BOSTON — Aggressiveness was the main topic of conversation Sunday evening at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox had just fallen to the Baltimore Orioles 7-6 in 12 innings after rallying from five runs down, and the first questions posed to manager John Farrell concerned two bits of questionable late-game baserunning from the team’s biggest offensive stars.
The first came in the ninth, when Dustin Pedroia, after singling with one out, was gunned down at second on a stolen-base attempt. With Pedroia wiped off the basepaths, the Orioles had no qualms about pitching around David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli followed by striking out to end the inning.
The next came at an even more crucial juncture, with the Red Sox trailing by a run in the bottom of the 12th. Ortiz ripped a one-out line drive off the Green Monster but was thrown out by a considerable margin at second base, and another Napoli punchout finished off the game.
“(Ortiz) reads ball off the bat as down in the left field corner,” Farrell said. “He was digging hard right out of the batter’s box. The ball caroms right back to (left fielder David) Lough, and he throws a strike to second base. I’m not going to fault him for an aggressive effort. He gave everything he had trying to stretch that base hit into a double.”
Aggressive baserunning was a hallmark of the 2013 Red Sox, but the team has not been able to find nearly as much success in that department this season. The Red Sox don’t have a single player with more than five steals on the season, and Pedroia, who acknowledged that an early slide led to him being thrown out Sunday, has been caught stealing on five of his seven attempts.
“In that situation, again, we’re trying to be aggressive,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to add 90 feet. We had a key on (Orioles reliever Brad) Brach, the pitcher on the mound at the time. Unfortunately, we come up half a hand short.”
This team is devoid of a Jacoby Ellsbury-type, who swiped a major league-best 52 bags last season before leaving to join the New York Yankees. This personnel change is not lost on Farrell, but the skipper has no plans to alter his squad’s identity.
“We’re always going to err on the side of aggressiveness,” Farrell said. “We feel that more times than not that creates an image or an attitude in which we play with, and hopefully it creates opportunities that we can take advantage of.”