The Boston Red Sox haven’t been much for first impressions lately, and they have their starting pitchers to thank.
Eduardo Rodriguez put forth the worst outing by a Red Sox starter this season Monday, allowing five first-inning runs to the lowly Tampa Bay Rays en route to an ugly 13-7 loss.
If you feel like Boston has been battling from behind a lot recently, well, you’re right. Monday marked the eighth time in the last 11 games the Red Sox have allowed their opponent to score in the first inning. After the Texas Rangers touched Clay Buchholz for three runs out of the gate Sunday, Boston starters have surrendered eight first-inning runs in their last two games combined.
The early struggles of Red Sox pitchers have been magnified lately, but that trend has been nothing new. Boston owns a first-inning ERA of 6.28 this season, the worst in the American League.
“It’s been a focal point,” manager John Farrell said, as seen on NESN’s “Extra Innings Live.” “… To set the tone, to make pitches right out of the gate, that’s what’s required. And that’s not happening.”
Earlier in the season, it was the Red Sox’s offense that would jump on opposing pitchers and give their starters a cushion. Now, it’s just the opposite, and as expected, the results haven’t been pretty: Boston is 15-21 this season when its opponent scores first, compared to 26-13 when its offense strikes first.
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Let’s hit a few other notes from Red Sox-Rays:
— Farrell gave his players a talking-to after Monday’s ugly loss, but he wasn’t the only guy in a Red Sox uniform who was fired up. Dustin Pedroia was seen barking at Rodriguez during a first-inning mound visit, yet the second baseman wouldn’t reveal what message he delivered to the young pitcher.
“What did I say to Eddie? Do you honestly think I?m going to tell you that?” Pedroia said, via WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “I was talking to him about baseball. I talk to all my teammates, every day. That?s about it.”
— The Red Sox’s bullpen didn’t have the best showing after Rodriguez’s early departure. Tommy Layne and Craig Kimbrel each were touched for one run in their one-inning appearances, while Koji Uehara surrendered a two-run home run in the seventh inning and now has allowed five runs over his last three outings.
— David Ortiz drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning to tally his 1,703th RBI, moving him past Reggie Jackson for 24th on Major League Baseball’s all-time list.
— Remember Brandon Workman?
The Red Sox reliever, who is on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, joined the team in Tampa and threw a bullpen session ahead of Monday’s game. The 27-year-old right-hander hopes to begin a rehab assignment — likely with Single-A Lowell — in the coming weeks and could return to the big-league club before the end of the season.
“That?s been my goal from the time I got surgery through (Monday),” Workman said Monday, via Bradford. “I?ve been working, trying to get myself in a position where I can come back sometime this year and be a contributing part.”
— Buchholz will remain in the Red Sox’s pitching rotation despite his rough start Sunday, Farrell confirmed before Monday’s game. Boston’s pitching staff is especially thin after the team optioned Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket following Monday’s loss.
— If the Red Sox are looking for other options in their rotation, they could turn to Aaron Wilkerson. The 27-year-old right-hander allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings Monday for Pawtucket and struck out eight batters while walking no one. He has a 2.20 ERA after six starts for the PawSox.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images