7th Inning Magic Once Again


Every team has a different composition. The movement of 1 player here or there can change the chemistry and make-up of a team. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason for the new-found chemistry and bond, and other times, it is obvious (bringing in a strong clubhouse leader that results in an improved clubhouse demeanor). To this point in the season for the Red Sox, a few interesting trends have emerged with this group of guys, one of which played a prominent role in Monday night’s romp of the San Diego Padres. The 7th inning last night was a complete domination. The Red Sox dropped 10 runs en route to a 14-5 victory, but it wasn’t just last night. The 7th has been a bizarrely fantastic inning for the Red Sox offense in 2011 and has been the jumping point for many victories.

Through 72 games, the 7th inning for the Red Sox has the highest batting average (.302), most hits (92), most triples (5), most runs (64), third most home runs (10), and third most doubles (20) of any other inning. The inning also has produced the highest slugging percentage (.498) and on-base percentage (.380), creating nearly a clean sweep in all statistical categories. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox have also had more plate appearances in the 7th (347) than any other inning. This season has been all about the number 7 thus far, but what is the team’s secret?

For one, regardless of the inning, the Red Sox have a dangerous lineup that can strike at any time. On any given night, 1-9 are solid hitters, many with clutch and power hitting abilities. When you factor in that the 7th inning tends to be the end of the starting pitcher’s outing and the beginning of the opponent’s bullpen, the trend makes sense. Most middle-relievers are in that role for a reason. They are not good enough or ready to be set-up men or closers and they don’t have the stamina for a starting role, so they are usually the group that is easiest to hit against. Imagine being a middle-reliever who comes into a close ballgame in the 7th inning and has to face Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz in succession. Those are just 4 examples of the 9 guys that can hurt you.

What also really helps the Red Sox, and was the primary reason they dropped 10 runs in the 7th last night, is their patience at the plate. Middle-relievers tend to not have the control to be set-up men and closers, so either they leave more pitchers over the plate or have trouble hitting the corners. The Red Sox team patience results in walks and hit batsmen. Hit batsmen aren’t always a result of patience at the plate, but the Red Sox hitters put pressure on the opposing pitcher to throw a perfect pitch when down in the count, and as a result, tend to force a few pitches. Of the 2 hit batsmen last night in the 7th (Marco Scutaro and Jason Varitek), Scutaro’s was on ball 4 anyways, so patience was the key.

Red Sox fans are hoping this trend continues, regardless of the reason for the team’s success in the 7th inning. When the team scores 8+ runs in a game this season, they are 18-0, so a strong offensive outburst is all the team needs, whether in the 7th inning or any of the other 8.

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