Red Sox lack of pitching depth highlighted in disappointing series with Indians

BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Ryan Weber #65 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Fenway Park on May 29, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Ryan Weber #65 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Fenway Park on May 29, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox dropped two out of three to the Cleveland Indians in a series that highlighted the lack of depth on this pitching staff.

There is a glaring lack of depth to the Boston Red Sox pitching staff that was more evident than it has been at any point this season during a pair of brutal defeats at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

This isn’t the same Indians team that has dominated the AL Central for the last three years, led by a pair of emerging superstars. Francisco Lindor is off to a slow start after his season was delayed by an ankle injury while Jose Ramirez has been a shell of his former self. Michael Brantley bolted to Houston and Edwin Encarnacion was traded away.

The core of a powerhouse offense has departed or significantly regressed. Cleveland ranks 13th in the American League with a .298 wOBA and 80 wRC+ this season. This is not a good lineup, yet they were world-beaters against the Red Sox. The Tribe piled up 21 runs over the last two games to take two out of three in a series at Fenway Park.

Nathan Eovaldi may be inching toward a return but in the meantime, Boston is struggling to fill his role with a spot starter. Ryan Weber is the latest option tasked to fill the void. While the results were encouraging in his first opportunity in Toronto, his latest effort reveals why he’s not a viable long-term solution.

Weber was shelled for seven runs in four innings to take the loss Wednesday night. He never managed to settle into his outing, allowing at least one run in each inning he worked in.

The right-hander isn’t capable of overpowering opposing hitters with a fastball that tops out around 88-89 mph. He’s shown he can thrive when he’s locating his pitches but when he’s not, mistakes are going to get hammered.

Weber failed to hit his spots against Cleveland. In fairness, he may have been robbed on at least a few pitches. The Red Sox were clearly agitated by several calls made by the home plate umpire, regardless of if they were pitching or at the plate. Weber needs to live on the edge of the strike zone to be successful but the borderline calls weren’t going his way when he tried to paint the corners. That resulted in falling behind most hitters to give Cleveland the advantage. When Weber tried to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone he moved in over the plate a bit too much and paid the price.

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The Red Sox shouldn’t have hung Weber out to dry as long as they did when he clearly didn’t have it going for him but what else were they going to do? There isn’t enough depth in their bullpen to sufficiently cover for a starter who gets pulled early. Josh Taylor, Colten Brewer, and Hector Velazquez combined to cough up seven more runs after Weber got the hook. Clearly, they didn’t have better options available that early in the game, which explains why they tried to get as much as they could out of their starter.

The bullpen being exposed is nothing new, as we need only to look back to the previous game to find another example. David Price tossed six shutout innings only for Marcus Walden, Ryan Brasier, and Travis Lakins to give up seven – including FIVE runs in the ninth inning.

Brasier opened the season getting the majority of the save opportunities but he’s been a train wreck the last few weeks, posting an 8.00 ERA in May. Cleveland tagged him for a pair of homers and three earned runs in his latest blown save in which he failed to record an out. Lakins gave up the winning runs after walking three batters and the Red Sox couldn’t option him back to Triple-A Pawtucket fast enough after the game.

Boston doesn’t have a suitable option to fill the No. 5 spot in the rotation and it’s been a struggle of late to find anyone in the bullpen, outside of Matt Barnes, who they can trust.

Eovaldi’s return will help settle the former issue but this rotation has a troubling lack of depth if any other starter were to go down and they still have no solution for the latter issue with their relievers.

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Perhaps a move leading up to the trade deadline will provide the Red Sox with reinforcements, although their insistence on keeping their luxury tax bill in check will limit their options. We can’t assume a significant upgrade is on the way, which means the lack of pitching depth may be the Achilles heel that haunts this team all season.