The Red Sox survived a grueling 17-game stretch, finishing with a 10-7 record. After their May 30 contest was postponed and rescheduled for June 7, the Sox lost that Monday offday. It forced the club into that unexpected 17 games in as many days.
The Sox displayed the good and the ugly during that stretch . They lost three of four to the Astros on the road . Then responded with a three-game sweep of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. They returned home to Fenway and dropped two of three to the Astros and then, somehow, split with the Blue Jays despite being outscored 31-14 during that four-game series. Then they swept the Braves in a two-game set.
The Sox entered Thursday just one game back of the Rays in the American League East. Here’s a recap of the 17-game stretch and what’s at play heading into the Sox’ series with the Royals.
The starting pitching
You might have been wondering when the Sox’ starting pitching might take a hit. It seemed as if the rotation was overachieving heading into the month of June, living on the highwire. Prior to that 17-game stretch, Sox starters ranked 15th in the league with a 4.07 ERA. The rotation yielded just 21 homers, which ranked second behind the Mets. Teams had a 28.9 percent hard-hit rate against the Red Sox, tied for the fourth-lowest in baseball. In the following 17 games, however, Sox starters posted a 6.32 ERA, the sixth-worst in the game. Opponents had a .317 batting average (second-worst), and after surrendering just 21 homers in their first 52 games, the Sox allowed 16 in their next 17 contests, which tied for the fourth-most in that span.
The Sox relinquished leads in their last two games against the Braves but ultimately won both by a 10-8 margin.
“It was an ugly win,” manager Alex Cora said after the first win Tuesday. “But it’s a big-league win. We didn’t give up. We kept putting together good at-bats.”
More on the bats later, but first, let’s delve deeper into one specific starter.
The Red Sox have yet to figure out the Eduardo Rodriguez issue. They have dismissed — at least publicly — the notion his down season so far was as a result of contracting COVID-19 and myocarditis, forcing him to miss all of 2020. Cora and the Sox seemed as if they had an answer for his struggles, detailing that his cutter played like a hanging slider. His changeup had too much on it and could be likened to a two-seam fastball. The Sox had him dial back his changeup to roughly 83-84 miles per hour to give the hitters a different look/speed. Yet that hasn’t stopped teams from feasting against Rodriguez, who now has a 6.21 ERA this year.
In his last seven outings, Rodriguez has an 8.55 ERA, allowing 32 runs in 33 ⅔ innings pitched. After Tuesday’s outing against the Braves when Rodriguez allowed four runs in just four innings, Cora was out of answers as to why his starter still was struggling.
“Right now I don’t know,” Cora said. " I think stuff-wise, he’s good. The changeup was good. Velocity was good, elevated fast was good. He wasn’t able to finish them off.”
Teams have a 7.7 percent barrel percentage against Rodriguez, which was the highest it’s been since 2017 when he registered that same number. For context, the league average was 6.5 percent as of Thursday and Rodriguez still has a 6.4 percent barrel rate for his career. He did induce 17 swings and misses Tuesday, which was the most he’s had this year. Perhaps, if there’s anything the Sox can hang their hat on, it’s that.
The offense continues to stay at the top of the league. Before Thursday, they ranked third in batting average (.257) and were tied for third in OPS (.755). The heart of the Red Sox’ order (Nos. 2-6) have a .285 batting average and an .841 OPS, both of which ranked second in baseball behind just the Astros.
The Red Sox will face the Royals for a three-game set beginning Friday. It’s a team that will be without Andrew Benintendi, who went to the IL with a rib fracture earlier this week. This could be an opportunity for the Red Sox to rack up some wins. The Royals (30-37) are third in the AL Central and have lost nine of their last 10 games. Nick Pivetta will get the start Friday, followed by Martín Pérez and Nate Eovaldi.
The Royals still haven’t determined a starter for Friday, but will go with lefthander Kris Bubic, who has a 4.01 ERA in 42 ⅔ innings this year, and Brad Keller on Sunday. Keller has a 6.14 ERA in 14 starts this year.