'Pen unable to slam door; Sox bats cool

May 2nd, 2021

It has been a grind, these last few days for the Red Sox. That said, they were just four outs away from a victory that would have made for a winning road trip.

But that’s when the grind turned into sheer frustration and, ultimately, a 5-3 loss to the Rangers.

Entrusted with a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, veteran setup man Adam Ottavino got his day off to an inauspicious start by walking Nate Lowe. Things got worse when Lowe put himself into scoring position with nobody out by stealing second.

Then it seemed like Ottavino was going to right himself, as he retired the next two batters and was ahead of David Dahl, 0-1. However, Ottavino’s second pitch was a 96.1-mph sinker that was about as center-cut as could be, and Dahl smashed into left for a game-tying single.

“I mean, obviously the leadoff walk. I mean that's the game,” said Ottavino. “I'm not trying to do that, but [I’m] pretty disappointed that I did. And, you know, after that, I mean I got to the spot where I could have gotten out of it, but I made a bad pitch and I gave up a hit there and, yeah, it’s that simple. A leadoff walk and your margin for error really shrinks.”

That was the first part of the deflation.

But it was Brock Holt who stuck the pin in the balloon for his former teammates when he greeted closer Matt Barnes with an RBI single that included an insurance run scoring on an error by Alex Verdugo.

“He’s a championship-caliber player, and he’s done it before,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of Holt. “He put a good swing on a fastball up, and he found green. He’s a good player.”

“We’re still a good team. Nothing has changed. Like I told you guys when we started 0-3, we felt like we had a good team, and after we won all those games, we still have a good team so we split the road trip,” said Cora. “We hate to lose a series. This is the first series we’ve lost since the first one [of the season], I guess. So we reset tomorrow [for an off-day], enjoy the family and hopefully it’s a sunny day in Boston, we can enjoy it and be ready for Tuesday.”

Before that Boston sunshine (hopefully) comes into play on Monday, here is a look at a couple of other takeaways from the road trip.

Offense isn’t clicking
Sure, it was a tough day for Ottavino and the bullpen. But the reason they were left with no margin for error is because the offense hasn’t been clicking of late.

After failing to score with the bases loaded and nobody out on Saturday with a 5-3 lead and then eventually losing, the Red Sox didn’t get more than one run in any inning on Sunday. Only Xander Bogaerts had much of a day, belting three hits, including a homer. Boston was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

In particular, the bottom third of the order has been spotty on the road trip.

“I just feel like we’ve been leaving a lot of guys on base and not capitalizing when we can this whole series,” said Bogaerts. “I don’t think against the Mets we had trouble, but this series I did it a couple times. It was just a base hit away from opening the gates, adding on a bigger lead. We just couldn’t get it.”

Richards bookends trip with strong starts
By far, the best development of the road trip was starting pitcher Garrett Richards breaking out of his early-season funk with two strong outings.

Richards was in line for the win on Sunday after allowing four hits and a run while walking one and striking out seven over five innings. He left with a 2-1 lead, the same score he won by behind seven dominant innings at Citi Field on Tuesday.

What is keying the resurgence for Richards? A significant mechanical adjustment he made with pitching coach Dave Bush.

“Ever since we’ve changed my delivery from the windup and the stretch, my mind has just gone into a different mode as far as my mechanics go,” said Richards. “This new delivery that me and Bushy have come up with has really gotten me back in the zone. I'm throwing a ton of strikes now. I’m attacking guys. It's overall just helped everything.”

The adjustment has led to the return of his most important pitch -- the slider. Richards tossed 28 of them on Sunday, generating 18 strikes, including seven swings and misses.

Richards also brought the heat, topping out at 96.4 mph and averaging 94.6 mph on his four-seamer.