After a celebratory off-season Red Sox Nation has been stunned by a team that can’t seem to do much right. On Friday, in the Diamondbacks home opener, the Sox were embarrassed in a 15-8 pounding. Truth is, the final score doesn’t reflect Boston’s generally moribund performance. The Sox trailed 14-1 until Arizona reliever Matt Koch got tagged for seven runs in the eighth.
So deep was the trench that Manager Alex Cora turned to Eduardo Núñez to pitch late in the game. It was Núñez’ first career pitching appearance and the first for the Red Sox since Mitch Moreland worked an inning in 2017. This decade the Sox have used position players as pitchers eight times.
Porcello’s Interleague Win Streak Ends
Núñez might be forgiven for allowing an Alex Avila home run but what can be said of Friday starter Rick Porcello, who entered the game seeking redemption after his first tough start of the season. Red Sox Nation had reason to be hopeful as Boston has won an MLB-best 14 consecutive Interleague matchups with Porcello on the mound. Instead, the veteran did something he’s only done four times before (and never in a Red Sox uniform), giving up seven or more runs and 10 or more hits over just 4.2 or fewer innings of work.
Porcello, visibly angry with himself in the dugout after leaving the game, admitted growing anxiety when he met the media postgame. “Very frustrating. I’m not doing my job right now. I don’t take that lightly,” Porcello said. “This one’s on me…not throwing the ball the way I need to. Got to turn it around quick.”
Porcello’s two home runs allowed on Friday (and reliever Brian Johnson‘s mammoth grand slam given up to Ketel Marte) means Boston pitchers have allowed opponent round trippers in all nine games this season, the most in the majors for 2019 and the longest such streak to open a season in club history.
Red Sox pitchers have now allowed six or more runs to score in an MLB-high seven games this season, tying them with the 1928 Sox for the most such games in the first nine contests of any season since at least 1908. Just two major league teams have ever reached the playoffs with such an opening performance (1999 Rangers and 1995 Reds).
Historically Bad Start
Boston’s now seven losses over its first nine games are its most since the 1945 team went 1-8 to start the season. The last major league team to make the playoffs after starting the season with seven or more losses in their first nine games was the Rays, who led off the 2011 campaign 1-8. The last such team to win a World Series was the 1977 Yankees, who likewise started 2-7.
Nothing’s settled after nine games of a baseball season, of course. With the full schedule only about 5.6% complete the games played to date are the equivalent of about one game in the NFL season. But every game, those in April as much as those in August, means something, all the more so in a hotly contested division. For now, the 2019 Red Sox are still digging a big hole they’ll need to fill.
After such a charmed season in 2018—and with some many issues to address with this year’s club—Cora admitted the current situation is the biggest challenge he’s in his young managerial career. “But we’ll be OK. We’ll keep working. We understand we’re not playing good baseball…but we’ll be OK…We just have to figure out somehow, some way.”
A couple additional notes: The Red Sox placed Johnson and Brock Holt on the 10-day Injured List on Saturday with elbow inflammation and a scratched cornea, respectively. Tzu-Wei Lin and Marcus Walden were called up from Triple-A Pawtucket…Mookie Betts recorded a three-hit game on Friday. Betts led the club with 18 such games in 2018, tied for 3rd most in the major leagues…Moreland’s home run was the 149th of his career, his second of the season and 80th coming on the road.