runs to make the final score look a little bit closer at 17-8, right?

Some notes and observations from this defeat:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

 

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

 

Michael Chavis has nine hits in his last seven games and has bumped his OPS on the season up to .892.

Kevin Plawecki is 9-for-19 (.474) with six RBI to begin his Red Sox career.

Jonathan Arauz has eight hits in his last four games.

Next up for the Red Sox, it doesn’t get any easier as the club is about to embark on a four-game series against the first-place Yankees in the Bronx.

It will be a bullpen game for Boston in the series opener for Boston on Friday, while New York will turn to ace right-hander Gerrit Cole.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking to snap a four-game skid.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Red Sox Waste Big Offensive Nights From Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in Soul-Crushing 9-7 Loss to Yankees

In their highest-scoring game since Opening Day, the Red Sox still found a way to lose to the Yankees on Sunday night, as they fell to the Bronx Bombers by a final score of 9-7 and were unable to avoid getting swept by their division rivals.

Utilizing the opener strategy in this one, the Sox first turned to right-hander Austin Brice on Sunday, who was technically making his first career major-league start although he only pitched a scoreless first inning while walking two and striking out the side.

From there, left-hander Matt Hall, who served as an opener for Boston last week, had a tougher time of things from the middle of the second on. That being the case because the 27-year-old served up a three-run blast to Aaron Judge in his first frame of work and back-to-back, two-out RBI doubles to Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela in his second.

Heath Hembree was next up, and after tossing a perfect bottom of the fourth, the veteran righty got taken deep by Luke Voit on a two-out solo shot in the fifth. At the time, Voit’s homer pulled the Yankees back even with the Sox at 6-6.

The Boston offense was able to tack on another run in between Marcus Walden’s two shutout frames of relief in the sixth and seventh, but things took a turn for the worse for the Red Sox bullpen in the bottom of the eighth.

There, Matt Barnes entered with his side up one run at 7-6, got the first two outs of the inning rather easily, and then walked Mike Tauchman, the Yankees’ No. 9 hitter, on five pitches.

As the saying goes, “walks will haunt,” and that walk certainly would come back to haunt Barnes later on.

With New York’s lineup turning back over, Tauchman took off for second base with D.J. LeMahieu at the plate and got to the bag safely. Having to deal with a runner in scoring position now, Barnes couldn’t sneak a 2-2, 96 mph fastball past the Yankees second baseman and instead gave up a game-tying, run-scoring single back up the middle. 7-7.

It would have been one thing if Barnes managed to escape the eighth with the 7-7 stalemate still intact, but the ever-dangerous Judge had other ideas in mind.

Arguably the girthiest No. 2 hitter in baseball, the Yankees slugger took a 2-0, hanging 84 mph curveball from Barnes and deposited it 468(!) feet to the bleachers in left field.

That soul-crushing missile of a two-run home run put the Yanks up 9-7, which would ultimately go on to be Sunday’s final score as Barnes was hit with his first loss and blown save of the season.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another familiar foe in the form of Yankees southpaw James Paxton.

With the Canadian-born Paxton on the hill, the Boston bats actually got on the board in the first inning for the first time all weekend when after J.D. Martinez reached base on a two-out double that could have been caught, Xander Bogaerts crushed his second big fly of the season 386 feet to right-center field to put his side up two early on.

In the third, more damage off Paxton came when Kevin Pillar led things off with a ground-rule double and came around to score moments later on a Rafael Devers RBI base knock to right.

A Martinez strikeout followed by consecutive one-out, run-scoring singles off the bats of Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez brought in two more runs, and the Red Sox had themselves a 5-3 lead just like that.

Fast forward to the fifth, and Bogaerts struck once more, this time taking Yankees reliever Michael King 437 feet to left-center field for his second dinger of the evening. 6-5 Boston.

And in the seventh, it was Devers’ turn to put his pull-side power on display, as he watched King hang a 2-1, hanging changeup on the inner half of the plate and proceeded to send it all the way to the right field bleachers, or more specifically, 427 feet away from home plate.

Devers’ long-awaited first long ball of the new season looked to be the all-important go-ahead hit in this one as it put the Sox up by one run at 7-6. A las, as previously mentioned, the Yankees staged a rather soul-crushing comeback in their half of the eighth, and 9-7 would go on to be your final score. Red Sox get swept.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

The Red Sox are 3-7 through their first 10 games of 2020.

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Despite the loss, Rafael Devers had an impressive night on both sides of the ball.

10 games into the season, the Red Sox have one of the worst records in baseball. Not great! It’s not a total surprise, but it’s still not great!

Anyway, the Sox have an off day on Monday before opening up a rare two-game set against the Rays in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and left-hander Martin Perez are slated to start for Boston, while right-hander Charlie Morton and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough are lined up to do the same for Tampa Bay.

This will be the first of two trips to St. Pete for the Sox this season. They won 60% of their games at Tropicana Field in 2019.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Enjoy the off day.

Heath Hembree Proving to Be Valuable Member of Red Sox Bullpen When Healthy

It’s way too early in the season for a legitimate evaluation, but I can’t help myself in saying that I’ve been impressed with what Heath Hembree has done out of the Red Sox bullpen thus far in 2020

In four appearances, the right-hander has yet to allow a run or walk while surrendering just one hit and striking out four over 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Over those four outings dating back to Opening Day, Hembree has faced 11 batters and thrown 46 total pitches, 32 of which have been strikes. In terms of pitch breakdown, the 31-year-old has thrown 26 four-seam fastballs (56.5%), 18 sliders (39.1%), and two curveballs (4.3%). One of those two curveballs thrown went for a hit against the Mets on Thursday, but it was just a harmless single.

Hitters thus far a slashing a measly .091/.091/.091 off Hembree while swinging and missing more than 15% of the time and striking out more than 36% of the time.

Per Statcast, Hembree’s xERA, or expected ERA, this season is 0.72, which ranks in the 98th percentile of major-league pitchers this season. In other words, the South Carolina native has been great. That much is also evident when you consider the fact that Hembree has accrued 0.2 fWAR so far this year, which is already higher than his 2018 and 2019 totals, according to FanGraphs.

Again, this is all within a very small sample size and some regression is likely to come, but after an injury-hampered 2019 campaign, seeing Hembree get off to this hot start out of the Red Sox bullpen sure is encouraging. It just goes to show that when healthy, the veteran righty is an extremely valuable member of Boston’s relief corps for manager Ron Roenicke. He’s proving that much right now.