Rich Hill was excellent again, but the Red Sox failed to capitalize on scoring chances and, well, lost.
Top Play (WPA): Despite the loss, the Red Sox grabbed the honors here with Mookie Betts’ 5th-inning single (+.124), which scored Deven Marrero from second and left Boston with runners on first and second with one down. C.C. Sabathia got out of that jam unscathed, however, getting Jackie Bradley Jr. to ground out and Travis Shaw to fly out — with a Xander Bogaerts intentional pass mixed in between — to preserve the 2-1 lead.
New York’s top two plays were both solo home runs: A Carlos Beltran homer (+.117) off Rich Hill in the second and a Greg Bird round-tripper (+.106) off Jean Machi in the seventh.
Bottom Play (WPA): Shaw’s fly-out to center (-.107), the one we just mentioned, cost the Red Sox a chance to break things open in the fifth, an inning that would be Sabathia’s last. Instead, Sabathia threw a 2-1 slider down in the zone to Shaw, who popped it up harmlessly into right-center.
Key Moment: Ohh, those sacrifice bunts. When they work, they often don’t do much to increase your team’s win probability, but at least they don’t significantly hurt it either. Plus, as MGL would tell you, a perfectly placed sac bunt attempt has the chance to turn into a clean hit or an error, which is all the better. There’s also the opposite end of the spectrum.
In the fifth inning, the Red Sox asked Josh Rutledge to get down a sac bunt following back-to-back singles by Marrero and Sandy Leon to lead off the inning. Rutledge took a couple of balls, fouled off one bunt attempt, then, on the the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he awkwardly lunged at an 89 mile-per-hour fastball down in the zone from Sabathia and popped it straight up to the catcher.
Rutledge, who has posted an 83 OPS+ in over 1,000 major league innings, should know how to get down a bunt. He’s okay with the the bat for a versatile middle infielder, but his best shot at sticking in the bigs for a while probably involves him being a guy who does The Little Things well, and there’s really no excuse to go for that reckless of a bunt attempt in a key situation.
Trends to Watch: Keep an eye on Rutledge’s batting practice bunting regimen. Alright, just kidding. The default here is always the young guys. Betts had another two-hit night, and he narrowly missed hitting a two-run home that would have given the Red Sox the lead in the seventh. Bogaerts and Bradley went hitless on the night, but they did combine for three walks. Rusney Castillo also logged an 0-for, but he uncorked a strike throw early in the game that let you know why he’s a right fielder.
There’s also Rich Hill, who, barring a 22-inning marathon in Cleveland, won’t pitch again this season. He had a sensational, improbable, (insert-superlative-of-choice-here) four-start run with the Red Sox down the stretch, and he capped it off with another gem last night. Hill struggled early, losing his control at times and failing to put away Yankees hitters. For instance, he threw 37 pitches in the second and nine alone to John Ryan Murphy, who fouled off three consecutive curve balls before drawing a walk. Hill settled down after the second, however, and fittingly ended his outing (and season) with a three strikeout sixth inning, where he got A-Rod, Carlos Beltran, and Chris Young in order.
It’s unclear where Hill, a free agent, will end up next year. You’d have to think the Red Sox would like to bring him back, but a 7.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, even in just 29 innings, will likely do wonders for Hill’s popularity around the league.
Coming Next: Cleveland, and that’s it. For a team with such high expectations, one that was expected to compete for a division title — heck, a World Series title — it’s been an oddly entertaining season, at least of late, despite the losing record. From Hill to Betts to Bogaerts (to Orsillo and Remy, as always), to almost sweeping the Yankees on the road while postponing their playoff celebration, it’s been fun. Here’s to more winning in 2016.
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