That Time Justin Turner Nearly Signed Minor-League Deal With Red Sox

Justin Turner has been one of the best third basemen in the National League since joining the Dodgers in 2014.

Over the past six seasons, the 35-year-old owns a slash line of .302/.381/.506 with 112 home runs. 383 RBI, one All-Star nod, and three top-15 finishes in NL MVP voting.

As impressive as those numbers may be, Turner’s rise to stardom was far from expected prior to signing with Los Angeles.

A former seventh-round draft pick of the Reds in 2006 out of Cal State Fullerton, Turner’s stay in Cincinnati’s farm system did not last long, as he was part of the trade that sent veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez from Baltimore to the Reds in December 2008.

Making his major-league debut with the Orioles the following September, in a game against the Red Sox, Turner went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and did not do much in a limited role the remainder of the 2009 season.

The 2010 campaign marked a period of turbulence for Turner. He was called up and sent down by the Orioles on three separate occasions before being designated for assignment on May 21st of that year.

Four days later, the Long Beach native found himself a member of the New York Mets after the club had claimed him off waivers, and he reported to Triple-A Buffalo.

Turner got his first real crack with New York in April 2011, and he emerged as a solid utility player who could come off the bench and play multiple positions around the infield.

In terms of bWAR, Turner’s 2012 season was just about identical to what he did in 2011, albeit in 23 fewer games. His 2013 season, in which he was limited to 86 games due to a hamstring injury, was even better using that same metric, but the Mets made the ultimate decision to non-tender the infielder that December rather than pay him the $800,000 he was projected to earn in 2014.

“Don’t assume every non-tender is a function of money,” ex-Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said at the time when asked about Turner being released by New York. Apparently, there were reports that Mets brass questioned Turner’s motivation and lack of hustle.

Despite those reports, Turner was a coveted minor-league free agent in the months following his release. The Red Sox were one of those teams that were interested in his services.

Per WEEI’s John Tomase, who now covers the Red Sox for NBC Sports Boston, former Sox general manager Ben Cherington made a “hard push” to land Turner, and the two sides nearly agreed to a deal. That is, until the Dodgers and Ned Coletti came calling.

“I had to make a decision by midnight or the next morning and the Dodgers called that night,” Turner told Tomase prior to the start of the 2018 World Series. “At the time, it was between the Red Sox and the Twins. Obviously Boston was a world class organization with a lot of good young players and a general manager that expressed his interest in really wanting me to be here. There were a lot of good things coming out of it. I was honestly getting excited about it and looking forward to it.”

With that excitement for Turner also came concern in how the Red Sox utilized their role players under then-manager John Farrell. The Dodgers, meanwhile, showed more of a willingness to use bench players, as would be expected from most National League clubs.

“One of the deciding factors between Boston and L.A., Don Mattingly used his bench players a lot,” Turner said. “You look at Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker and Michael Young all having 300 at-bats the season before as utility players. And then you look at the Boston bench guys having 70 at-bats, 80 at-bats.”

The opportunity to play more, as well as the chance to remain in the National League, ultimately won Turner over, and he inked a minor-league pact with the Dodgers that February.

““Going into free agency that year, my main goal was to stay in the National League for the opportunity to be a utility guy and still get to play,” he said. “So when the Dodgers came into the picture, that kind of answered the question for me, made it not as difficult a choice, although I was excited and looking forward to possibly being a Red Sox.”

As previously mentioned, Turner went onto blossom into a star third baseman with Los Angeles and is now entering the final year of the four-year, $64 million extension he signed in December 2016.

Having failed to sign Turner in 2014, Cherington went out and made a big splash later that same calendar year by bringing in free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval on a five-year, $95 million contract.

Sandoval flopped with Boston, and was ultimately designated for assignment and later released on July 19th of the 2017 season. At that same time, Turner was fresh off making his first career All-Star team.

The Red Sox have since found their third baseman of the future in the form of 23-year-old Rafael Devers, but it’s still interesting to look back and wonder what ripple effects signing Turner could have had on the club in 2020 and beyond.

