Wade Miley was really good for a while, then briefly really bad. Then the game ended.
Top Play (WPA): Wade Miley’s rapid-fire assault on the strike zone worked masterfully though five innings. Then the sixth inning happened. The biggest play, WPA-wise, was Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-tying double (.187). Previously in the inning, Miley recorded two quick outs before throwing an 89 mile-per-hour fastball down the middle of the plate, a pitch Evan Longoria vaporized somewhere in the direction of the Monster (+.111). There was also a go-ahead double from Steven Souza Jr. (+.174) and, later, a seventh-inning homer from Kevin Kiermaier (+.124) mixed in. All told, Miley gave up seven extra-base hits, five of which came in the sixth or seventh frames.
The Red Sox’s biggest play of the game, not surprisingly, was David Ortiz’s first-inning blast, a two-run shot that landed in the Monster seats. Ortiz’s OPS+ has dropped every year since 2012, but he started at 173 and he’s at 134 this year, so everything’s a-okay at the DH slot.
Bottom Play (WPA): Speaking of Big Papi, Ortiz’s game-ending double play (-.101) ran away with negative WPA honors, nearly doubling a Souza Jr. second inning ground out (-.056).
Key Moment: Oh, I don’t know, let’s say the sixth inning as a whole. Miley, who worked through the first five innings like he was late to a game of high-stakes bingo, lost whatever he had going with two down in the sixth. After retiring 13 of 14, Miley dealt Longoria a first pitch, get-me-ahead heater, and Longoria didn’t miss it. Okay, that happens. Logan Forsythe followed with a single down the left field line, then Cabrera and Souza followed with back-to-back doubles. That happens, too, unfortunately.
What went wrong with Miley? Maybe the answer’s out there, somewhere in the video footage or the PITCHf/x files, but perhaps it’s simpler than that. Maybe the Rays just got to him, after five innings of just missing pitches or failing to string together rallies, they stopped missing and strung together a rally. Miley’s solid outing went sour in a hurry. That happens.
Trend to Watch: This space is usually reserved for on-field trends, but I’d like to make an exception to write a few words about Don Orsillo. Unless NESN has a sudden change of heart (wait, what heart?), Orsillo only has a handful of games left to call as the Red Sox play-by-play guy, a gig he’s handled in (mostly) full-time capacity since 2001. Orsillo’s greatest strength is/was his wonderful ability to mesh seriousness and fun, as he, along with partner Jerry Remy, have been able to successfully toggle that switch on and off given the situation.
Back when I was watching the Red Sox on the Extra Innings package in the early 2000s, every once in a while the audio feed would stay live during a commercial break, and my ears would suddenly perk up for some hot, juicy behind-the-scenes commentary. Usually all I’d hear was Orsillo and Remy still laughing, often hysterically, about whichever thing they were carrying on about from the previous half inning. Orsillo (and Remy) has made the game more fun for the past 15 years, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy doing it.
Go ahead and enjoy Orsillo’s final days in the booth; there’s bound to be a good bit of laughter, maybe some tears, and the usual helping of good, old-fashioned play-by-play craftsmanship. It’ll be missed.
Coming Next: The Red Sox finish up the 2015 home slate with three games against the Orioles starting on Friday night, a matchup that features a pair of lefties in Rich Hill and Wei-Yin Chen. Hill was a once-promising starter with the Cubs back in 2007, but he’s thrown just 167 innings since, thanks in large part to near ceaseless trips to the operating table and, when healthy, bouts of extreme wildness. He’s found surprising (small sample) success this year in Boston, striking out 20 and walking just one in two starts and 14 innings.
After the O’s series, the Red Sox look to play spoiler in the season’s final week, as they travel to New York and Cleveland.
Photo by Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports Images