It’s never good when it feels like you’re out of a game before the sun goes down.
But that seemed to be the case Thursday night at Guaranteed Rate Field when left-hander Dallas Keuchel allowed three runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings.
Keuchel, one of three $18 million players at the top of the Sox payroll this season with Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal but the weakest link in the starting rotation, gave up six runs on seven hits including two homers. With the score 6-0, Keuchel was booed on an otherwise beautiful night for baseball.
Keuchel’s outing, which raised his ERA to 7.88, was short and loaded with crooked numbers, including four strikeouts and two walks. Andrew Vaughn did all he could to repair the damage done against Keuchel with a career-high five RBI on bases-clearing double in the third and two-run homer in the fifth against Michael Wacha.
But a night after climbing over the .500 mark behind a gritty performance by right-hander Lucas Giolito and homer by Jake Burger, Keuchel put the Sox in a deep-six hole, allowing Kike Hernandez’ second leadoff homer of the series before giving up four more hits producing two more runs in the first.
Keuchel left the bases loaded by striking out ninth-place hitter Christian Arroyo to end the first, but still heard it from a restless crowd. In the second, Trevor Story barely cleared left fielder AJ Pollock’s leaping attempt at the left field fence, dropping his ninth homer of the season into the bullpen and dropping a load of gloom and doom on the crowd of 24,896, the largest of the three-game series.
Whether the Sox carry on with Keuchel, a former Cy Young winner who hasn’t pitched well since 2020, in the rotation for much longer bears watching. He’s in the last year of a three-year, $55 million contract that includes a vesting option for 2023 if he pitches 160 innings.
The Sox starting five is otherwise in good shape with Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Johnny Cueto with Vince Velasquez providing depth and Lance Lynn expected back in two or three weeks.
On May 8, Keuchel held the Red Sox to two runs over six innings at Fenway Park, then pitched five scoreless innings against the Yankees six days later in Chicago. Keuchel said he was disappointed manager Tony La Russa pulled him after five.
“We the team were mostly appreciative and excited about the five innings he pitched,” La Russa said. “His history since I’ve been here, in the sixth inning has been not good.”
In his next and most recent start, Keuchel gave up six runs in four innings Saturday in the Josh Donaldson/Tim Anderson game at Yankee Stadium.
And then Thursday night.
Sox halved the deficit to 6-3 on Vaughn’s double after Leury Garcia, Adam Engel and Tim Anderson singled in succession with no outs. Anderson raced home from first on Vaughn’s liner in the right field corner.
Jose Ruiz walked Story leading off the fifth, and Story stole second and scored on Alex Verdugo’s double to make it 7-3. Vaughn lifted his fifth homer into the left field seats with Adam Engel (single) on first.
The Red Sox scored two against lefty Tanner Banks in the seventh to take a 9-5 lead.
The Sox played without Yoan Moncada in the starting lineup. Batting .136/.177/.254 in 14 games after missing the first 27 games of the season with an oblique strain and dealing with leg soreness, La Russa planned to give him two days off with Friday’s off day to be well for the Cubs this weekend.
“He’s a little sore today in spots,” La Russa said.
“I’m enthusiastic about him having a big finish to the second half of the season or the start of next month.”