 

Little League International Cancels 2020 World Series, 2020 MLB Little League Classic Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

One day after the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum cancelled its 2020 induction weekend this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little League International announced on Thursday afternoon that its World Series and regional tournaments later this year have also been cancelled for the same reason.

Per an official release, Little League president and CEO Stephen D. Keener said, “This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events. After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now, and with direction from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, as well as senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where our other six World Series are held, as well as the their qualifying regional tournaments, it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years.”

In total, seven Little League World Series events and 82 corresponding regional qualifying tournaments have all been cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has effectively shut down American sports since March.

The Red Sox this season were supposed to take on the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth-annual MLB Little League Classic at BB&T Ballpark in Williamsport, Pa. on August 23rd. That event, which allows players on both sides to spend time and make memories for hundreds of little-leaguers, has also been cancelled as part of Thursday’s announcement from Little League International, although MLB has already committed to returning to Williamsport in 2021.

Since its inception in 1947, the Little League World Series has never before had to be cancelled until now.

“Delivering this news comes with a very heavy heart. We have never had to cancel our World Series tournaments, but, right now, as our world comes together, we must do everything we can to help stem the spread of this deadly virus,” said Little League board of directors chairman Hugh E. Tanner. “While we take this pause from the World Series and Regional Tournaments this summer, we are committed to working with our volunteers and staff to continue to provide an unparalleled youth sports experience to all children and be back stronger than ever in 2021.”

 

Former Red Sox Right-Hander Hector Velazquez Claimed off Waivers by Orioles

Three days after he was designated for assignment, former Red Sox right-hander Hector Velazquez was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

The 31-year-old was initially designated in order for Boston to make room on their 40-man roster for fellow right-hander Collin McHugh, who they signed to a one-year deal on Thursday.

Velazquez had spent the previous three seasons with the Red Sox after his contract was purchased from the Mexican League’s Pirates de Campeche in February 2017.

Over those three years, Velazquez worked as both a starter and a reliever, posting a 3.90 ERA and 4.41 FIP over 89 appearances (19 starts) and 166 total innings pitched.

The native of Mexico served as an important member of the World Series-winning team in 2018, which has by far been his best season in the majors to this point, but he also experienced a great deal of struggle in 2019, a year in which he was shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket on several occasions.

Having brought on a plethora of pitching depth in Chaim Bloom’s first offseason as chief baseball officer, Velazquez probably became more and more expandable, and he ultimately lost his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster spot late last week.

Of course, it is unfortunate that he was not able to sneak through waivers like Brian Johnson did last November, but it will be fascinating to see how Velazquez fares with a new organization.

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.

 

Josh Ockimey Homers as Red Sox Fall to Orioles in First Loss of Spring

After opening up Grapefruit League play with a 4-3 win over the Rays on Saturday, the Red Sox took to the road for the first time this spring and fell to the Orioles in Sarosata by a final score of 11-5.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston was Chris Mazza, who was originally scheduled to pitch in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez, but because Rodriguez was pushed back a day due to left knee soreness, Mazza got the nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Working the first two innings of this one, the right-hander yielded one earned run on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

That one O’s run came in the bottom half of the second, when after working his way around a bases-loaded jam in the first, Mazza allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, setting up Stevie Wilkerson to knock in his side’s first tally on an RBI groundout to short.

The 30-year-old Mazza did manage to escape the second without giving anything else up, but it was far from a solid first impression for someone vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation.

From there, pitching did not get any easier for Boston, as newly-acquired left-hander Matt Hall surrendered a pair of runs in the third, Emmanuel De Jesus tossed a scoreless fourth, Bobby Poyner and Yoan Aybar gave up another pair of runs each in the fifth and sixth, Jhonathan Diaz was only able to record the first two outs of the seventh while being walloped for four runs (three earned), Adam Lau retired the only hitter he faced to record the final out of the seventh, and Konner Wade worked a perfect eighth to at least end things on a somewhat positive note.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender 11 runs on 15 hits and eight walks over eight total innings of work. It’s only the beginning stages of spring training, but that does not make those numbers any easier to look at.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured several regulars on Saturday did not look quite the same on Sunday.

