On the night it was revealed that ex-Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is heading to Toronto to hand-deliver all the team’s secrets, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on an opportunity to move further ahead of the Blue Jays in the standings and are closer than one would like to the pesky Orioles.
Top Play (WPA): Given the final score, this one is pretty obvious. In the top of the second inning, Mark Trumbo hit a missile over the Green Monster to give the Orioles all the runs they would need (WPA: + .102). Considering the strong wind that was blowing in from left field this home run was quite a feat. The “Trumbomb” was the lone blemish on an otherwise sparkling performance by Rick Porcello.
Bottom Play (WPA): The Red Sox offense struggled to get many scoring chances going off of Orioles’ starter Kevin Gausman and the excellent defense behind him. The seventh inning was when the Sox had their best chance to score. After Mookie Betts popped out to the catcher, Hanley Ramirez hustled down the first base line to earn an infield hit. Travis Shaw was unable to get on-base or move Hanley over, as he struck out swinging. With two outs, Chris Young then blooped a single to centerfield that allowed Hanley to scamper into third base. Other than Trumbo rounding the bag on his home run, Hanley was the only runner to advance to second base and beyond. This really was a pitcher’s duel. Fun game notes aside, the Sox had first-and-third with two outs and noted offensive machine, Sandy Leon, coming to the plate. Unfortunately, Leon struck out on three pitches (WPA: -.110) to end the threat.
Key Moment: It is difficult to select a standout key moment from last night’s game. Generally, the Orioles’ infield defense was great. A number of times they made plays that prevented the Red Sox from getting base runners on early in innings. In the end I will select a Red Sox defensive play as the key moment, as it ensured the game remained 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, where Big Papi loomed. With one out and Manny Machado on first base, Chris Davis flew out to deep right field. Machado tagged up and headed for second but was gunned down by Mookie Betts on a tremendous throw; another display of Betts’ ability as a defender. The doubling up of Machado was Mookie’s 13th outfield assist, second-most by right fielders this season. Last night, it ended the Orioles’ chances in the ninth and kept the Red Sox one swing away from tying the game.
Trend to Watch: Have you heard that the Red Sox struggle in one-run and low scoring games? Well they do and last night was another 1-run and low scoring loss. I don’t think the Red Sox’s performance in these types of games shows anything about their mettle, character, or whatever adjective you want to pick. But it is weird. The Red Sox are a good team but struggle in low-scoring affairs. After last night’s loss, the Red Sox are now 10-20 in games in which five or fewer total runs are scored. That makes them the second-worst team in baseball in such games. Only the Twins are worse (8-18). The best team? The Orioles (22-10). There are likely to be more of these low-scoring games over the next couple of weeks. The Red Sox will need to be better than they have been – not a big request – in such games if they are going to hold off the Jays and Orioles.
Coming next: The Red Sox continue their home stand and battle with AL East foes, as they welcome the surprisingly-still-in-it New York Yankees to Fenway. Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound looking to build off his recent strong outings. In 2016, the Yankees have been bad against left-handed pitching (86 wRC+, seventh worst in baseball) so Rodriguez has a solid chance to string up some zeroes. Opposing Rodriguez on the mound will be Yankee ace, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka has been great this season (89 DRA-) and his starts against the Red Sox have been no exception. In two outings (12.2 innings) he has held the potent Red Sox offense to just three runs, while striking out almost a batter an inning (12) and only walking one. The bats will need to do more damage than they have in the previous two bouts with Tanaka for a win to be likely.
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