Powered by strong performances from Alex Verdugo and Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox extend winning streak to 9 consecutive games with 7-1 victory over Twins to sweep doubleheader

A half-hour intermission between games during Wednesday’s doubleheader at Target Field could not slow Alex Verdugo down, as the outfielder once again played a key role in the Red Sox’ 7-1 victory over the Twins in Game 2 of the twin bill.

After making a game-saving catch for the final out of the day cap, Verdugo picked up where he left off by going 3-for-4 at the plate in the night cap.

Matched up against another tough opponent in Twins right-hander Jose Berrios, it took the Sox offense as a whole some time to get going on Wednesday, but they eventually broke through in the fifth.

There, already trailing by a run, a one-out single off the bat of Bobby Dalbec filled the bases for Franchy Cordero, who proceeded to draw a four-pitch walk to drive in his side’s first run of the night.

The Twins then pulled Berrios for Tyler Duffey, though the stalemate they had put themselves in did not last all that long.

That being the case because with two outs in the frame and the bases still loaded, Verdugo drilled a two-run, go-ahead single to right field to give the Sox their first lead of the night.

A wild pitch from Duffey allowed Cordero to score from third to make it a 4-1 contest, and two more walks once again filled the bases for Rafael Devers.

Devers, who led off the top of the fifth with a double, greeted new Twins left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar by lacing a two-run single to right, which gave the Red Sox a 6-1 edge in the late stages.

Verdugo provided some insurance in the seventh by taking Thielbar deep to right field on a a down-and-in fastball for his second home run of the season.

The 24-year-old’s 406-foot blast put Boston up 7-1, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Rodriguez pulls it together for 5 strong frames

Another game, another Red Sox starter providing five solid innings of work on Wednesday.

This time around, it was Eduardo Rodriguez’s time to shine, as the left-hander held the Twins to just one run on five hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts in his second start of the young season.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (51 strikes), the 28-year-old ultimately improved to 2-0 following Wednesday’s impressive showing. His next start should come against the Mariners on Tuesday.

Pair of rookies wrap things up

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock came on for his first appearance in six days and needed all of 10 pitches to retire the three hitters he faced in order in the sixth.

From there, another rookie reliever — Eduard Bazardo — got the call for the seventh inning in what was his big-league debut.

The 25-year-old righty out of Venezuela was called up from Boston’s alternate training site to serve as the club’s 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader.

He worked his way around two walks and picked up his first major-league strikeout en route to preserving the 7-1 victory for the Sox.

Next up: Last game of road trip

After sweeping Wednesday’s twin bill and extending their winning streak to nine consecutive games, the Red Sox will go for the four-game sweep over the reeling Twins on Thursday afternoon.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be getting the ball for Boston in the series finale, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Michael Pineda.

First pitch Thursday (also Jackie Robinson Day) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their 10th straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec comes through with 2 clutch hits, Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers both homer as Red Sox come back to defeat Twins, 4-2, and pick up seventh straight win

An unexpected off-day on Monday and frigid, snowy conditions in Minneapolis on Tuesday could not halt the Red Sox’ early-season momentum, as the club extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games following a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Improving to 7-3 to start the 2021 campaign, the Sox become the first team since the 1991 Mariners to begin a season with a losing streak of three-plus games and follow it by winning seven-plus games in a row.

Tuesday’s win in Minnesota was not easy to come by. The Sox were held off the scoreboard until the fifth inning and did not plate the go-ahead run until their half of the eighth.

Bobby Dalbec was responsible for the two-most important Boston runs of the afternoon.

The 25-year-old slugger came into the week in the midst of a 3-for-25 slump to begin his first season in the majors, but came through in the clutch during his first visit to Target Field by driving in the tying and go-ahead runs on a pair of RBI doubles in the fifth and eighth innings.

Christian Arroyo was the one who scored on both of those two-base hits from Dalbec. The young second baseman enjoyed a successful day at the plate batting out of the eight-hole, as he he went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.

Arroyo also turned a nifty double play in the sixth when he fielded a 105 mph scorcher off the bat of Andrelton Simmons while playing in a defensive shift behind second base.

Renfroe gets on the board while Devers stays hot

Before Dalbec’s heroics, the Red Sox first got on the board courtesy of Hunter Renfroe.

