It felt like the Boston Red Sox were turning a corner heading into Thursday’s series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, having won five out of their last six games.
But any momentum the Red Sox had was halted due to a deflating 8-2 loss at PNC Park.
Josh Winckowski, who earned a spot start after Nathan Eovaldi was scratched Wednesday, wasn’t at his sharpest in the defeat. Winckowski went five innings, allowing seven hits, including two home runs to Bryan Reynolds, and six runs while walking one and striking out only two.
The rookie right-hander took his share of the blame for not doing enough to keep the Red Sox rolling.
“The team overall is headed in a great direction. I think that makes tonight a little bit more frustrating for me,” Winckowski told reporters, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “I feel like kind of knocked us off the rails a little bit with my own performance.”
Like Rich Hill, Winckowski got into trouble early, serving up a homer to Reynolds in the first inning. Unlike Hill, Winckowski wasn’t able to completely bounce back from it. Ben Gambel lined a 3-2 pitch to left field over the head of Tommy Pham for two runs in the third before Reynolds launched his second two-run homer on a 3-0 count in the fifth for a 6-0 lead.
Winckowski now has allowed 31 hits and six home runs over his last 23 innings pitched, while only fanning 10 batters over that span, according to Red Sox Stats.
Those are alarming statistics, especially with Winckowski not registering many swings and misses. He had only six during his outing, per Baseball Savant, and it makes it a very slim margin of error for Winckowski.
“I definitely walk a tighter rope than most guys I feel like,” Winckowski said. “I know my miss rate or whatever it is is definitely lower. So, guys put the ball in play on me and that amplifies hits and other things. And then when home runs do happen, tends to be not solo home runs. Definitely something I’m working on and hoping it eventually comes.”
It’s unclear if Winckowski will get to improve on that aspect in a starting role going forward. If Eovaldi doesn’t need any extra rest in-between starts, Boston’s staff is pretty much set.