Sox's mental miscues 'obviously concerning' 

August 15th, 2020

In this week of mishaps for the Red Sox, they were again hampered by an untimely mistake on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

For roughly half the contest, Boston stayed right in it, utilizing a bullpen game while the Yankees went with stud righty Gerrit Cole.

With two outs and nobody on in the fifth in this eventual 10-3 loss, Ryan Brasier gave up what could have been a harmless single to Gleyber Torres. Moments later, unaware that Mitch Moreland wasn’t covering first base, Brasier looked over on a potential pickoff throw and wound up balking Torres to second.

“Mitch told him he was behind [the runner] and Ryan forgot, so he threw over to first,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, a patient man who has to be getting exasperated by his team’s frequent mistakes.

Continuing the other theme of the week, the Red Sox were immediately victimized by the mental error, surrendering three runs in the inning to fall into a 5-1 hole against Cole, who improved to 4-0 this season while lowering his ERA to 2.76.

“No doubt that changed the game,” said Roenicke. “We are close at that point and then we let it get away from us. It’s a really good team. If you let them get away with it where you give them an opening, they usually capitalize.”

The Sox are 0-4 against their rivals this season. But the bigger problem is the past five days, in which sloppy baseball and unreliable pitching have been the culprits in Boston getting outscored 52-25.

“It’s obviously concerning,” said Roenicke. “You don’t like the mental mistakes. We can take getting beat, but we don’t want to give it to teams. Every time we do, they capitalize on it. We make an error and all of a sudden we give up a homer. Just doing things to give teams opportunities to score runs. So, just try to focus more, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the issue, the focus. I don’t know. Things are just not going well.”

That’s an understatement. In this season-high five-game losing streak, the 6-14 Red Sox have had fielding miscues, baserunning mistakes and, the latest, a balk that should have never happened. Boston’s pitchers have allowed at least eight runs in each game of the skid.

“Yeah, you know, it’s tough,” said Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. “I think we’re all competitive, we all want to win, so when the results aren’t there, it’s a little bit tough. But we’ve just got to come out here every day, play hard, just keep throwing the ball, keep hitting, [better] situational hitting and hopefully turn it around.”

At this point, turning it around seems like a daunting proposition.

One-third of the way into this 60-game season, the Red Sox are on pace to go 18-42. The current losing streak is their third this season of four games or more. That is not a formula for making it to the postseason, even in a year in which the field has been increased from five to eight teams per league.

“We know that to go out there and win, it’s going to be hard. We’re going to really have to put together some good wins from all sides of the field,” Verdugo said. “Like I said, it’s just something that it could be as small as [Nathan] Eovaldi coming out there and throwing us five, six innings solid [on Saturday night] and offensively us jumping on [James] Paxton or something.”

There was one bright spot

If you’re looking for a silver lining in Friday’s loss, look no further than Verdugo’s at-bat against Cole in the top of the fourth. With the count 1-1, Verdugo teed off on Cole’s curve and deposited it into the second deck in right field.

Coming off a back injury last season, Verdugo looks more comfortable at the plate with each passing week. He now has four homers on the season.

“I like to take the first pitch through all my at-bats, especially coming into this division and it’s my first time facing a lot of these pitchers,” said Verdugo. “That at-bat, he threw me a curveball that I took for the first pitch and I felt like I saw it well. I felt good on it. I felt good on the take. And then he threw a fastball, I think, outside corner for a strike and it was one of those things, I think my approach at that particular time was really, really good.”

Things were not so good for J.D. Martinez, the slugger who appeared to be finding his groove earlier in the week. In this one, Martinez went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

“Chasing,” Roenicke said. “Obviously a great pitcher makes you chase a lot more. So whether it’s a 97 mph fastball or a great slider, curveball, this is a really good pitcher and you have to be on your game in order to have great at-bats against him.”