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.

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Envisioning a Scenario Where Craig Kimbrel Returns to the #RedSox.

According to several media outlets, Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year contract worth up to $100 million in free agency this winter.

That would be a record deal for a closer, one fit for, “the best closer of all time,” according to Kimbrel’s agent David Meter.

Seven weeks after winning the World Series, the Red Sox find themselves in need of some help out of the bullpen in 2019, even more so now with Joe Kelly reportedly inking a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The market for Kimbrel remains to be seen thus far into the offseason. The Philadelphia Phillies seem like the ideal suitor based on their need for a closer and their willingness to spend big, but nothing has formulated on that front to this point outside of some speculation.

If the Phillies were not to splurge on the flame-throwing right-hander and pursue an alternative, then that could ultimately give the Red Sox a chance to retain the services of their three-time All-Star.

Use JD Martinez as a prime example in this case. Prior to signing with Boston this past February, the Miami native was reportedly seeking a mega-deal in free agency for months.

Granted, Martinez still got paid, but the terms agreed upon were more team friendly than initially thought.

So, with that in mind, let’s say Kimbrel remains a free agent through the winter months, holding out in hopes of receiving a hefty contract offer.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has already stated that the club will wait the reliever market out.

“At this time of year, if you’re going to sign somebody, you’re going to be aggressive and try to make it happen with big dollars,” Dombrowski said at the Baseball Winter Meetings last week. “We’re not at that point in the reliever market.”

Given the fact that Dombrowski has already doled out $68 million to RHP Nathan Eovaldi earlier in the month, a reunion with Kimbrel for a steep price seems unlikely now, but things could change once Spring Training begins to loom.

Take into consideration that the 30-year-old presumably knows the Red Sox organization inside and out. The city, the culture, the media. That’s all covered if Kimbrel remains in Boston

Having been with the club since 2016, Kimbrel, albeit shaky at times, has posted quality numbers in Boston and has maintained his status as one of the more elite relievers in all of baseball.

If the demand for the Alabama native is not as hyped as initially thought, then perhaps Craig Kimbrel will be taking the mound in a Red Sox uniform once again in 2019.

 

#RedSox Select Two Right-Handed Pitchers in Rule 5 Draft.

With the Baseball Winter Meetings wrapping up in Las Vegas on Thursday, the last key event to take place was the annual Rule 5 Draft.

Made up of players who were left off their club’s 40-man roster and have been playing baseball professionally for the last four to five years depending on their age, the Rule 5 Draft pool may not consist of the most popular names among prospects, but it is an event worth paying attention to.

The Boston Red Sox did not make a selection in the Major League phase of the draft, but had a pair of picks to make in the Triple-A phase, both of which they used.

First, selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the Triple-A portion of the draft was former Yankees pitching prospect Anyelo Gomez.

A 25-year-old right-hander out of the Dominican Republic, Gomez had spent the majority of his first six professional seasons in baseball with New York, who he signed with as an international free agent in 2012.

A Rule 5 selection of the Atlanta Braves at last year’s Winter Meetings, Gomez was returned to the Yankees prior to the start of the 2018 campaign and battled injuries throughout his season with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, eventually opting for shoulder surgery in May.

Only appearing in a total of seven games in 2018, the right-hander posted a 2.45 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 7.1 frames of relief.

Next up, the Red Sox selected RHP Andrew Schwaab of the Detroit Tigers organization with the 36th overall pick of the Triple-A portion of the draft.

A native of Missouri, Schwaab spent this past season with both the Yankees and Tigers and was originally signed by New York as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

In 41 relief appearances between two minor league levels and three different teams in 2018, the 25-year-old surrendered 31 earned runs over 52 total innings pitched. That’s good for a 5.37 ERA in addition to a high 1.62 WHIP.

In addition to these selections, the Red Sox also lost outfielder Tyler Hill, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the fourth overall pick in the Triple-A phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft and then traded to the New York Yankees.

Hill, 22, slashed .254/.348/.312 with one home run and 38 RBI in 124 games with High A Salem in 2018.

Brock Holt Reportedly Receiving Trade Interest at Winter Meetings.

On Tuesday, The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that, along with a handful of other Red Sox, Brock Holt has been a target of other teams in potential trade talks at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

(Source $) “There’s also interest in Brock Holt again this offseason. However, Holt remains the Red Sox’ backup plan at second base in case Dustin Pedroia can’t return from knee injuries that limited him to just three games in 2018.”

As Cafardo says, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Red Sox would feel comfortable moving Holt in a potential trade.

Holt, 30, is under team control for one more season, where, according to MLB Trade Rumors, he is set to earn $3.4 million in arbitration before hitting free agency in 2019.

