The Boston Red Sox have been battling to stay afloat in the American League East. The club now is taking on water at an alarming rate, however, and contending in 2014 simply isn’t in the cards.
The Red Sox suffered their fifth straight loss Saturday. The red-hot Tampa Bay Rays — winners of nine in a row — blanked Boston 3-0 to cap an eventful day that started with the Red Sox trading Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for two minor league pitchers.
It appears the Red Sox are prepared to build for the future with Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline just days away. Let’s take a look at Saturday’s developments, though, as there still was a baseball game despite the outside happenings.
— David Ortiz nearly hit his 25th home run of the season in the first inning. Instead, he ended up with a double.
Ortiz smoked a line drive toward the right field wall. It looked like it had a chance to leave the yard, but we’ll never know because a fan wearing a Red Sox jersey reached beyond the top of the wall to catch the ball. The umpires determined that it was fan interference — and thus a double — and upheld the call upon further review.
“It wasn’t conclusive enough to say that the ball would have carried out of the ballpark,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “If it’s ruled out a home run, I don’t know that there’s evidence to overturn it the other way. So that’s what we go by.”
— John Lackey tossed seven solid innings. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits while striking out four and walking four. He threw 112 pitches (72 strikes).
Lackey was forced to pitch from the stretch almost immediately, as Desmond Jennings dropped down a bunt on the hurler’s second pitch of the game. Catcher Christian Vazquez charged out from behind the plate to field the bunt, but his laser to first base kicked off Mike Napoli’s glove, allowing Jennings to roll into third base.
Farrell contested that Jennings ran inside the baseline, thus interfering with Vazquez’s throw. His argument fell on deaf ears, though, and Jennings scored two batters later when Matt Joyce singled into right field.
“The explanation I got was that Jennings didn’t interfere with the throw,” Farrell said. “Well, there was no deflection, but that 45-foot lane is there to protect the first baseman. (Napoli), I think, had to alter his course to receive the ball. Nonetheless, (home plate umpire) Chad (Fairchild) felt there was no interference.”
— The Red Sox were on the wrong end of another close call in the fourth inning.
Yunel Escobar singled and took second base on a sacrifice bunt by Jose Molina. Vazquez unleashed a rocket to second base on Lackey’s first pitch to Kevin Kiermaier in an attempt to pick off Escobar. It appeared the Red Sox nabbed Escobar, with shortstop Stephen Drew slapping down a tag in the nick of time, but Escobar was called safe. Oddly, the Red Sox didn’t challenge the call.
“When we reviewed it internally, it was inconclusive,” Farrell said. “And where we were at that time of the game, given our history, with what we’ve used the system for, when it’s not conclusive, we’re not going to risk using the one challenge we have at that moment.”
Escobar scored two pitches later when Kiermaier singled into center field.
Lackey seemed a bit unhappy after the game about the Red Sox not challenging the play.
“A challenge would have been nice there, yeah,” Lackey said, later noting Escobar looked out to him.
— The Red Sox went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
The biggest missed opportunity for Boston came in the sixth inning when the Red Sox failed to score despite putting runners at the corners with no outs.
The Red Sox are hitting .167 with runners in scoring position during their five-game losing streak. They’re hitting .235 overall in that span and have averaged just 2.2 runs per game.
— Red Sox manager Ben Cherington said before the game the club is looking toward 2015 as it approaches the trade deadline.