The Red Sox repeatedly clogged the bases Thursday. Each time, Mark Buehrle snaked his way out.
The Red Sox’ offense left 12 men on base and finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position as the Blue Jays took the rubber match 2-1. The Red Sox wasted scoring chance after scoring chance in what has been an all-too-familiar sight of late.
“Tonight the story is left on base,” manager John Farrell said. “We created a number of opportunities. I thought we had a very good approach against Buehrle to build those opportunities and then he made a number of quality pitches with men in scoring position. Once again, as we’ve talked about many times, that two-out base hit or base hit with men on base was elusive again tonight.”
The key hit was actually elusive many times throughout the Red Sox’ 10-game road trip, which Boston concluded with a 4-6 record. It was especially hard to pin down during their three-game series in Toronto. The Red Sox hit .167 (6-for-36) with runners in scoring position in their series north of the border and left 33 men on base as the Jays took two out of three.
The Red Sox’ offense has been a well-oiled machine for the most part this season, and the unit finds itself near the top of the league in a number of offensive categories. There have been times, however, when the offense hasn’t been as opportunistic as it needs to be, and that has led to changes in the loss column.
Perhaps the occasional inability to push across runs simply comes with the territory. Boston’s offense isn’t flashy. Instead, it prides itself on generating baserunners and making life difficult for opposing pitchers. It’s an approach that has worked more often than not, but using such a station-to-station approach requires timely hitting, and the Red Sox simply weren’t able to cash in against the Blue Jays.
The Red Sox nearly pulled off an improbable victory Wednesday when Mike Napoli hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning to tie the game. They were unable to score after loading the bases later that inning, though, and they again came up empty-handed in the 10th inning despite putting two runners on.
The trend immediately carried over into Thursday’s contest, as Dustin Pedroia got thrown out at the plate in the first inning while trying to score from second base on a single by Jonny Gomes. The Red Sox then left the bases loaded in the second inning and squandered countless chances throughout the rest of the evening, which allowed Buehrle to last seven innings despite surrendering 10 hits.
“I can’t say that there’s an overall theme or a trend,” Farrell said of the struggles. “I don’t think guys are coming out of their swings that much. We’ve squared some balls up that didn’t find holes. They were able to record a key strikeout in a couple of different spots. But yeah, this is a frustrating one here tonight.”
The Red Sox’ struggles with men on base can obviously be looked at in one of two ways. The pessimist will point to the missed chances as proof that the Red Sox’ offense isn’t explosive enough, while the optimist will say that the number of opportunities shows that things are bound to turn back around.
Given what we’ve seen this season, the latter mindset is the more appropriate one for the Red Sox to have while leaving Toronto. It doesn’t make coming up short any less frustrating, though.