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Boston Red Sox

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 28: Umpire Jim Reynolds #77 inspects the glove of Garrett Richards #43 of the Boston Red Sox after he pitched the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park on June 28, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards, the gift that keeps on giving.

The Red Sox righty has encapsulated major league pitchers’ struggle to adjust since the start of the “sticky stuff” crackdown in June, both on and off the mound. Richards continued to twist in the wind in Monday’s start against the Kansas City Royals, and fortunately, the Red Sox’ elite offense bailed him out once again.

Richards then said in his postgame video conference what he’s already intimated: without sticky things, he’s basically started his entire career over.

“Just trying to figure out how to pitch again, man,” Richards said, “stay in the zone, be competitive, give us a chance to win. That’s the only thing I care about.”

Richards has another problem, one that every human in Boston is dealing with amid another massive heat wave.

“I need to stop sweating,” Richards said. “If I could stop sweating, everything would be fine, but I’m a guy that sweats a whole lot. Just trying to work around the new rules and things that we have right now, trying to figure out different ways for me to be successful. That’s what was asked of us to do.”

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Richards’ recent postgame comments could be categorized as simply wearing his heart on his sleeve. He still doesn’t come off as whiny as the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow, who blamed an injury on his inability to grip the baseball. Richards at least wants to “compete” and “win,” as he’s repeatedly said.

He just sounds so dejected and lost. That’s evident in Richards resorting to a changeup that he said he just learned within the past week, as well as a modified curveball that goes about 60 mph.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora had Richards’ back, as he should.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 28: Garrett Richards #43 of the Boston Red Sox reacts as Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the second inning at Fenway Park on June 28, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 28: Garrett Richards #43 of the Boston Red Sox reacts as Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the second inning at Fenway Park on June 28, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“He kept competing, and he actually gave us a chance to win,” Cora told reporters after the game. “Obviously the offense picked him up. But that fact that he went 5 2/3 [innings], it didn’t look great in the beginning, but he didn’t quit, he kept going, and he put zeroes at the end and gave us a chance.”

It’s a fair point by Cora. After allowing a solo home run to Whit Merrifield in the second inning – which capped five Royals runs off three homers – Richards pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings before exiting the game.

That doesn’t change the fact that Richards dug the Red Sox a hole that the offense had to claw out of due to his continued struggles. Richards still seems to have a dark cloud following him around wherever he goes, even as he competes on the mound.

The most important part is that the Red Sox (48-31) won again, and remain in first place in the American League East. It’s just been fascinating to witness the physical and mental struggles of pitchers in the post-sticky stuff era. And Richards continues to epitomize the whole thing.

MORE: Mazz: Minus the glue, Garrett Richards is coming apart

MORE: Alex Cora provides update on Chris Sale

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.