Just like Tuesday, the Red Sox’s pitching came to play while the offense did not. Unlike Tuesday, the Sox couldn’t pull it out in the end.
Top Play (WPA): If you need any indication of how bad Boston’s offense really was, try looking at the top five plays by WPA – all of them were Tampa Bay hits. In a game that had few truly pivotal moments, the top play by WPA was Rene Rivera’s walkoff single in the 9th, with a .305 mark. Then next, in order by highest WPA: Logan Forsythe’s RBI single in the second (.083), Allan Dykstra’s leadoff single in the ninth (.075), Evan Longoria’s double in the second, and Kevin Kiermaier’s single in the ninth.
The Red Sox’s high mark? Pablo Sandoval’s leadoff double (.068) in the second. That ranked sixth in WPA. Their next highest was Xander Bogaerts’ walk in the seventh (.034), which ranked tenth. You can probably see a pattern here, but it was not a banner night for the Sox’s starting nine.
Bottom Play (WPA): Not to be outdone by the Sox, the Rays had the worst play of the night as well in Forsythe’s flyout in the ninth inning. That play came with a -.074 WPA. As you’ve already read, it became quickly remedied by the Rays’ death-by-singles approach.
Hanley Ramirez made a valiant effort to take home this trophy, as his strikeout in the top of the 7th with two men aboard (-.073) was the worst play of Boston’s night. On top of that, Mookie Betts’ flyout in the fifth inning with two men on and two outs was the third-worst play of the game. Pitchers might’ve found the weakness in Boston’s mighty offense here – just put two men on base and the Red Sox are punchless.
Key Moment: It was early in the game, but Evan Longoria’s ground-rule double in the second inning was all the Rays needed to even the contest at one apiece. The Rays promptly moved him over, scored him on Forsythe’s single, then did not register a hit until Junichi Tazawa came in to pitch in the eighth inning. Clay Buchholz pitched really well, and was nigh unhittable at certain points, but the Rays being able to squeeze just one run out of him was the reason they won this game and handed the Sox their first series loss of the year.
Trend to Watch: The stunning lack of offense. Over the course of the series, the Red Sox were 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position. For a team that rolls out guys like Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez and Napoli almost every day, that has to be seen as unacceptable. Home runs, sacrifice flies and fielder’s choices can only do so much when you cannot get a hit with someone on second and/or third. Jake Odorizzi is a good young pitcher, but you’d expect the Sox to get more than a meager three hits when he’s not striking out a lot of batters – he only had three punchouts. To make it worse, the only way a Sox batter reached base against a Tampa Bay reliever was via error: Ortiz got to first base after Allan Dykstra couldn’t corral a rushed throw from Kevin Jepsen.
Buchholz deserves a shoutout here. The man pitched brilliantly today, striking out 10 Rays across six innings. As Matt Collins said, Buchholz has been very up-and-down this season, so stringing together a couple decent starts is a good sign for the much-maligned right hander.
Coming Next: The Red Sox’s journey north to Baltimore, where they’ll play the Orioles for the second straight weekend. Rick Porcello will start Friday night’s game, where he’ll look to redeem himself after a disastrous eight-run implosion against the Orioles last Sunday. Porcello hasn’t had any issues with getting grounders. Instead, it’s the fly balls he allows that give him fits. He’s allowed five home runs in 19 innings so far this season, and he’ll have to focus on getting his sinker down in the zone if he hopes to have some success against a good Orioles offense.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com