The game should have never been in doubt, as the Red Sox jumped out to a 4-1 advantage and had plenty of opportunities to build a sizable lead. The offense sputtered at inopportune times, though, and it allowed the Jays to hang around until the very end.
That needs to change, or else the Red Sox could find themselves on the losing end of such contests more frequently.
It might sound like nitpicking — which is something Sox fans didn’t have an opportunity to do much of during last season’s overall train wreck — but you can’t let good offensive teams stick around when you have them up against the ropes. The Sox escaped Friday, but it required clutch at-bats late and more solid work from the bullpen. Without those two ingredients, John Farrell‘s return to Toronto wouldn’t have been so sweet.
The Red Sox were 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position, and they left 15 runners on base. Fortunately for Boston, Toronto also had a hard time cashing in on its opportunities, as the Blue Jays were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Given the offensive potential on the Jays’ roster, though, it’s probably safe to assume that their inability to produce will be the exception rather than the norm. After all, their best slugger, Jose Bautista, didn’t play due to some tenderness in his ankle.
Going off the mantras of “play your game” and “control what you can control,” the Red Sox need to improve with runners on base, as their entire patient offensive approach is fueled by manufacturing runs. Friday’s game could very well be an isolated incident, but for a team lacking its biggest power threat in David Ortiz and its offensively gifted starting shortstop in Stephen Drew, it’s still a little bit concerning — or, at the very least, something to be noted.
On Friday, the Sox’ first chance to put up a big run total came in the second inning. Four straight hitters reached base, and the Red Sox loaded the bases loaded with one out, yet they came away with just one run. Daniel Nava grounded into an inning-ending double play to end their threat.
The Red Sox stranded two runners in the fourth, sixth and seventh, and they left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, making Joel Hanrahan‘s save a bit more pressure-packed than it needed to be. Granted, the Sox came away from the fourth inning and ninth inning with a run in each, but when you have an opportunity to go for the throat, you have to be able to pull a MacGruber.
Again, this could be nitpicking. But that’s what happens when you’re discussing good teams, and the Red Sox clearly have the potential to be just that.