With two outs in the top half of the fifth, the right-handed power threat that is Renfroe took a 1-1 slider from Twins starter J.A. Happ 416 feet deep to dead center field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Fast forward to the ninth, after Boston had already taken a 3-2 lead over Minnesota, and Rafael Devers wrapped things up by extending his homer-streak to four consecutive games.

The 24-year-old deposited a 1-2, 89 mph slider from Twins reliever Jorge Alcala 404 feet over the left field wall — with an exit velocity of 108.4 mph off the bat — for his fifth big fly of the season.

Perez gets off to shaky start, but pulls through with five strong frames

Martin Perez’s second start of the year looked like it was going to be a short one, for the veteran southpaw allowed four of the first six hitters he faced on Tuesday to reach base.

Command issues for Perez resulted in the Twins jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first, but the Venezuelan-born hurler was able to settle in once he got more adjusted to the freezing temperatures.

That being the case because over his final four innings of work, Perez only faced more than four hitters in one frame on one occasion en route to keeping his former team off the board through the end of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 88 (49 strikes), Perez’s next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Bullpen holds steady, preserves winning streak

Between Hirokazu Sawamura, Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Matt Barnes, the Red Sox bullpen combined to toss four scoreless, one-hit innings of relief on Wednesday afternoon.

Barnes, in particular, was sharp once again as the right-hander needed all of 14 pitches to retire the side in order in the ninth, pick up his first save of the season, and preserve his side’s 4-2 series-opening win.

Next up: Straight doubleheader on Wednesday

The Red Sox and Twins will be playing a straight doubleheader on Wednesday to make up for Monday’s game being postponed.

Each game of the twin-bill will be seven innings long with the second contest beginning approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston in Game 1, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Kenta Maeda.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will start Game 2 for the Sox. He will be opposed by Twins ace right-hander Jose Berrios.

First pitch of the first game Wednesday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their eighth straight win, and then their ninth if they come out on top in Game 1.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez named American League Player of the Week

Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez has been named American League Player of the Week for the week of April 5-11, Major League Baseball announced Monday.

Over the course of five games against the Rays and Orioles this past week, Martinez slashed a sizzling .458/.500/1.125 with four home runs and 13 RBI.

The 33-year-old slugger missed one of his team’s six games as a result of being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list on Saturday, but that absence would wind up being very short.

Returning to Boston’s lineup for their series finale against Baltimore on Sunday, Martinez went 4-for-6 at the plate while clubbing three home runs, collecting four RBI, and scoring four times.

By capping off his weekend with that dominant performance at Camden Yards, the three-time All-Star became just the fifth player in major-league history to put together a three-homer game for three different teams (Tigers, Diamondbacks, Red Sox).

Taking this past weekend’s showing into consideration, Martinez now owns a slash line of .472/.500/1.083 to go along with five home runs and 16 RBI through his first eight games and 38 plate appearances of the young season.

“He’s locked in, you can tell,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Martinez’s torrid start. “He is walking around talking hitting. This is a guy I saw in ‘18 and ‘19, he has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process. I know he talked about last year and he’s on a mission to prove people wrong, but it was only 60 games. He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”

For as dismal a 2020 campaign Martinez had (.680 OPS in 54 games), the first week-plus of the 2021 season has been encouraging to say the least.

Despite the record-setting start in which he has recorded an extra-base hit in eight straight games, though, Martinez himself tries not to pay too much attention to it.

“Honestly, for me, I don’t even notice it. I really try not to,” he said on Sunday. “You guys know how I am. I repeat the same things over and over to you guys. I think the moment you’re aware of it, you’re no longer in it. So I try to not be aware of it and just focus on the small tasks. Focus on my game plan off certain pitchers and what I’m trying to do. That’s how I kind of control the whole thing.”

Martinez taking home American League Player of the Week honors marks the first time a member of the Red Sox has done so since Rafael Devers in August 2019.

On the National League side of things, Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove was the recipient of Player of the Week honors after throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history against the Rangers on Friday.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers combine for 6 homers as Red Sox tee off on Orioles, 14-9, to complete sweep and pick up sixth straight win

In the span of a week, the Red Sox of have gone from getting swept by the Orioles in their ballpark to sweeping the Orioles in their own ballpark.

Following a 14-7 victory over Baltimore at Camden Yards on Sunday, Boston extended its winning streak to six consecutive games after sweeping the first leg of their seven-game road trip.

