Andy Martin/USA Today Sports

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4: Newcomers finally get taste of failure

Rob Bradford
August 12, 2017 - 9:07 am

Everyone always loves surmising if a player will be able to handle the Boston baseball experience, particularly in the heat of a pennant race. There are usually all kinds of examples why, or why not, the participants could fit in what can be one of Major League Baseball's most unique baseball-playing environments.

But a good rule of thumb is this: You never truly know if newcomers to this scene can handle things until they face their first wave of adversity.

For Addison Reed and Eduardo Nunez, their true initiation started Friday night.

Up until the Red Sox' 5-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, both players had lived the Disney version of playing for the Red Sox. Since Nunez started playing for his new team, it had gone 9-2 with the infielder claiming at least one hit in all but two of the games. Reed? The Sox hadn't lost with the reliever in their uniform, with the only hiccup for Reed coming when he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced while collecting a paycheck from Boston. Other than that he had been aces. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Now, the pair was forced to wake up Saturday experiencing a different sort of existence.

Reed absolutely imploded in the eighth inning, helping blow a three-run lead by not retiring any of the four batters he faced. He hit a batter for the first time since 2014, grazing Brett Gardner's front foot, and then proceeded to hang an inside slider to Aaron Hicks for a two-run homer. After a Gary Sanchez single and Aaron Judge walk, Reed walked off the mound with what was his worst performance since 2012, when the righty gave up six runs while recording just one out.

"You never help yourself out when you're all over the place," Reed told reporters. "I put myself in a bad position by hitting Gardner, falling behind in the count on Hicks. Falling behind in the count makes hitting a little easier for the other team. It's one of those nights to forget about. ... It happens but I picked a bad time for it to happen. The good thing is we still have a month and a half left in the season."

While Reed at least at one small bump in the road leading up to his disastrous night, Nunez really only had experienced sunshine and rainbows since coming to the Red Sox.

After already collecting another hit to boost his batting average with the Sox to .407, the righty hitter followed Jackie Bradley Jr.'s leadoff walk in the ninth with a free pass of his own. Nunez then found himself at second base after another walk to Mookie Betts, loading the bases with nobody out. Then came the alternate reality for Nunez.

Andrew Benintendi's deep fly ball to left fielder Aaron Hicks was plenty enough to get Bradley Jr. home, bringing the Red Sox within a run. But Nunez decided to take the chance of trying to get to third on the play, as well. After a pinpoint throw from Hicks, and a well-executed catch and tag from third baseman Todd Frazier, the Sox had yet another baserunner thrown out. This one, however, was one of the more ill-advised, costlier instances of the season.

And, as has been the case throughout this season of overly-aggressive baserunning this season, the player and his team were making no apologies.

"If it happened tomorrow, I would take the chance tomorrow again," Nunez told reporters. "That’s how we play the game. That was a great throw, that was a great pick for Frazier, and an amazing tag. Have to give the credit to them." He then added, "Sometimes that thing works in your way, sometimes not. If he don’t pick that ball – that was a great pick for Frazier and a great tag – I would be safe, and then a fly ball to center field, tied game. That’s why we’re in first place. We run aggressive."

Sometimes the narrative doesn't quite fit.

Reed, for instance, has a great slider. But throwing that pitch on a full count to Hicks, right into a left-handed hitter's wheelhouse, was ill-advised. As was Nunez trying to execute the Red Sox' strategy of taking an extra base. Many times the Red Sox will point to scouting reports and preparation for the reasoning behind their baserunning. But in this case, any scouting report will tell you that the one outfield arm you never want to take a chance on is the one belonging to Hicks, who has one of best cannons in the game.

"We’re forcing him to throw a strike," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. "Eduardo is such a good baserunner with the speed that he is. The height of the ball right there with the depth of it, the height of it, he’s back in plenty of time to read it and if he doesn’t feel like he’s got a chance to get there, he’s probably not going. Given where he was in position of it, he took a calculated risk."

The win streak is done, as is the notion that life for these guys was going to be without adversity. Now comes the real test, for both the first-place Red Sox and their new players.

Eduardo Rodriguez was robbed of a win after not allowing a run over his six innings. The lefty starter gave up just two hits while striking out seven, hitting 97 mph on the radar gun for the first time this season.

 

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