Red Sox Fail to Muster Any Offense in 5-0 Loss to Astros

After falling to the Tigers on Wednesday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak grow to three games on Thursday following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros at JetBlue Park. They are now 4-8-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his first start and third overall appearance for Boston was Kyle Hart, coming off two scoreless innings of relief in his last time out against the Twins this past Friday.

Working the first three innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both of those Astros runs came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Hart yielded a one-out walk to Myles Straw and followed that up by serving up a two-run home run to Kyle Tucker.

That mistake gave Houston the only lead they would need, but Hart was able to rebound by getting the final two outs of the frame in order to end his outing on a more positive note.

As one of several candidates still vying for a spot in the Sox’ rotation, Hart, 27, will probably appear in another game sometime early next week.

In relief of Hart, Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless fourth inning and yielded one run on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the fifth before minor-leaguer Tom Windle came on and finished the inning for him.

From there, Marcus Walden sat down the only three hitters he faced in order in the sixth, left-hander Brian Johnson appeared to be on top of things in the seventh and eighth, but ended up being charged with two runs on three hits and a walk in the ninth before Konner Wade relieved him, allowed an inherited runner to score, and finished up the inning by getting Grae Kessinger to fly out to left.

All in all, Red Sox pitching combined to allow five earned runs on 12 hits, three walks, and 10 strikeouts over nine total innings pitched.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars in Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Jose Peraza was matched up against Astros right-hander Josh James to begin things on Thursday.

Despite having all those regulars in the lineup though, the Boston bats could not muster much against James, or any other Houston pitcher they faced for that matter.

Five hits, only one of which went for extra base hits, one walk drawn, and one HBP. That’s it.

That lone extra base hit belonged to Michael Chavis, who doubled off James with one out in the second and was subsequently picked off by Garrett Stubbs at third on a failed stolen base attempt.

Other than that, the Sox sent three batters to hit in five of their nine trips to the plate on Thursday. Not much to write home about in what wound up being a 5-0 shutout loss.

Some observations from this defeat:

This game was not televised, so I really do not have much to add here, but I will say that the Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Thursday.

Xander Bogaerts in his first start at shortstop this spring: 0-for-2 with another pair of strikeouts.

Out of the 31 players the Astros sent from West Palm Beach for this contest, none were on the team in 2017, so from what I heard on the radio, there didn’t appear to be too many boos from the crowd at JetBlue Park.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to North Port to take on the Atlanta Braves at their new spring training facility on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the start for Boston, while Atlanta has yet to name a starter.

Rodriguez impressed in his spring debut against the Yankees last Saturday, fanning six over three scoreless innings at Fort Myers.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and R.J. Alvarez are among the Sox pitchers who will follow Rodriguez.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on ESPN.

Nathan Eovaldi Fans Four Over Three Scoreless Innings, Rafael Devers Crushes Two-Run Homer as Red Sox Get Back in Win Column Against Braves

After dropping their last three, the Red Sox got back in the win column and improved to 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who impressed in his 2020 debut by striking out four Twins over two scoreless innings last Monday.

Working three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit, an infield single, and zero walks to go along with another four strikeouts on the afternoon, three of which came in consecutive order in the top half of the second.

Out of the 40 pitches Eovaldi threw Sunday, 28 went for strikes. And even though the Red Sox are opting to not use a radar gun at JetBlue Park this spring, it’s safe to say the 30-year-old had his fastball working in his favor in this one.

With two spring starts down and four to go, Eovaldi’s next outing should come next weekend against either the Braves, Phillies, or Blue Jays.

In relief of Eovaldi, Brandon Workman came on for his first appearance of the spring to begin the fourth, and he looked like he was in mid-season form with two strikeouts and four straight swings and misses to close a perfect inning out.

From there, top pitching prospect Tanner Houck followed suit by fanning three and walking one over three two-hit innings, making way for Marcus Walden, also making his spring debut, to begin the eighth.