J.D. Martinez leads the way with three homers

After being held out of action on Saturday while in Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol, J.D. Martinez made his return to the Red Sox lineup felt upon getting reinstated from the COVID-related injured list on Sunday.

The 33-year-old slugger went 4-for-6 with three home runs, four runs driven in, and four runs scored batting out of the three-hole.

The three homers, which came off Orioles starter Jorge Lopez and relievers Mac Sceroler and Taylor Wells, traveled 372 feet, 382 feet, and 430 feet, respectively.

Martinez’s first multi-homer game of the year and his first three-homer game as a member of the Red Sox brought the right-handed hitter’s season home run total up to five.

Devers homers twice, Verdugo once

While Martinez led the way for the Sox in the power department on Sunday, the three-time All-Star was not alone in regards to taking the ball out of the park.

That being the case because a pair of left-handed hitters — Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo — combined to go deep three times off O’s pitching to close out the weekend.

Devers, who came into the day having homered in each of his team’s first two games of the weekend, extended that personal streak to three games by clubbing a 424-foot two-run shot off Sceroler in the fifth.

The 24-year-old also crushed a solo homer 439 feet to deep center field off Orioles right-hander in the eighth to up his season total to four.

Verdugo, meanwhile, actually got the Sox on the board first when after Franchy Cordero and Enrique Hernandez led off the third with a pair of singles, the 24-year-old outfielder got revenge on Lopez after getting plunked in the leg in his first trip to the plate.

He got his revenge on Lopez by depositing a 400-foot three-run blast to the opposite field.

Verdugo’s first big fly of the 2021 campaign gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Martinez would follow with his first of three homers on the day, and Boston would not have to look back from there.

Pivetta remains unbeaten

Nick Pivetta has yet to lose a start as a member of the Red Sox. That trend continued on Sunday when the 28-year-old allowed four earned runs on seven hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings of work.

To say things went smoothly for Pivetta in this one would be a stretch, but the right-hander was able to limit the damage by putting his body on the line and tagging Freddy Galvis out at home for the final out of the third inning.

From there, Pivetta seemed to be on his way to putting six innings of one-run ball but a former Phillies teammate of his had different plans.

With one out and runners on the corners in the sixth, Maikel Franco took Pivetta deep to left for a three-run shot.

That presumably left a sour taste in Pivetta’s mouth, but the 6-foot-5 hurler was able to finish the inning and later picked up his second winning decision of the season. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Friday.

Bullpen bends, but does not break

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Brice walked the first two hitters he faced in the seventh before serving up a three-run blast to Trey Mancini.

Hirokazu Sawamura had to come on to finish the seventh, and the righty worked his way around a two-out walk over a scoreless frame of relief in the eighth as well.

Phillips Valdez wrapped things up, though he gave up two runs needed 36 pitches (21 strikes) to do so and preserve the 14-19 victory for his side.

Next up: Perez vs. Happ

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to Minnesota to begin a four-game series against the dangerous Twins.

Monday’s series opener will include a starting pitching matchup that features two veteran left-handers, with Martin Perez getting the ball for Boston and J.A. Happ doing the same for Minnesota.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their seventh straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero, and Enrique Hernandez: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rafael Devers turns impressive double play to get Red Sox out of early trouble Sunday

Hours after making a game-saving defensive play with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was at it again with his glove on Sunday.

With Nick Pivetta on the mound for Boston, D.J. Stewart at first base following a leadoff single, and Maikel Franco at the plate with no outs in the bottom of the second, Devers’ quick reflexes were truly his ally on this particular play.

On a 1-1 slider at the top of the zone from Pivetta, Franco laced a line-drive that had an exit velocity of 103.6 mph and was destined to land in shallow left field were it not for Devers.

Already playing well behind the third-base bag, the 24-year-old — with his back facing home plate — quickly scurried to his left, snagged Franco’s screamer on the back-hand for a forceout, then had the intuition to turn, line up his feet, and make a cross-diamond throw over to first.

Stewart, having taken a few steps off of first, was now forced to retreat back to the bag, but he was unable to do so in a timely manner and was instead doubled up on Devers’ hurl and some fine footwork from first baseman Bobby Dalbec.

For the Red Sox, Devers’ improved play at the hot corner as of late is an encouraging sign given how he struggled out of the gate defensively.

