Saturday was not necessarily a must-win game for the Red Sox, it was a should win game. The Sox should have felt beyond confident after pissing on the Dodgers hopes and dreams in a 9-0 blowout on Friday night. Not to mention, they were sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the hill. In 4 starts since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket after the All-Star break, Rodriguez had posted a 2.63 ERA while averaging 6 innings per start. On the opposing side, the Dodgers had Ross Stripling going for them. Stripling had just been recalled from Triple-A and was only expected to be able to pitch 4 or 5 innings at the most. If having all of these things going for them wasn’t enough of an advantage, they were able to load the bases in the top of the 1st inning with Sandy Leon coming to the plate after a 4 RBI performance last night. Believe it or not, this is where it all began to fall apart.
Leon was able to work the count from 0-2 to 3-2, but couldn’t get the ball passed the pitcher and was retired after Stripling flipped to the first. This would be the best chance the Red Sox got to put some runs on the board as their bats seemed to disappear for the remainder of the game. On the contrary, the Dodgers were able to break through and score some runs. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez fell into the habit constantly allowing the baserunners early in the inning. Rodriguez was able to hold the Dodger lineup to just 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Sadly, those 3 hits resulted in 3 runs which was more than enough run support for the Los Angeles pitching staff. The Red Sox had a first inning opportunity to take the lead and give E-Rod a cushion to work with, however they were unsuccessful just as they have been so many times during this West Coast trip. Regardless, here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s loss to the Dodgers:
Since coming back from Pawtucket, Eduardo Rodriguez had appeared to have returned to being the promising young pitcher that we had seen for most of last year. This was his first start since then that you can point to and say that his talent as a pitcher is still very raw. Even though he featured a good fastball-slider mix that kept the hitters off balance, he just needs to work on locating those pitches and pitching to contact. It seemed that even in clear double play situations, he was trying to strike out every hitter he faced. This led to his pitch count climbing and even if he didn’t get knocked around in that 5th inning, he may not have made it through the 6th. Since he literally got zero run support, you can not blame this loss on E-Rod. Yes he could have pitched with more efficiency, but even David Price still struggles with that from time to time. Seeing that he only pitched 4 ⅓ innings and gave up 8 hits can be misleading. Rodriguez did not pitch overwhelmingly awful. He just needs to continue to hone in on his abilities.
This loss was at the fault of the offense. They left 7 runners on base, went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, and the only person who was able to make solid contact with Mookie Betts. Watching this offense perform so inconsistently is very similar feeling to when Sox fans were forced to watch Xander Bogaerts go through struggles in 2014. We’ve seen what they’re capable of and know what they can be like when they're at their best, but they just can’t seem to put it together sometimes. After games like Friday’s you want to give them all the credit in the world, but as we saw Saturday, they can disappear with no evidence they were ever there in the first place. There’s not much more left to be said, the offense needs to show up on a consistent basis or this team can not succeed.
The Sox bullpen pitched masterfully once again. They pitched a combined 3 ⅔ scoreless innings after receiving last night off during Steven Wright’s complete game shutout. Matt Barnes came in with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out in the 5th, and did not allow either of the inherited runners to score. Barnes had not allowed an earned run in 8 of his last 11 appearances coming into Saturday. He has finally mastered the fastball-curveball combination that has made pitchers such as Craig Kimbrel elite relievers in this league. Clay Buchholz also made another scoreless appearance out of the pen. Pitching out of the bullpen has truly allowed Buchholz to be more aggressive when it comes to going after hitters. It blows my mind that Clay is actually beginning to seem like a legitimate option to come in and give the team a scoreless inning or two. I would’ve never thought he’d could be a useful member of this pitching staff again, but I’m not questioning it.
The Red Sox are 5-5 in the first 10 games of this 11 game road trip. Luckily, the Orioles and Blue Jays are both intent on letting the Sox hang around as they remain just two games back of first place in the AL East. Sunday represents the chance to come back to Boston with a winning record on this 11 game trip. David Price takes the ball coming off of 2 stellar starts in games that should’ve been won. Hopefully, the offense will show up this time and the Red Sox can go back home on a high note.