A familiar foe in left-hander Wade LeBlanc started things out for the Orioles by working two scoreless frames, and it wasn’t until the top half of the fourth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, top outfield prospect Jarren Duran led things off against new O’s reliever Brandon Bailey by lacing a leadoff triple to the deepest part of the yard in center field, mere feet away from his first home run of the spring.

That brought Kevin Plawecki to the plate with the chance to make an impact as he vies for the backup catcher spot, and he did just that by driving in Duran from third on an RBI groundout to first. 3-1.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the ninth, with this one already well out of reach, and the Sox staged a rally similar to the one the Rays put on against them the day prior.

A leadoff double off the bat of Cole Sturgeon, followed by a walk drawn by Ryan Fitzgerald put runners in scoring position with no outs for Tate Matheny.

Matheny may have struck out, but a wild pitch from Orioles hurler Evan Phillips during his at-bat allowed Sturgeon and Matheny to advance 90 feet for Nick Longhi.

Phillips’ wildness persisted, as Sturgeon crossed the plate on another wild pitch and Fitzgerald scored on a run-scoring groundout from Longhi. 11-3.

A walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Keith Curcio marked the conclusion of Phillips’ day for Baltimore, and in came right-hander Francisco Jimenez to replace him.

Jimenez was promptly greeted by slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey, who unloaded on a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate and deposited it deep over the fence in right field for the Red Sox’ first home run of the spring.

That two-run blast cut Boston’s deficit to six runs at 11-5, which would go on to be Sunday’s final score after the rally was cut short.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox will not go the entire year without a loss.

Jarren Duran is emerging as one of the more exciting players to watch on this team this spring. With his speed and athleticism, it’s easy to see why he was selected to the Futures Game last year.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action on Monday against the Rays and Twins.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start against Minnesota at the nearby CenturyLink Sports Complex, while top right-handed pitching prospect Tanner Houck will do the same against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will throw a simulated game on one of the Fenway South back fields on Monday.

For the Twins, it will be right-hander Kenta Maeda getting the start. And for the Rays, it will be righty Yonny Chirinos.

First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST, although neither game will be on NESN.

Red Sox Open Grapefruit League Play With 4-3 Win Over Rays

After opening up their spring with a 3-0 seven-inning win over the Northeastern Huskies on Friday, the Red Sox kicked it up a notch and began Grapefruit League play with a tight 4-3 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Saturday.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who is now off the Sox’ 40-man roster and is at big-league camp as a non-roster invite.

The left-hander only worked the first inning Saturday, and he capped a perfect opening frame off with his only strikeout of the afternoon.

From there, top pitching prospect Bryan Mata worked his way around a one-out single and walk drawn by the Rays with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the second, Colten Brewer fanned three and plunked another in a scoreless third, lefty Josh Osich retired all three hitters he faced in order in the fourth, Mike Kickham got himself out of a bases-loaded jam and kept Tampa Bay off the board in the fifth, Mike Shawaryn punched out one and stranded another in a quick sixth frame, Domingo Tapia did the same in the seventh, and Matthew Kent held his own in the eighth.

By the time this contest reached the beginning of the ninth, the Red Sox had themselves a brand new four-run lead to work with while Kent came back out for his second inning of work.

Despite that comfortable cushion, things did get tight, as the Rays pushed across three runs against Kent and Matthew Gorst before right fielder Tyler Esplin put an end to things on a fly ball off the bat of Vidal Brujan with two outs in the frame.

Had he misjudged the trajectory of the ball, Ryan LaMarre, who was on first, would have more than likely scored and we would have had ourselves a whole new ballgame. Instead, the 2017 seventh-round pick put his athleticism on full display to secure the 4-3 win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured plenty of regulars to begin things on Saturday.