“He’s been doing a good job the last few days,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the young third baseman Saturday night. “It was a rough start early on but he’s made better decisions and we’re very happy with the way he’s been playing.”

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards tosses 5 solid innings after rocky start; Rafael Devers homers again; Matt Andriese picks up save as Red Sox battle back to defeat Orioles, 6-4, in 10 innings for fifth straight win

An off-day on Friday could not halt the Red Sox’ momentum on Saturday, as the club battled back, won its fifth consecutive game, and won its second straight series with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in 10 innings at Camden Yards.

Richards stumbles out of the gates, but turns in solid performance

After getting rocked for six runs over just two innings against the O’s in his Red Sox debut last Sunday, Garrett Richards did not get off to the best of starts in his second outing of the season on Saturday

Gifted a two-run lead before he even took the mound, the veteran right-hander served up a pair of solo homers to the very second and third hitters he faced in Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander.

At that point, it appeared as though Richards was in for a rather long — or short — evening. To his credit, though, he managed to turn things around for the better by retiring 14 of the next 18 hitters he faced in order to get through five innings.

Over those five solid frames, the 32-year-old hurler surrendered all of two earned runs on three hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (47 strikes), Richards relied on his four-seam fastball 49% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch.

Unable to pick up the winning decision despite the decent performance, Richards’ next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota on Thursday.

Ottavino gives up late lead

In relief of Richards, Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The left-hander danced his way around some trouble in a scoreless bottom half of the sixth and recorded the first out of the seventh before yielding a hard-hit double to the speedy Cedric Mullins.

That led to Hernandez getting the hook in favor of Adam Ottavino, who managed to escape the jam by getting two quick outs.

The eighth inning, however, was a different story for Adam Ottavino, as the veteran reliever saw his side’s 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit after surrendering two runs on three hits in the frame. Josh Taylor had to come on to get the final two outs.

Dalbec, Barnes send things to extras

After falling behind by a run in the eighth, the Sox did not waste any time getting back into things in the top half of the ninth.

One-out singles from Marwin Gonzalez and the pinch-hitting Franchy Cordero off O’s reliever Cesar Valdez put runners at the corners for a struggling Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec was unable to come through with a go-ahead hit or clutch sacrifice fly, but he was able to drive in the tying run from third by doing the next best thing: grounding into a force out at second and beating out a double play.

The fact that a hustling Dalbec beat Freddy Galvis’ throw and reached first base safely meant that Gonzalez scored from third, which tied things up at three runs a piece.

That resulted in Matt Barnes coming on for the bottom half of the ninth, and the flame-throwing right-hander continued his dominating, season-opening run by striking out a pair in yet another perfect inning of relief to send this one to extras.

Chavis, Vazquez, and Andriese seal the come-from-behind victory

Michael Chavis probably did not anticipate playing a key role for the Red Sox in their game against the Orioles when he woke up on Saturday morning, but with J.D. Martinez being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list (cold symptoms), the 25-year-old infielder was called into action from the team’s taxi squad.

Pinch-running in place of Kevin Plawecki and placed at second base to start things out in the 10th, Chavis advanced to third on a sacrifice fly then came into score on a wild pitch from Orioles righty Dillon Tate.

Walks drawn by Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts put runners at first and second for a red-hot Christian Vazquez, who proceeded to greet new Baltimore reliever Wade LeBlanc by ripping an RBI single to left field.

Vazquez’s fifth RBI put the Sox up by two at 6-4 going into the bottom of the 10th, which allowed Matt Andriese — yes, Matt Andriese — to pick up the first save of the season for any Boston reliever by tossing a scoreless inning.

Devers has rollercoaster of a game

Rafael Devers stayed hot on Saturday by mashing another home run as part of a 2-for-5 showing at the plate, but he did not necessarily get his night off on the right foot.

After plating Verdugo on an RBI single off O’s starter Bruce Zimmermann with two outs in the first, the 24-year-old wound up getting caught in a rundown between first and second with Gonzalez at the plate, though Bogaerts was able to score from third as a result of said rundown.

An inning and a half later, Devers had the opportunity to bail out Richards and record the final out of the second when Galvis struck out swinging and Rio Ruiz took off for second base.

