Saturday was an awful night overall for the Red Sox. Who’s most responsible for that?
A night after a 6-2 drubbing of the Angels and a dominant performance by Chris Sale, more of the same was expected of the second ace David Price. Price is coming into his own with control, command, and velocity, so it was more than likely that he would repeat his previous dominant performances against a mediocre Angels lineup, even if his hot streak would eventually run out.
The Red Sox jumped ahead once again, scoring three runs in the first inning. David Price took advantage, establishing himself early by pounding the inside of the plate with fastballs and cutters.
This is what made the third inning collapse such a surprise, since by the third inning, Price was leaving more pitches over the plate and dropping back to more use of his cutter. These were both characteristics of most bad starts from Price in 2016.
Although Price gets beat early in games in most cases where he doesn’t pitch well, his first two innings were on par with his dominant starts from the past few weeks: power pitching, strikeouts, and very little resistance from the lineup he faced. Price notched three strikeouts in the two innings before the four-run meltdown the next inning.
Price’s four runs in the third inning and five earned runs total should be taken with two grains of salt: the low strikezone of umpire Mark Rizzi, and the listless performance on defense.
A bad bounce in the corner of left field on an Albert Pujols double made it difficult for Andrew Benintendi to cleanly field the ball and save a run in the third inning.
In the fourth inning, Xander Bogaerts made his first mistake of the night with an errant throw to first that put Ben Revere on base.
The fielding mistakes came to a head in the fifth inning, starting with a single to right field by Andrelton Simmons. Mookie Betts fielded the ball cleanly, but since Hanley Ramirez was out of position, Betts had no cutoff to throw the slow and aging Albert Pujols out at the plate. The Red Sox salvaged an out by catching CJ Cron in a pickle at third base, but this gave Simmons the time to reach second base without notice.
This mistake cost the Red Sox yet another run in the fifth, when Bogaerts made another off-base throw to second that ended up in right field, allowing Simmons to score from second base. While Bogaerts’ second poor throw on a routine play will be remembered, Dustin Pedroia was also out of position when covering second base, possibly expecting Kole Calhoun to try and break up the play.
Despite the factors beyond Price’s control, his performance suggested that he either did not have his stuff Saturday night, or the Angels, somehow still in the running for the second Wild Card spot, read their scouting reports on Price and the use of his fastball.
Mike Trout’s RBI single in the sixth inning was the goodnight kiss to the Red Sox, as it was now 7-3 after multiple mistakes that took the air out of them. Even an ejection of John Farrell for arguing a low strikeout call to Pedroia failed to spark the team after surrendering their early lead.
This game was appropriately framed as a must-win, since they were supposed to be feeding off of Friday’s dominant win and needed the extra traction to steer clear of the Yankees in the division. With Price and Sale pitching like aces, the Red Sox can survive a few slumping players for now, but it’s unclear how long that will keep up. The bottom of the lineup and the bottom of the pitching rotation must figure themselves out for this Red Sox team to reach its ceiling. In particular, more is expected of reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, Hanley “better in the second half and extra innings” Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts and whoever emerges as the fifth starter for the team.
Brock Holt’s return from concussion/vertigo has been a disappointment so far both at the plate and in the field, despite it necessitating the release of Pablo Sandoval. At third base, the Red Sox should search internally (Marrero, Lin, Devers) before continuing their search for a replacement at the trade deadline.
As Holt and Bogaerts are struggling, Marrero should be considered for filling in at third base and shortstop. A phantom DL injury for Bogaerts would make the most sense now, since multiple separate days off failed to yield results.
At the top, Dave Dombrowski is probably now justifiably frustrated, and craving anything that will shake up the team and bring it closer to playoff success. This of course means putting the big names on the table, and going from there.