BOSTON — Brandon Workman’s batteries looked recharged.
Workman, who was skipped in favor of Anthony Ranaudo during the Red Sox’s last trip through the starting rotation, provided seven solid innings Monday despite Boston falling 4-2 to the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.
“Obviously, the added rest helped. I thought his stuff ticked up in terms of action, crispness, velocity,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “He was down in the strike zone with more consistency. With the exception of a two-out walk in the third and a couple of base hits to follow, he more than did his job tonight.”
Workman lost five straight starts — posting a 6.04 ERA over 28 1/3 innings — and looked fatigued before the Red Sox bypassed him during their recent road trip. The right-hander’s velocity had dipped and too many pitches were being left up in the zone, giving the Sox cause for concern.
Monday marked Workman’s sixth consecutive defeat, dropping his record to 1-7, but there were plenty of encouraging signs, including his ability to pound the bottom of the strike zone. Workman started off 19 of the 27 batters he faced with first-pitch strikes, leading to an efficient and effective performance in his first start since Aug. 7.
“Any pitcher will tell you, it’s a lot easier when you’re working ahead of hitters,” Workman said. “You’re kind of on the aggressive side towards them. I was able to do that tonight.”
Workman allowed two earned runs on six hits over his seven innings of work. He struck out five, walked two and threw 89 pitches (59 strikes). On most nights, Workman’s effort would have been enough to earn a victory, but the Red Sox’s offense — which actually outhit Los Angeles’ 9-7 — left 12 men on base and went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. A pair of errors by reliever Junichi Tazawa in the eighth inning also proved extremely costly.
The first inning has been an issue for Workman early in his career. He owned a 9.69 ERA in the first frame through 13 career starts, often putting him and the Red Sox behind the eight ball. The 25-year-old overcame back-to-back singles to begin Monday’s start, though, and it was relatively smooth sailing from there, with the exception of the third inning, in which Mike Trout drilled an RBI double and Albert Pujols added an RBI single.
“Whether it’s a really good lineup or not a strong lineup, still pitching ahead, being aggressive and filling up the strike zone is important any day pitching,” Workman said.
Workman, who bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen last season, has thrown 124 1/3 innings split between Boston and Pawtucket in 2014. It’s not a very high number, especially for someone groomed as a starter, but last season was the first time Workman worked well into October. Thus, the recent battle with fatigue is somewhat understandable.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Workman’s fatigue might now be a dead issue because of their proactive approach.
“Definitely I think it had to have helped,” Workman said of the extra rest. “My velocity was better. I had a chance to work on some things mechanically (between starts). I felt good tonight. I felt like I got into a nice rhythm early and was able to carry that through.”
Workman’s recharged batteries weren’t enough to energize a Red Sox win Monday. But Workman certainly stands to gain from the added freshness down the stretch as he seeks to carve out a spot in Boston’s 2015 rotation.