Not the most inspiring follow-up to Opening Day, but a fun game nonetheless. The Red Sox looked good at times, but problems that carried over from 2015 came back to nip them in the bud this time. Also, Mike Napoli.
Top Play (WPA): In the bottom of the seventh, Mike Napoli took a hanging forkball from Junichi Tazawa and sent it to the moon.
That’s a pretty familiar sight. Napoli’s homer was worth .230 WPA, 50 points higher than the next play, which was also a Indians homer – and that one was by Carlos Santana in the first inning. Karma is a thing, I guess, so it’s only right that Napoli would resume his Sox-killing ways instantly upon facing them in 2016. It’s not terribly surprising to see the top play in the game come at the expense of the bullpen, but there a little bit of a mood whiplash, especially after how well the unit performed in the first game.
Bottom Play (WPA): We have a tie! Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval both had fly outs that each had a -.071 WPA, although they occurred in totally different situations. Pedroia flew out to Collin Cowgill to start off the ninth against Cody Allen, and considering how filthy Allen was for the rest of the inning – did you see that insane 0-1 curveball to Xander? – that all but killed any potential rally.
Sandoval’s fly out happened in the top of seventh. With Hanley Ramirez having hustled his way to third base, Sandoval got good wood on a Zack McAllister pitch, but hit it right to Jose Ramirez. That was the last real chance the Sox had at scoring. Pablo made some solid contact, it just wasn’t placed right.
Also, this has nothing to do with WPA but seems like a good spot to mention that Clay Buchholz was bad. Smh, Clay.
Key Moment: Yan Gomes working a walk out of Noe Ramirez to start the bottom of the sixth inning. This was the beginning of the end for the Sox in this one. Marlon Byrd hit a single in the next plate appearance, pushing Gomes to third, and Juan Uribe was able to hit a deep fly ball for a sac fly to knot the game at six. Walking the leadoff batter is never good, and in Ramirez’s case, it cost his team the lead.
Trend to Watch: Yes, the pitching was bad and we should feel bad, but the more positive trend of note here is Hanley Ramirez’s hitting. After Ortiz demolished a Carlos Carrasco offering to the bullpens, Hanley joined in on the fun.
That didn’t even look like it was hit all that hard.
Jerry Remy remarked on how different Hanley has looked this year, noting a more composed, less violent stance and approach to making contact. We had a glimpse of this in the previous game, as Hanley blasted a double to right field that was roughly a foot from going out, give or take a few inches. It’s a welcome change to a guy who looked uncomfortably stiff at times in 2015, even when he was fully healthy.
Coming Next: The Great Stuff Haver, Joe Kelly, faces off against Danny Salazar in the rubber match in Cleveland. Will Kelly share his stuff with the Indians offense? Or will the Dzar be the only one to have any stuff?
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