Five days ago, Zack Godley gave the Red Sox the type of hope they’ve lacked with their pitchers this season. He looked electric in a prolonged bullpen outing (four innings, no runs, no walks, seven strikeouts vs. the Mets) that prompted manager Ron Roenicke to give him a start on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
But the hope fizzled swiftly in a 5-2 loss in the Bronx, where Godley served up a 412-foot grand slam to center field to Gio Urshela in the second inning that pinned the Red Sox in an all-too-familiar position -- down big early.
Aaron Judge had already hit one to the moon (455-foot solo shot) in the first, and Urshela’s rocket made it 5-0.
While the pitch that Judge walloped was a knuckle-curve that stayed in the middle of the plate, Urshela went down to the lowest portion of the strike zone to smack a changeup for his slam.
“These guys were sitting soft and that’s what I threw them, and they just took advantage of it,” Godley said. “They hit a couple balls into the shift and got base hits, and then Urshela did what he did. It’s kind of one of those things where you just have to make the adjustments and keep moving forward.”
Forward progress has been elusive for the Red Sox. They won their first game in blowout fashion, then lost four in a row at Fenway Park. They rebounded to win two straight at Citi Field, but have now lost two straight in the Bronx.
Off to a disappointing 3-6 start, the six losses have had a nearly identical formula for the Red Sox: The starting pitcher spots the opposition an early lead and the slumping offense can’t mount much of a comeback.
“I know we got down right away, 5-0, but our offense isn’t catching up,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “We got the two runs, made it 5-2, then we didn’t do much. So with what I feel about our guys, we need to get guys clicking right, because we know as a group when you look at this lineup, it is a very good lineup. So the pitching really, even yesterday, the pitching was good enough for us to win games, and today, same thing.”
In the hours leading up to the game, the Red Sox learned that ace Eduardo Rodriguez was shut down for the season due to myocarditis. Rodriguez joins Chris Sale as two key Sox pitchers who won’t throw a pitch in 2020. Other than Nathan Eovaldi and perhaps Martín Pérez, the Red Sox currently have no answers in their rotation.
The task of replacing Sale and Rodriguez seems more daunting by the day. And making the challenge even bigger is that the Red Sox continue to perform well below their potential offensively, particularly when it comes to the big guns in the lineup.
J.D. Martinez was given the night off to regroup and rest his slumping bat. Other than Xander Bogaerts, who smoked an RBI double in the third, the offense produced little of substance. For Bogaerts, who sports a .670 OPS, perhaps that smash off the wall in right-center is a sign he is on the verge of getting hot.
Leadoff man Andrew Benintendi walked twice, but he has just two hits on the season -- one of which was a bunt. Rafael Devers, such a force last season, is hitting .182 with a .532 OPS.
Roenicke doesn’t sound inclined to shake up the lineup this early in the season.
“That’s a little bit more difficult,” said Roenicke. "We may tinker with it a little bit, but I think they’re lined up OK. I don’t think that’s the issue. I think we just need to get a couple guys hot and other guys feed off of it.
“We’ll start hitting home runs with people on base instead of just solo homers, so I know we’re still going to hit. It’s just right now that we’re having a couple of guys scuffling a little bit, and when they get going, I think it’ll rub off on the other guys.”