A member of the Red Sox since 2013 and an All-Star in 2015, the Fort Worth native slashed .277/.362/.411 to go along with seven home runs and a career high 46 RBI this past season.

Capable of playing six defensive positions, especially second base, holding on to Holt as a utility man once again makes all the sense in the world, especially when you consider Dustin Pedroia’s shaky industry as of late.

So, unless Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski is blown away by any offers within the next day or so, I would expect Holt to stay right where he is with Boston.

#RedSox Reportedly Sign Former San Francisco Giants Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to Minor League Deal.

On Tuesday night, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported that the Boston Red Sox have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with former San Francisco Giants outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

Hernandez, 31, has spent the last three seasons with the Giants, where he slashed a measly .244/.303/.370 to go along with 17 home runs and 66 RBI over 296 total games played.

An original international signee of the Detroit Tigers in 2005, back when Dave Dombrowski served as the General Manager for Detroit, Hernandez was non-tendered by San Francisco in late November and was granted free agency.

Known more for his glove than his bat, Hernandez will provide the Red Sox with solid outfield depth behind the likes of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr.

As the above tweet reads, the native of Venezuela would make $1 million in 2019 if he cracks Boston’s major league roster.

#RedSox Reintroduce Nathan Eovaldi at Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

After officially signing a four-year contract with the Boston Red Sox this past Thursday, Nathan Eovaldi was formally reintroduced as a member of the club at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas along side Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski.

Although there was no cap or jersey present for photo opportunities like you usually see at these press conferences, there were still plenty of questions to be asked regarding Eovaldi’s decision to remain with Boston and the Red Sox’s pursuit of the right-hander.

“We’re very thrilled to have Nate back in the organization,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said to open things up, “He did a tremendous job for us last season. Joined us for the regular season and the postseason. For us it was really focused on if we could bring Nate back, and fortunately it worked out.”

Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 25th, Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA while recording 48 strikeouts over 54 total innings pitched and 12 appearances (11 starts) with Boston before reaching his first ever postseason.

There, the Houston native shined with a 1.61 ERA, a .185 BAA, and the performance of a lifetime in Game Three of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“What he did was amazing,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, “Like he was saying, for me personally that was like the biggest moment of the World Series, for him to compete at that level.”

“The conversations in between innings, they were cool. And I remember the last one when I asked him, How are you feeling, he said, Let me finish it. He said it with a lot of conviction. I knew he was good.”

Those six-plus frames of relief from Eovaldi may have ultimately led to Boston’s only loss in this year’s Fall Classic, but it seemingly earned the admiration of Red Sox fans everywhere, and that more than likely played a role in the 28-year-old’s free agency decision.

“The love and support that they were showing me throughout that whole series and especially after that Game Three, gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” Eovaldi said, “And it’s definitely a special moment and dear to my heart. I want to come back be a part of that.”

Eovaldi also mentioned how he had offers from other clubs to work out of the bullpen and close games, but he did not see himself taking on that role.

“I view myself as a starter, and that’s something I’ve always done my entire career. And I enjoy doing that. So if I had that choice, I still wanted to be a starter.”

The former 11th round pick’s new contract is worth a grand total of $68 million through 2022. He’s had Tommy John surgery twice, and is confident in the Red Sox training staff.

“I feel I can trust my training staff. That’s a big role in me coming over here as well,” Eovaldi said, “And anytime I feel anything, I tell them, and we start the rehab or the treatment for it. And then if it gets worse, then we take time off. But I think we’ve been able to work through a lot of things and stay healthy.”

A two-time recipient of Tommy John surgery, health and durability will remain to be a prevalent factor in Eovaldi’s tenure with the Red Sox, but he has the backing of the club’s coaching staff.

“Four years of Nathan [Eovaldi], that’s going to be great for the organization,” said Alex Cora.

 

Cincinnati Reds Claim Robby Scott off Waivers from #RedSox.

On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox announced that LHP Robby Scott had been claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal originally reported this deal as a trade between the two clubs, but that does not appear to be the case any longer.

It was not made public that Scott, 29, was put on waivers by Boston, but given the fact that their 40-man roster was at full capacity before this transaction, it makes sense the left-hander would be someone the club would be willing to part ways with.

In 73 career appearances with the Red Sox, Scott posted a 3.91 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 48.1 innings pitched in three different seasons. Recently though, the Florida native’s numbers took a hit, as he surrendered six earned runs in just 6.2 innings of work in 2018.

Known for his success against left-handed bats, Scott will have the opportunity to redeem himself with a club that finished ninth in the National League in bullpen ERA (4.14) this past season.

This transaction also comes two days after former Red Sox minor league infielder and noted pinch runner Tony Renda signed a minor-league contract with Cincinnati.

The Red Sox’s 40-man roster now stands at 39.