Andrew Benintendi led things off in the first with a single en route to a 1-for-2 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. fanned twice, J.D. Martnez went 0-for-1 with a walk, Michael Chavis punched out in each of his two plate appearances, Kevin Pillar, Jose Peraza, and top prospect Bobby Dalbec all went 0-for-2, Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a leadoff single in the third, and catcher Jett Bandy followed that with a single of his own in his lone plate appearance of the afternoon.

Similar to Friday’s opener, it was another quiet day for the Boston bats. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth when they finally pushed a run across.

There, with two outs and a runner on second following a walk and wild pitch, Brett Netzer drove in his side’s first run on an RBI pop-up single off of Joe Ryan that did not travel further than the outskirts of the left side of the infield.

A ball that probably should have been caught instead went for a hit, and since there were two outs, the runner, Josh Ockimey, was able to score all the way from second because of it. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and back-to-back run-scoring knocks off the bats of Jagger Rusconi and Nick Lovullo with one out increased that advantage up to three runs.

A walk drawn by Dylan Hardy put runners on the corners for Grant Williams, who grounded out to second base off new Rays reliever Phoenix Sanders while Lovullo scored from third. However, Hardy tried to advance to third on the play and he was tagged out, thus ending the inning with Boston up 4-0.

A late rally from the Rays would threaten that lead, but the Red Sox were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth to take their Grapefruit League opener by a final score of 4-3.

Some notes from this win:

Spring training numbers don’t really matter, so I’ll just say that the Red Sox are undefeated in 2020. Haha!

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel out to Sarasota to take on the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was slated to start for Boston, but he has since been pushed back a day after twisting his left knee in a bullpen session on Wednesday. Instead, right-hander Chris Mazza will get the starting nod.

Claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December, Mazza is in the mix for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc will start for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr. Takes Home MLB Network’s Top Play of 2019

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s jaw-dropping, home run-robbing catch against the Baltimore Orioles was named MLB Network’s play of the 2019 season on Sunday night.

The catch, which came back on May 8th, robbed O’s outfielder Trey Mancini of a potential walk-off solo shot off of right-hander Ryan Brasier in the 11th inning of a 1-1 contest. The Red Sox would go on to win the game by a final score of 2-1 in 12 innings.

Per Statcast, Bradley Jr. only had a 27% chance of making that catch off a fly ball that had an exit velocity of 101.5 MPH off of Mancini’s bat.

The 29-year-old Bradley Jr. was responsible for two other plays on MLB Network’s Top 100, while Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and Chris Sale also made the cut.

After taking home his first career Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders in 2018, Bradley Jr. finished behind Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier for the award this year.

With trade rumors continuing to build, 2019 very well may have been Bradley Jr.’s last season in Boston. In his time with the Sox, the former 2011 first round pick has put together quite the highlight reel of outstanding plays in the outfield.

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.

Xander Bogaerts and J.D Martinez Both Homer but Red Sox Drop Second Straight to Orioles

After managing just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak increase to three on Saturday, as they fell to the O’s by a final score of 9-4 to guarantee at best a series loss at Fenway Park to cap off the 2019 season.

Making his fifth and final start of the season for Boston was Jhoulys Chacin, who came into the weekend having given up four runs in back-to-back outings.

Working into the third inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered another four runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first pair of those Baltimore tallies came right away in the top half of the first, when with no outs and Jonathan Villar at second following a leadoff double, D.J Stewart unloaded on a 1-1, down and in, 91 MPH four-seam fastball from Chacin and sent it 408 feet over the Orioles’ bullpen to get his side on the board early.

An inning later, after the Sox offense pushed across three runs of their own in their half of the first, the home run ball came back to bite Chacin once more, as the Venezuela native served up a one-out solo shot to Richie Martin off a 1-1, 90 MPH two-seamer on the inner half of the plate. 3-3 ballgame.

