BOSTON — Among the surprises of the first month of the Red Sox season, the absence of their offense ranks at the top. But the emergence of Michael Wacha as one of their best starters isn’t far behind.
Wacha continued a dazzling start to his Boston career with another strong effort, tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings to lead the Red Sox to a 4-0 victory over the Angels on a cold and dreary Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
The reeling Red Sox haven’t had many reasons for optimism after losing their last four series and coming off a dismal road trip that included several painful losses. But the dominance of their starting rotation is one – and Wacha has certainly surpassed expectations so far.
Signed to a small deal before the lockout, the Red Sox were hoping the veteran could rediscover the potential he showed when he was one of the more intriguing arms in the game earlier in his career. They couldn’t be happier with the results so far. Through five starts, Wacha has a 1.38 ERA — the fifth-best mark in baseball and third in the American League.
On Tuesday, he silenced a dangerous Angels lineup with great efficiency, needing just 60 pitches to record 17 outs. He needed just 12 pitches to get through the first two innings and only really faced trouble once, in the third inning. He issued back-to-back two-out walks to No. 9 hitter Andrew Velazquez and leadoff hitter Taylor Ward, creating a dangerous situation against Mike Trout.
But it didn’t come back to haunt him. Wacha fell behind to Trout 2-0 but battled back, striking out the three-time MVP with back-to-back swings and misses on his changeup.
Wacha wasn’t at all in trouble in the sixth, when he retired the first two batters of the inning. But after allowing a two-out single to Trout, who advanced to second on a throwing error by Rafael Devers — the third baseman’s first of the season — Alex Cora elected to take him out after just 60 pitches – his lowest pitch count of the season — and put in Jake Diekman for the lefty-on-lefty matchup with Shohei Ohtani.
Wacha and the bullpen’s shutout performance were more than enough for the struggling Red Sox offense, which only scored four runs but looked to make an encouraging step in the right direction.
Noah Syndergaard made a big mistake to start the fourth inning, throwing Devers a fastball right down the middle on the first pitch that the third baseman is too good not to hammer. He made no mistake as he crushed it 437 feet to dead center to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
The Red Sox proceeded to have two runners on with no outs and only scored one run in the inning, but though they weren’t doing damage, they were still putting the ball in play and moving runners over. Alex Verdugo grounded out to advance Xander Bogaerts to third before Kiké Hernandez drove him in with an RBI groundout to make it a 2-0 game.
J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox an extra insurance run in the eighth inning with his second home run in as many games, a solo shot that put them up 4-0. It was the Red Sox’ third multi-homer game of the season, and another important sign of life from Martinez, whose bat is getting hot after he had missed seven of the previous 10 games nursing an adductor injury.