Pitchers fielding practice doesn’t come around to often, but Saturday was one of those days.
Practically every arm on the Red Sox staff was on the field getting work in before they faced the Texas Rangers. Chris Sale didn’t have to participate because he had thrown the night before.
Eduardo Rodriguez was preparing to take the mound, so he was able to skip the drills and go through his game day routine.
Rodriguez only lasted 3⅔ innings in the Sox’s 10-1 loss, but baseball, being the funny game that it is, made sure he got his reps in anyway. Rodriguez’s miscues in the field were symptomatic of larger issues that plagued the Sox all night.
The Rangers lineup churned out a season-high 17 hits, but the Sox aided them with a season-high five errors, the most since 2017 when they committed five errors against the Orioles. The ugly night led to an ugly loss at a pivotal point for a Sox team trying to claw its way back in the division race. The Sox are in the middle of a nine-game run against sub-.500 teams.
“Embarrassing is the word,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “And it starts from me. Five errors, we didn’t run the bases well, we didn’t put good at-bats. We didn’t pitch. In this thing, it’s a team effort, it starts with us, it starts with the coaches to keep coaching. We’ve been playing sloppy ball for a while and they keep doing it. So at one point, we’ve got to be accountable, too.
“That was embarrassing today. It’s not acceptable. For a team that’s fighting for the playoffs to show up like that and play like that, it’s not acceptable. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose the game, it’s how you win or lose the game and that’s not acceptable.”
The first test for Rodriguez in the field was small but revealing.
With one out in the first inning, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa chopped a ground ball to second. Rodriguez was a step slow to getting off the mound to cover first and Bobby Dalbec ended up in a foot race to the bag with Kiner-Falefa, who beat him by a step.
It wasn’t costly. Rodriguez struck out Adonis García and got D.J. Peters to line out to center.
But the Sox trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning when the ball found Rodriguez again. With Andy Ibáñez on second, Rodriguez fed Brock Holt a 2-and-1 sinker. Holt shot it back to the mound. Rodriguez couldn’t react fast enough.
“I saw the ball at the last second and by the time I realized where the ball was, it was already over second base,” Rodriguez said.
The bouncer ricocheted off Rodriguez’s foot. Sox second baseman Kiké Hernández chased it down at the lip of the infield and tried to fire home to get Ibáñez, but the one-hopper was too late. The errant throw allowed Holt to take third on what started as a simple ground ball up the middle.
“We’re not in the business of ‘trying to make plays,’ we have to make plays,” Cora said. “And we haven’t been making plays for a while. We have a job to do. We’ve got to play better, and today, we we didn’t play good. We didn’t play good, we deserve what happened today on the field.”
The seams came apart from there.
On Rodriguez’s next pitch, Kiner-Falefa doubled to center to score holt and stretch the lead to 4-1.
Cora didn’t wait to see if Rodriguez could clean up the mess.
Rodriguez took out his frustrations in the dugout, slamming his glove into the bench.
Despite his success in August up to that point (2 earned runs in 16.2 innings in three starts), Rodriguez failed to make to out of the fourth inning for the third time in his past six starts. He gave up five runs on eight hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Cora brought Hirokazu Sawamura out of the bullpen. García worked Sawamura to a full count before shooting a ground ball to the hole at short. Xander Bogaerts made a sliding snare, but couldn’t hit the target at first. Kiner-Falefa scored and the Rangers pushed the lead to 5-1.
An RBI double by Ibáñez padded the Rangers lead, 6-1. The game got messier in the eighth.
Martin Perez took over and gave up a single to Kiner-Falefa and a double to García to start the inning. After gifting Peters to ground out to first, a wild pitch let Kiner-Falefa come across to give Texas a 7-1 lead. Yohel Pozo singled to left to score García. Nick Solak reached on a fielder’s choice to third, then Ibáñez shot a ground ball to right for a single that scored Pozo and Solak and put the Sox in a 10-1 hole.
For a team starving for scoring, the 10-run performance felt like an outburst. The Rangers have only scored double-digit runs four times all season.
The Sox’s lone run came in the third inning on an RBI single from Hernández.
The Sox have been sliding in the AL East standings since the All-Star break, and falling to one of baseball’s bottom feeders doesn’t help.
The Sox came in 2-4 against Texas on the season. They’ve lost four of their last five and are 15-19 since the All-Star break. With the loss, coupled with the Tampa Bay Rays’ 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox, the Sox fell to 6½ games behind the AL East-leading Rays in the division.
With 37 games left in the season, Cora said the team had to double-down on fundamentals. If it meant more work on base running, defense, bunting, situational hitting, then so be it. But he couldn’t stomach watching his team play the ugly brand of baseball it submitted vs. the Rangers.
“Today, we took a few steps back,” Cora said. “Like I said, it’s not acceptable. We’ve got to be better. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard on us. I hate the way we played today. I hate it. I know a lot of people praise me because I pay attention to details and all that stuff.
“Well that that’s not an attention to detail. That’s not good, sound baseball. It starts with ownership, right? I’m the manager of this team, so I’m accountable. I’ve got to do a better job to put these guys in a better position to be successful.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.