I want to die.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 2, 2012
Top Play (WPA)
In the 10th inning, Craig Kimbrel was pitching to Jose Abreu . The first time he threw a fastball low and outside, Abreu fouled it off. The second time he tried to do so, he missed, and Abreu made him pay. That go-ahead two-run double was worth a whopping .414 WPA, and all but sealed the victory. The Red Sox, apart from yet another stellar performance from Steven Wright, were making key mistakes all night, and the one to Abreu was the worst of them all. Wasn’t the most frustrating one, as we’ll soon see, but it was the most decisive.
Bottom Play (WPA)
Christian Vazquez giveth, Christian Vazquez taketh away at the worst possible moment. Sure, Alex Avila made a great play on a bad throw, but a fly ball anywhere ends the game and keeps Vazquez from racking up a -.174 WPA on a grounder that barely went 90 feet. He had that clutch hit earlier in the game, and I give him credit for that, but man, does Vazquez look more lost at the plate than ever before. The goal in that moment is to hit it in the air somewhere, and Zach Duke got him to reach for something on the outside corner and generate weak contact.
For what it’s worth, five of the six outs recorded in the 9th inning were in the top six worst plays by WPA. So Vazquez isn’t alone, but he’s not above blame either.
All three of the outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Red Sox had to contend with Zach Duke, and John Farrell sent Pedroia up to bat for Travis Shaw. He whiffed on a fastball down the middle. One out.
You’ve already seen what Vazquez did. Two outs, and they were lucky there wasn’t a third on that one.
Then Farrell used Ryan LaMarre (?!?) to pinch-hit for Marco Hernandez. LaMarre whiffed by a country mile on strike two and was straight-up overmatched on strike three. Three outs.
Point fingers at Farrell all you want, but the inability of three right-handed batters to get anything out of the infield against a southpaw reliever is the elephant in the room here. They score, they win, and Kimbrel blowing it doesn’t happen.
Trend to Watch
In April, the Red Sox had a +21 run differential. That’s good! It legitimized their 14-10 record. In May, they had a +59, which is stellar, and they probably should’ve earned a better record than 18-10. June? A relatively puny +3. They are 7-9, and even though that just seems unlucky, remember that the differential might’ve looked a lot different had they not pulled off that 15-4 obliteration of the Twins two weekends ago. The team is in a month-long rut right now. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory won’t help.
The Red Sox have to manage to get past Chris Sale, while Clay Buchholz, the best number-five starter they have, will take the mound for Boston. You know what that means: Buchholz CGSO, Sox win 235-0.
Photo by Winslow Towson/USA Today Sports Images