Hanley Ramirez

Game 9 Recap: Nationals 10, Red Sox 5

Top Play (WPA): Leading 3-2 with the bases loaded in the top of the third, Wilson Ramos took a 2-2 Wade Miley slider and turned it into a bases-clearing double down the left field line (+.166). Ramos’ hit made the game 6-2 and the Nationals used two more third-inning doubles to extend their lead to 8-2. A Hanley Ramirez line drive Monster shot (which thankfully didn’t make direct contact with any patrons) and a Brock Holt ground-rule double got the Red Sox within three runs after six, but the Nationals tacked on a couple more in the seventh and won the game 10-5.

Bottom Play (WPA): Another Washington error – this one by third basemen Yunel Escobar on a Xander Bogaerts chopper — left the Sox with a second-and-third, no-out situation in the bottom of the second, trailing 2-1. That’s when Holt tested Escobar again with a line drive smash, but this time the third basemen was perfectly positioned and made the play (-.61). Sandy Leon’s groundout to short tied the game at two, but Mookie Betts’ fly out to right field (-.39) ended the inning with a man stranded a third.

Key Moment: The obvious answer is the Ramos third-inning double, but I’ll go with the pitch just before it. Miley threw a high slider on a 1-2 count, and it just missed punching out Ramos looking:

That’s probably not where Miley wanted that pitch to end up and it probably wasn’t a strike, but it was close enough to wonder if an expert pitch-framer (like, say, Christian Vazquez) might have been able to convince the umpire otherwise. Boston pitchers lost a number of potential strikes near the fringes of the zone yesterday, but it’s certainly not clear that it was Leon’s fault, as the umpire and the lack of command from Red Sox pitchers likely played a part. Leon’s already shown why he’s the backup catcher when he delivered a perfect throw to nail Brett Gardner stealing last week in New York, but it’ll be interesting to see how he performs as a pitch-framer.

Trend to Watch: Wade Miley. Miley couldn’t locate his two-seam fastball yesterday. According to PITCHf/x, only six of the 22 two-seamers he threw were called strikes. His slider wasn’t any better, as it only drew one whiff in 10 swings. When the Nationals did make contact with Miley’s slider, the results weren’t pretty – Bryce Harper doubled, Ryan Zimmerman tripled, Desmond homered, and Ramos doubled.

Miley doesn’t have an overpowering, swing-and-miss repertoire that allows him to get away with poor command. Leaving a slider up in the zone isn’t going to work, especially when the fastball location is off. Miley didn’t even induce his usual tally of ground balls yesterday, as he recorded only two outs on the ground and an 18.2 percent groundball percentage. The good news: it’s only one start, and Miley still has plenty of up(and down)side.

Coming Next: A day off, thankfully. It’s early in the season, but the Red Sox should savor Thursday’s rest. Since Saturday, the Sox have had three day games that followed night games, one after a 19-inning marathon in the Bronx. Perhaps more importantly, thanks to abbreviated outings from starters like Clay Buchholz and Miley, the bullpen is already taxed. Boston’s pen ranked third in the majors through Tuesday’s games, and that doesn’t count the six-and-two-thirds innings they put in yesterday.

The Red Sox take on the Orioles on Friday to kick off a four-game set from Fenway, with an expected pitching matchup of Joe Kelley vs. Ubaldo Jimenez. Both starters look to continue recent success, as they’ve each thrown seven innings of one-hit ball to start 2015. There should be plenty of runs to go around this weekend, however, as both Kelley and Jimenez (who has declined rapidly since leaving Colorado), along with the rest of each team’s rotation, possess early question marks.

Photo by Kelly O’Connor, 

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