The Red Sox’ bats were red-hot over the first four games of the new season. But Sunday afternoon in Toronto, they turned ice-cold. Blue Jays’ right-hander Marco Estrada utilized a devastating change-up to keep the Boston lineup off-balance for seven scoreless innings.
The Red Sox squandered a very good start by knuckle-baller Steven Wright, as they were able to muster just seven hits on the day. Wright had a tough first inning, surrendering two runs (one earned), but wasn’t helped by a Boston defense that recorded an error and two passed-balls.
The loss drops the Sox’ record to 3-2 on the season. Boston will send David Price to the mound for tomorrow afternoon’s home-opener against the 5-0 Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. First-pitch is set for 2:05 PM, but the the always cringe-worthy pregame ceremonies will start slightly earlier.
Steven Wright – A lot of people questioned John Farrell’s decision to go with Wright over Price in the series finale, but the 31-year-old knuckle-baller threw a great game. Outside of a sloppy first inning, Wright shut down the potent Jays’ lineup. His final line was: 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB, and 5 SO. He also fielded his own position nicely, starting two double-plays.
Despite overwhelming experience to the contrary, Boston fans still aren’t comfortable dealing with the knuckleball on a consistent basis. Tim Wakefield proved that the pitch requires much more than dumb-luck, and Wright is starting to show the same. With much of the rotation in flux, and some prospects still mired in development, Wright could get an extended look this season.
Hanley Ramirez – If this guy can stay healthy, this team could put up some scary numbers. Hanley had another big day at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 while raising his season average to .455. He’s hit safely in every game this season, and has looked more than serviceable at first base.
Travis Shaw – Shaw went hitless on the afternoon, but I thought he looked great at the plate. Estratada was cruising, and the Sox weren’t doing themselves any favors by going to the plate and swinging at nearly every pitch, resulting in a lot of quick, low-pitch innings. Shaw drew the only two walks for the Sox on the game, both times showing a lot of patience at some pitches that were baiting the rest of the lineup throughout the day.
Mookie Betts – Another tough day for Mookie. The star outfielder went 0-for-4 on the afternoon with a pair of strikeouts, lowering his season batting-average to .130. Since his big opening day, Betts is 1-for-18 with 7 K’s. Obviously, a few games barely constitutes a slump, but the Sox really could’ve used him on the base-paths in such a low-scoring game.
Boston’s Defense – Overall, the Red Sox’ defense has been impressive so far this season. With Hanley hiding at first base and Pablo hiding on the bench, the team plays a much cleaner brand of baseball. But a rough first inning, that included two passed balls by Blake Swihart and a throwing error on a double-play attempt by Dustin Pedroia, allowed Toronto to score the only two runs of the game. Not a major concern going forward, but it still cost them the game.
Boston’s Gameplan – I understand that you’re not paying Chris Young $7.25-million to sit on the bench, but I thought Farrell missed an opportunity to allow Rusney Castillo to build on his great game yesterday. Plus, if it comes down to money, Castillo makes more than Young anyway. Young went 0-for-3 on the afternoon with two strikeouts while stranding four runners. Something’s got to give. Young was primarily brought in because he kills left-handed pitching. If Castillo can’t see any time against right-handers when Brock Holt gets a day off, then he should go down to Pawtucket where he can get more consistent at-bats.
I also wasn’t a fan of Boston’s reluctance to play small-ball in a game where offense was tough to come by. The Sox have been infamous through the years for always sitting back and waiting for the ball to start flying out of the ballpark, but there’s a lot of athletes on this team that have the ability to manufacture runs when they need to.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Catching prospect Christian Vazquez continued his rehab from Tommy-John surgery Sunday afternoon, as the Pawtucket Red Sox took on the Buffalo Bisons. Vazquez finished 3-for-4 on the day, after finishing 0-for-1 yesterday with three walks.
Vazquez was placed on the 20-day-DL to start the season, and with his assignment beginning Friday night, he’s eligible to rejoin the big club on April 27. It remains to be seen how the catching situation will shakes-out upon his return, but signs point to Andover native Ryan Hannigan’s days being numbered in a Boston uniform.
Offensively, Swihart is, and always has been, the better option. Plus how can you not love a guy that refuses to put on batting gloves in sub-freezing temperatures. But Vasquez’s defensive prowess and leadership qualities will make it difficult to keep him out of the lineup once he’s back.