By Terry Cushman – cushmanMLB
All was well with the world when the Boston Red Sox departed Anaheim. They had just swept the red hot Los Angeles Angels three games to nothing, and then headed north up the Pacific coast to play the sub .500 Oakland A’s.
In game one, the Red Sox lineup was set to face Kendall Graveman who’s ERA was north of 9.00. Graveman was putting up a tougher fight than his previous outings early on, but surrendered a three run homer to Jackie Bradley, which tied the game and erased the three run lead in which Drew Pomeranz had previously given up. Gaveman then loaded the bases later in the seventh, was removed, and then Mitch Moreland crushed a grand slam home run to seal the win for Boston.
In game two, the stars were probably aligned before the first pitch was even thrown. Chris Sale had been off to a solid start, but not quite as great of a start which his opponent Sean Manaea was having. Boston unquestionably was going to need an abundance of offense to establish a lead on the Ace of Oakland’s staff. Nobody expected the 26 year old to hurl nine no-hit innings and completely shut down the Red Sox, who had won their previous eight straight games. It was also the first no hitter thrown against Boston since 1993.
My biggest problem with game two was the construction of the second half of the lineup. Why was Sandy Leon (averaging .115) hitting behind Devers? This gave Manaea the luxury of simply pitching around the 21 year old, because surely if he reached base, Leon was not going to be able to drive him in. Alex Cora essentially took the bat right out of Devers’ hands by not putting a more formidable hitter behind him.
If anything, Nunez should have been slotted in behind him. Bradley was another option, and had been swinging a better bat as of late, but still prone to a high rate of strikeouts.
Having Leon, Bradley, and Lin at the bottom of the order was begging for a combined 0-12 night against elite pitching. I personally would have favored Martinez in the outfield, with Moreland playing a second night in a row. Boston might have still lost the game, but at least might have broken up the no hitter.
David Price was on the mound for game three. Surely most of us liked our chances assuming there would at least be a few runs on the board from the Red Sox lineup, right? But they came out flat again.
For starters, if tomorrow (Monday) is an off day, why are Mookie Betts nor Hanley Ramirez in the lineup? Especially one game after we got no hit? Hell, can’t you can even make the case they all got yesterday off too?
The first half of today’s line up looks fine until you get to Devers again. Is Swihart, who has only had 13 at bats all season long, to the tune of a .231 batting average, really going to again offer up enough protection for the hard hitting third basemen? Not likely.
My preference would have to flip flop Devers and Moreland in that order. The bottom third looks a little better than Saturday considering Brock Holt was on a five game hitting streak (extended today to six), and Vazquez has had some timely hitting this season despite a lower average. But there’s no excuse to offer Devers no protection a second game in a row, or to rest both Hanley & Mookie.
34 year old Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto was robbed of the NL MVP last year to Giancarlo Stanton. What makes this relevant is because he played all 162 games last year, in which he reached base safely in a mind bloggling 152 of them. I’m not saying guys like Mookie Betts should put up numbers like this, but he certainly shouldn’t be given so many games off. Especially being almost a decade younger than Votto.
Finally, lets not forget what happened to David Price. Again, I’m a hater. But leaving him in there for the eighth inning is entirely on Alex Cora. After Price gave up the two base runners, he was clearly tiring and laboring through the Jed Lowrie at bat, before finally striking him out. Why allow him stay in there further against a monster power hitter like Khris Davis? Boston’s $217M man attempted a cutter against the Oakland slugger, who instantly crushed over the left field wall on the very first pitch. Oakland took the lead 4-1, and it was essentially curtains after that.
It’s one thing to send Price out for the eighth inning. It’s another thing to try and stretch him all three outs when he’s clearly doesn’t have his best stuff. Carson Smith very easily could have gotten the third out, or really anyone in the bullpen, which was pretty well rested overall.
While we’re at it, I did not understand leaving Chris Sale in for the seventh inning on Saturday. The Sox were down three runs in the seventh inning, and their ace had already thrown 100 pitches. What happened to being responsible in terms of not unnecessarily over using these guys? Sale has been solid all season long, but not quite as electric as last year. Players are making contact on him more, so why not be smart?
It was definitely not Alex Cora’s finest series. Am I saying he’s a bad manager? No. Would we still have won these games if the above moves and changes were made? Not necessarily. Are the Red Sox still the best team in baseball? Yes they are.
However, it’s still important to put your baseball team in the best position to win. Alex Cora failed miserably at that this weekend in Oakland.