The Boston Red Sox are looking for the reset button.
After dominating Major League Baseball throughout the entire 2018 season, leading to a franchise-record 108 regular season wins and a World Series victory, the Red Sox are off to a dreadful start in 2019.
Friday’s 15-8 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks dropped their record to 2-7, which is the worst nine-game start by a reigning World Series champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins.
It’s also the worst record among all American League teams. Yes, even the Baltimore Orioles are off to a better start at 4-3. And if not for a clutch home run from Mitch Moreland in Seattle, Boston might be 1-8.
It’s early still, and the sample size is still very small. Far too small, in fact, to make any firm judgments. But that doesn’t make Boston’s slow start any less startling.
In many games, including Friday’s, the Red Sox have been dominated in much the same manner they dominated MLB last season. That’s left us searching for answers to help explain what’s going wrong.
It didn’t take much digging to find those answers. Essentially everything has gone wrong for Boston this season. But a few things have gone completely haywire. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Pitchers are punching bags
The Red Sox have allowed a home run in every single game this season. In fact, they’ve allowed multiple home runs in five games already. And in four of those, they’ve allowed at least three.
That’s a troubling pace, we’d say.
Red Sox pitchers have allowed 21 home runs. They entered May last year with 24 allowed.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) April 6, 2019
Former Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello is struggling the most among Boston’s starters. Through two starts, he’s allowed 16 runs (11 earned) on 16 hits in just 7.1 innings.
His frustration showed on Friday.
He’s not alone though. The entire Red Sox rotation consisting of Porcello, Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez is off to a rough start. They’ve combined to go 0-7 with a 9.60 ERA over 40.1 innings and have surrendered 16 homers. That’s a big reason Boston has a miserable minus-26 run differential.
The Red Sox have been outscored 67-41 this season. That's the 2nd-worst run differential through 9 games by a reigning World Series champion. Only the 1984 Orioles (-27) had a worse start in their title defense.
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/575WT2tZRR
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2019
Despite closer Craig Kimbrel being out of the picture, Boston’s bullpen had actually been good coming into Friday’s game. The group entered with a 2.37 ERA though 30.1 innings. But that too blew up when Brian Johnson was tagged for seven runs. Infielder Eduardo Núñez allowed Arizona’s 15th run on a home run.
The Red Sox aren’t pitching well. When they do, their defense isn’t helping.
Boston has now committed nine errors in nine games, which puts them bottom five in MLB. But it’s not just the obvious plays that they’re not making consistently. The fundamentals have been lacking too. Those breakdowns are taking a toll.
Arizona pitcher Zack Godley has two hits and an RBI.
Sox have a catcher's interference, a wild pitch and a popup that fell between three players. They're down 4-1.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) April 6, 2019
That was all within four innings of Friday’s game.
No errors were charged, but not enough plays were made.
Boston’s offense isn’t without blame. While they’ve scored a respectable 4.5 runs per game, they’ve also missed some big opportunities to change games thanks to baserunning mistakes.
In particular, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts decided to challenge strong-armed Oakland A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano multiple times in key spots during their series and ended up paying for it.
Here's Bogaerts trying to stretch a double into a triple as the tying run in the ninth inning on Tuesday.
— Oakland Athletics 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) April 3, 2019
Here’s Mookie Betts trying to go first-to-third on Wednesday afternoon.
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) April 4, 2019
The good news for Boston is that most of the fundamental issues can easily be fixed. The pitching should come around too, though concern surrounding the bullpen will undoubtedly linger.
It’s also worth noting the Red Sox have yet to play at home. They went straight from Florida to an 11-game west coast trip to begin the season. That’s rough. If the issues linger through April, then there might be reason for larger concern. For now, it’s just one of those awful stretches they should play their way out of.
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