Red Sox pitchers allowed only one run over the last two games, which is phenomenal news. To go with it, the offense has pounded opponents into submission to the tune of four runs! Sarcasm aside, the Red Sox continued their winning ways on this west coast trip with a win over the Mariners last night.
Top Play (WPA): The top two plays in this game really come courtesy of Rickie Weeks staying in the game to play left field after his pinch hitting appearance in the bottom of the eighth. Brock Holt lead off the inning with a hit to left. Hustling out of the box like he always does, Holt attempted to turn his hit into a double and Weeks obliged by air-mailing his throw to second base almost all the way to first (WPA: + .177). Xander Bogaerts sacrificed Holt to third, and then Pablo Sandoval, pinch hitting for Blake Swihart, was hit by a pitch. Mookie Betts came to the plate with runners on first and third and one out. He battled through six Fernando Rodney pitches before lifting an 84 mph changeup to left field for what appeared to be a routine sacrifice fly, with a possible play at the plate. But, Weeks dropped the fly ball, allowing Holt to score what ended being the winning run easily. Sandoval to advance to second, and Betts safely reached first (WPA: + .189).
Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom play of the game belonged to the Mariners’ Kyle Seager. With the game tied at one in the bottom of the eighth he came to the plate with runners on first and second. Seager grounded Matt Barnes’ second pitch of the plate appearance to short for an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play (WPA: – .158). Dustin Pedroia really made this play happen. He made an excellent turn at second, coming across the bag to receive Bogaerts’ throw, avoiding the runner (Nelson Cruz) who was bearing down on him and then throwing across his body perfectly to get Seager at first. It was a tremendous effort.
Key Moment: There were many key moments in this game, but it was two Red Sox defensive plays that kept this game close. In the 4th inning, after retiring Robinson Cano, Sox starter Joe Kelly gave up back-to-back singles to Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager and then walked Logan Morrison to load the bases. He struck out Mike Zunino for the second out, bringing Dustin Ackley to the plate. Ackley grounded the ball to first base somewhat harmlessly, but the last hop ate Mike Napoli up such that the ball deflected off his glove and appeared to be ticketed for right field and a 2-1 Mariners lead. But Pedroia was in perfect position to play the carom off Nap’s glove and throw to Joe Kelly covering first base to retire Ackley and end the inning. Check it out:
In the 7th inning with the score tied at one, one out and a runner on first, Mariners’ pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano drove a Tommy Layne slider to right field that looked like it would get over Shane Victorino’s head. But Victorino sprinted back to make an excellent catch on the warning track, then quickly turned and threw the ball back to first base to double-up the runner that had been stealing on the pitch.
Defense really was a critical part of this game.
Trend to Watch: The Mariners have lined up three left-handed starting pitchers for this series against the Red Sox. It has been suggested that it was an intentional move by the Mariners to take advantage of how poorly the Red Sox have performed against left handed pitching this season. Last night, Roenis Elias was the first of the lefty starters for the Mariners to battle the Red Sox and despite giving up eight hits, he managed to limit run scoring. Going into last night’s game the Sox’ offense had a .188/.290/.346 (76 wRC+) line in their 317 plate appearances against lefties, which is quite a bit worse than what they have done in their 1014 plate appearances against right-handed pitching: .243/.319/.367 (91 wRC+) – another line that is not all that impressive. This is an odd split for this team to have, as most of the everyday guys hit right-handed (Betts, Pedroia, Hanley, Napoli, Bogaerts), Sandoval, Nava, and Swihart switch-hit – although Sandoval and Nava’s issues with lefties are well known – and guys like Hanigan, Victorino, and Craig all hit right-handed when they have been in the lineup. These right-handed hitters should beat up on left-handed pitching, but they have not been doing so. At this point in the season the difficulty hitting lefties is likely just random variation and will work itself out over the next couple of months, but it is something worth keeping an eye on.
Coming next: Clay Buchholz will toe the rubber against Mariners’ lefty J.A. Happ. Buchholz outing on Sunday against the Blue Jays was better than his previous two outings. He went 6.1 innings, gave up seven hits, three runs, walked three and struck out three. He managed to strand most of the base runners while allowing a lot of contact, which is not typically a recipe for success. He will need to be better. J.A. Happ has been a welcome addition to the Seattle Mariners, coming to the team in an offseason trade that sent Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays. He has a 3.29 ERA and 3.46 FIP, which are both well below his career rates (4.20, 4.32, respectively). Moving out of the Rogers Centre and into Safeco Field will help anybody. Happ has a 2.33 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 19.1 innings pitched at home and a 4.26 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 19.0 innings pitched on the road, although this difference is really because of one blowup start against the Astros. His home park may be part of his better than usual performance, but the biggest change for Happ this season compared to previous seasons has been a big increase in his ground ball rate (44.0% this year, 38.4% for his career).
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