By Dakota Randall
BU News Service
On a beautiful Marathon Monday at Fenway Park, the Boston bats and bullpen looked decidedly ugly.
Despite Clay Buchholz’s best start of the season, and entering the eighth inning holding a 1-0 lead, the bullpen imploded, and the Boston lineup failed to produce much of anything on an otherwise tremendous sports day in Boston.
Buchholz threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up no runs on six hits while striking out two. But the Red Sox managed only seven hits and three runs, thanks in part to a Josh Rutledge double in the second inning, punctuated by a hair-flip that’s sure to make the pink hats happy.
— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) April 18, 2016
Travis Shaw and Hanley Ramirez each drove in runs in the ninth inning to set up a pinch-hit opportunity for David Ortiz that made things interesting, but instead Big Papi walked-off to the dugout after striking out.
The loss dropped the Red Sox’ record to 6-6, while allowing Toronto to salvage a split of the four game series.
Next up for Boston is a three game set against Tampa Bay that begins tomorrow night when the Sox send Joe Kelly to the mound for the third time this season.
Pregame Ceremony – The Red Sox have done a nicer job with their pregame ceremonies this season, keeping them short and sweet, as opposed to the typically drawn-out and overly scripted. Monday was another nice touch, as 2013 marathon-bombing survivor Jeff Bauman was joined by actor Jake Gyllenhaal for a ceremonial first pitch, and both threw strikes. Gyllenhaal will be portraying Bauman in the 2017 film “Stronger,” which is inspired by the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
It's not every day you film a movie scene during pregame! Thanks for joining us, Jeff Bauman & Jake Gyllenhaal! pic.twitter.com/UyQ3u2UMwF
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 18, 2016
Clay Buchholz – He wasn’t overpowering by any means, but he made pitches when he had to, and was aided by Toronto grounding into four double-plays, including three off the bat of Jose Bautista. Buchholz was the first Sox starter since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008 to induce at least four double-plays in one start. He can often look like Matsuzaka on the mound, constantly living on the corners and running full-counts, leading to more pitches and fewer innings. Still, against a lineup like Toronto’s, the Red Sox have to be thrilled with the way he pitched.
Jackie Bradley Jr. – Bradley has put up the type of offensive numbers that are probably fair to expect from him the rest of the way. His batting-average sits at .243, and he’s been getting on base at an acceptable rate. But he’s in there for his defense, which may be the best in the league. That was on display again Monday afternoon, as Bradley made a fantastic diving play in the seventh inning.
— MLB (@MLB) April 18, 2016
Boston’s Offense – Regardless of how good your lineup is, and the Sox’ is very good, you’re going to have some slumps and off days. Boston’s hitters were able to muster just three runs for the second-straight game. Like any team, the Red Sox are driven by the top of their lineup, and the Sox’ top-three hitters on Monday combined to go just 1-for-12. Also, giving David Ortiz the occasional day off makes sense, but choosing to do so on his final Patriot’s Day was a little puzzling, even with the lefty starter.
Farrell’s Decision Making – I’m not usually one to complain about strategies that setup a Koji Uehara apperance, but I thought Farrell mismanaged the end of the game on Monday. Buchholz had thrown just 97 pitches, and deserved to finish out the seventh inning. Instead, Farrell brought on Tazawa for just one out, and then brought in Uehara in the eighth to face a team that’s already seen a lot of him this season. Uehara had a rough outing, giving up four earned runs before exiting with the bases loaded, handing the ball off to an also ineffective Craig Kimbrel. The right move would’ve been to bring Tazawa in for the eighth, giving Koji additional rest. Of course, these types of problems may not exist once Carson Smith is healthy.
Christian Vazquez’s Defense – Can’t imagine we’ll be saying this too often this season, but Vazquez had a tough day behind the dish. Twice he was charged with passed-balls, both of which on bunt attempts. The second was particularly costly, as the Jays had runners on first and second in the eighth inning, but were able to advance on Vazquez’s miscue. The batter at the plate, Michael Saunders, eventually grounded out to second base, on what would likely have been another double-play.
KEEP AN EYE ON
As mentioned previously, the Boston bullpen could really use the return of a healthy Carson Smith. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was acquired last offseason in the Wade Miley trade, could return soon.
After pitching in a simulated game on Saturday, Smith is schedule to throw another simulation on Tuesday, with additional work lined up for Thursday and Saturday. If all goes well, John Farrell has suggested that Smith would likely join a minor-league affiliate for a rehab stint before rejoining the Red Sox.