Red Sox Blow 16th Save of Season, Fail to Sweep White Sox in Demoralizing 8-7 Loss

After coming from behind in a 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, the Red Sox opened the official second half of the 2019 season by nearly completing the three-game sweep over the South Siders, but instead blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Wednesday and fell by a final score of 8-7 in their final contest before heading to London for the weekend.

Making his 17th start of the season for Boston, Chris Sale was not his usual self to begin things in the series finale, but he settled in towards the end.

Tossing six full innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered five runs, all earned, on six hits, two HBPs, and one walk to go along with exactly 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.

All five of those Chicago runs came within Sale’s first three frames of work, with the first four batters of the ballgame all reaching base safely while plating their side’s first two runs.

In the third, a leadoff home run off the bat of backstop James McCann, as well as a two-out RBI infield single from Ryan Cordell to score Jon Jay, who was hit by a pitch, from third made it a 5-2 game. The thing is, that fifth run never would have crossed the plate had Michael Chavis turned his attention towards home instead of focusing on the first base umpire after Cordell beat out that infield single. But, a rookie made a rookie mistake, and Jay took full advantage.

Following that whole sequence, Sale locked in and proceeded to retire the next 10 hitters he faced in order leading into the middle of the sixth inning, the point in which his outing came to a close on a much more positive note than it seemed destined to earlier.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 102 (71 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 43% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing 10 swings and misses and topping out at 97.4 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Hit with another no-decision, Sale’s streak of regular season starts without a win at Fenway Park now stands at 12, with the last one coming on July 11th, 2018 against the Texas Rangers. He’ll look for better overall results and to lower his 3.82 ERA in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend.

In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came into the seventh with his side in a two-run hole, and he added on to that deficit by giving up one run on a Jose Abreu one-out RBI single in his lone inning of work.

Steven Wright, making his 2019 season debut after being activated from the restricted list on Tuesday, maneuvered around a one-out, runners on the corners in a two-run game situation by getting the pinch-hitting Yonder Alonso to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

And in the ninth, after the Red Sox had climbed their way back and taken a 7-6 lead in the bottom half of the previous inning, Matt Barnes gave it all away, blowing his sixth save and his team’s 16th by serving up a go-ahead, two-run homer to the slugging Abreu on a 2-2, 97 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

That put the White Sox up 8-7, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Chicago right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who just so happened to be opposite Sale the last time these two clubs met up in May.

Trailing by three runs before they even had the chance to take their first at-bats, JD Martinez got the scoring started for Boston by pulling them back to within one run on his 17th big fly of the season, a 400-foot two-run shot in the first inning to plate both Rafael Devers and himself.

Fast forward to the third, and it was Devers getting himself involved yet again, this time leading the inning off with an opposite field double and coming in to score four batters later on a wild pitch from Lopez with Michael Chavis at the dish. 5-3.

In the seventh, Martinez struck once more with a two-out RBI double to right-center off left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, this one driving in Devers all the way from first to pull Boston back to within two runs at 6-4.

Finally, in the eighth, with new reliever Evan Marshall in for Chicago, Eduardo Nunez reached base safely on a line-drive single up the middle.

Two batters later, after Brock Holt pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and advanced Nunez up to third on a tough, pop fly ground-rule double and was replaced by Brian Johnson, yes, Brian Johnson, as a pinch-runner, Mookie Betts made things interesting against White Sox closer Alex Colome with a single grounder to third.

Going on any sort of contact, Nunez hustled in from third and managed to evade the tag attempt from McCann to score his team’s fifth run and make it a one-run contest.

A soft grounder from Devers moved up both Betts and Johnson into scoring position at second and third for Xander Bogaerts with two outs in the frame.

On the fifth pitch he saw from Colome, the soon to be 2019 All-Star drilled a clutch single right back up the middle, giving Johnson and Betts plenty of time to come in and put the Red Sox up 7-6.

It seemed crucial at the time, but as already mentioned, the White Sox responded with two runs of their own in their half of the ninth, while the Boston bats went down quietly in theirs despite Jackie Bradley Jr. drawing a leadoff walk in what would turn out to be a crushing 8-7 defeat.

Some notes from this loss:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

The Red Sox went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and left 10 men on base.

Rafael Devers’ last seven games: .538/.556/.846 with one home run, five doubles, and four runs driven in.

