Series Recap: Red Sox vs. Rays 4/19-4/21

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Some quick thoughts on Red Sox-Rays coming up right after I neglect to use my best relievers in high leverage situations again…

  • Yeah, so that series could have gone better. One clean game was sandwiched between two incredibly frustrating ones, and the Sox lost ground in the division despite playing a lowly Rays team that lots of experts had pegged for the AL East basement this year. Boston has now dropped four of their last five (putting them back under .500 after a last week’s three game winning streak) and holds a 1-2-2 record in series so far this season.
  • Game 1 on Tuesday sucked because Drew Smyly went all John Deer and totally mowed down the Sox lineup, negating a really good effort by the Red Sox ‘pen that filled in nicely for 8.1 innings after Joe Kelly hurt his shoulder in the 1st. Matt Barnes and Tommy Layne coughed it up in the 10th, but on the whole it was a solid effort for the Sox relievers. On Thursday, David Price struggled (more on that in a second), and in the 7th, John Farrell chose to turn to newly called up William Cuevas. Cuevas handled his first inning well, but with so many bullpen pitchers deemed unavailable and Farrell unwilling to use his best usable reliever (Koji), the 25-year-old rookie was trotted back out for the eighth. He gave up the lead on a two out double by Steven Souza Jr. I get that the bullpen was taxed from Game 1. I get the traditional logic of saving your closer for the ninth. But you have to go to Koji there, you just have to. Someday we’ll get to the point where managers figure out that sometimes the most important inning of the game isn’t the 9th, but we’re obviously not there yet.
  • Price needs to be better. I know that his Aprils are the cruelest, as his career 4.14 ERA in that month can attest to, and I know that he’s been effective in two of his four starts. But against a fairly weak Rays lineup, and with an overtaxed bullpen from earlier in the series (and the rest of the season, if we’re being honest), the Sox needed seven or eight strong innings from the guy they’re paying $30 million this season. 3.2 innings and and eight runs later, Boston was faced with the prospect of mounting a comeback despite scoring five runs in the opening frame and having their ace on the hill. It’s no secret that the rotation behind Price is lacking, especially with Eduardo Rodriguez still M.I.A, making his starts all the more important to not only have a true quality starter once every five days, but also to preserve the bullpen.
  • After going 0-4 with two strikeouts on Tuesday, there were some grumblings on the interwebs about whether or not Mookie Betts should be batting leadoff. Then this happened. Betts now leads the team in home runs. I think we can all relax a little bit now.
  • Hey, Rick Porcello actually looks pretty good out there! In February, FanGraphs had a pretty interesting post about how Porcello’s curveball started to mirror Adam Wainwright‘s over the last part of 2015. Though its early, that improvement has continued into 2016. So far this season, Porcello’s curveball has been 1.03 runs above average per 100 pitches, a number that would stand as a career best (and a two run improvement from last year). It might not seem like much, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.
  • Henry Owens has been called up from Pawtucket to replace Kelly in the rotation. Owens had some bright spots in his brief stint last year, but was also wildly inconsistent. In three starts at AAA this season, he’s 1-1 with a 1.00 ERA. The good news? He’s struck out 23 batters in 18 innings (and has a 32.3 K%). The bad news? He’s also walked 10 batters and has an impossible strand rate of 96.8%, meaning that ERA might be more than a little deceiving. If he struggles to find the zone at the major league level, we’ll probably get more of the same kind of starts we got from him last year. His flow might give Robbie Ross’ a run for its money though, so that’s something at least.

Up next: The Astros.

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