Boston Red Sox lineup has had 7th inning magic all season
By Sean Penney
Don’t let the last two games fool you into thinking the 7th inning comebacks are an anomaly. The Boston Red Sox have been a beast in the 7th all year.
The Boston Red Sox have had a bit of 7th inning magic working in their favor to spark comeback wins in each of their last two games.
There was the epic rally against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday in which the Red Sox piled up 11 runs on 12 hits in the 7th inning. The next night, Boston couldn’t even muster one hit against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito until the fifth inning and remained scoreless through six. The bats finally broke out in – you guessed it – the seventh inning. A four-run rally capped by a Mookie Betts home run tied the game in that frame.
The Red Sox would put the game away with a five-run outburst in the 9th but it was the 7th inning, which came at a point where this lineup looked hopeless, that proved to be the pivotal turning point.
Seven is the new lucky number for the Red Sox based on recent results. However, a breakdown of the lineup’s production by inning over the course of the season proves this trend is nothing new. The chart below shows how the Red Sox lineup has performed in each inning, with their MLB rank in parathesis.
|1st||82 (7th)||.265 (9th)||.333 (13th)||.784 (10th)|
|2nd||74 (4th)||.254 (4th)||.318 (6th)||.753 (7th)|
|3rd||80 (4th)||.271 (4th)||.342 (2nd)||.793 (3rd)|
|4th||76 (8th)||.256 (14th)||.314 (17th)||.732 (19th)|
|5th||106 (1st)||.311 (1st)||.367 (3rd)||.944 (1st)|
|6th||87 (4th)||.271 (8th)||.344 (8th)||.812 (5th)|
|7th||94 (2nd)||.277 (3rd)||.347 (3rd)||.851 (1st)|
|8th||62 (18th)||.245 (14th)||.322 (16th)||.699 (18th)|
|9th||55 (7th)||.268 (2nd)||.348 (2nd)||.755 (8th)|
|Extra||21 (1st)||.316 (2nd)||.381 (4th)||.949 (3rd)|
The last two nights have given us unforgettable comebacks in that particular frame but the Red Sox have been among the league’s best 7th-inning teams all year. Only the Chicago Cubs (102) have scored more runs in the 7th inning than the Red Sox have this season. Boston’s .277/.347/.504/.851 slash line in that inning significantly tops their overall season production (.270/.338/.459/.797).
The 7th has been one of the best innings for the Red Sox this year, trailing only their production in the 5th.
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It makes sense that the Red Sox would do their most damage in the middle innings. This lineup tends to start out slowly, at least by their lofty standards. Despite typically sending Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and J.D. Martinez to the plate to open the game, the Red Sox have been fairly average in the first inning. It takes these hitters at least one trip through the order to get a feel for the opposing pitcher, particularly when facing one they aren’t familiar with.
By the fifth inning, this lineup has already seen the opposing starter two or three times. That’s when they really take off. By the seventh inning, Boston is typically facing either a tiring starter who they’ve seen a few times or a middle reliever.
Most teams don’t have the bullpen depth to send out a reliever in the 7th that can lock down this powerful lineup. The Red Sox see their production fall off dramatically in the 8th when they are less likely to see the starter and instead face top-notch setup men.
A few teams that Boston may face in the postseason have enough quality bullpen arms to shorten the game for their starters. We saw the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros avoid letting their starters go through the Red Sox lineup a third time in each of the last two postseasons. Those teams would use the same tactic if they meet again this year, while the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees also have the bullpen arms to follow that blueprint.
While this is a concern to keep an eye on in October, it’s hardly unusual. Every lineup will see a decline when they are up against elite relievers. Boston’s success in the 9th and extra-innings shows they are more than capable of stealing a win at the end of games.
You can never count this Red Sox team out. The tide won’t necessarily turn as drastically as it has in the last two games but this team was built for late-inning comebacks.