Round 1 in the battle of the Sox didn’t quite go as planned, thought perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
The Boston offense couldn’t do much against the Chicago White Sox’ league-leading pitching staff, falling 4-1 in the first game of a three-game set.
The game featured yet another poor performance against an opposing left-handed starter, and offered the latest example of the still-failing Chris Young experiment.
White Sox’ lefty Jose Quintana silenced the Red Sox’ bats, surrendering just one run on four hits over eight innings, while striking out five and walking none. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright again pitched well for the Sox, allowing two earned-runs over six innings while striking out six.
The Steven Wright difference. https://t.co/zgeTGJkdxG
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) May 4, 2016
The Red Sox have now faced just three left-handed starters this season — Quintana, Toronto’s J.A. Happ, and Tampa’s Drew Smyly — and have been dominated each time. The three southpaws have combined to allow just two runs in 23 innings.
Boston also moved to 0-6 in games that Chris Young has started. Young finished 0-for-3, and will get his second consecutive start Wednesday night against Chicago lefty Carlos Rodon.
Young signed a two-year, $13 million contract to primarily serve as the teams fourth outfielder, and receive regular at-bats against lefties.
Young’s opportunities have been scarce, but he hasn’t done much with the ones that he’s had. The righty has just 32 plate appearances, and has hit .167 with a .519 OPS. Against lefties — the pitchers he was brought into face — he has just three hits and two walks in 15 trips to the plate.
Wright was tagged for a run in both the first and third innings, but was otherwise very effective. Offensively, a fifth inning opposite-field blast by Hanley Ramirez accounted for all of Boston’s scoring.
The game also marked the return of right-handed reliever Carson Smith, who pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, before giving way to a miserable outing by Junichi Tazawa in the eighth, that allowed Chicago to bust the game open.
The loss dropped the Red Sox to 15-11 on the season, also sliding them back into second place in the AL East. Boston will take on the White Sox again Wednesday night, when they send Clay Buchholz and his 6.51 ERA to the mound.
Wright — Despite dropping to 2-3 on the season, Wright has, statistically speaking, been one of the best pitchers in the American League thus far. In all of his five starts, he’s notched a quality start, and has yet to surrender more than two earned-runs. He still sports a sparkling 1.67 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
Smith — In his first appearance since returning from a right flexor muscle strain that landed him on the disabled list in spring training, Carson Smith showed just why he figures to be such a huge addition to an already great Red Sox bullpen. Smith induced two quick ground outs, and finished his outing by striking out Austin Jackson on a sharp slider, his best pitch. If Smith can stay healthy, he could be a dominant setup man for the Red Sox.
Ramirez — There’s been a lot of talk about Ramirez’s production. Despite his .284 average, he has just two home runs on the season — including one Tuesday night — and his .718 OPS is barely above the league average. But he’s played a surprisingly good first base, and has made a lot of hard contact recently. Hitting a homer to the opposite field, especially off a very tough pitcher, could be a sign that Ramirez is starting to heat up.
Here is Hanley Ramirez's second home-run swing of 2016. pic.twitter.com/pd5JgmpvVK
— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) May 4, 2016
Young — This is just as much about Young’s production as it is the way he’s been used. It’s not he or Boston’s fault that the Sox have had a league-low 151 plate appearances against left-handers, but the use of Young has at times been very awkward. It’s certainly important to get his bat going, but forcing him into the lineup when a lefty isn’t on the mound just doesn’t make sense. And when he’s gotten opportunities — like Tuesday night — he’s done little to justify being paid nearly $7 million per-year to be a righty specialist. If thing’s don’t turn around, this has all the makings of mid-season trade to accommodate a disgruntled player.
Tazawa — Brutal appearance for Tazawa, one that transformed a 2-1 game in the eighth inning into 4-1 deficit, all but ending the game. Tazawa pitched just 1/3 of an inning, allowing two earned-runs on two hits and two walks. He also threw a wild pitch. HIs ERA rose to 2.70, which is still pretty good. This could be the last time we see Tazawa in this type of situation, as the eighth inning is likely Koji Uehara’s (or Smith’s) to lose.
KEEP AN EYE ON
John Farrell could soon have a logjam in his rotation. Rehabbing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez thew six innings in a start for Triple-A Pawtucket Tuesday night, and may make just one more start before joining the team.
Joe Kelly also worked on Tuesday, throwing a bullpen session in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field. Barring the unforeseen, Kelly will make a rehab start in Pawtucket on Friday.
It’s likely that Henry Owens will be optioned back to Pawtucket once either return, but once both are back, the situation is unclear. Steven Wright has done nothing to lose his spot in the rotation, so a lot could be determined by Clay Buchholz’s outing Wednesday night.