Walden got his first Grapefruit League appearance off to a strong start by retiring the side in order in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story, as the 31-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach via a leadoff walk and HBP before recording the first two outs and yielding an RBI single to Braden Shewmake to end the shutout and make it a 4-1 game.

Another plunked batter filled the bases for Shea Langeliers, who drove in his side’s second run and subsequently ended Walden’s day by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

So, with the bases still full in what was suddenly just a two-run game, in came left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus looking to close things out. And the 23-year-old did just that, as he got Ryan Casteel to fly out to right for the third and final out, thus ending this one with a final score of 4-2.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured regulars like Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Christian Vazquez to begin things on Sunday was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The Boston bats didn’t waste any time against the Braves hurler, as Chavis led off the first with a walk to bring up Devers, who unloaded on the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz and crushed deep to dead center for his first home run of the spring in just his third plate appearance. A two-run shot put Boston up by two runs early.

An inning later, it was the bottom of the lineup getting things done against Foltynewicz, with Rusney Castillo and top prospect Jeter Downs putting runners at first and second with back-to-back one-out singles and Nick Longhi driving in Castillo from second on a line-drive RBI double to shallow right field. 3-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and a bases-loaded walk with one out drawn by Chad De La Guerra off of Braves reliever Huascar Ynoa brought in Brett Netzer from third to make it a 4-0 contest. And after Atlanta rallied with a pair of runs of their own in the ninth, 4-2 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Mitch Moreland was pulled from this one in the middle of the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, only got one at-bat and was pulled after the first inning because he will be part of the group traveling to Lakeland for Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Rafael Devers in his second spring start: 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy off the bench: 0-for-1. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, as I already mentioned, they’ll head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Daniel Norris will do the same for Detroit. Matt Barnes is also expected to make his spring debut for the Sox.

Weber is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the 2020 season. The 29-year-old struck out one and scattered two hits over two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles this past Tuesday.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

 

Michael Chavis, Jarren Duran, and Josh Ockimey All Homer as Red Sox Top Pirates 6-3 in Rain-Shortened Contest

After blowing out the Orioles at Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Red Sox traveled to Bradenton for the first time this spring and improved to 3-2-1 in Grapefruit League action with a rain-shortened 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday.

Making his first start in a Red Sox uniform for Boston was Martin Perez, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal back in December to fill out the back half of the club’s rotation.

Working the first two innings Wednesday, the left-hander surrendered one unearned run on one hit and one walk to go along with three walks on the afternoon.

That one Pittsburgh tally came in the bottom half of the second, when after tossing a 1-2-3 first, Perez allowed three of the first four hitters he faced in the frame to reach base on a walk, single, and fielder’s choice combined with a throwing error committed by Marco Hernandez.

With the bases full of Pirates, J.T. Riddle came through with a sacrifice fly hit plenty deep enough to right field to drive in Josh Bell from third and make it a 2-1 contest.

Fortunately, Perez was able to avoid any further damage by fanning Andrew Susac to retire the side and end his outing on a more positive note.

From there, left-hander Josh Osich struck out three, walked another, and allowed one run on a Jose Osuna RBI double in the third while also recording the first two outs of the fourth.

Pitching prospect Durbin Feltman wrapped up the frame by getting Riddle to ground out to first, which would turn out to be the only action the 22-year-old would see.

Colten Brewer followed suit with two innings of one-run ball to eventually become the pitcher of record, while another prospect in Yoan Aybar wound up with his first save of the spring by punching out the side in the seventh, which turned out to be the final full inning due to rain.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that did not feature many regulars outside of Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Plawecki was matched up against Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller to begin things on Wednesday.

After going down quietly in the first, the Boston bats picked it back up in the top half of the second, when a one-out double off the bat of Nick Longhi brought a red-hot Jarren Duran to the plate for the first time.

Duran, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, did not waste any time in staying hot, as he took the the third pitch he saw from Keller and deposited a mammoth two-run shot over everything in left field for his first home run of the spring. 2-0.

Fast forward all the way to the fifth, after the Pirates had responded with two runs of their own, and it was another monster home run that gave the Red Sox the lead.

