John Tomase

There's no defense for how Red Sox keep costing themselves in field

The Red Sox have allowed the most unearned runs in baseball to date.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Like Jason Voorhees stalking Camp Crystal Lake in search of an oblivious teen to disembowel, the Red Sox defense casts its menacing shadow over even the most well-played game.

And inevitably, it will claim another victim.

On Marathon Monday, the latest comedy of errors led to two crucial insurance runs in Cleveland's 6-0 victory, but the carnage wasn't just figurative. Rafael Devers went full Beast Mode on a fly ball to short left, steamrolling and possibly concussing April MVP Tyler O'Neill in a vicious collision.

It's easy to envision the entire season unraveling, despite Boston owning the best team ERA in baseball, because the Red Sox simply can't be trusted to make even the most routine play in the field for all 27 outs.

Since losing Trevor Story to a season-ending shoulder injury, no lead is safe, no grounder benign. When the Red Sox are wearing gloves, they're perpetually just one pitch away from their next game-changing disaster, as Monday's matinee illustrated.

For six innings, the Red Sox and Guardians engaged an in old-fashioned pitchers' duel. Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford once again threw up zeroes and dropped his ERA to 0.42, trailing only Oakland's Paul Blackburn (0.00) among American League starters.

Unfortunately, Cleveland's Xzavion Curry matched him. By the time the seventh rolled around, neither team had scored and it was now up to the bullpens, whichever offense could scratch out a run, and – gulp – playing solid defense.

The Red Sox had actually flashed some impressive leather already, with right fielder Wilyer Abreu crashing into the right field fence to steal a possible home run, Jarren Duran leaping to take a hit away in deep right-center, and first baseman Triston Casas nearly recording an unassisted double play after snaring a line drive.

But like the occasional game when Jeff Green would match LeBron James shot for shot, some performances feel temporary, and these Red Sox are always one harmless ground ball away from the car flying apart.

We'll get to the grounder in a second, but it was technically a fly ball that loosened the wheels. After the Guardians took a 2-0 lead in the seventh on Will Brennan's pinch hit two-run homer around the Pesky Pole, the Red Sox were just trying to keep the score close. Estevan Florial popped one to no-man's land in short left and three players gave chase: Devers and shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela raced out, while left fielder Tyler O'Neill charged in.

Of that group, O'Neill owns two Gold Gloves and had the play in front of him, Rafaela is a gifted center fielder who's used to covering a ton of ground and making plays with his back to the plate, and Devers has led AL third baseman in errors for a record six straight years.

If anyone was going to peel off, it should've been Devers. He instead made the difficult running catch, but not without collateral damage, his head slamming into the bridge of O'Neill's nose, blasting apart the latter's sunglasses and sending both sprawling. Devers ended up flat on his face, where he stayed, while O'Neill found himself bloodied before leaving the game and entering concussion protocol.

If there's a player the Red Sox can hardly afford to lose, it's O'Neill, who has basically carried their offense to the tune of a league-leading seven homers. As it is, his absence for the top of the eighth created an ugly domino effect. Rafaela moved from short, where he looks like a legitimate big leaguer, and was replaced by David Hamilton, who simply does not.

The Guardians pushed the game-clinching insurance runs across when Casas deflected a sharp grounder to his right past second baseman Enmanuel Valdez and into right field. One run scored and the batter, Jose Ramirez, dug for second. Abreu came up firing, but his throw one-hopped Hamilton, who deflected it towards the mound as another run scored.

The body language of the Red Sox players – shoulders slumped, here we go again – was reflected by the fans in the stands.

The Red Sox have now allowed 19 unearned runs, the most in baseball. They're also first in errors with 17, and bottom-seven in double plays turned with only nine.

We knew entering the season they had little margin for error, thanks to a thin roster, and Story's injury is an absolute killer, but if they don't at least make the routine plays, they'll continue playing the roles of slasher and victim.

Contact Us