The Red Sox offense has averaged 2.8 runs per game in May, which is awful. Last night they erupted for five runs, with three coming in the eighth inning following some sloppy Rangers defense. Regardless, it helped earn the Sox a much needed win to start the series. The win was obviously really nice but the real story of the night was Eduardo Rodriguez, who pitched excellently in his major league debut.
Top Play (WPA): In the 5th inning with the game knotted at zero, Blake Swihart lead off the inning with a single to right field. He then advanced to second on a Dustin Pedroia single. With one out, Mookie Betts ripped an 89 mph Nick Martinez fastball to left field that knocked Swihart in and advanced Pedroia to second (WPA: + .130).
A close second top play of the game was Hanley’s solo home run that lead off the bottom of the 6th inning (WPA: + .120):
Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom play of the game immediately followed the top play of the game. After Mookie singled to drive in Swihart, Pablo Sandoval came to the plate with a chance to add to the Red Sox lead. Unfortunately, he grounded into a double-play to end the inning (WPA: – .092). The Red Sox grounded into five double plays on the night, bringing their season total to 42, which puts them in the top five in the game. The second and third worst plays of the game were also Red Sox players grounding into double plays: Swihart in the second inning with one out and runners on first and second (WPA: – .091), and Brock Holt in the sixth inning with nobody out and a runner on first (WPA: – .055). The GIDP is not going to help this offense get on track.
Key Moment: It is hard to determine the extent to which this moment had a real effect on the outcome of the game, but striking out Prince Fielder, who has been hotter than the dickens of late, in the first inning of your major league debut has to do wonders to ease anxiety. Eduardo Rodriguez did just that with a gorgeous 87 mph slider in a full count that Fielder whiffed on miserably. Not bad for his first strikeout in the major leagues. He then proceeded to carve up the Rangers lineup over 6.2 more excellent innings for a final line of 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 HR, 2 BB, 7 SO. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox continue with their stated plan of sending him back to Pawtucket after the one start.
Trend to Watch: How the Red Sox handle David Ortiz over the next few weeks will be very interesting. Similar to 2009 when he started the season very slowly, Ortiz’s ability to produce at a high level is being questioned. Entering last night’s game he held a .245 TAv, and 80 wRC+. In Minnesota he was dropped down to the fifth spot in the lineup for the second and third games of the series; he went 1/8 with a double and no walks. Ortiz tells Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that his issues are not mechanical but rather an inability to identify pitches he can drive. Whatever it is, John Farrell is giving him a few days off during this trip to Arlington to work things out. While Ortiz told Cafardo his issues are not mechanical, the NESN telecast of last night’s game showed him pointing out aspects of his stance on printouts to Brian Butterfield, so who knows what is going on. Hopefully the few days off do him well and he gets back to knocking the ball all over the yard.
Continuing with another trend related to a middle of the order bat: The Red Sox and Ramirez have been adamant that his shoulder is not hampering his performance, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Prior to the injury he had a .326 isolated power (ISO) in his 103 plate appearance, since the injury (not including last night’s game) it is .044 in 75 PAs. Anything can happen in small numbers of plate appearances like these, so this change could just be random variation, but when there is a potential cause like his shoulder injury it needs to be considered as the issue. Either way, Ramirez had a double and a home run last night and looked more like he did in the early going of this season. If his shoulder is truly healthy he can get back to raking.
Coming next: The Sox continue their series with the Rangers, sending Steven Wright to the mound against Yovani Gallardo. Wright is making his fifth big league start, third this season. He has done a decent job filling in for the injured Justin Masterson. He will need to get his knuckler dancing in the humid Texas air, to keep their potent offense off balance. Gallardo, an offseason trade acquisition of the Rangers, has not pitched well. His 4.13 ERA and 4.16 FIP are both well above his career rates (3.71, 3.73, respectively). He has been allowing more contact than usual this season, ideally the Red Sox can make consistent, hard contact and get the offense rolling in a positive direction.
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