The trade deadline passed Monday afternoon, and by nightfall, the Red Sox provided yet another reminder of why they’re building for the future.
After taking two out of the three from the defending champion Nationals over the weekend, the Red Sox welcomed the NL East-leading Braves to Fenway Park and were quickly humbled with a 6-3 loss. Here were the takeaways:
Colten Brewer faded quickly
As the Red Sox have cycled through 11 different starting pitchers through the first 35 games of the season, Colten Brewer has found a spot in the rotation as more of an opener. The right-hander has produced mixed results, but on Monday night, he pitched well enough to go deeper than he ever has.
But after holding the Braves to two runs in the first four innings, it came apart quickly for Brewer in the fifth with the game tied at 2. One more out would have set a career high for his longest outing — either starting or relieving — and he would have become the fourth Red Sox starter of the season to accomplish the feat of recording an out in the fifth. It wasn’t to be, as Brewer issued a leadoff walk, then a double to Marcell Ozuna — which could have been caught by left fielder Jose Peraza — and another walk.
Ron Roenicke promptly walked to the mound to take out Brewer, who handed the ball to Phillips Valdez, who inherited an impossible bases-loaded, no-out situation and gave up a bases-clearing triple to Austin Riley that gave the Braves a 5-2 lead.
“If that ball that Ozuna hit, if it’s a foot shorter – I mean, it was a fly ball – if it’s a foot shorter, that inning probably changes a lot,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “So, I know the numbers were bad, but I didn’t think (Brewer) threw the ball that bad. He was OK.”
Valdez, the biggest surprise out of the Red Sox bullpen this season, had given up just two extra-base hits in his first 13 appearances of the season before that triple. Roenicke said the experience of inheriting those types of situation should help him down the road.
“I definitely think there’s a learning curve for how you come in and get out of situations,” Roenicke said. “I think the more you’re in it, the more you learn how to do it. And hopefully he’ll do that.”
Alex Verdugo continues to crush left-handed pitching
It’s a funny, seemingly distant memory to remember that the left-handed hitting Alex Verdugo was left out of the Red Sox’ Opening Day lineup simply because they were facing a lefty pitcher, even though his career numbers against southpaws suggested he actually hit them well.
Times have changed.
Verdugo is now an everyday starter in the Red Sox’ outfield, and it’s impossible to logically take him out of the lineup the way he’s hitting, whether it’s against righties or lefties. It doesn’t even matter if it’s against one of the best pitchers in baseball, as he proved Monday night, as he went 3-for-3 with three doubles against Max Fried, hitting all of them to the opposite field. He sparked both of the Red Sox’ first two runs, the second of which came on a balk committed by Fried after Verdugo had advanced to third.
“Dugie, he hangs in there well, and he stays inside the ball,” Roenicke said. “Gives himself a chance, especially against the lefties to hit them well. It’s fun to see when you’re battling a good pitcher and you put together three at-bats like that.”
Thirty-five games into the season, it would be foolish to bench Verdugo against lefties. Against left-handed starters this season, Verdugo is now hitting .333 with six doubles and a pair of homers. He’s hitting .321 against left-handed pitching since the start of 2019, the third-best mark in baseball.
Fried continues dominance
Three nights after being dominated by Max Scherzer, the Red Sox ran into Fried, who entered the night 5-0 with a league-leading 1.35 ERA as a favorite for the Cy Young Award at the midway point of the season. Aside from Verdugo, Fried gave up just two hits and struck out five as he improved to 6-0.
Those six wins are exactly half of the Red Sox’ win total, yet another telling sign of the state of their pitching staff, which has Brewer, Zack Godley and Kyle Hart in their regular current rotation alongside Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez, who are both sidelined with minor injuries right now.
It will be a long wait until 2021, when the Red Sox can get their own ace back, though Chris Sale isn’t expected back until beyond Opening Day.