BOSTON – Red Sox batters did little to demonstrate their appreciation Monday night to hitting coach Gregg Colbrunn, who was returning to the team for the first time since June 4 when he suffered a brain hemorrhage in Cleveland.
The Sox offense, mostly stagnant all year, was almost lifeless Monday night against Jake Arrieta at Fenway Park. The Cubs righty nearly no-hit the Sox. But Stephen Drew – who entered the game batting just .133, having gone 2-for-33 on the just-completed 10-game road trip – singled with two outs in the eighth to break up Arrieta’s bid at history. Before that, the Sox had had just one baserunner, when Mike Napoli walked with one out in the fifth.
It would have been the first time the Sox were no-hit since April 22, 1993, when Seattle’s Chris Bosio dealt them the ignominy. Bosio was at Fenway Monday night as the Cubs' pitching coach.
Arrieta entered the game with a record of 0-3 and 5.90 ERA in six career games, five starts, against the Red Sox. He had not faced them since April 10, 2013, while with the Orioles. But Arrieta, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA, has not been the same pitcher recently that the Sox were used to seeing.
Arrieta, who was on the disabled list until May 1 with shoulder tightness, has earned a win in each of his last four starts. In that stretch, he has gone at least seven innings in each, recording at least nine strikeouts without allowing more than two runs in each outing,
“We were well aware of his abilities, the type of pitches that he does have,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “But when you combine the three-pitch mix with the command, there’s a reason he’s been on a roll as he has. Give credit to a talented pitcher. He was outstanding.”
The Fenway crowd gave Arrieta credit, as he walked off to a loud ovation. Sox batters were equally respectful.
"He located everything," said Dustin Pedroia, who struck out twice. "He's got great stuff. His cutter was down in the zone. His four-seam, he elevated it. His curveball. He kept every pitch out of the zone. I had three at-bats, I don't think I got one good pitch to hit. Just got to tip your hat."
David Ross had faced Arrieta twice before, going 2-for-2 with a home run and four RBIs. This time around, though, he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, one of Arrieta’s 10 in the game.
"He’s definitely a different pitcher,” Ross said. “He may have moved sides of the rubber. I'd have to check the video to see that. I just remember seeing his ball a lot better [previously] than I did today. It was definitely across [the zone]. It felt almost like he was throwing behind me and locating down and away. That's really tough to do. You ask any pitcher, it's probably one of the hardest things to do.
“He was deceptive…He’s got front-of-the-line stuff. We weren’t taking him lightly. We knew coming in that this guy was pretty good.”
Brock Holt went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Arrieta and grounded into a 3-6-3 double play in the ninth inning against Hector Rondon. Holt, the lone consistent offensive performer for the Sox since joining the lineup full-time late in May, thought Arrieta may be the toughest pitcher he has seen.
"Yeah, I think so, since I've been here," Holt said. "He had everything going for him. We couldn't square him up. Throwing a lot of strikes. Throwing everything for strikes. Not missing. Picking the corners. He threw the ball well."
The Sox finished the game with a combined two hits in 28 at-bats, suffering the eighth shutout loss of the season. For comparison, they were shut out 11 times in all of 2013 on their way to a World Series title.
They have scored 311 runs, fewest in the American League, 26th overall. Their .241 team batting average is better than just four other teams, better than only Houston’s in the AL. Their .681 OPS is better than only seven other teams, better than only Seattle’s in the AL. Their .366 slugging percentage is lowest in the AL.
Monday was a disappointing and frustrating showing after stringing together two wins at Yankee Stadium to salvage a 4-6 record on their road trip.
"Anytime we seemingly start to put together a couple of quality performances back to back, it's been difficult to extend," Farrell said. "You can't pinpoint any one reason. But still, it is a little frustrating particularly where we are with our record, or status, or place where we are in the division. [We're] trying to get some momentum going. But you credit a solid performance tonight."