The Boston Red Sox defense is becoming a concern early in 2021
Alex Cora stressed that the Boston Red Sox were putting on emphasis on defense during spring training, working on the fundamentals in the field to ensure his team wouldn’t beat themselves. Apparently, his players weren’t listening. The defense has been sloppy through the first two games of the regular season and it has been costly.
Nathan Eovaldi‘s stellar Opening Day start was spoiled by a blunder that occurred shortly after he exited the game with one on and one out in the sixth inning. Matt Andriese struggled with his command in his team debut, walking the first batter he faced, but got the ground ball he needed for a potential inning-inning double play. Second baseman Kike Hernandez couldn’t field the hard-hit ball cleanly, allowing the runners to advance safely to load the bases.
Ryan Mountcastle followed with a wall-ball double to drive in the game’s first pair of runs, a turning point that the Red Sox wouldn’t recover from. Granted, Boston wasn’t going to win a game where the offense failed to put any runs on the board but the error that immediately led to the O’s taking the lead changed the outlook at a key point in the game.
Not every defensive miscue is necessarily charged as an error. Third baseman Rafael Devers has been overly aggressive, perhaps a bit too eager to prove he isn’t the defensive liability he’s been labeled as.
There were a couple of instances where Devers jumped in front of Xander Bogaerts when the shortstop appeared to have an easier play. In one case, Devers rushed in to try and bare-hand a ball that Bogaerts was well positioned for. Devers whiffed when he tried to scoop the ground ball, gifting an infield single to the batter. Later in the game, Devers cutting in front of Bogaerts briefly obstructed the shortstop’s line of sight. Bogaerts still managed to field the ball but the brief delay from being distracted by Devers resulted in a late throw to first base.
The defense wasn’t any sharper in Saturday afternoon’s rematch with the Orioles and the left side of the infield was once again the centerpiece of the problem.
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Devers made an impressive diving stab at a ball hit to his left, only to float the throw over the head of second baseman Marwin Gonzalez. The ball sailed into shallow right field, putting runners on the corners with two outs instead of escaping the inning unscathed.
A passed ball by backup catcher Kevin Plawecki put both runners in scoring position and Maikel Franco’s base hit drove them both in to put Baltimore on the board. For the second consecutive game, an error directly led to the Orioles scoring their first two runs of the game when the Red Sox should have been out of the inning.
Baltimore would tack on another run in the following inning with an assist from a miscue from Bogaerts. The Red Sox shortstop made an excellent play to stab a ground ball and freeze the runner at third before making the throw to first for the second out of the inning.
He would be tested again on a similar ground ball from the next batter but this time Bogaerts merely managed to knock it down. His throw to first was too late and the runner from third easily trotted home for the third Orioles run. Bogaerts wasn’t charged with an error but he would be the first to tell you that it was a play he should have made.
The Red Sox have been officially charged with only two errors but five of Baltimore’s seven runs in this series can be blamed on defensive lapses. The pitching has been a pleasant surprise so far but this staff needs some help from the players behind them. No matter how well the pitcher is throwing, they can’t strikeout everyone. They need to rely on their defense to handle routine plays and through these first two games, Red Sox position players have let their pitching staff down.