Clay Buchholz entire career is best summed-up with one word, “inconsistency.”
That word is why when Buchholz came-up with a gem of a game last week against the league’s best team, the Chicago White Sox, it only inspired moderate amounts of optimism. After all, this is Clay Buchholz we’re talking about. A guy who can seamlessly transition from dominance to mediocrity. Less than a week after an inspiring win on the road, Buchholz returned home to Fenway Park to face a struggling Oakland A’s squad.
The A’s got off to a surprisingly good start this season. When the team awoke on the morning of Saturday April 23rd, they had won six in a row and had a 10-7 record.
Since then the A’s have gone 4-9, their 14-7 defeat on Monday means the A’s have lost seven of their last eight.
As bad as the A’s have been, Clay Buchholz seemed fairly determined to give them a chance to reverse their fortunes.
Buchholz lasted five innings, he allowed six hits, two walks and four earned runs. The A’s had the leadoff man on base in three of the first four innings. Over five innings Buchholz never had a 1-2-3 frame. Oddly enough Buchholz didn’t seem too fazed by the mostly unimpressive outing. Buchholz even told MassLive.com’s Jen McCaffrey that he thought he might have been traded when he was pulled after five innings.
“I thought I got traded or something. I’d have liked to have gone back out for the sixth, but I’m not the manager. I felt good. I felt until the inning with (Stephen) Vogt up to bat, he’s one of their more dangerous guys. I threw him some good pitches to get through that at-bat and that inning. I wasn’t expecting not to go back out for the sixth.”
Buchholz clearly didn’t realize how many baserunners he had allowed, or how he had struggled to stay ahead in the count, or keep the ball down in the zone.
The good news is that thanks to the Red Sox league-best offense, Buchholz struggles barely factored into the final score.
Boston’s bats were simply too much for A’s ace Sonny Gray or any of the relievers they paraded in to try and keep the Sox off the scoreboard.
The Red Sox pounded out 15 hits en route to a season-high 14 runs. There were eight extra-base hits which included six doubles and two home runs. One of those home runs was Jackie Bradley Jr’s first career grand slam home run.
Bradley would finish the night 3-for-5 with two runs scored and six batted in.
The Red Sox don’t just lead the American League in runs scored with 170, they’re also a whopping 23 runs ahead of the second highest scoring team in the league, the Texas Rangers who have pushed 147 runs across the plate.
The team slash line of .284/.345/.463 represents a trio of league-best stats. There’s no one singular reason this Red Sox lineup is so lethal and that’s exactly why the team’s lineup is so good. Rather than a few tough outs, there are zero easy outs.
Catcher Christian Vazquez may represent the one and only reasonably easy out among the typical starting nine. Following Monday night’s 14-run explosion the typical Red Sox starting lineup now features five regulars who are hitting higher than .300.
Dustin Pedroia (.304,) Xander Bogaerts (.315,) David Ortiz (.321,) Travis Shaw (.308,) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.303) are your over .300 hitters, and that’s not even mentioning Hanley Ramirez and his .286 average or Brock Holt who is hitting .281 and has now hit more home runs this season (3) than he did all of last season.
Could the offense be better?
On the one hand that feels like expecting a bit much. Then again if you had to pick a disappointment among the hitters, you’d probably have to pin that label on leadoff hitter Mookie Betts. Betts is slashing an underwhelming .246/.291/.401. He’s got a walk/strikeout rate of 9/25. The power (4 home runs,) and speed ( 7 stolen bases,) are both apparent, but he’s not getting on base enough for a leadoff hitter.
There’s plenty of time for those numbers to correct themselves. In the meantime the Red Sox will have to make-do with almost every other member of the regular starting lineup seemingly locked-in at the plate.
Those bats will likely be needed on Tuesday night when the Red Sox send Sean O’Sullivan to the mound. The 28 year old hasn’t started a game since July 6, 2015. He made 13 starts last season as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the results were not impressive.
O’ Sullivan went 1-6 with an earned run average of 6.08. His biggest problem appears to be that he’s simply too easy to hit. He averaged almost 12 hits per nine innings pitched last season. His spot in the Red Sox rotation is almost certainly temporary.
Boston Herald Red Sox beat writer Jason Mastrodonato tweeted early Tuesday morning that Eduardo Rodriguez would need at least one more minor league start before returning to the Red Sox starting rotation.
That means that if O’Sullivan is effective on Tuesday he could get another start. If he struggles then the Red Sox will need to figure out who will take the mound to start this coming Sunday’s home game against the Houston Astros.
Do not overlook the production of Jackie Bradley Jr. It is one thing to have a guy hitting near the bottom of the order who is good, it is a whole different thing when that player is arguably the best all-around hitter on the team. He’s third in total bases, and second in ops. Bradley is now second on the team in runs batted in.
All of this is being done with the second lowest total number of at-bats by any regular on the team. According to the MLB High Heat Stats twitter account Bradley has been on quite a run over his last 81 games.
This dates back to August 8, 2015. Since then Bradley is slashing .298/.361/.588 with 24 doubles, 8 triples and 13 home runs. To turn those into full season estimates one would simply double those numbers. If Bradley ends up posting season totals that even approach 48 doubles, 16 triples and 26 home runs you can count on him receiving quite a few most valuable player votes.
Tuesday night the Red Sox and Sean O’Sullivan (0-0, 9.00) will face Oakland A’s rookie starter Sean Manaea (0-0, 7.20)
First pitch from Fenway is scheduled for 7:10 pm ET.