So, the Red Sox seem to be making blowing late leads a recurring theme. There was that loss against the Blue Jays this past Saturday, that 17-inning against the Twins on June 18th, and that loss against the Rangers on June 10th, to name a few.

The Red Sox also lead the American League with 16 blown saves on the year. That is far from ideal.

I’ve already written about how president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a closer, because clearly the current crop of Red Sox relievers are going to burn out pretty soon, if they have not already, a la Matt Barnes.

Wednesday was the last time the Red Sox will play a game at Fenway Park until after the All-Star break on July 12th.

Now, it’s on to London, where Boston will be hosting the New York Yankees in a historic two-game weekend set across the pond, which will mark the first time Major League Baseball has ever been played in Europe.

Right-hander Rick Porcello and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the starting nods for the Red Sox, while New York has only announced one starter, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, for Saturday’s contest.

Currently sitting nine games back of the Yankees for first in the American League East, this weekend presents a huge opportunity for the Red Sox to jump start the second half of their 2019 season.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on FOX. Red Sox looking to make some history in England.

 

 

 

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Red Sox Reinstate Steven Wright, Option Josh Smith to Triple-A Pawtucket, and Transfer Nathan Eovaldi to 60-Day Injured List

Before taking on the Chicago White Sox in the second of a three-game series on Tuesday, the Red Sox reinstated right-hander Steven Wright from the restricted list. In order to make room for Wright on Boston’s 40-man roster, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was transferred to the 60-day injured list. And in order to make room for Wright on the 25-man roster, right-hander Josh Smith was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

Suspended the first 80 games of the 2019 season back in March after testing positive for human growth hormone, Wright would be ineligible for the postseason.

The knuckleballer was sent out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on June 9th, where he allowed two earned runs on six hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts over five appearances (one start) and 9 2/3 total innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.86 and batting average against of .176.

Although he would not be able to pitch in October, the addition of Wright should still provide a boost to a Red Sox bullpen that appears to need one at the moment.

In 16 outings as a reliever last season before being shelved with inflammation in his left knee, Wright posted a 1.52 ERA and .618 OPS against over 25 2/3 frames of work.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has already come out and said Wright will be strictly used as a reliever, which makes sense given the knee issues he had last year.

On October 6th, the 34-year-old was placed on the injured list because of that left knee, and that kept him out of Boston’s World Series run. A month later, Wright underwent successful left knee surgery in New York, where he received an arthroscopy and debridement on the joint.

Now, coming off his second suspension in as many seasons, Wright will look to give his team a different kind of look out of the bullpen.

Smith, meanwhile, appeared in two contests against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend in his fourth stint with Boston, allowing one run over four innings of relief.

On the 2019 season as a whole, the 31-year-old hurler owns a 5.40 ERA and .289 batting average against through 10 outings, two of which have been starts. He also picked up his first big league save on June 13th in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers.

As for Eovaldi, the move to the 60-day injured list has no effect on when he will be back, since the 29-year-old has already missed more than 60 days after being shelved back in April and undergoing successful surgery on his right elbow that same week.

#RedSox’ Steven Wright Suspended 80 Games for Violating MLB’s Performance-Enhancing Drug Policy

On Wednesday, the Red Sox announced via a press release that right-hander Steven Wright has been suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

The knuckleballer apparently tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2, which according to the league’s prohibited substances list, is banned from use.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, Wright failed the drug test during the offseason, but his appeal was just rejected this Tuesday, hence the sudden announcement.

Abraham also notes that Wright denied taking any PEDs knowingly and did not inform the Red Sox of his then-pending suspension until last week.

This suspension marks Wright’s second suspension in the last two years, with the first stemming from a domestic assault arrest in December of 2017. He was handed down a 15-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy last March.

When asked about the suspension, which broke right as the Red Sox were wrapping up a Grapefruit League contest up against the Pittsburgh Pirates, manager Alex Cora voiced as much displeasure as he was allowed to towards his pitcher.

“Obviously disappointed,” Cora said. “We’ll give the player the support that he needs. He’s still part of the organization. That’s all I can say about it.”

When asked about it himself, Wright said, “It’s unfortunate. There’s no easy way to dance around it. It sucks. It’s gonna suck. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to serve the suspension and just move on.”

Wright, 34, will start the season on the restricted list for the second consecutive year. He will be eligible to return to the Red Sox in late June and will be ineligible for the postseason.

Here’s the full statement from the club I mentioned earlier:

“The Boston Red Sox fully support Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from the game. While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will look to provide the appropriate support to Steven at this time. Going forward, the club will not comment further on the matter.”

