Anthony Ranaudo has now given up 10 homers in 32 1/3 innings in the big leagues. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Why you should have cared about Tuesday's game: Beyond Anthony Ranaudo's home run struggles

September 16, 2014 - 6:14 pm
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(For the final month of the regular season, "Closing Time" will be called "Why you should have cared," looking beyond the final score -- at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) -- for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.) It's easy to jump to the conclusion, based on his initial exposure to the highest level of baseball, that Anthony Ranaudo will struggle to be a big league starting pitcher. On Tuesday, in the Red Sox' 4-0 shutout loss to the Pirates (the 15th shutout loss for the Red Sox this year, the most times the Sox have been blanked since they were shut out 16 times in 1990 and tied for the sixth most times the team has been shut out since 1914), he suffered his third loss in as many starts, giving up three runs on a pair of homers (a two-run blast by Russell Martin and a solo shot by Starling Marte) in 5 2/3 innings. Ranaudo has now permitted 10 homers in 32 1/3 innings in the big leagues, one more than he allowed in 138 innings in Triple-A this year, and he's struck out just 13 while walking 15 in that time. He's a flyball pitcher who hasn't been able to get swings and misses at the big league level. That's all fair, but there are a few takeaways from which Ranaudo and the Sox can derive encouragement. First, he's showing strong mound poise and a consistent ability to compete at the big league level. He's gotten into the sixth inning in five of his six starts, and he's permitted three or fewer runs in four of those outings. Secondly, he's competing even at a time when he's working to push through a physical wall of a career-high in innings. He's now up to 170 1/3 innings this year, up from his previous career high of 140 frames in 2013 -- a 21.7 percent increase that is unsurprisingly accompanied by some diminution in stuff. Third, he's showing at least hints of adapting, as suggested by the fact that he got seven groundball outs on Tuesday, showing at times action that suggested the incorporation of a two-seam fastball (or at least something that acted like it) to get his fastball off the barrel of opposing hitters. Ranaudo's stuff right now is down from where it was in much of 2013, and even in much of 2014. If, after a healthy offseason, he comes back with a velocity bump and sharper action on his secondary pitches to give him at least some potential for swings and misses, if the intelligent 25-year-old continues to show the ability to adapt his arsenal (he made a number of tweaks this year in Triple-A that demonstrated self-awareness about who he is as a pitcher) to get more regular groundball contact, he has a chance to be an important depth option for the Sox. He'll likely be in Triple-A to open next year, but there are traits that he's shown that suggest the potential to be a big league starter if his progress in 2014 represents part of a progression rather than an end point. OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY'S GAME -- Left-hander Drake Britton continued to offer evidence that it's premature to dismiss the potential for him to win a bullpen job for 2015, retiring the lone batter he faced. Opponents are now 1-for-13 against him in the big leagues this year. -- Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he's hitting .405/.425/.676. -- Though Will Middelbrooks struck out twice, he also had a double to right-center on a 1-2 pitch in the ninth inning against Pirates closer Mark Melancon. -- Though Koji Uehara gave up a leadoff double, the 20th extra-base hit he's allowed this year, he rebounded by striking out the next three hitters, the first time he's punched out three hitters since July 27.
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