Koji Uehara

Game 8 Recap: Red Sox 8, Nationals 7

Top Play (WPA): With the Red Sox trailing 7-5 in the seventh, Ryan Hanigan came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Hanigan squibbed Nationals reliever Blake Treinen’s pitch right back to him for what should have been an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. Instead, a comedy of errors ensued. Treinen bobbled the grounder a couple of times before rushing a throw to the plate the zipped past Wilson Ramos and into the stands. Two runs scored, and the Red Sox ended up with runners at 2nd and 3rd (WPA: +.341). This was not Hanigan’s best plate appearance. For me, his best effort at the plate was in the third inning when after taking the first two pitches for strikes he fouled off three consecutive Stephen Strasburg fastballs – clearly frustrating Strasburg – before singling to right, knocking in Mike Napoli. But in the end, it was his seventh inning squib back to the pitcher that did the most damage.

Bottom Play (WPA): After the Red Sox took the lead in the seventh (8-7), the Nationals’ Yunel Escobar singled and then advanced to second on a Junichi Tazawa wild pitch to Jayson Werth. Werth worked the count full, but on the 7th pitch of the plate appearance Tazawa threw a curveball for a called third strike to end the inning (WPA: -.081). The pitch actually crossed Hanigan up. He did not catch the pitch so much as he blocked it with his chest, but his effort kept the ball from getting too far from home plate and he was able to throw down to first to officially retire Werth.

Key Moment: Selecting a key moment for this game is rather difficult given that it was back-and-forth and really quite a strange affair. I will go with the play that had the second highest WPA: Michael Taylor’s triple in the 5th inning off Alexi Ogando (WPA: +.262). In the fifth, the Nationals battled back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game. After Justin Masterson finished off his rough evening by hitting Danny Espinosa, John Farrell summoned Ogando; an interesting choice given the leverage of the situation (tie game, runners at 1st and 2nd, two outs). I would be more inclined to call on someone like Tazawa in these situations. For now, the Sox should let Ogando handle the low leverage spots like the ninth inning of Monday’s game when the Red Sox were up five (when Farrell used Tazawa). In any case, Ogando had Taylor 1-2 but then threw a 95 mph fastball that caught too much of the plate and Taylor rocketed it into right-center for a triple, plating both runners. Ogando managed to strikeout Escobar to end the inning and prevent any further damage. At this point things were looking rough for the Red Sox.

I suppose another key moment was Ryan Zimmerman’s mash off of Koji Uehara going just foul. A few feet to the right and the game would have been all square again. Uehara threw almost all splitters (12/14) in his first appearance of the season, and was really lucky that he got a chance to throw another one to Zimmerman.

Trends to Watch: Team health. Before last night’s game it was announced that Xander Bogaerts had jammed his knee in Monday’s game and came in on Tuesday with some soreness. He was set to have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. As much as we all love scrappy-doo Brock Holt ( \o/ ), Bogaerts is the long-term solution at shortstop. During the game Pablo Sandoval was hit by a Strasburg curveball on the top of his left foot. He stayed in the game for another couple of innings but then came out after grounding out weakly to second. Much has been said about the Red Sox’s depth. While depth is undoubtedly an asset of the organization, they are better suited to have Sandoval and Bogaerts in the lineup everyday, rather than shuffling everything around and having odd things happen like Hanley Ramirez playing third base. After the game it was reported that both Bogaerts and Sandoval are fine and could play today. We can all resume breathing normally.

This is a Red Sox site, but another trend worth following is the Nationals’ defense. They are far and away the favorites in the National League East, and maybe even the whole of the National League. They have a remarkable starting rotation, and a well-rounded, potentially dangerous lineup. But if they play defense like they have in these last two games in Boston it is going to be tough sledding. Ian Desmond has been a total disaster at shortstop. Taylor and Bryce Harper looked like little leaguers dealing with the sun on Monday. It has been ugly, ugly stuff.

Coming next: This series against the Nationals presented an early season test for the Red Sox. Many have predicted this as a potential World Series matchup. The Sox have responded well by taking the first two games of the series, scoring 17 runs in the process. The Sox go for the series sweep today at 1:35pm. It will be a field full of number 42s as today is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball. Wade Miley will make his home debut. Not that this is at all predictive of what to expect, but he pitched against the Nationals last year, battling a lineup that had many of the same faces he will see today. In 6.2 innings Miley allowed 14 base runners (8 hits, 6 walks), which is bad, but he and the Diamondback’s defensive unit managed to avoid having any of those runners cross the plate, which is a mighty fine result. Here’s hoping for a similar runs allowed outcome, albeit with fewer Nationals reaching base.

Photo by Kelly O’Connor, 

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