 

 

 

#RedSox Announce 25-Man World Series Roster with Drew Pomeranz, Not Steven Wright, Taking Brandon Workman’s Spot.

The Red Sox announced Tuesday their official 25-man roster for the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

All appears to the be the same as it was for the ALCS, but a closer look will reveal that Drew Pomeranz somehow found his way onto this roster.

It was reported yesterday that the club expected to add knuckleballer Steven Wright to the roster and either Brandon Workman or Heath Hembree, who was Wright’s replacement, were going to be swapped out in order for that to happen.

Instead, Wright gets left out, probably because of lingering knee issues, and Pomeranz is in, much to the surprise of just about everyone.

In his second full season with Boston, the 29-year-old posted a 6.31 ERA over 51.1 innings pitched as a starter before he was demoted to the bullpen in early August, where he posted a slightly less unsightly 5.56 ERA over 22.2 innings pitched and 15 appearances as a reliever.

Heading into the winter as a free agent, I can’t imagine this is how Pomeranz expected his 2018 campaign to go after a solid 2017, but if given the opportunity, he’ll have the chance to up his value heading into the offseason.

As for what role the Tennessee native will have in the Red Sox bullpen, well, I would have to imagine it’s more of a lefty specialist than anything. Come into the game, get someone like Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, or Joc Pederson out, and make way for someone else.

With this move, Alex Cora and the Red Sox now add another left-handed option out of the bullpen to go along with Eduardo Rodriguez.

It should be interesting to see how much usage Pomeranz gets come 8:09 PM tonight.

 

RHP Heath Hembree to Take Steven Wright’s Spot on #RedSox ALDS Roster.

After Alex Cora announced Friday night that knuckleballer Steven Wright was unavailable for Game One of the ALDS because of an issue with his left knee, the Red Sox announced today that RHP Heath Hembree will take Wright’s spot on the team’s current 25-man postseason roster.

To no one’s surprise, Hembree (4-1, 4.20 ERA) did not make the original cut for the ALDS roster, but with Wright going down with inflammation in his left knee, the available spot went to him rather than other options such as Bobby Poyner, Brian Johnson, or Hector Velazquez to name a few.

Over the course of the regular season, the 34-year-old Wright spent 80 days on the disabled list with other knee issues.

Given what took place in relief of Chris Sale on Friday, the Red Sox bullpen situation has gotten even more shaky following this move.

Although he did mess plenty of time this season, Wright provided stability (3-1, 2.68 ERA) both in the starting rotation and as a reliever. Him being out for the remainder of this division series is certainly a hefty blow, how the rest of Boston’s ‘pen responds should be something to watch for beginning tonight.

#RedSox Clinch Third Consecutive American League East Title with 11-6 Win over Yankees.

For the first time in their history, the Red Sox are American League East Champs following a 11-6 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday night.

It certainly was not easy, and they were trailing up until the seventh inning, but thanks to the combined efforts of Steven Wright, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts among others, the Red Sox get the job done for their 104th win of the year.

Wright earned his third winning decision with three scoreless frames of relief from the fifth up until the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 13th home run of the season tied this contest up at six runs a piece in the seventh inning,…

…Xander Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly resulted in two Red Sox runs coming around to score on a throwing error committed by Aaron Hicks…

…and Mookie Betts’ three-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman in the top of the eighth essentially sealed this come from behind W.

For Betts, that was his 30th big fly of the season, which is one shy of his career-high of 31.

Other offensive contributions from Boston in this one include RBI singles from JD Martinez and Betts in the first and second, a solo shot off the bat of Brock Holt in the third,…

…and a run-scoring GIDP from Martinez in the fifth that cut the Yankees lead to 6-5. The rest after that is history.

Eduardo Rodriguez struggled in his 23rd start of the season with a career-high seven walks in less than four innings pitched, but Masahiro Tanaka had his fair share of difficulties on the other side as well.

To wrap this division-clinching win up, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came on in a nonsave opportunity, and he officially closed the door on the Yankees’ division hopes with a scoreless ninth.

Now it’s on to Cleveland for a three-game set against a first place Indians team set to begin Friday night, but before that, in the words of the great Dennis Eckersley, “It’s time to party.”

RECAP: Chris Sale Tosses Three Scoreless Innings and Brock Holt Stays Hot as #RedSox Take Series from Mets with 4-3 Win.

