The Boston Red Sox were done in by mental lapses leading to costly mistakes in their latest game in Oakland and the losses seem to be getting to them.
A 2-6 start is not what the Boston Red Sox envisioned entering this season. We knew that opening with an 11-game road trip would be a steep challenge but this is bordering on worst-case scenario territory. Frustration is starting to boil over as the losses pile up and we’re seeing signs of this affecting how they play.
The most glaring example comes from Thursday’s loss to the Oakland A’s. It started with a seemingly routine fly ball toward the gap in right-center field. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. both strolled casually in the direction of the fly ball yet neither took charge by calling off the other. The confusion resulted in just enough hesitation to allow a harmless pop fly to drop between the outfielders before bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double that drove in two runs.
That’s a pair of Gold Glove winners reacting to a routine play like unprepared Little Leaguers.
As the center fielder, Bradley took responsibility for the miscommunication while acknowledging that there’s no excuse for this type of mental lapse.
"“The play has to be made,” Bradley told reporters, per NESN. “It’s the last out. It’s a big momentum swing. It’s on me. I’m the leader out there. The play has to be made. It’s a catchable ball. I’ve got to take control.”"
The outfield duo had an opportunity to make up for their gaff in the sixth inning when Bradley singled and stole a base to put himself in scoring position as Betts stepped to the plate. The reigning MVP battled A’s reliever Lou Trivino in a lengthy nine-pitch at-bat only to be caught looking at strike three on a cutter that nicked the top right corner of the strike zone.
Infuriated by the call, Betts threw his hands in the air in defiance of the umpire’s decision. Betts isn’t typically one to argue and we never see him get this animated about a call. Making matters worse, it wasn’t even the wrong call! Sure, the pitch was on the edge but the K-Zone clearly shows it caught enough of the corner to warrant a called strike.
If it weren’t for manager Alex Cora charging out to the plate to defend his star, Betts may have been in danger of getting tossed from the game. That’s very uncharacteristic of the low-key Betts so we have to imagine that some combination of the team’s slow start and the pressure to atone for his defensive miscue led to this eruption of emotion.
A dismal day for Betts wasn’t over yet. Boston trailed 7-3 entering the ninth inning but any chance to rally was defused by another costly mistake. After drawing a leadoff walk, Betts tried to advance from first to third on a base hit to shallow center by Andrew Benintendi. You would think the Red Sox would have learned by now not to test the arm of Ramon Laureano yet here was Betts foolishly trying to take an extra base.
Instead of runners on first and second with nobody out, Boston was left with only a runner on first and one out. Two batters later, the game was over. Would it have mattered if Betts were safe? Who knows. Nonetheless, it was a poor decision from a player known to be one of the smartest baserunners in baseball.
This mistake was the result of a player pressing too much in an attempt to save a season that is quickly unraveling. The pressure keeps building as the losses pile up, generating more frustration, leading to more mental mistakes.
The Red Sox aren’t going to turn their season around with one play or one game. They need to get their heads in the game. Focus on making the right play and avoiding these unforced errors. This is a talented roster capable of spectacular plays but they won’t return to being a winning team until they eliminate these mistakes on the routine ones.