Joe Kelly looked amazing, then terrible. The offense did the same thing.
Top Play (WPA): Weirdly enough, the Red Sox had the top play even in a loss. With Boston down 1-0 in the third and Mookie Betts on first, Dustin Pedroia took a high fastball and crushed it into the left field bleachers (+.231). It gave the Red Sox the lead, and for a while it looked like they wouldn’t give it up all game.
The top play for the winning Rays came in their big sixth inning. Brandon Guyer came in to pinch hit for Kevin Kiermaier with the bases loaded down by two runs. With Craig Breslow on the mound, Guyer ripped a single on a liner to right field (+.190) that scored Desmond Jennings and Jake Elmore to tie the game. The play would close the book on Kelly’s performance, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Bottom Play (WPA): To get a picture of just how strange this game was, look no further than the WPA. The losing team had the top play by WPA, and the winning team actually had the bottom three plays. All of them came in that sixth inning that was referenced above. After Guyer’s single, the Rays still had a couple of base runners with nobody out. Then, Rene Rivera flew out (-.075), Tim Beckham struck out (-.062) and Steven Souza was sent down by way of the K (-.063).
The Red Sox’s most damaging play came in the eighth inning, after the Rays had taken a two-run lead. Allen Craig made it to second after an Evan Longoria throwing error, giving Xander Bogaerts a big opportunity to come up with a huge hit to snap him out of a slump. Instead, he flailed at some low-and-outside sliders and struck out swinging (-.051).
Key Moment: If you’ll grant me an entire half-inning as a single moment, then the sixth inning is the easy answer here. After Kelly had cruised through the first five innings, the wheels came off in the sixth in spectacular fashion. The Red Sox began the inning up by four runs before Kelly proceeded to give up four straight singles. This led to one run being scored and the bases loaded, all with no outs. After walking in another run, he was finally taken out of his misery for Craig Breslow. The lefty gave up the single to Guyer to tie the game before getting out of the rest of the inning. Although there wasn’t a big extra base hit in the frame, the slow, methodical rally was somehow more excruciating.
Trend to Watch: Last night was yet another game in which the Red Sox starting pitcher failed to get deep into a ball game. I’m not exaggerating when I say Kelly looked like the Cy Young contender he claims to be in the first five innings. Besides one mistake pitch on a Souza home run, Kelly was locating everything on the black and showing plus offerings of all his pitches. Tampa’s lineup isn’t the most intimidating around, but he was still making them look foolish. Then, just when it looks like the Sox would finally have a starter get through seven or eight strong innings, Kelly blew up in the sixth, forcing the bullpen to work another three-plus inning game. Eventually, that kind of thing will catch up to a team.
Coming Next: The Red Sox close out the series tonight with a rubber match pitting Clay Buchholz against Jake Odorizzi. Buchholz has been his typical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season with a couple good starts and an atrocious one. As always, it’s futile trying to predict which Buchholz we’ll get. Odorizzi has been fantastic this season and could be in the midst of a breakout season. The Red Sox will try to stop that from happening, at least for one night, en route to another series victory.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com
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