Red Sox

4 takeaways as Red Sox stumble through Fenway opener against Twins

The Red Sox couldn't touch Minnesota's Joe Ryan, and they didn't help themselves in the field, either.

Red Sox Twins
Boston Red Sox center fielder Kiké Hernandez (5) fields an RBI single during the first inning. Barry Chin/Globe Staff
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At least it was a beautiful day at Fenway Park, right, Red Sox fans?

That’s about the only thing good about what happened for Boston as it dropped its home opener 8-4 in a largely uninspired performance against the Twins.

Though the Sox did muster a late rally in the eighth inning, it was ultimately too little too late as the offense struggled against Minnesota starter Joe Ryan and made too many mistakes on the mound and in the field to keep the Twins in check.

Boston fell to 3-4 on the season with the loss, which seemed both to recall issues the team faced last season as well as paint the team’s current problems in stark relief.

Red Sox lineup comes up punchless against Ryan.

The best way to describe how the Red Sox looked at the plate on Friday afternoon: uncomfortable.

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Twins starter Joe Ryan simply had Boston hitters flailing at sliders all day, with Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez (two strikeouts apiece against him) looking especially rough at times. All told, the Red Sox whiffed at an ugly 41 percent clip on balls they swung at.

Aside from Alex Verdugo’s home run (more on that later), none of the Red Sox’s five hits off of Ryan came off the bat at 74 mph or above. (One hit was a bunt single by Jackie Bradley Jr.)

The team’s average exit velocity off of Ryan was just 82 mph. Minnesota, on the other hand, hit Nick Pivetta significantly harder (99.5 mph average velocity).

Whatever metrics you want to use, Ryan just baffled Boston, finishing with a stellar line of 6.0 innings, one run on five hits allowed, no walks, and seven strikeouts on 82 pitches (60 of which he threw for strikes). His counterpart? Well…

The starting rotation could be in some trouble.

Pivetta simply didn’t have it against the Twins.

The defense didn’t exactly help him out, of course. But his stuff also wasn’t crisp.

Every one of Pivetta’s pitches had below-average velocity, with his average fastball velocity (92.5 mph) clocking in at 2.3 mph slower than his season average.

Combine that with Pivetta missing his spots as he did when Miguel Sano poked a hanging curveball over Green Monster for a two-run homer, and the Twins absolutely pummeled everything he threw, especially the fastball (103.1 average exit velocity).

This is pretty worrisome when you take the grand scheme of the Red Sox’ pitching staff into account.

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Three of the Sox’ five starters have ERAs over 6.00 so far in the young season, with Pivetta’s ghastly 9.39 ERA leading the way. Though it’s somewhat expected that the bullpen would take on more work in the beginning of the season as starters get stretched out, the hope is that the starters round into form enough to get things back to normal.

Right now, the sample sizes are still small for the Sox starters. But aside from Eovaldi and Michael Wacha, things aren’t looking too promising. Here’s hoping Chris Sale can return to something approximating himself before long.

Defensive issues pop up again.

By the time Kiké Hernández stumbled and misplayed a fly ball on the warning track in center field during the top of the eighth inning, the Sox had already had an unfortunate day in the field.

In fact, the game literally started on a misplayed fly ball by Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo that turned into a Byron Buxton double. That run promptly came around to score on a single by Luis Arraez in the first inning that nearly got away from both Verdugo and Hernández. (To be fair, a diving stop by Trevor Story got the Sox out of the inning with minimal damage.)

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In the fifth, Bobby Dalbec elected to throw to second base on a potential double-play ball hit to him instead of tagging first and catching the painfully slow Gary Sanchez, who was on first base, in a rundown. He skipped the throw to Bogaerts, who couldn’t recover, and turn the “Twin” killing. Fortunately, that miscue didn’t cost Boston any more runs.

All of this, it should be noted, only resulted in one error, and Pivetta in particular didn’t do himself many favors.

But the defensive conversation is worth bringing up because the Sox — with largely this same defensive configuration — finished with the second-most errors in baseball last season (108), behind only the Miami Marlins’ 122. Boston is most definitely not good enough to give teams extra outs, and they’re lucky it didn’t hurt them worse on Friday.

Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers keep raking.

The Red Sox haven’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball as a team to start the season. But it’s hard not to be happy with what Devers and Verdugo have been doing at the plate so far.

Verdugo came into Friday’s home opener slashing .300/.500/.900 and promptly detonated the first pitch he saw 410 feet over the bullpens in right field for a solo shot. He finished 1-for-4 on the day.

Devers, meanwhile, continued his penchant for hitting pitches out of the ballpark that simply shouldn’t be possible to do so on.

His latest Houdini act: yanking his hands in on a fastball a couple of inches off the inside corner and scooping the ball into the short porch in the right-field corner for a two-run shot in the eighth inning. He finished with two hits and raised his average to .367 — the highest on the Red Sox so far.

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As of now, Devers and Verdugo are the only two Boston hitters with a batting average better than .270, which is not ideal.

Also, give some credit to Bradley, who beat the Twins’ shift with a bunt single and later laced an RBI double into the right-field gap in the eighth inning, scoring on Hernández’s double.

Extra Innings

The top of the first inning featured two plays that couldn’t possibly have turned out differently if they tried.

First, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton skied a ball to the stratosphere just behind shortstop that neither Xander Bogaerts nor left fielder Alex Verdugo could locate in the sunlight. The ball dropped in front of Verdugo, and Buxton slid into second with a good-luck double. However, Buxton seemed to hurt himself on the slide and immediately took himself out of the game. (The Twins called the injury “right knee soreness” and said they’d offer an update on Buxton’s status after the game.)

Then, with the Twins threatening to add to their one-run lead with two outs, Max Kepler ripped a ball into right field at 104.2 mph — one of the hardest balls hit all game. But Trevor Story, who was shifted into short right field on the play, stabbed the line drive with a dive to his left.

Buxton’s pop-fly double had an expected batting average of .020.

The expected batting average on Kepler’s lineout: .930.

What a game.

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