LONDON — When manager Alex Cora took to the podium after the Red Sox’ loss on Saturday, he said the key for Sunday’s game would be for starter Eduardo Rodgriguez to eat up some innings. Saturday’s starter Rick Porcello had lasted only a third of an inning, the shortest outing of his career, requiring the Sox to use seven relievers.
So, for Rodriguez on Sunday, eating innings meant he had to give them quality ones, too.
After a shaky second inning in which he yielded two runs, Rodriguez cleaned up his outing and delivered 5⅓ innings. The Red Sox had a 4-2 lead over the Yankees when he left and the bullpen got out of that sixth inning without allowing a run.
In the seventh, however, it all imploded.
Reliever Marcus Walden couldn’t record an out and allowed four earned runs. Matt Barnes followed and recorded only one out while allowing three more earned runs. Josh Taylor finally got out of the inning, but not before giving up two more runs, only one earned.
The Red Sox’ 4-2 lead turned into an 11-4 deficit after the nine-run inning and the Yankees finished the sweep with a 12-8 win. The Red Sox tried to stage another comeback like they had on Saturday, but again the deficit proved too large.
But this game didn’t come down to the offense, nor even some of their defensive blunders, including first baseman Michael Chavis’s error that scored a run in the seventh inning. It was on the bullpen.
“It’s tough,” Walden said. “Especially with some of our guys throwing the ball really good for the first 78, 79 games. I don’t think it’s guys pressing, honestly. I think it’s just guys missing location.”
The Red Sox scored a combined 21 runs in the two games, including one against a very good starter in Masahiro Tanaka and arguably the most dominant bullpen in baseball.
They tallied an eye-popping 33 hits in the two games, yet that still wasn’t good enough for even one win.
“To put up those runs in general, it’s hard to do it,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “I think we put up two of the best games we’ve had offensive-wise this year. To not win, it’s really rough.”
The Red Sox bullpen allowed 20 earned runs in the two games. Barnes, who had a 1.99 ERA on June 1, now carries a 4.93 ERA. He blew a save Wednesday against the White Sox in the last game before the trip across the pond. Entering Sunday, the Red Sox tallied the sixth-most bullpen innings in the majors (324) and it’s starting to show.
Cora said it comes down to his players executing pitches better. But he said for now, the Yankees are playing at a way higher level than his team.
“That’s a good offensive team. They are a lot better than last year,” Cora said. “It was eye-opening the last two days. There was stuff the game will dictate and that will scream at people and it was right there. Throughout the evening, I was looking and right now they are a lot better than us. We need to get better.”
The Red Sox fell 11 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and Cora, who has been patient with his club, was very direct in his presser.
“We have the talent to win the World Series, but we have to play better,” Cora said. “It better happen sooner rather than later. They have a huge lead and there are other teams around us that are playing good baseball.”
The nine-run seventh inning Cora said had a lot to do with good swings taken by the Yankee hitters on bad pitches down the middle. Asked if it was more the Yankees hitting or his team’s inability to make pitches, Cora again was direct: “Both,” he said.
With two losses here, he knows the margin for error is thinning quickly.
“When you make bad pitches to good hitters, they are going to do that,” he said.