A prospect of the past breezed through the Red Sox lineup in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park.
Heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, Chicago White Sox starter Michael Kopech had faced the minimum, stifling the Red Sox hitters mainly with his upper-90s fastball.
Kopech finally yielded his first baserunners in that fourth inning, issuing a walk to Kiké Hernández, followed by an Alex Verdugo single up the middle. It ultimately put a stamp on the evening for Kopech, who is still being stretched out, the reason why White Sox manager Tony La Russa had such a short leash. Nevertheless, the Kopech outing was a precursor to an evening in which the Sox’ bats went silent in a 5-1 loss and a sweep in the day’s doubleheader.
“They have stuff there,” manager Alex Cora said regarding the White Sox pitching staff. “I know they lost some games with the bullpen, but stuff-wise, it’s one of the toughest staffs in the big leagues. They’ve got velocity, good secondary pitches. They were good.”
The Red Sox had just four hits in Game 2. Combined with their 3-2 loss earlier in the day, the Red Sox struck out 11 times and walked just once. This is after the Red Sox headed into Sunday with the third-best on-base percentage in baseball (.346).
“We haven’t been walking, but at the same time, when we get pitches to hit, we’re not missing them,” Cora said. “So, it’s a combination of both, we like to swing the bat, we like to control the strike zone. There are certain guys that have to be more patient than others. And we’ll talk about it.”
The Sox’ only run in Game 2 came in the fourth when J.D. Martinez’s single up the middle off White Sox reliever Matt Foster scored Verdugo from second.
The starting pitching wasn’t there for the Sox, either. Martín Pérez got shellacked in an outing that lasted just 3⅔ innings. Perez allowed four runs (all earned) on seven hits, including a booming solo shot by Chicago’s Yérmin Mercedes in the fourth.
“I was trying to throw a changeup down and away,” Pérez said. “It stayed away but in the zone and he hit the pitch very well. I just have to come back in my next outing and go as long as I can.”
Tanner Houck kept the Red Sox in Game 1. And despite recording only two strikeouts in his 4⅓ innings of work, Houck didn’t issue a walk, displaying solid command throughout the afternoon.
“Overall, it was a good outing,” Cora said. “He gave us a chance to win the game. So we’re very pleased with the way he threw the ball.”
Chicago pounced on the first pitch of the day, Tim Anderson drilling a Houck sinker for a homer to right-center. Houck allowed another run in the fourth inning on Yasmani Grandal’s RBI double off the Green Monster in left-center.
In the bottom half of that frame, Martinez singled with one out, moved up on a Xander Bogaerts groundout, then went to third on Rafael Devers’s single to left-center. Hunter Renfroe followed with a chopper that third baseman Yoan Moncada couldn’t handle, driving in Martinez to make it 2-1.
But with runners on first and third, Renfroe was picked off first by White Sox lefthanded starter Dallas Keuchel. Devers slammed his helmet once Renfroe was called out, recognizing the missed opportunity, which ultimately played into the final outcome.
Even in the midst of their nine-game winning streak, the Red Sox knew — and voiced — that there would be games in which the club would hit a bump. Yet reality remains that the Sox have a chance at a series split Monday morning, spearheaded by Nate Eovaldi, who is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA this season. With that perspective, the Red Sox like their chances despite the lack of productivity from the club that defined its two losses Sunday.
“We’re good enough to compete with any team,” Pérez said. “We just need to stay together and stay focused.”