Coming into Sunday afternoons game, the Red Sox were averaging over 13 runs per game in 5 games against the Oakland Athletics this year. Therefore, if their pitching staff was able to hold the A’s to just 2 hits in the entire game, then they should have won, right? Wrong. The Sox offense pulled off one of their famous disappearing acts on a day where any run support would have been more than enough for E-Rod. A run was not scored until the bottom of the 9th inning when the Red Sox lost on a walk off error for the 4th time this year. This time the offender was Brock Holt, misplaying a ball that bounced off the left field wall allowing the runner from first to come all the way around to score. Regardless of the result, the Red Sox do have one major positive takeaway from this game and his name is Eduardo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez went 7 ⅔ innings without allowing a hit. It had appeared that he had made it through a hitless 8th after E-Rod deflected a comebacker to Pedroia who threw onto first for the out. However, after a challenge by A’s manager Bob Melvin, the call was overturned and the runner was ruled safe. Yes, it was the right call. But these are the times that I have a problem with replay. I understand that you want to get every call right to be fair, yet human error was always meant to be a part of baseball. If instant replay was always around, Armando Galarraga wouldn’t just be known as the guy whose perfect game was blown by Jim Joyce. Derek Jeter would not have been awarded a home run in the ‘96 ALCS when the fan reached over the fence. Instant replay could’ve changed the entirety of baseball history, but it didn’t. Nonetheless, it's part of today’s game so let’s focus on what E-Rod did with his previous 106 pitches.
This was the best outing we’ve seen in E-Rod’s 26 career starts. Despite only striking out 5, Rodriguez was able to induce weak contact the entire game. This allowed him to pitch efficiently enough to make it through 8 innings for the first time this season. Early on in the season, E-Rod was far too tentative to throw his slider, making him a fastball-changeup pitcher. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, you’re not going to be able to keep big league hitters off balance without some sort of breaking ball. After being recalled from Pawtucket, he has shown a much improved slider, and more importantly the confidence to throw it in any count. This would be the reason why his ERA has fallen from 7.18 down to 4.83 in this month and a half span. He almost never fell behind in counts on Sunday. Nevertheless, when he did fall behind the hitters had to be aware that he had that slider in his back pocket and he’s not afraid to use it. This third pitch has been the biggest contributor to Eduardo's recent success and it is going to be huge for the Red Sox if he can continue to pitch this way in bigs games down the stretch.
There’s not a ton to be said about the Red Sox offense after Sunday’s game. They simply didn’t show up in an extremely winnable game just as they have done all too often this season. They went 0-7 with runners in scoring position while leaving 9 runners on base in a game where 1 run probably would’ve been enough. Kimbrel has been lights out in save situations this year so there is no doubt in my mind that 1 run would’ve done the trick. The only two hit performances in this game came courtesy of Dustin Pedroia (a bad day for him considering the tear he’s been on), Yoan Moncada, and the Oakland A’s. THE A’S ONLY GOT TWO HITS AND STILL WON. I’m still in disbelief. These are games you have to win and the offense just couldn’t get the job done.
The Red Sox now head to San Diego for another easy series. If they can gain some momentum and reclaim first before going to Toronto, I’m starting to like their chances against the Blue Jays. A good offense can only get you so far and I believe it is pitching that is going to be the deciding factor in the AL East. That would be why the O’s aren’t going to stay in it, and the Sox and Jays will continue to jockey for position. I believe that the Sox rotation has the higher ceiling, but it’s going to come down to who is more consistent. If the pitching is able to show some consistency, then it's just going to be up the offense to take this team deep into the postseason. On days like Sunday, it's hard to imagine them doing that as it appears much more likely that they will shit the bed as things come down to the wire.