'What we learned': Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. . .
1) John Farrell is sticking with his starters longer for a reason
On Wednesday night, Farrell sent Rick Porcello out for the eighth inning despite Porcello having thrown 105 pitches.
But Porcello had retired the previous 10 hitters, with only two balls leaving the infield in that span. When Porcello hung a breaking ball to Evan Longoria with one out in the eighth, the game was tied.
On Thursday, it was more of the same. Drew Pomerantz went back out for the seventh, despite having thrown more than 90 pitches. A single and a double resulted in a go-ahead run.
But on both occasions, Farrell was doing his best to limit the exposure of his bullpen, which has been - to put it kindly - horrid with the exception of closer Craig Kimbrel.
The same people who care about his use of an unreliable pen are now claiming that he's not going to then early or often enough - as if the troika of Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley await the call from the dugout.
Boston starters have compiled the lowest ERA in the A.L. since Aug. 1 and second-lowest in all of baseball. Doesn't it make more sense to trust that group rather than a relief corps that has been notoriously unreliable for months?
2) As the Red Sox delay any announcement on Andrew Benintendi 's diagnosis, the hope is that the medical staff does a better job here than it has much of this year
The staff seems to have been wrong more than right in 2016.
Start with the Eduardo Rodriguez knee tweak in late February, which was initially described as "minor" and ultimately required three months before Rodriguez returned to the rotation.
Blake Swihart, meanwhile, suffered a sprained ankle and attempted to rehab it for months - before it was deemed that he required season-ending surgery. That recovery time will push longer into the off-season because of the delay.
Other examples? It took a while for the team to properly diagnose Brock Holt's second concussion. And in retrospect, it's likely that Carson Smith's forearm tightness in spring training was more than a precursor to the reliever later needing Tommy John surgery.
All of which makes some nervous when it comes to Benintendi's knee ailment. Why the delay, uncertainty and lack of diagnosis - at least publicly?
3) Dustin Pedroia has adapted to the leadoff role nicely
Pedroia is on record in the past as saying he would prefer to hit somewhere else in the order other than first. But you wouldn't know it from his performance in the leadoff spot.
On Thursday, Pedroia collected three hits and a walk to reach base four times. Since moving to the leadoff spot after the West Coast trip, Pedroia has posted a slash line of .397/.418/.460.
Pedroia's ability to adapt to the challenge has freed up Mookie Betts to be utilized In either the third or fourth spot, giving the Sox offense a different look.
Thanks to some ongoing slumps being endured by Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Travis Shaw, the offense has stalled at times. Between Shaw and Aaron Hill, the team has gotten virtually no offense from third base.
But Pedroia, again, is hardly to blame. He's reaching base more than 40 percent of the time, and that on-base ability is the primary responsibility for someone hitting atop an order. That Pedroia is not being regularly driven home is hardly his fault.