On a night where a win over the worst team in baseball would pull the Red Sox even with the idle Yankees, good pitching and cold bats were once again the story of the game. With Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello on the mound, Boston dropped 2 out of 3 to the Chicago White Sox over the weekend. Friday night's loss was the real stinger, with Sale working 8 innings of one-run baseball only to be the hard-luck loser by a score of 1-0. Then, on Sunday, the bats managed just two runs in support of Porcello's quality start on their way to a 5-2 defeat. For one of the best offenses in baseball, the absence of Mookie Betts at the top of the order could be felt in the series against Chicago and Detroit. And for a team that split a 4-game series against the defending champs the previous weekend, a 3-3 homestand did not sit well as The Enemy set out for a road trip which started with a cool evening from Baltimore.
To the surprise of many, Mookie Betts returned to the Red Sox lineup on Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles and Dylan Bundy. The decision to not have Betts participate in any rehab games was an unusual one, but the do-it-all left fielder felt that 14 games on the shelf was more than enough. Bundy opposed Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright who, in his first start off the DL last week, worked an impressive seven scoreless innings against the Tigers. His second start was equally as impressive last night, as Wright scattered 4 hits over 6.2 scoreless innings. The Red Sox bullpen has thrived thus far in June, and last night was no exception. Boston relievers checked in for 5.1 innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball (including 9 strikeouts). In support of great pitching, Brock Holt finally broke through in the 12th inning with a bases loaded sac-fly, scoring Xander Bogaerts and giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The next batter, Jackie Bradley Jr, added a run with an RBI of his own for a final score of 2-0. Yes, a win is a win, but in my head I drew this one up a lot differently. Betts contributed with a base hit in his return, but for the most part the bats were silent (just goes to show, anything can happen in division play!) The tiebreaker by Holt was a much needed contribution from a utility player who could be seeing more regular playing time in the coming weeks.
Dustin Pedroia, who has returned to the DL after playing just three games this season, could be on the shelf for longer than initially anticipated. The Gold Glove second baseman continues to be hindered by a sore left knee that was operated on in the offseason. In his absence, Eduardo Nunez continues to see regular reps at 2B. The acquisition of the free agent was intended to be a placeholder until Pedroia returned "sometime in May." Now, with mid-June upon us and Pedey's return nowhere in sight, the Red Sox may need to consider other options up the middle. Nunez has been inconsistent at the plate this season, batting just .249 with 4 home runs, 15 RBI and 4 stolen bases. Brock Holt could be the answer at second, but the Red Sox prefer the ability to move Holt around the infield and outfield. Pedroia (age 34) still has three years left on his current contract, but at this point I have to wonder if the face of the franchise has reached the crossroads of his career.