Top Play (WPA): The top play of the game was a gift from the Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado. In the bottom of the third the Red Sox started to get to Orioles’ starter Wei-Yin Chen, building a 3-1 lead. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, Shane Victorino grounded an 82 mph Wei-Yin Chen slider in the direction of Machado at third. The ball hopped fairly high off the first bounce, but a player of Machado’s defensive ability should have had no problem turning it into an inning-ending out. But he played the ball off to his backhand and it skipped past him for two-run double (WPA: + .118). Mike Napoli advanced to third on the play. Victorino had stopped at first base but was awarded second base by the umpires after a fan interfered with the ball on the field.
Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom of the third also held the bottom play of the game. Three batters before Victorino doubled for the top play, David Ortiz came to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd and only 1 out. Ortiz swung at Chen’s first offering, an 84 mph slider down and away from him, popping out to Machado in foul territory (WPA: – .071). After this play it really seemed as though Chen was going to slip out of trouble.
Key Moment: It was a dreary mid-April day in New England for yesterday’s game. Rain started in the third and persisted until the umpires finally delayed the game after the top of the 7th. In the bottom of the 6th the Red Sox more or less put the game away scoring two runs to push their lead to 7-1, the eventual final score. With two outs and Ryan Hanigan on first base, Dustin Pedroia doubled down the left-field line. Hanigan came all the way around to score, helped by some great base coaching by Brian Butterfield. Watch Butterfield get right on the foul line to get a better view of the play in the left field corner.
After Pedroia’s double the Orioles intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Allen Craig, who was in the game as a replacement for Hanley Ramirez. Craig knocked a 2-2 slider into center field to score Pedroia. These add-on runs were likely helpful in pushing the eventual decision to call the game early. I suspect both teams were fine with not having to come back out after ~two hours and use more of their pitchers, further delaying their travel to Tampa Bay and Toronto, respectively.
Trend to Watch: Pablo Sandoval had the day off yesterday, with John Farrell slotting Brock Holt into the lineup at third base. Much has been made about Sandoval’s difficulties when hitting right-handed (against left-handed pitchers). In 2014, Sandoval he had a .359 wOBA as left-handed against right-handed pitchers, but only a .247 wOBA as right-handed against left-handed pitchers. That is a huge split. His performance this season has not done much to assuage concerns, as he has yet to reach base in his 13 PA when batting right-handed. Sandoval has been struggling to hit for power (ISO: .022, 0 HR), so yesterday may have just been Farrell getting a day of rest for Sandoval. But with Wei-Yin Chen (a lefty) on the mound for the Orioles there is a decent chance that it was a strategic move by Farrell.
It is difficult to say if Sandoval should abandon switch-hitting. He does not have a major league plate appearance against a left-handed pitcher as a left-handed batter. We simply do not know if his performance lefty-on-lefty will be any better than it has been righty-on-lefty. And really, it seems fairly safe to assume that it would not be. So for now, the best approach may be to just use some of the games when opponents have a lefty starter as rest days for Sandoval, as Farrell did yesterday.
Coming next: The Red Sox head to Tampa Bay to start a 3-game set with the Rays before heading to Baltimore for another series with the Orioles. There’s a lot of American League East action coming up, as the Red Sox next 18 games are against the Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays or Yankees. Against Tampa Bay, the Sox will send Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, and Clay Buchholz to the mound to start the games. The Rays counter with Chris Archer, Nathan Karns, and Jake Odorizzi. Archer (1.37 ERA, 3.11 FIP) and Odorizzi (1.74 ERA, 2.07 FIP) have been the Rays best starters thus far; they represent another test for the Sox batters. The AL East projects to be a tight division this year, so getting a jump on these foes early in the season with wins in the next stretch of inter-division games should help keep the Red Sox in good standing.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com