Red Sox review: Blake Swihart becomes the first fall guy as Boston struggles to find consistency

BOSTON -- This 2019 Red Sox team sure is developing a habit of jerking a fan around. Just when you're starting to feel good about something -- whether it be the pitching or the overall lineup -- they're impressively quick at delivering an ice cold glass of "not so fast."

The Sox managed to notch back-to-back wins for the first time all season this past week when they took the series finale against the Blue Jays (despite their best efforts to blow it) followed by a victory over the Orioles. But they're also just 4-3 over their last seven and only earned series splits against Toronto and Baltimore -- two teams that are nothing to write home about, by the way -- and are still looking for their first series win of the season.

They had a chance to lock that up during the annual beloved morning game on Marathon Monday, but instead Baltimore embarrassed them. The Sox were held to just four hits (their lowest total of the season) in the 8-1 loss. The lineup was shut down by Dan Straily, a starter who came into the day with an ERA over 19. 

So, yeah, things still aren't going great.

But every MLB campaign is a grueling marathon filled with peaks and valleys, and there are certain noteworthy aspects to be taken from the highs and lows and everything in between. As such, throughout the course of this season, we'll check in with the Red Sox to see where they're at in defending their throne, what we've learned recently and what's next for the reigning champs.

Then: April 16, 2018: 13-2, 1st in AL East Now: April 16, 2019: 6-11, 4th in AL East

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Arizona Diamondbacks
Farewell to Blake Swihart, the first casualty of Boston's slow start. USATSI

What we've learned

PITCHING: Well, most notably, that it is indeed possible for a Red Sox starting pitcher to throw a quality start and get a win. Pretty wild stuff! Eduardo Rodriguez did it on Friday with a solid outing against the Orioles, but the real highlight was the outing from David Price against Baltimore on Sunday. Price delivered the best outing from a starter this season when he threw seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and striking out seven.

But overall the pitching has still been a major concern, enough that the team was willing to give up on Blake Swihart in favor of Sandy Leon, who did a great job with the staff last season. The team designated Swihart for assignment in a stunning move on Tuesday, effectively ending his time with the club, presuming he'll getting claimed on waivers. It marks the second straight season that the Red Sox have given up on Swihart behind the plate pretty early in the season, though obviously this time was a bit more drastic.

The move came so suddenly that it was hard not to wonder if there might have been something going on behind-the-scenes that made the Sox willing to cut their losses just 17 games into the year. However, it could just be a sacrifice they were willing to make to get Leon back into the picture in order to help rectify the pitching issues before they get out of control. After all, it's easier to DFA one guy than an entire rotation.

As a result, Boston loses a former first-round pick that was never able to hit the potential that he was believed to have when the team drafted him as a top catching prospect. While he didn't exactly seize his opportunity to start this season, the 27-year-old Swihart certainly hasn't looked bad enough to warrant a DFA this early, so it's a pretty disappointing development that the Sox are just giving up on him. But, all things considered, it might be the best thing for him; He wasn't managed incredibly well during his tenure in Boston so there's a chance he finds better results with more stability and comfort on his new team.

HITTING: While there's been inconsistency with the pitching (which I suppose is an upgrade from being consistently bad), there's also been some inconsistency with the bats. This team has yet to find a way to put both things together at once -- at least not for an extended period of time -- but there have been some bright spots in the lineup, notably J.D. Martinez. 

Martinez has reached base in each of the 17 games so far this season and he's currently working on a six-game hitting streak in which he's gone 8-for-22 (.364) with five doubles. However, he's without a homer in his last nine games. Also getting hot is Xander Bogaerts, who's batting .400 over his last six games and has reached base in 12 of his last 25 plate appearances.

But reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts continues to struggle, hitting just .222 with three homers and seven RBIs to this point in the season. it's obvious he's frustrated.

"Basically, what I'm doing is unacceptable," Betts said earlier in the week. "I have to figure out a way to get something done and help the team. Just have to find a way to get some hits and get on base.

"I'm not really doing anything well right now. It sucks. Nothing really else to say, but it sucks and I have to figure out a way to make something happen."

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
You know things are bad when Chris Davis is teeing off on you. Bob DeChiara / USA TODAY Sports

MISC.: Speaking of guys who had to figure out a way to make something happen, how about Chris Davis? With how the Red Sox started the season and the Orioles coming into town for a four-game series, it seemed inevitable that Davis would at least luck into one and snap his atrocious hitless streak. Lo and behold, he made it happen on Saturday when he smacked a two-RBI single off Rick Porcello in the first inning. 

That hit brought Davis' historic 62-plate-appearance hitless streak to an end and, as a hilarious footnote, he kept the baseball. It ended up being a pretty good weekend for Davis, as that initial base knock was part of a three-hit performance that included two doubles and four RBI. 

He also added his first home run on the season on Monday with this shot off Heath Hembree. That snapped a 35-game homerless drought for Davis, because of course it did. Anyone who thought Davis wasn't going to go yard in this series is a damn fool. 

Moment of the week

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox
Mitch Moreland continues to be a savior this season. USATSI

There haven't been a lot of consistently good things happening to the Red Sox this year, but Mitch Moreland coming up in big spots is one of them. As we highlighted in last week's column, Moreland has been hella clutch for the Sox in the early going and was largely responsible (at least in part) for their first three wins of the year. 

Well, the Sox still only have six dubs, but Moreland took responsibility for another when he hit the game-tying homer in the seventh inning of Thursday's series finale against the Blue Jays, then knocked in the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth before Rafael Devers walked it off. 

Too early to call Mitch Moreland the new David Ortiz? [eyes emoji]

What's ahead

The Sox will open up a two-game series with the Yankees (6-9) on Tuesday -- stream regionally via fuboTV (Try for free) -- for the first meeting between the rivals this season. This isn't exactly the clash of the titans that some may have anticipated, as both teams have largely sucked so far this year -- at least the Yankees can point to a never-ending pile of injuries as their excuse -- but I suppose something's got to give. After that two-game stint in New York, they'll head to Tampa for a three-game set against the Rays (12-4) this weekend before returning to Fenway for a lengthy homestand that begins with a four-game series with the Tigers (8-7).

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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