The Red Sox got a bit of a break this past week with two days off and only five games total. However, this will be their last lull until the end of June when they head to London for two games against the Yankees. They had a two-game series against the Rockies bookended by off days, but beginning with this weekend's series against the Astros the Sox will play thirty-four games in thirty-four days with only one day off (there's a doubleheader in there). Riding a five-game winning streak, Boston looked to keep it going against a talented but scuffling Rockies team before the big bad Astros came to town.
(5/14 vs. Colorado Rockies): This game almost perfectly summed up the frustration that has been the 2019 Red Sox thus far. Chris Sale flirted with history when he struck out seventeen batters (without walking a single one!) over seven innings. The only blemish was a two-run homer he gave up to Nolan Arenado, but the Sox had scored three so they should've been all set, right? Tell that to the bullpen which has gotten a bit more erratic in recent weeks. Brandon Workman gave up a brutal two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon that gave Colorado the lead and erased Sale's chance for the win. That means that in his last two starts, Sale has struck out a combined thirty-one batters and gotten no decisions in both. Beyond that, I was hoping that Alex Cora would send Sale out for the eighth to see if he could tie Roger Clemens' single-game record of twenty strikeouts (yes, he was over a hundred pitches but he was still throwing great). Mitch Moreland tied the game up with an RBI in the eighth inning, but the Rockies got another one in extra innings to slip by the Sox with the 5-4 win. It was a really irritating way to lose a game, snap the winning streak, and see Sale's incredible night go for naught. There was nothing to do but get back at it the following night.
(5/15 vs. Colorado Rockies): Before this game started, I tweeted out that "if the 2019 Red Sox are true to form, a night after giving Chris Sale no run support, they'll score a ton for Eduardo Rodriguez." It didn't end up being a ton, but they did race out to a 5-0 lead over the first few innings and even though Colorado picked up a couple runs of their own, Boston looked to be in complete control. E-Rod whiffed ten over the first six innings and seeing as his pitch count was getting up there (and this is 2019), it seemed as though his night was over. For some inexplicable reason, though, Alex Cora sent him out for the seventh inning. Mind you, this is only one night after he didn't send Sale, who was in the same situation and pitching even better, back out for the eighth inning to try and tie the strikeout record. For (almost) everything that Cora did right last season, he's been wrong more often than not this year. E-Rod loaded the bases with no outs before being lifted for Matt Barnes. The Rockies proceeded to score three runs and tie the game which, for the second straight night, went into extra innings. Mercifully, this time it went the Red Sox way when Xander Bogaerts led off with a double. After Rafael Devers was intentionally walked, Michael Chavis hit the first pitch he saw up the middle for a game-winning RBI single. Winning this game felt a lot more important than it probably was for two reasons: because they needed to avoid a second-straight blown game to the Rockies and because this kind of sloppy baseball isn't going to cut it when the grueling stretch of games that's about to unfold begins, especially against a great team like Houston.
(5/17 vs. Houston Astros): And so it begins. This was a very tight, evenly contested game for the first six innings. Rick Porcello pitched really well and Christian Vazquez gave the Sox a 1-0 lead with an RBI single. The wheels fell off the cart in the eighth inning when the red-hot George Springer hit a two-run homer to give Houston the lead. Another run tacked on later in the inning was all they'd need to snatch a 3-1 victory away from the Red Sox. It was a disappointing way to start off the series but given how talented both of these teams are, no one thought it was going to be easy.
(5/18 vs. Houston Astros): If the first game was defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, this one was an embarrassment from the very beginning. Yet another bullpen game, this time Hector Velazquez didn't even last an inning as Houston put up a five spot in the top of the first and never looked back. Every the time the Sox chipped away and got a run, the Astros answered with another of their own. The lone bright spot for Boston was Christian Vazquez setting a new career high for home runs when he hit his sixth of the season. The already overworked bullpen just tried to get out of this one without too much damage...the end result was a 7-3 loss that gave the Astros their tenth straight win and dropped the Red Sox to a single game over .500.
(5/19 vs. Houston Astros): The Sox avoided the sweep by gutting out a 4-3 win in this getaway day game. Chris Sale again hit double-digits in strikeouts with ten, but he also walked five and seemed to struggle with his control (getting squeezed by the home plate ump didn't help). The Sox took an early 1-0 lead but the Astros came back and held a 3-1 lead heading into the fifth. Luckily, things started going Boston's way from there on out. Michael Chavis clubbed his eighth homer of the season and Xander Bogaerts was assisted by the afternoon sun on a bloop single that dropped in and drove in the tying run. Knotted at three runs apiece, Xander smoked a double to center field that allowed Mookie Betts to absolutely fly around the bases from first base and score the go-ahead run. The bullpen took care of the rest and the Sox got a big 4-3 win, snapping Houston's winning streak and allowing them to head on the road this week with some positive momentum. Chris Sale picked up yet another no decision, but overall he was pretty good.
Quick Hits: After the way the Sox stormed through last week, this week was a bit of a letdown. They went 2-3 and didn't take advantage of the homestand nearly as much as I had hoped. Dropping a game by blowing a late lead to the Rockies was ugly and they very well could have and should have taken two of three from Houston, but that's why games are played on the field and not on paper. The offense that went on a rampage last week was also strangely quiet, with the Sox very visibly and tangibly struggling to score runs in every game this week; you could almost feel how much they had to scratch and claw to get runners home. The pitching was also a bit shaky, mainly because the overworked and worn out bullpen, which has pitched a lot more already this season than anyone expected, was taxed to the limit. With injuries to rotation mainstays like David Price (due back this week in Toronto) and Nathan Eovaldi as well as emergency/sixth starter Brian Johnson, there have been way too many bullpen games and innings asked of the relievers and it's starting to catch up to them. It doesn't get any easier this week: after four in Toronto, the Sox have three in Houston against Astros before hosting Cleveland for three and then going to the Bronx for a four game set. That's a brutal stretch of games that could very well determine how the rest of the summer goes. With the Yankees on a roll and now in first place in the AL East and the Rays not going anywhere, the Sox need to take advantage and beat up on Toronto and then try to win the three series that follow if they want to stay in the hunt. This is what happens when you have a dismal start like they did back in April; there's no margin for error and every game has huge importance, even in May.
24-22 record, 3rd in AL East (4.5 GB the Yankees)
Photo: (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)