In what would turn out to be his final frame, Chacin was just one out away from getting through three full, but he could not sneak a 1-0, 91 MPH two-seamer past a seemingly red-hot Renato Nunez, who proceeded to crush his second homer of the series to make it a 4-3 contest.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 60 (38 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler relied on his slider nearly 52% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing five swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 91.7 MPH with his heater, a pitch he threw nine times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Ultimately getting hit with his 12th loss while raising his ERA on the year up to 6.01, Chacin’s tenure with the Red Sox may indeed be over.

Since inking a minor-league deal with the club in late August, the ex-Milwaukee Brewer posted a 7.36 ERA in six outings (five starts) and 14 2/3 innings pitched with Boston.

In relief of Chacin, left-hander Bobby Poyner entered the top of the third with one out to get, and he walked Chris Davis on six pitches before doing just that.

From there, Heath Hembree fanned one in a perfect fourth inning, Ryan Brasier walked one and punched out two in a scoreless fifth, Andrew Cashner struggled and yielded four runs on five hits while only recording the first two outs of the sixth, Colten Brewer retired the side in the sixth before tossing a scoreless seventh, and Josh Smith walked one in the eighth before getting taken deep by Trey Mancini in the ninth to increase his side’s deficit to five at 9-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up a fairly familiar foe in Orioles rookie left-hander John Means, someone who held them to two runs over six innings the last time he faced them back on July 19th.

Down by two runs before even taking their first at-bats, Jackie Bradley Jr. quickly got things going in the bottom half of the first with a leadoff single.

Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts knotted things up with one swing of the bat, as he came through with his 33rd home run of the season, this one coming off a 2-2, 81 MPH changeup from Means and being hit a projected 414 feet over the Green Monster.

Before fans even had the chance to settle down from that two-run blast, J.D. Martinez followed suit by mashing his 36th big fly of the year, a 389-foot bomb, to put the Sox in front at 3-2.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it looked as though the top half of the lineup was about to come through again, with Rafael Devers representing the tying run at second and Bogaerts the go-ahead at first with two outs and Martinez coming to the plate.

A las, Martinez could not deliver this time up, as he flew out deep to right and would wind up being the last hitter Means faced.

An inning later, a leadoff walk drawn by Sam Travis against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong in a now five-run game would result in another Boston run coming across to score with Sandy Leon picking up his 19th ribbie of 2019 on a bloop of a two-out RBI single. 8-4.

In the seventh, a one-out single from Bogaerts followed by a one-out walk from Martinez and fielder’s choice off the bat of Travis put runners at second and third for Brock Holt against right-hander Branden Kline.

Having never faced Kline before Saturday, all Holt could do was ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, thus killing another shot at a potential rally.

And after squandering another chance in the eighth, Devers, Bogaerts, and Martinez went down in order in the ninth, as 9-4 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 nine men on base as a team.

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

Well, this is it. One last game to wrap up what has been an underwhelming World Series-defending campaign.

In terms of season milestones, Mookie Betts is one homer away from 30, Rafael Devers is two hits away from 200, and Sunday’s starter Eduardo Rodriguez is 3 2/3 innings away from 200 and one win away from 20.

Through three starts against Baltimore this season, Rodriguez is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.29 and OPS against of .522 over 21 total innings pitched.

The Orioles’ starter for Sunday, meanwhile, will be former Red Sox prospect Chandler Shepherd.

The 27-year-old right-hander was designated by Boston back on May 17th of this year in order to add catcher Oscar Hernandez to the 40-man roster when Sandy Leon was placed on the paternity leave list.

In four appearances (two starts) for Baltimore, Shepherd owns a 7.71 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 14 total innings of work.

Sunday could very well be the last time we see the core members of the 2018 Red Sox on the field together.

Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and Rick Porcello are all soon-to-be free agents, J.D. Martinez could opt out of his current deal to become a free agent, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. may be traded, and even though he will not be playing, Steve Pearce might retire from baseball.

With all this uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox headed into the offseason, Sunday will provide us with one last chance to soak it all in.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 3:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to end the season on a high note.

 

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.