Because nobody crossed home plate.
I know. Sorry.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you this, but the Red Sox came painfully close to winning the game last night. But, instead they painfully lost the game in extra innings. How close did they get? In the bottom of the ninth, they had the bases loaded with nobody out in a tie game. That’s a pretty good opportunity. Alas, they did not score. Since then different people have been blaming different members of the Red Sox for this obvious failure. I’m tempted to blame Dustin Pedroia. Other people who look for reasons to blame John Farrell tend to blame him. Some people choose to find still others. But, where you put the blame really depends on what your expectations are.
To start off with, maybe we should stop saying they left the bases loaded. Maybe we should realize that they loaded them in the first place. In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, the Red Sox had a .500 OBP. That’s generally not something to get depressed over. So, half the people who came to the plate did their jobs. Nothing they did could be considered a failure.
From there, we need to look at the bases being loaded. Obviously, that’s a pretty good situation there. I’d much rather have them loaded than not. But, people seem to think that not scoring in that situation is an epic collapse on the part of the Red Sox. I even saw a figure stating that 89% of the time a team has the bases loaded with nobody out, they score at least one run. But, you have to remember, those numbers include EVERY time a team has them loaded with nobody out. What if it’s the first inning? In those situations, I bet the defense would gladly give up a run in exchange for a double play. So, the infield would be playing back and conceding the run. In fact, I bet that in every situation other than the home team having them loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, the other team would trade the double play for a run. So, that’s not really a fair comparison, because this was the only time the defense tries to stop them. In fact, the White Sox pulled in one of their outfielders, to make extra sure that a ground ball would be able to get the guy out at home. (Which is exactly how it played out.)
Some people are up in arms because all the Sox needed from the first two batters with the bases loaded was a fly ball. And that, of course, is true. But, again, it’s not like the White Sox were encouraging them to hit a fly ball. They knew that they brought in the extra infielder. They were clearly looking for a ground ball. Which, again, is exactly what they got. My guess is that they weren’t throwing a lot of curve balls up in the zone. The pitches were down doing their best to keep it in the infield. So, yes, the Sox could have really used a fly all from one of the first two batters. Should they have expected one? I’m not so sure.
As for Farrell, not really sure what he could have done differently. He had the bases loaded with nobody out. Travis Shaw was due up, and Dustin Pedroia was on his bench. Neither one is a particularly good option. But, I think I might have gone with Pedroia there as well. The only question comes if it’s better to let Shaw bat, and save Pedroia to hit for Hernandez later in the inning. This may have been a move that Farrell made to make it better for him, as opposed to better for the team. Can you imagine the outrage if he lets Shaw hit, only to have him ground into a 1-2-3 double play? Or, Shaw strikes out and Vazquez grounds into the double play, leaving Pedroia on the bench? I don’t think you can hit for Vazquez, since he was 2-3 on the night. Maybe in that case I would have, but that’s a tough call too. But, boy, Pedroia needed to get to the plate at some point that inning, or it would have gotten really ugly. As it is Farrell is taking all kinds of heat. Imagine how bad it would be if some people weren’t noticing that Pedroia struck out in a key spot?
In the end, it was a tough inning. But, I have a hard time calling it an epic collapse. Or, a symbol of some pathetic offense. Would it have been better if Pedroia had driven the ball to the outfield instead of striking out? Of course. Anything would have been better than striking out. Even a check swing dribbler has a chance of driving in the run. I just can’t bring myself to stomp my feet or bang my chest because two specific batters (Pedroia and Vazquez) didn’t hit the ball in the outfield when that was the one thing the White Sox were trying to prevent. Six guys came to the plate in the ninth inning. Half of them did exactly what you wanted them to do, and reached base. The other half didn’t. I can’t get all that worked up about the details.
Although it’s still Pedroia’s fault.