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A closer look at two key plays that didn’t work out as planned for Red Sox

06.29.13 at 8:40 pm ET
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Felix Doubront pitched well. Junichi Tazawa didn’t. And Jose Bautista hit two more home runs.

But following the Red Sox‘ 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays Saturday, the talking points centered around two key plays that didn’t exactly go the way the home team had hoped.

The first came with the Red Sox trailing by a pair of runs in the sixth inning. Shane Victorino, who had led off with a double, stood at second base with Dustin Pedroia at-bat. The Sox’ second baseman rifled a single into right field, forcing Bautista to veer slightly to his right while charging the ball in preparation for a throw home. The outfielder proceeded to uncork a strike to catcher J.P. Arencibia, who took the brunt of a collision with Victorino, holding on to the ball for the inning’s first out.

Making the play sting even more was that David Ortiz was standing on-deck. The end result would be a scoreless inning for the Red Sox, with both Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava following Ortiz’ single with strikeouts.

After the game, third base coach Brian Butterfield took the blame.

“Sometimes you have well-laid plans and your eyes tell you something different,” Butterfield said. “You try to go through the year without having too many ‘I’d like to have that one back.’ The fewer of those, the better. That’€™s the nature of the beast. I would like to have that one back. There were no outs, we were in the position in the lineup where it was in our favor. Sometimes when you see the ball in play, regardless of your plans, you see something different with your eyes. In that case, I made a bad decision.”

The coach added, “That’€™s one of the things. I have such great respect for Jose, he’s a great defender and one of the best throwers in the league. As I saw him angle to his right, I figured we would have one. A lot of times what happens is when you see a lot of goose eggs on the board, you’€™re caught in between a little bit where you might want to push the envelope. I shouldn’€™t have.”

The bit of the equation that most likely swayed Butterfield into sending the runner was Bautista’s need to slide slightly to his right, making a squared-up throw more challenging.

“A little bit. A little bit,” said Butterfield regarding the movement of Bautista influencing his decision. “He runs well, and that’€™s another thing. Sometimes you have a real good runner like Shane, and you make a mistake with it. That’€™s all on me. I’€™m not afraid of it. I’€™m going to come back tomorrow with my chest out, and we’re going to push the envelope again, but hopefully at a better time than that.”

After the fact, Red Sox manager John Farrell supported his coach’s decision.

“Given the opportunities ‘€¦ we’€™re looking for any ways to score,” Farrell said. “We left some opportunities out there. I have no question with the decision on Brian Butterfield. I’€™ll live and die with every decision makes at third base. He’€™s an outstanding third-base coach and he forced him to throw a 260-foot strike and he did.”

The second incident came an inning later, with the Red Sox still trailing by two.

With the 42-year-old Darren Oliver on the mound, and runners at the corner, Farrell called for a safety squeeze with Jonathan Diaz at the plate. Diaz would manage to get down a solid bunt, pushing the ball to the right side of the diamond, but the lefty reliever got to it fast enough to scoop up the ball and throw a strike to Arencibia. The catcher was able to easily tag the baserunner from third, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for inning’s first out.

Farrell explained his thought process on the play:

“Looking to force Darren Oliver to move off the mound and he makes a do-or-die play, barehands it, throws it sidearm,” the manager said. “Fortunately throws a strike for them to cut down salty at the plate. Looking to stay out of the double play. First and third, safety squeeze is typically when it’€™s executed. A high percentage play.”

Diaz — who arrived from Triple-A Pawtucket just a few hours before what was his first major-league game — said he was comfortable with the entire execution of the play.

“It was the same signs as spring training. I refreshed them in my memory, so I had them pretty down,” he said. “We worked on it a lot in spring training. It’s one of those things we got out there early and worked on it a lot. I felt prepared to do it.”

Farrell also explained why he chose to allow Diaz to hit, with Jonny Gomes still on the bench ready to face a left-hander.

“Given Oliver’€™s success against right-handers, and the fact is, I don’€™t know whether Jonny has gotten a base-hit off him,” said Farrell, referencing Oliver’s reverse splits (.405 vs. lefties; .145 against righties). “Didn’€™t want to sacrifice defense in the seventh inning. That was the play right there. There were a couple of options. And knowing what Jon Diaz is capable of doing, and that’€™s one of them, a very good bunter, that was the choice made.”

The Red Sox would ultimately tie the game in the seventh thanks to a two-run single from Shane Victorino, somewhat taking the sting off the previous play at the plate.

“Not bad, not bad. Great play by Ollie. Ollie’s older than I am, so I didn’€™t expect him to be able to make that play,” Butterfield said. “But it was a great play. Not a bad bunt by Johnny. Salty and I just spoke about the break that he got. In that situation, sometimes when you try something like that with a safety squeeze, it opens up a lot of other things. They try to get too aggressive with a play at the plate; the next thing you know, you have multiple runners and you’€™re in business for a big inning. It didn’€™t work out today, but I’ll take that one. I’ll take that one for this club. I really enjoy this club. I’ll take that one.”

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