Red Sox Need To Toughen Up Against Tough Teams

Aug 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (left) and relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (right) celebrate a victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (left) and relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (right) celebrate a victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox annihilated the Arizona Diamondbacks 16-2 to sweep the series; however, against teams like the Cleveland Indians, can they do the same?

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe pulls no punches about yesterday’s victory for the Red Sox over the lowly Diamondbacks: “Mookie Betts had three home runs before the end of the fifth and the Sox had a 16-1 lead after five. Dustin Pedroia had his fifth career five-hit game. Yowza-yowza. Baseball is easy. This is exactly why this team is really starting to annoy me.”

"“They have scored a whopping 640 runs in 116 games. They have scored the most runs in big league ball. They have the second-best run differential (plus-103) in the American League. So why, oh why, are they wrestling for a playoff spot in a postseason format that accommodates 33 percent (10 of 30) of all teams in the majors?I know why. It’s because they are front-runners.” – Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe"

When the going gets tough, Shaughnessy believes that the Red Sox get going to the losers’ circle: “When things get tight, the Showtime Sox turtle. This is why they are 25-27 in one- and two-run games. They are 4-32 in games in which they score three runs or fewer. They are 5-41 when they trail after seven and 3-45 when they trail after eight.”

It’s hard to argue with numbers, especially these ones.

The Red Sox remain two games out of the American League East division lead that’s held by the Toronto Blue Jays, even with Boston’s big win. They are also 1.5 games from owning the top wildcard spot held currently by the Baltimore Orioles, while they continue to fight off the Detroit Tigers, by the same margin, for the final playoff spot. A win is a win, and that’s it. At the end of the day, nobody cares about how many runs one beats an opponent; if the Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox all win on the same day, nothing changes.

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Let’s take Shaughnessy’s argument a bit further. In late or close games, with 32 at-bats or more,

Travis Shaw

leads the team with a .375 batting average, the same man who is currently hitting .163 for the last 15 games and .253 for the season. In

Xander Bogaerts

‘ 55 at-bats, he leads the team with seven RBIs, but he also has 13 strikeouts to two walks, and he’s even been caught stealing twice in that situation. Mookie Betts had an incredible game yesterday, earning his second game of three home runs for the season; however, he has only a .222 batting average in late or close games, compared to his .297 average last season in the same circumstances.

In fact, while the Red Sox still lead the majors in runs scored (640), Boston has scored 37 runs, making them a pathetic 28th out 30 teams in the same category when the game is close or in the late innings.

Let’s also not let the pitchers off the hook on this issue, either. In late or close games, David Price leads the team with a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings, with the next best pitcher with the same amount of innings or more being Craig Kimbrel, the closer, with a 3.57 ERA. Robbie Ross Jr. (3.60 ERA), Junichi Tazawa (3.94 ERA), and the injured Koji Uehara (5.56 ERA) round out the top five pitchers in that category.

As a team, the Red Sox are 27th in the majors with a 4.76 ERA in late or close games. Only the Colorado Rockies (5.36 ERA), the Los Angeles Angels (5.36 ERA), and the Tampa Bay Rays (5.75 ERA) are worse. For those playoff people keeping track, the Orioles are in second place with a 2.45 ERA in the same situation. The Tigers are in 22nd place with a 4.24 ERA.

If it’s not the hitting, it’s the starting pitchers, the bullpen, or a stroke of lightning because something almost always seems to go wrong with the Red Sox when it matters the most. Is that manager John Farrell‘s fault? Possibly, but these men are still professionals who are getting paid a lot of money to win close games. Not to buckle under the pressure. Is it the fact that the team is fairly young? Possibly, but many of the names previously mentioned are seasoned veterans, earning tens of millions to do the job right.

Everyone in Boston can sing the team’s praises when they win; however, those runs or shutout innings don’t accumulate by the end of the season, only wins do. Right now, if the playoffs were to start today, it wouldn’t be a blowout lead but a slight bit of luck that gave them a chance at a one-game playoff against a team that has a vastly superior mindset in tight affairs.