BOSTON – While leaving Chris Sale in too long and leap-frogging Addison Reed to go to Craig Kimbrel were the glaring mistakes in Boston’s 5-4 loss to the Astros, it can’t be overlooked that the offense could’ve extended to series to a fifth game before Sale was even in the game.
In Sunday’s win, the offense exploded for 10 runs, surging late after David Price’s brilliant effort. But prior to that, they’d seven runners on base, only scoring one run in a bases loaded situation with no outs. Of course, that didn’t make a difference in the end.
Monday, however, Boston was faced with a similar situation, when Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez got on to load the bases. Jackie Bradley Jr. would follow, striking out looking. While you need to put the ball in play in those situations, Bradley was on the wrong end of two bad calls by home plate umpire Mark Wegner. They weren’t questionable; he made the wrong calls.
But when Dustin Pedroia went down looking, that was inexcusable. He, too, went down looking, and while the Fenway Faithful thought it was another blown call by Wegner, that was just hangover from the bad calls against Bradley. The breaking ball to finish off Pedroia was on the black, and definitely too close to take.
“Obviously you’re trying to compete and the guy’s got good stuff,” Pedroia said on the at bat. “So it makes it difficult to compete when you’re trying to cover that much, but it’s part of baseball.”
Pedroia finished with a .125 batting average in the series, with Xander Bogaerts the only one sporting a lower average (.059) for the Sox. And when asked if Pedroia can handle the demand of another full season, he wasn’t his confident self about the situation.
“I’m gonna go talk to the doctor about that,” Pedroia said. “Obviously we had to find a way to do what we did so I could be out there. But if you were to get it fixed, the recovery time is a long time. I have a lot of things to weigh in with the doctors and figure it out.”
Boston’s captain hasn’t been the best in the postseason, hitting .143 (4 for 28) over the last two season. But he wasn’t the only problem Monday.
Although Andrew Benintendi had the big two-run home run in the fifth inning, he cost Boston dearly with when he was caught in a double play after Mookie Betts lined out to third baseman Alex Bregman. Benintendi apparently forgot the number one rule on low liners: First move is back to make sure the ball gets through.
Mitch Moreland followed up with a double down the line. Now, an argument could be made that Moreland’s hit becomes a double play ball with Yuli Gurriel holding Benintendi on. But Gurriel would be bouncing off the bag on the pitch, bringing his momentum in the other direction.
Either way, you can’t squander opportunities with bad base running.
But the Red Sox fell into that again, on the very next at bat, when Hanley Ramirez flaried a single into left and third base coach Brian Butterfield sent Mitch Moreland, who was out by a mile at the plate. Given Rafael Devers was up next and already had a hit in the game, it might’ve been a good idea to hold Moreland at third. Also keep in mind Moreland has battled injured feet all season.
There are a few spots to assess with this team going into the offseason, with some contracts expiring and some players not living up to expectation. But one thing is certain: This lineup is in dire need of a power bat. It looks like Devers will be one in the future, but they can’t rely on him alone to start 2017.
There are a few free agents out there, specifically J.D. Martinez, and Giancarlo Stanton would be a great candidate for Boston to trade for, if Dave Dombrowski is willing to trade some of his proven players. Based on what happened this postseason and what Stanton offers, the Red Sox GM has to consider the option.
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