On a nice and hard pickoff attempt from Plawecki behind the plate, Devers — playing in the shift — had the chance to tag out Ruiz at second for a strike ’em out-throw ’em out double play, but instead fielded the throw well in front of the bag and started jogging towards the visitor’s dugout.

The reason being, Devers thought there were already two outs in the inning and Galvis striking out marked the end of the frame.

That lapse in judgement did not come back to bite Devers or the Sox, but it was still a bit unusual to see nonetheless.

For as poorly as Devers may have played early on Saturday, he certainly made up for it in the later innings.

As previously mentioned, the left-handed slugger clubbed his second big fly of the season in the sixth to give his side a 3-2 lead.

He also made a clutch defensive play, when with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, Devers fielded a groundball off the bat of Mancini on one hop and got the out at first to preserve a 4-3 lead for his side.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Lopez

Next up, the Red Sox will look to enact their revenge on the Orioles by completing the three-game sweep over their division rivals on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be getting the ball for Boston, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Jorge Lopez for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox going for their sixth straight win.

(Picture of Red Sox: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodríguez fans seven over 5 strong innings in first start since 2019; Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández collect first homers of season as Red Sox top Orioles, 7-3, for fourth straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez picked up on Thursday where he left off 557 days ago.

The left-hander’s last start of the 2019 season came against the Orioles, and he allowed three runs over seven strong innings in that contest.

After missing the entirety of the 2020 season due to myocarditis, Rodriguez finally made his long-awaited return to a big-league mound on Thursday in Baltimore.

Working against the O’s in their home opener, the recently-turned 28-year-old again held Baltimore to three runs — this time over five innings — while scattering four hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three runs Rodriguez surrendered on Thursday came by way of the home run ball, with Ryan Mountcastle crushing a two-run homer in the first and Pedro Severino clubbing a solo shot off the lefty in the fourth.

From that point on, though, Rodriguez did manage to retire each of the final four hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the Venezuelan hurler sat at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he threw 13 times — while also inducing four swings-and-misses with his changeup — a pitch he threw 25 times.

Able to pick up his first winning decision of the year because of his triumphant effort, Rodriguez’s next start should come against the Twins next Wednesday.

Whitlock, Barnes sharp out of the bullpen

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The 24-year-old followed up his impressive big-league debut from last weekend by punching out three of the six Orioles he faced over two perfect frames of work to pick up his first career hold.

Matt Andriese, who helped Whitlock develop his changeup over the course of spring training, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single to toss a scoreless eighth.

Matt Barnes, meanwhile, was on the cusp of an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) in the ninth, but he still struck out the side on 11 pitches anyway to preserve the 7-3 victory for his side.

Devers gets on the board with first homer

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey, whom they had just seen last weekend.

Following a one-out double from Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox right away by mashing his first home run of the season — a two-run shot — off Harvey to give his side the early 2-0 advantage.

Per Baseball Savant, Devers’ first big fly of 2021 left his bat at 111 mph and traveled approximately 452 feet to deep center field.

Retaking the lead and adding on some insurance

Harvey managed to hold the Boston bats in check after giving up that Devers homer, and him doing that coincided with the Orioles jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.

In the sixth, though, the Orioles starter put the first two hitters he faced — Devers and Christian Vazquez — on base on a pair of singles, and that would lead to his exit from this contest.

Matched up against lefty reliever Paul Fry now, Marwin Gonzalez drew a six-pitch walk, which allowed Christian Arroyo and Franchy Cordero to plate a pair of runs on an RBI groundout and RBI single.

Verdugo sparked more offense in the seventh, as he collected his second double of the afternoon and later scored on a two-base hit off the bat of a red-hot J.D. Martinez — marking the seventh straight game the vaunted slugger has reached base on an extra-base hit out of the gate.

That sequence put the Red Sox up two at 5-3, and Gonzalez added on to that with a run-scoring single of his own to make it a 6-3 contest going into stretch time.

Kiké Hernández comes through with first home run

Devers was not the only member of the Red Sox to notch his first homer of the year on Thursday, as Kiké Hernández did the very same in the top half of the eighth.