After splitting the first two games of this three-game series against the New York Mets over the last two days, the Red Sox looked to head into an off day with their second consecutive series victory and 103rd win of the season on Sunday.

Making his 25th start of the season and second since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday, Chris Sale took the mound at Fenway Park for his second ever appearance against the Mets.

Pitching three full innings in this one as planned, the left-hander held New York scoreless while allowing just one hit and zero walks to go along with a single strikeout on the afternoon.

Facing the minimum nine batters thanks to a caught stealing in the top of the second, Sale needed 42 pitches (27 strikes) to complete the three frames of work.

Out of those 42 pitches, the Florida native threw 20 four-seam fastballs, 11 sliders, seven changeups, and four two-seam fastballs, which resulted in a total of six swinging and eight called strikes.

He also topped out at 96.8 MPH with that four-seamer in the first inning.

Lowering his ERA on the season down to an American League best 1.92 with this solid performance to wrap up the weekend, Sale will look to ramp it up to four innings in his next time out, which will come against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland this upcoming Friday.

In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final six innings of Sunday’s win, but nothing certainly came easy for them.

Entering this contest first with a fresh three-run lead to protect, Hector Velazquez, who was scratched from his previous start with illness on Friday, tossed a scoreless fourth inning.

Drew Pomeranz was next up, and after retiring all three batters he faced in the fifth, surrendered the first two Mets runs of the day in the sixth while recording the first two outs of the inning.

Heath Hembree cleaned up Pomeranz’s mess in that top half of the sixth, but failed to record an out in the seventh by walking one and hitting another.

Joe Kelly, like Hembree, did manage to clean up a bit of a sticky situation in his 69th relief appearance of the year, but not before allowing one of the inherited runners to score on a two out Amed Rosario RBI single.

From that point on, Brandon Workman worked a scoreless eighth inning to keep this thing tied at three runs a piece, and after his team jumped out to a 4-3 advantage in their half of the eighth, Steven Wright came in and picked up his first career save with a clean ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against arguably the best pitcher in the National League in the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, who entered Sunday with a miniscule 1.71 ERA over 29 starts this season.

After failing to reach base once through the first two-plus innings of this one, it was Rafael Devers who got a huge bottom of the third started by ripping a one out single back up the middle to center field.

One Christian Vazquez single later that allowed Devers to advance all the way to third thanks to a little hit-and-run action, Mookie Betts drove in the first run of the afternoon with a 380 foot sacrifice fly to center field that plated Devers and made it a 1-0 game.

With one out and one runner on, the red-hot Brock Holt came to the plate, batting in the two-hole for a change, and came through with yet another game-changing hit, a two-run home run sent 402 feet to the Red Sox bullpen.

For Holt, just his fifth big fly of the season, and for deGrom, just the 10th homer he has given up all season.

A las, that was all the Red Sox could get off of New York’s ace, and it was not until the eighth when they would get on the scoreboard again.

Tied at 3-3 now, Andrew Benintendi came to the plate with one out, Tzu-Wei Lin at third following a leadoff double, and Seth Lugo on the hill for the Mets.

On the second pitch he saw from Lugo, Benintendi al but sealed the deal in this one with an RBI sac fly to center that was more than good enough to plate Lin from third for what would end up being the game-winning run.

Some notes from this 4-3 win: 

Injury-related: Mookie Betts had to leave this game in the sixth inning with left side soreness after making an awkward throw home in right field, but he should be good to DH in New York on Tuesday, per Alex Cora.

Through 150 games, the Red Sox have a winning percentage of .687.

Brock Holt is hitting .400 with two home runs and seven RBI in his last five games.

Chris Sale has not surrendered an earned run in his last 25 innings pitched, which dates back to July 11th.

The magic number for the Red Sox to clinch their third consecutive American League East title now stands at two games, meaning they could be crowned division champs at Yankee Stadium for the second time in the last three seasons.

All that is needed for that to happen is one win in the team’s next three games against the Yankees, which will take place after an off day on Monday.

Starting pitching matchups for that upcoming series go as follows:

9/18: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-7 4.22 ERA) vs. LHP JA Happ (16-6 3.75 ERA)

9/19: LHP David Price (15-6 3.42 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Severino (17-8 3.46 ERA)

9/20: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-4 3.53 ERA) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-5 3.47 ERA)

The Yankees have lost six of their last ten games.

First pitch of the series opener in the Bronx is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET Tuesday, weather permitting.