Red Sox doubleheader doomed by squandering bases loaded opportunities
The Boston Red Sox couldn’t come through with the bases loaded
They had their opportunities. The game was there for the taking but when the Boston Red Sox desperately needed someone to deliver in the clutch, their lineup fell short. Instead of rallying to put some distance between them and their rivals in the standings, Boston was swept in a doubleheader to allow the New York Yankees to leap ahead of them in the division race.
Two of the bullpen’s most reliable arms coughed up a one-run lead in the matinee game of the doubleheader. A case could be made that the Red Sox were overly cautious by pulling starter Tanner Houck after four innings but the strategy needs to be adjusted in these seven-inning doubleheader games. Sending Garrett Whitlock out to shut down the Yankees in the fifth followed by Josh Taylor against a pair of lefties to begin the sixth was a solid plan, it just didn’t pan out because the pitchers didn’t execute. Alex Cora’s bullpen management isn’t what cost the Red Sox that game.
The game was truly lost in the seventh inning when the Yankees handed the Red Sox a victory on a silver platter but they refused to take it. Boston loaded the bases with three consecutive singles to begin the inning while trailing by two runs. A base hit would potentially be enough to at least tie the game.
Travis Shaw had a prime opportunity to be the hero in a triumphant return when he pinch-hit for Bobby Dalbec for his first plate appearance since the Red Sox claimed him off waivers. He battled his way to a full count before flying out to shallow left.
Kike Hernandez was put in an excellent hitter’s count when he was ahead 3-0. He either didn’t have the green light or the pitch down and inside wasn’t what he was looking for. A harmless called strike that still put him in a good spot. The next pitch was up and too far inside, well out of the zone. Hernandez swung at what should have been ball four to push in a run and reload the bases. Instead, it was strike two which was quickly followed by a third strike when he swung through a curve thrown over the plate.
Down to their final chance, Hunter Renfroe struck out on four pitches to end the threat. The Red Sox had the bases loaded with nobody out and came away with nothing.
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A similar scenario awaited in the fifth inning of Game 2 when the Red Sox loaded the bases while trailing by a pair of runs. This time there were two outs by the time the bases were juiced but they had Rafael Devers at the plate. Devers is batting over .300 with runners on base and runners in scoring position, plus he owns a blistering .385 average with the bases loaded. Surely he would come through in this spot.
Nope. Devers hit a harmless grounder to second for a fielders choice that ended the inning. As successful as the major league leader in RBI has been in similar scenarios, Devers is surprisingly only 1-for-6 with the bases loaded and two outs.
It’s baffling how poorly the Red Sox have performed in these critical situations. The offense has been among the elite overall, ranking third in the majors with a .260 average and fourth with a .767 OPS. They are tied for ninth in the majors with a .262 average with runners in scoring position and they rank second with a .268 average with two outs and RISP.
That all changes when the bases are loaded. In those situations, Boston falls drastically to 22nd in the majors with a .245 average and 20th with a .716 OPS.
How is it that a lineup that thrives in essentially every other situation can be this dismal with the bases loaded? It’s one of the most baffling mysteries surrounding this year’s Red Sox lineup. They have some of the game’s best run-producing bats anchoring their offense with star talent that has histrionically thrived in these situations.
For whatever reason, they have failed to come through too many times this year. This isn’t an overreaction to one bad day, the numbers show that the Red Sox have been plagued by a lack of production with the bases loaded all year. It cost them twice during this doubleheader and the squandered opportunities have at least temporarily cost them their postseason spot.