This time, it came with two outs and off the bat of Michael Chavis, who greeted Pirates reliever Robbie Erlin with his first big fly of the spring to make it a 3-2 contest.

In the sixth, Pittsburgh answered yet again to pull themselves back even at three runs a piece, but that did not stop the Sox from putting this one away an inning later.

Yes, thanks to back-to-back walks drawn by Jeter Downs and John Andreoli off of Sam Howard to lead off the frame, Jett Bandy was able to drive in the go-ahead run, Downs, from third on a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Just a few moments later, the slugging Josh Ockimey put the finishing touches on his side’s win by clobbering his second homer of the spring, a line-drive two-run shot pulled down the right field line.

That homer gave the Red Sox a 6-3 advantage, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score after 7 1/2 completed innings due to inclement weather in Bradenton.

Some observations from this win:

After beginning spring training 0-for-his-first-5 with four strikeouts, Michael Chavis went 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk on Wednesday while playing second base.

Kevin Plawecki went 1-for-2 with a walk. Since Jonathan Lucroy has yet to appear in a game, I would say Plawecki has the upper hand in the competition for the backup catcher spot for the time being.

Through three games and eight plate appearances this spring, Jarren Duran owns an OPS of 1.880. Like I have been saying, the most exciting prospect to watch on this team right now.

Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Durbin Feltman get a little work on Wednesday. Too bad he didn’t come back out for the fifth.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Philadelphia Philles at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon.

Right-hander Bryan Mata will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Nick Pivetta will do the same for Philadelphia.

Ranked as the Sox’ No.4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Mata, 20, worked a scoreless second inning against the Rays this past Saturday.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

Red Sox Bring Back Mitch Moreland on One-Year Deal

The Red Sox have brought back free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $3 million deal for the 2020 season. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitching prospect Denyi Reyes was designated for assignment in order to make room for Moreland on the 40-man roster. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

According to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal, Moreland’s new contract will net him $2.5 million in 2020 and also includes a $3 million club option or $500,000 buyout for 2021.

The 34-year-old veteran had spent the previous three seasons with Boston after agreeing to a one-year, $5.5 million deal in December 2016 and a two-year, $13 million deal in December 2017.

Most recently, Moreland slashed .252/.328/.507 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI over 91 games in an injury-riddled campaign this past season.

Since free agency began at the beginning of November, bringing back Moreland always seemed like an appealing option even with the influx of infielders the Red Sox have.

With Moreland returning, the Sox get a familiar veteran presence back at a time when it will more than likely be needed under a new manager. They now also have the ability to platoon the Mississippi native, a left-handed bat, with either of Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec, both right-handed bats, at first base.

Dalbec, the Sox’ No. 2 prospect, might need more time at Triple-A Pawtucket at the start of the season for development or service time purposes, so there will be no need to rush the 24-year-old up now.

Chavis, meanwhile, has the opportunity to hover around the field now without committing to a single position, as noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

As for the other side of this move, Denyi Reyes was ranked as Boston’s No. 26 prospect on MLB.com

The 23-year-old right-hander was a surprising addition to the 40-man roster in November 2018 given how he had yet to pitch past the High-A level.

Making 26 starts for Double-A Portland last year, Reyes posted a 4.16 ERA and .243 batting average against over 151 1/3 innings pitched.

Presumably, the Red Sox would like Reyes to sneak through waivers so that he can remain with the club in a non-40-man roster spot capacity.

Red Sox Designate Sam Travis for Assignment to Make Room on 40-Man Roster for Kevin Plawecki

In a corresponding move to signing catcher Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, major-league deal on Thursday, the Red Sox also announced that first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis had been designated for assignment.

As the above tweet indicates, the addition of Plawecki on a majors deal meant that someone else would need to be removed from the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, and now we know that it is indeed Travis.

Originally drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, the 26-year-old was out of options headed into the spring, meaning he would have had to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

In a career-high 59 games this past season, Travis slashed .215/.274/.382 to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI while playing first base and both corner outfield positions.

