While the Red Sox hitters are starting to heat up, the starting pitching remains erratic at best.
Top Play (WPA): The top two plays in the game were homers from each team in the fourth inning. Baltimore scored six times in the inning to end Eduardo Rodriguez’s day early, led by Matt Wieters’ two-run home run, which proved to be the top play by WPA (.219). Boston’s offense, which has been trending upwards recently, answered in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own when Alejandro De Aza homered against his former team to drive in Pablo Sandoval and Mike Napoli (.149). However, the bullpen could not hold down Baltimore’s offense as the Red Sox attempted to come from behind. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts plated two more runs in the seventh on a single and a double, respectively.
Bottom Play (WPA): The man who had Boston’s top play in the game also produced the bottom play against his former team. In the sixth inning with no outs and Napoli on first, De Aza grounded into a double play (-.089) to kill Boston’s hope for a big inning.
Key Moment: Wieters’ two-run home run in the top of the fourth and the ensuing offensive outburst by Baltimore knocked Rodriguez out of the game. The bullpen allowed just two more runs over the final 5 1/3 innings, but those runs proved to be the difference in the game.
Trends to Watch: Eduardo Rodriguez has now made six major league starts. In the first three, he looked invincible, allowing just one earned run over 20 2/3 innings while striking out 21. His fourth start was where he showed he’s still a young player learning how to pitch at the major league level, allowing nine runs to the Toronto Blue Jays. He followed that up with a solid 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball, before going just 3 2/3 on Thursday. This is to be expected with young players, especially considering his quick ascent and age of 22. He’s shown flashes of his potential so far, and although he doesn’t project to be an ace, he has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the system and a bright future ahead of him.
Napoli broke up a streak of six strikeouts in a row in his first at-bat of the game with a bloop ground-rule double. He added another single in the fourth inning and scored two runs to raise his average just above the Mendoza line to .203. Napoli is known as a streaky hitter. Could this be the start of one of his hot streaks? Maybe, but that question has been asked many times already this season.
Jonathan Aro was called up from Pawtucket prior to the game, and was thrust into action right away due to Rodriguez’s early departure. He allowed four hits and one run while striking out two over his 1 1/3 innings of work. At this time last year, Aro was pitching in Low-A Greenville, but he has continued to excel and rocketed through the system. This season in 44 2/3 innings pitched split evenly between Portland and Pawtucket, he owns a 2.22 ERA with 49 strikeouts and just 11 walks. Even more impressively, he put up a ratio of 30 strikeouts to three walks after his promotion to the PawSox. While he doesn’t profile as a future closer-type, the 24-year-old looks like a nice bullpen piece with some late-inning upside.
Coming Next: The Red Sox head down to Florida for the start of a three-game weekend series against the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow night. The Rays are coming off a series loss to the Blue Jays, but still lead the New York Yankees by a game. If the Red Sox plan to mount any sort of a comeback this season, they need to win this series.
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