This is pretty much what we expected when we saw the Justin Verlander vs. Henry Owens pitching matchup. Sometimes, you can predict baseball.
Top Play (WPA): With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Owens have up a two-run double to J.D. Martinez (.195). The pitch Martinez hit wasn’t all that bad, but Owens had walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia to lead off the inning (a common theme) and, after an Erick Aybar double and two quick outs, the Red Sox elected to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera to load the bases. The move didn’t work out. Yes, Martinez is one of the hottest hitters on the planet right now, but it was a pick your poison scenario, as John Farrell said after the game. Electing not to pitch to Miggy wasn’t crazy.
Anyway, it was just a two-RBI double, so no biggie, right? Well, while the pitch Martinez hit was pretty good, the pitch Justin Upton destroyed for a three-run homer (.153) was not. Neither was the second three-run homer Upton hit two innings later (.029). It got ugly.
Bottom Play (WPA): A Cameron Maybin strikeout before the aforementioned Cabrera walk and Martinez double qualified as the bottom WPA play of the game (-.086). It didn’t slow the Tigers down much.
For the Red Sox, the worst play was a routine Xander Bogaerts fly-out with Dustin Pedroia on first and two out in the top of the third (-.026). Exciting stuff.
Key Moment: The first of the two Upton bombs, in this writer’s estimation. Sure, the Martinez double was bad, but the Red Sox are more than capable of coming back from a 2-0 deficit. A 5-0 deficit in the third inning is a different story.
On a happier note, Andrew Benintendi hit his first MLB homer in the top of the seventh off Shane Greene. He also hit his first triple earlier in the game and my god his hair is glorious.
Trend to Watch: A few negatives here.
First, Henry Owens can’t pitch in the majors again until (or rather, unless) he improves his command. Owens walked the leadoff batter in three of his five innings pitched and walked five batters overall. He missed plenty of bats, too (8 strikeouts), but none of that mattered. When you throw in the high 80s/low 90s, you’re going to get hit some. When you get hit, the bases need to be as empty as possible. That’s not the case with Owens, who isn’t an MLB-quality starter right now. Hopefully 2017 holds better things in store for the young southpaw.
Second … yikes, Junichi Tazawa. Yet another rough outing for the once-reliable setup man saw him allow three hits and two runs in two innings, though he did strike out three batters. Tazawa wasn’t bad enough to consider cutting outright but he wasn’t good enough to do much to make us feel better about his use, either.
Finally, the Red Sox weren’t able to do much of anything against Justin Verlander. That’s not surprising given the run the Tigers’ ace is on, but Pedroia, Bogaerts and Mookie Betts all went hitless in the game. Bad things happen when that’s the case.
Coming Next: The Red Sox take their show to Tropicana Field for a four-game set. David Price will face off against his old friends and Blake Snell, first pitch at 7:10 pm EST.
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