There was a stretch during the summer where it looked like the former top prospect was beginning to put it all together (he had an OPS of 1.007 from July 26th to August 20th), but he ultimately fizzled out over the final few weeks of the season.

With this move made, it now appears that Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec are the top two choices to take over first baseman duties for Boston in 2020. A reunion with free agent Mitch Moreland or even bringing in someone like Eric Thames could be in the mix as well.

Like MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. now have seven days to either find a trade partner for Travis, waive him, or release him if nothing comes to fruition. If Travis goes unclaimed, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket and off the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis’ Season Likely Over, Rookie Will Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Red Sox rookie infielder Michael Chavis will more than likely play in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, per his manager Alex Cora. That news came earlier Friday, while Cora also announced that Chavis had been shut down for the remainder of the 2019 regular season.

The 24-year-old has been out of action since August 12th after being diagnosed with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder sustained on this catch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on August 6th.

The Sox sent Chavis out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket back on August 23rd, one in which he went 8-for-30 (.267) over a nine-game span, but he began to felt discomfort in his right oblique while working out in Boston, and that put a real damper on things.

“He was sore the last few days,” Cora said of Chavis on Friday, who did not travel with the team for their weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays. “Too bad he has to end this way. He did his best to get back but obviously we’re going to take care of him.”

Called up for the first time on April 19th, the Georgia native slashed .254/.322/.444 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI over 95 games in his first big league season, playing first, second, and third base.

Going back to that Winter League part, the plan for Chavis is to play for the Criollos de Caguas of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, the hometown team of one Alex Cora.

“Most likely, he’ll go to Caguas and play a month down there,” said Cora. “While he plays, he can stop by my house and we can cook some good Latin food and he can hang with me.”

That quote is really why I wanted to write about this, because it creates quite the visual, in my honest opinion.

According to MassLive.com‘s Chris Cotillo, Chavis will play around the infield while in Puerto Rico per usual, but he will also see playing time in the outfield for the first time.

“He’ll get at-bats,” Cora articulated Friday. “Not too much, only a month if that. I think it’ll be good for him to keep working at his craft and get ready for next year.”

Per MLB.com, the Puerto Rican Winter League typically begins play in the middle of November. Something to look forward to for sure.

Rick Porcello Gives up Two Home Runs, One of Which Being Mike Trout’s First at Fenway Park, as Red Sox Get Blown out by Angels

After blowing out the Los Angeles Angels in a 16-4 victory on Friday night, the Red Sox saw their two-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday, as they fell to the Halos by a final score of 12-4 to drop back down to 62-57 on the season.

Making his 24th start of the season for Boston was Rick Porcello, who came into the weekend fresh off his best outing in weeks in his last time out against the Kansas City Royals.

Working into the sixth inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered five runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and zero walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first three of of those Angels runs came right away in the top half of the first inning, when for the second game in a row, a three-run home run got Los Angeles on the board first.

This one came courtesy of Justin Upton following a leadoff single from Kole Calhoun and one-out double from Shohei Ohtani.

On the fourth pitch he saw from Porcello, Ohtani unloaded on a 1-2, 93 MPH heater and wrapped it around Pesky’s Pole for his seventh home run of the season.

All was not looking well for Porcello early on, but the New Jersey native settled in nicely after serving up that bomb by stringing together 14 consecutive outs from the top of the first until the middle of the fifth.

Unfortunately for Boston though, Calhoun broke up that string with a leadoff single in the sixth, and Mike Trout followed that up by doing something he had yet to do in his career before Saturday, that being hit a home run at Fenway Park.

Yes, it took 22 games at Fenway to do so, but Trout clearly liked the first pitch he saw from his fellow statesman, a 90 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate, in his third at-bat of the day, and he deposited it 428 feet over the Green Monster.

Trout’s 39th homer of the year put the Angels up 5-1, and Porcello’s evening quickly came to a close as the two-time American League MVP was making the jog back to his dugout after rounding the bases.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 75 (54 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his two-seam fastball nearly 35% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing three swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 21 times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately falling to 10-9 while inflating his ERA on the season up to 5.67, Porcello did not pitch poorly on Saturday. It’s just that the two biggest mistakes he made went for long home runs with men already on base. He’ll look to re-gain that Kansas City form in his next time out, which should come against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

In relief of Porcello, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez entered the sixth with the bases empty and three outs to get, and he got those three outs while working his way around a walk as well.

