One step forward, Infinity steps back.
Top Play (WPA): This one was lost early on in the contest, with a patented Joe Kelly Inning. After stranding a man at third in the first, Boston’s starter was not as fortunate in the second. The game was truly broken open when David Lough got a hold of one and deposited it into the bullpen (.200), giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead. It certainly wasn’t an insurmountable lead, but it felt like one at the time.
The Red Sox did threaten comebacks a few times in the game, but were never able to come through. Their top play came in the fifth, when Hanley Ramirez came up with two men on and two out. He lined a base hit into left field (.095), scoring Dustin and bringing Boston within two. Of course, the play was followed up with …
Bottom Play (WPA): … a strikeout from Xander Bogaerts (-.059) to end the inning. This was a theme throughout the night, as Red Sox hitters struck out 12 times in the game. On top of that, four of the bottom five and six of the bottom eight plays came in the form of a Red Sox strikeout.
Key Moment: This was something of a slow burn of a contest, lacking any true key moment. The two most feasible options both involve rough patches for Joe Kelly. The obvious one is the second inning, when Baltimore scored its first four runs. Kelly was being hit consistently hard, and wasn’t lucky enough to spread around the loud contact. The fourth inning was equally as key. The Red Sox were able to plate a run in the bottom of the third, and Kelly was in dire need of the elusive “shutdown inning.” Instead, he gave up more hard contact and Robbie Ross allowed the inherited runners to score. Had Boston been able to escape that frame unscathed, this could have been a much different game.
Trends to Watch: First and foremost, it was another rough outing for Kelly. Although he’s shown some flashes at various points this season, it’s becoming more and more clear as the year goes on that the Red Sox need to look elsewhere in the rotation. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see either Steven Wright or Brian Johnson take his next turn.
Meanwhile, Mike Napoli continues to struggle, accounting for four of the team’s 12 strikeouts. The hope for him turning it around and rebuilding his trade value is becoming slimmer and slimmer by the day. Eventually, the Red Sox will have to decide what to do with the veteran first baseman.
On a positive note, Mookie Betts continued his hot streak with a couple walks and a double. He’s now up to a .789 OPS on the season. Pablo Sandoval continues to hit well, too, going 3-4 last night. While his overall numbers won’t blow anyone away, he finally looks like he’s recovered from his horrid May.
Coming Next: The Red Sox look to avoid a losing streak with another game against the Orioles tonight, with Clay Buchholz facing off against Bud Norris. Buchholz has been the team’s best pitcher this season, and Boston could use another strong start from him. Norris, meanwhile, has been atrocious, and the Red Sox lineup should be able to score plenty of runs off him and his 7.57 ERA. The series ends Thursday afternoon with Eduardo “#Ed” Rodriguez taking on Miguel Gonzalez.
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