Eight walks, two ejections, two errors, and an inside-the-park home run all mingled in the unsavory baseball potpourri that was a 9-5 Red Sox loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
Boston has lost three straight and is 1-5 on this homestand with two games to go. The Red Sox have lost seven of their last eight home games and now two in a row to the Rangers, who entered the series 10-18 on the road. The Sox are .500 for the first time since the first day of June.
“We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to compete,” said manager Alex Cora.
There are problems aplenty, but near the top of the list is that, because of injuries and choices in roster construction, the Red Sox are relying on several inexperienced pitchers who look overmatched.
On Tuesday, they gave the ball to 22-year-old Darwinzon Hernandez, a talented prospect with electric stuff who struggled with command in his first major league start.
Hernandez struck out seven but walked five and gave up four runs, three earned, in three innings. His night was done after 86 pitches, and he became the first Sox starter to throw more balls (44) than strikes (42) in an outing of at least 50 pitches since Wade Miley in April 2015.
“He’s still learning, but you see the stuff. It’s really good. We’ve just got to keep developing him,” Cora said.
Hernandez, through a translator, said he wasn’t sure if his problems were mechanical or otherwise. He was sharp initially, striking out the first four batters he faced, and then became erratic and overreliant on his fastball, which was dropping in velocity.
“After the first inning I just lost my control a bit,” Hernandez said. “I tried to be as consistent as possible, but it’s just one of those days where I didn’t have a good outing.”
Hernandez, Ryan Weber, Colton Brewer, Mike Shawaryn, Josh Taylor, Josh Smith, and Bobby Poyner make up an inexperienced bunch, but the Sox have needed all of them within the last week. On Tuesday, the eight walks given up by Boston pitchers tied a season high.
The offense kept pace for a bit. The Sox scored a run in the second inning and two more in the third, when Rafael Devers smashed a two-out, two-run triple into the triangle to end an 0-for-20 slump. After Hernandez gave up a run at the start of the fourth, he turned the 4-3 game over to Brewer, who finished the inning without further damage.
Then Poyner came in and gave up two runs in the fifth and another three in the sixth. Those three runs were scored on an inside the park home run by Hunter Pence, whose ball rolled to a stop in right field before Brock Holt realized that it was in play and not in the stands.
“That’s kind of embarrassing on my part,” Holt said. “Got to do a better job of paying more attention. That one was on me, I don’t know if I would have been able to keep Hunter to a triple there or what, but I’ve got to go get that ball.”
Overall, Poyner went three innings and allowed five runs, all earned, on six hits, two walks, and two strikeouts.
J.D. Martinez hit an RBI double in the seventh to tack on a run for the Red Sox. Mookie Betts did the same with a solo home run in the ninth.
Andrew Benintendi and Cora were both ejected in the fifth inning. Benintendi was tossed by first base umpire Vic Carapazza as he walked back to the dugout after grounding out.
Benintendi had disagreed with a called strike by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez on the first pitch of his at-bat. He didn’t say anything to Hernandez at the time but said, “You suck,” as he was walking to the dugout. Carapazza heard him and took issue.
“I ground out and was frustrated and I mean, all I said was, ‘You suck.’ Angel didn’t even know I was thrown out until I went back out there, so obviously he didn’t hear that,” Benintendi said. “I’m 100 feet away. Vic throws me out walking back to the dugout and I was surprised.”
It was Benintendi’s first ejection in the majors.
After the game, Hernandez told a pool reporter he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the ejection or whether it was standard for a base umpire to eject a player for arguing balls and strikes until he’d submitted his report the following day.
“He violated the rules of the game,” Hernandez said.
Cora came out to argue Benintendi’s ejection and got the boot from Carapazza, too. Cora’s main point was that Benintendi wasn’t really arguing since he was walking to the dugout. But he made it colorfully.
“Benny’s screaming at Angel, but he’s going to the dugout,” Cora said. “It’s not like he’s arguing with Angel. I just didn’t agree with it.”
Circumstances of the ejections aside, it looked as if frustrations were boiling over. The Red Sox are 14-23 against teams .500 or better and have struggled at home.
“I think guys are frustrated,” Holt said. “We try not to be, but games like tonight, it’s embarrassing. We’re not playing well, we’re not playing up to our capabilities. That’s the frustrating part, because we know we’re good.”