On a 2-2, 86 mph slider from Orioles reliever Tyler Wells, the 29-year-old pulled said pitch 372 feet to left field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Hernández’s 72nd career homer put the Red Sox up 7-3, which would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Next up: An off day

Now winners of four straight after starting the season 0-3, the Sox will enjoy an off day on Friday before they look to keep things rolling against the O’s on Saturday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards is slated to get the ball for Boston in that contest, and he will be matched up against rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann for Baltimore.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Alex Cora attributes Red Sox’ 0-2 start to poor defensive effort: ‘The team’s that play good defense, they win ballgames. And the first two games, we haven’t done that’

The Red Sox are 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 2012.

One reason as to why the Sox are off to such a slow start is the fact that they have managed to score all of two runs — both of which came in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Orioles — through their first two games of the new campaign.

While that early lack of offensive production may be concerning, there is something else that has been hampering this Red Sox team, and that would be their defense.

Even by placing an emphasis on defense throughout spring training by setting up “defensive labs” scattered around the backfields at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has seen his team commit two errors and even more miscues since first pitch on Friday afternoon.

Kiké Hernández had difficulty fielding a hard-hit groundball off the bat of Anthony Santander in the sixth inning of Friday’s contest.

At the time, neither the Sox nor Orioles had managed to bring in a run, but Hernandez’s blunder — which came with runners on first and second and one out in the frame — while playing second base allowed everyone to reach base safely.

On what could have been a much-needed inning-ending double play for Matt Andriese, the top of the sixth continued and Baltimore took full advantage of Hernandez’s error when Ryan Mountcastle laced a two-run double off the Green Monster to plate his side’s first two runs of the day. The Orioles would go on to win by a final score of 3-0.

A day later, defensive miscues continued to plague the Sox in right-hander Tanner Houck’s first start of the season.

After getting through the first 3 2/3 innings of Saturday’s contest in relatively easy fashion, the 24-year-old ran into a bit of trouble in the fourth when he issued a two-out walk to Rio Ruiz.

Houck followed by getting Austin Hays to hit a broken bat ground ball to a sprawling Rafael Devers over at third.

Devers, having chosen to go to second base as opposed to first for what should have been an inning-ending force out, instead overthrew an outstretched Marwin Gonzalez covering the bag.

Devers’ errant throw wound up in shallow right field, and it — as well as as a passed ball by catcher Kevin Plawecki — allowed both Ruiz and Hays to advance an additional 90 feet to put a pair of runners in scoring position, though they wouldn’t stay there long.

That being the case because the Orioles again took advantage of a Red Sox mishap when Maikel Franco smacked a two-run single through the left side of the infield to give Baltimore a 2-0 lead.

An inning later, after they had scored a run in their half of the fourth, the Sox had the chance to hold the Orioles at two runs for the time being, but ultimately failed to do so.

With two outs and a runner at third, Houck found himself just one out away from getting out of a bit of a jam, and it looked like he was going to do so when he got Santander to rip a sharply-hit ground ball to Xander Bogaerts at short.

Bogaerts, having just made a tremendous diving play to hold that runner at third, attempted to backhand Santander’s grounder while backtracking to his left, but failed to bring in the ball cleanly which allowed Santander to reach base safely and drive in the run.

Bogaerts certainly had a tough play to make when considering where he fielded the ball as well as Santander’s speed down the first base line, but it was still one that — if made cleanly — could have made a difference later on. For what it’s worth, it was not ruled an error.

“I think defensively, the two games, we haven’t been sharp,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday afternoon. “We made some bad decisions. We didn’t make any plays. For us, it’s very important to play defense. The team’s that play good defense, they win ballgames. And the first two games, we haven’t done that.”

In Devers’ case, the 24-year-old is coming off a 2020 season in which he committed 14 errors, ranking tops among big-league third basemen in regards to number of errors committed.

The mishap Devers had in the fourth inning on Saturday is one that could have been avoided had he backed off and let Bogaerts field Hays’ grounder instead. That over-eagerness is something the Red Sox are hoping to correct sooner rather than later.

“He wants to make every play,” Cora said about Devers when asked about his defense. “He’s just got to make better decisions. We love the effort. That was a ball way to his left. He gets to it. But, you got to know who you got next to you and you have to make better decisions. Like I said, the effort is there. If he makes that play, it’s a great play. But, it’s an above-average play. I rather have them make the average play and move on to the next play and do that. So, we’ll keep working with him. I think we have to just make better decisions.