The seventh inning is where this contest fell apart for the Red Sox. Hernandez came back out for his second frame of work with his team in a three-run hole.

Despite the decently positive results in the sixth, the 22-year-old lost control in the seventh, as he allowed the Luis Rengifo, Kevan Smith, Wilfredo Tovar, and Calhoun to all reach base without recording an out.

Tovar drove in Rengifo on third with an RBI single, and Calhoun drew a walk on five pitches to fill the bases, which ended up being the point where Hernandez could no longer continue.

Instead, Hector Velazquez was inserted into this particular jam, and he proceeded to bean the first man he faced in Trout, digging the hole even deeper at 7-2.

A two-run single from Ohtani and sacrifice fly off the bat of Upton increased the Angels’ lead to eight runs, and David Fletcher plated a pair despite not recording an RBI on a single that got past Sam Travis in left field, which in turn allowed Ohtani and Matt Thaiss to score and make it a 12-2 game.

From that point, Velazquez got the final two outs of the seventh without allowing another run to score, while Ryan Weber retired six of the eight hitters he faced over two scoreless frames of relief in the eighth and ninth to hold the Angels at 12 runs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney, another former Miami Marlins prospect who had been out since July 16th due to inflammation in his throwing elbow.

Starting the scoring in the bottom half of the third inning, a Jackie Bradley Jr. HBP and Mookie Betts single that Upton misplayed in left field put runners in scoring position with no outs for the middle-part of Boston’s order.

Xander Bogaerts was unable to do anything, as he flew out to shallow right field, but J.D. Martinez was able to load the bases by taking a 1-2, 80 MPH curveball off his left foot.

That HBP brought Sam Travis to the plate in a prime run-scoring spot, and he managed to bring Bradley Jr. in from third on a sacrifice fly to left to cut the early deficit down to two runs at 3-1.

Still with runners at first and second, Christian Vazquez killed any shot of extending the rally by flying out to Upton in left to end the inning.

In the fourth, back-to-back two-out singles from Sandy Leon and Bradley Jr. set up Mookie Betts nicely against new Angels reliever Taylor Cole, but all the reigning American League MVP could do was fly out to right for the third and final out.

Fast forward to the sixth, with Brock Holt at second following a one-out double, Bradley Jr. at first following a two-out walk and former Red Sox prospect Ty Buttrey on the mound for Los Angeles, Betts came through this time with a line-drive RBI double to score Holt from second and trim the Halos’ lead to three runs at 5-2.

5-2 was the closest the Sox got though, as the Angels exploded for seven runs of their own in their half of the seventh.

Travis and Michael Chavis responded in the bottom half of the frame with a solo homer and run-scoring groundout off of JC Ramirez to make it a 12-4 contest, but that would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left 11 men on base as a team.

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

So, the mini two-game winning streak for the Red Sox has come to an end. They’ll look to close out this six-game homestand with a series win over the Angels on Sunday afternoon before heading to Cleveland.

Right-hander Andrew Cashner is set to get the ball for Boston, while left-hander Patrick Sandoval will do the same for Los Angeles.

Since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles last month, Cashner has taken the loss in four of his first five starts with the Red Sox. He has posted a 7.53 ERA over 28 2/3 innings of work in that span.

In his career against the Angels, the 32-year-old owns a lifetime 3.27 ERA and .259 batting average against over six total appearances (three starts) and 22 innings pitched.

Sandoval, meanwhile, will be making his firs career big league start in his second appearance after yielding two runs over five innings of relief in his big league debut against the Cincinnati Reds this past Monday.

Ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the Angels’ farm system, Sandoval, 22, posted a 5.71 ERA and .290 batting average against over 19 starts between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake before getting called up on August 5th.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the series win.