|Pregame ceremonies for Opening Day 2018 at Guaranteed Rate Field|
It was 41 degrees for first pitch, and temperatures were in the upper-30s for most of the game, accompanied by snowfall. Actually, the Sox played well while it was snowing -- they led the game, 7-3, after seven innings.
But a combination of terrible relief pitching and horrible defense allowed the Detroit Tigers to rally for a 9-7 victory in 10 innings. Detroit scored one run in the eighth off Nate Jones, three in the ninth off Joakim Soria to tie the game and two off the combination of Greg Infante and Aaron Bummer in the 10th inning to secure the win.
Most galling, with the Sox still ahead 7-4, Soria had two outs and two strikes on some guy named Niko Goodrum, but the veteran reliever could not put the game away. Goodrum smacked a two-run homer to make the score 7-6.
Soria also had two strikes on the next hitter, Nicholas Castellanos, but Castellanos managed a single to keep the game alive. That brought up Victor Martinez, whose RBI "double" tied the game at 7.
We put double in quotes, because this is where the Sox's lack of competent play in left field and weird roster construction finally cost them.
Martinez hit what I thought should have been a routine single to left field. But Leury Garcia tried to be a hero and make a catch on a ball he had no chance to reach. He took a bad route, and the ball skipped past him and rattled around in the left field corner, allowing the slow-footed Castellanos to score the tying run all the way from first base.
This cannot happen at the MLB level. Garcia needs to pull up, concede the single, keep Castellanos at second base and give Soria one more chance to retire the next hitter with a 7-6 lead. Soria did retire James McCann to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
We can't put all the blame on Garcia because he's an infielder being asked to play the outfield. In fact, the Sox have only two true outfielders on their roster -- Avisail Garcia and Adam Engel. They are trying to plug left field with two converted infielders -- Leury Garcia and Nick Delmonico -- and it's just not a very good idea.
I understand the desire to carry eight relievers. We are six games into the season, and the Sox have yet to have a starting pitcher go deeper than six innings. That's going to be the norm, not the exception, with this group, so all those arms in the bullpen are going to be needed and used.
That gives the Sox just a three-man bench, which is tough, but I think one of those three bench players needs to be an outfielder. As it stands now, the bench consists of catcher Omar Narvaez, infielder Tyler Saladino and whoever doesn't start in left field between Delmonico and Leury Garcia.
For me, Saladino and Leury Garcia are redundant on the roster. Both are utility infielders, and Leury Garcia is being miscast as "defensive replacement" in the outfield. Leury Garcia has a better bat than Saladino -- he had two hits and two RBIs in Thursday's game, but Saladino can play every position on the infield competently, while Garcia is a question mark with the glove no matter where you put him.
Let's not forget that while Yolmer Sanchez is the starting third baseman at this point, he is another player who can provide competent-to-good defense at any position on the infield.
Right now, the Sox have too many utility infielders on the roster and not enough outfielders. The two biggest warts on a limited Sox roster -- a shallow bullpen and a lack of competency in left field -- led to a brutal loss before a big crowd in the home opener.