“It was a tough play, regardless. At second or at first,” added the Sox skipper. “Sometimes you make those great plays and you’re better off moving on to the next one, right? Because it’s a tough play to throw to first. It’s a tough one to throw to second. You can put yourself and the team in a bad spot.”

The Red Sox themselves are a few months removed from a 2020 season in which they committed the second-most errors (45) and compiled the seventh-worst Ultimate Zone Rating (-2.5) in the American League last year, per FanGraphs.

For Cora, defense is something he wants to see the Sox excel at. He has yet to see that through the first two games of the 2021 campaign.

“Out of the three phases of the game (hitting, pitching, fielding), the defense part of it is the one that has been disappointing in the first two games,” Cora stated.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck fans 8 over 5 strong innings, but Red Sox go down quietly to Orioles, 4-2, to begin year 0-2

For the second consecutive day, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on a strong outing from their starter as they dropped their second straight to the Orioles by a final score of 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Tanner Houck was that starter for the Sox in this one, and the right-hander impressed in his 2021 debut by yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over five innings of work.

The first two of those three Baltimore runs came in to score in the top half of the fourth, when after retiring 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced, Houck issued a two-out walk to Rio Ruiz, which was followed by a single from Austin Hays that put runners on the corners due to a Rafael Devers throwing error.

Kevin Plawecki, catching in place of Christian Vazquez on Saturday, then proceeded to allow a passed ball by him, and Maikel Franco took full advantage of that by ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield to get his side on the board first.

An inning later, more sloppy defense from the Sox infielders did them no favors, as Xander Bogaerts struggled to field a two-out ground ball off the bat of Anthony Santander that in turn allowed Pedro Severino to score from third to make it a 3-0 contest.

Houck managed to fan the final man he faced in fellow rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle on five pitches to retire the side, but the damage had already been done.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 85 (54 strikes), the 24-year-old hurler turned to his slider and four-seam fastball a combined 76% of the time he was on the mound Saturday. He induced six swings-and-misses with his slider and topped out at 94.7 mph with his four-seamer.

Ultimately hit with his first career losing decision despite the strong showing, Houck’s next start for Boston might not come for a while seeing how he was filling in for Eduardo Rodriguez in this one.

In relief of Houck, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and tossed a scoreless sixth inning, while left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez surrendered one run on two hits in the seventh and Phillips Valdez worked two perfect frames in the eighth and ninth in what was his 2021 debut.

All in all, the Sox pitching staff had themselves another decent day, but their lineup — in addition to their defense — did them no favors.

Coming off an Opening Day loss in which they were held to one hit by O’s starter John Means, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey on Friday.

Like Means, Harvey was solid to start things out in this one as he stranded just a pair of base runners through his first three innings of the afternoon.

Unlike Means, though, the 32-year-old hurler finally cracked in the bottom half of the fourth when a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzalez brought in J.D. Martinez from third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest — and the new season — to cut their deficit in half at 2-1.

Martinez came through once more in his next trip to the plate an inning later, as the slugger managed to drive in Plawecki all the way from second base on an infield RBI single.

Martinez’s first run-scoring knock of the year brought Boston back to within one run of Baltimore at 3-2, but two runs was all they could manage the rest of the way despite making things interesting in the ninth. 4-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2012. They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are being outscored by an average score of 3.5 to 1 thus far.

J.D. Martinez has collected four hits through his first two starts of the season. Bobby Dalbec, meanwhile, has struck out four times through his first two starts of the season.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be making his Sox debut after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the club in February. He will be opposed by Orioles rookie left-hander and Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will once again be going for their first win of the season.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox director of marketing Kelsey Doherty joins the show

On the latest episode of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox director of marketing Kelsey Doherty.

Among the topics Kelsey and I discussed were the responsibilities that come with being the online voice for an organization like the Red Sox, how it is running the team’s social media when there is a pandemic going on, how players such as Alex Verdugo can create their own content based on their personalities, what can be expected out of the Red Sox’ social media team in 2021, what went into the creation of the Red Sox’ player development Twitter account, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Kelsey or taking some time out of her busy schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Kelsey on Twitter (@kelseyedoherty) by clicking here. You can follow the Red Sox’ main Twitter account (@RedSox) by clicking here. You can follow the team’s player development Twitter account (@RedSoxPlayerDev) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Kelsey Doherty: Billie Weiss, courtesy of Kelsey Doherty)