Daniel Bard was very good in his first start of the regular season, though the pitching line does not reflect it. Bard kept 64.7% of balls in play on the ground, allowed just one extra base hit while striking out six and walking just one, but far too many of those hits found holes in a lackluster Boston Red Sox defense and poor relief pitching decisions by Bobby Valentine added two runs to his total, leaving Bard with five runs in five innings work. These shortcomings were magnified by the lack of offense from the Red Sox, as the team once again failed to get on the scoreboard against the starting pitcher.
The Boston Red Sox have scored 21 runs thus far, but only nine of those have come against starting pitchers, and seven of those were in one game, when Boston got to the Detroit Tigers Max Scherzer often and early. Facing Toronto’s worst starter, Kyle Drabek, who has a career ERA of 5.61 and a FIP of 5.13, the Red Sox powerful line up still could not find a way to put runs on the board. The righty allowed just four hits, but he walked three and was hardly dominating, with just four strike outs. Boston hitters managed three doubles of the starter, but still did not manage to score until the sixth inning, when Adrian Gonzalez followed up a Jacoby Ellsbury walk and a Dustin Pedroia double with a sacrifice fly to bring in Ellsbury. Gonazalez drove in two more in the ninth with a two-out, bases loaded, ground-rule double, but it was too little, too late and the Red Sox dropped to 1-4 on the year.
The bullpen continued to be an issue for Boston as well. This time, Bobby Valentine was just as much at fault as the Boston relievers. After trying to stretch Daniel Bard for one more inning in the sixth, Valentine turned to the lefty Justin Thomas to face lefty Eric Thames with runners on first and second. Thomas was effective against lefties this spring and with Franklin Morales having pitched 2.2 innings in the Detroit series, the move made sense. However, Thomas walked Thames to bring up the right-handed J.P. Arencibia and Valentine stayed put, despite having righties Matt Albers, and Michael Bowden on the bench, well rested. After the game, he admitted the mistake-
“I should have brought in Albers with the bases loaded. It might have been still a 3-1 game,” Valentine said. “We get a great ground ball there and maybe we would have won that game.”
Thomas gave up a single to Arencibia and then let another run score on a sacrifice fly by Colby Rasmus, putting the Blue jays up 5-1. Bowden did eventually find his way into the game, but he got taken deep by Edwin Encarnacion in the seventh.
Through the first five games, Boston has yet to score first. The offense has not be terrible, but it has been slow to start scoring runs and put added pressure on both the starters and the middle relievers. The Red Sox need to stake their ace Jon Lester to an early lead today as they finish the series against the Blue Jays. They will face Torontoace, lefty Ricky Romero. Romero has struggled against Boston in the past, posting a miserable 7.12 ERA in 13 starts against the Sox in his career.