Just when you thought the Red Sox might be headed for a straightforward win after taking an early lead, Clay Buchholz couldn’t escape the third inning, and Boston’s bullpen struggled to stem the tide in an ugly loss to the Blue Jays.
Top Play by WPA: Picking anything involving Buchholz in the third frame would be a good place to start, and indeed three of the four biggest plays by WPA involved a base hit against the right-hander in the third. The top spot Tuesday night goes to Josh Donaldson (.134), who hit a hard groundball through the right side of the infield to plate Ryan Goins and push Devon Travis to third base. Oddly enough, the Red Sox still led 4-2 at this point, but trust me that things didn’t get any better for Boston from there.
Bottom Play by WPA: The one pitcher who actually pitched well (for either club) was Marco Estrada, who came in to relieve Toronto starter Drew Hutchison with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning. After walking Mookie Betts to bring the Red Sox within three runs, Estrada got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to shortstop to end the inning (-.088) and Boston’s best chance at a comeback.
Key Moment: Buchholz’s failure in the third inning was a tough blow, but the Red Sox actually had some chances to come back in this game. With the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth, Estrada allowed just one inherited runner to score, keeping Toronto’s lead at three. In a game when both Buchholz and Mujica failed to avoid big innings, Estrada’s ability to hold the Red Sox to one run in that situation proved vital.
Trend to Watch: It might feel like beating a dead horse at this point, but Boston’s woeful pitching continues to be a real problem. And when your Opening Day starter fails to get out of the third inning, it doesn’t leave much hope for improvement.
Red Sox starters now have a 6.02 ERA on the season, and since their first turn through the rotation, they have a 7.48 ERA (h/t @TimBritton). Boston’s starting staff certainly has plenty of time to turn things around, but with each disappointing outing, the issue only grows more glaring.
On a happier note, Pablo Sandoval is officially on fire at the plate. Sandoval went 3-for-4 with two doubles and added a couple nice plays in the field for good measure. Let’s forget about any lingering concerns over his slow start to the season.
Coming Next: The Red Sox will close out their three-game set with the Blue Jays on Wednesday night with another 6:10 p.m. start time. They’ll need a solid outing from Rick Porcello after Buchholz’s stinker, but at least the offense will get to face R.A. Dickey in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway. Boston then gets their first day off in two weeks Thursday before beginning a weekend set at home against the red-hot Yankees. Justin Masterson will take the mound Friday opposite Michael Pineda.
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