Closing Time: Sox offense misses chances, Junichi Tazawa struggles in 6-2 loss
|06.29.13 at 7:15 pm ET|
Although Junichi Tazawa‘s shaky eighth inning was what put the Red Sox behind for good on Saturday, they could have taken the lead at multiple points earlier in the game, stranding nine runners and running into two outs at home, both times with nobody out.
Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava both struck out with a chance to get the Sox on the board in a pivotal sixth inning, and David Ortiz went down swinging when they had the chance to take the lead in the seventh. With those scoring chances wasted, the two-run homer Tazawa allowed to Jose Bautista (Bautista’s second blast of the night) proved too much to overcome as the Sox fell 6-2.
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Sox on Saturday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- Tazawa entered the game with a 2-2 tie and struggled against the top of the Jays’ order in the eighth inning. After Jose Reyes singled, Bautista crushed another home run to left field, breaking the short-lived tie and putting the Jays on top, 4-2.
Tazawa had allowed just three earned runs in 12 2/3 innings in June prior to Saturday, but as Felix Doubront learned before him, Bautista is not the hitter to whom you want to leave a pitch up and over the plate. Before the inning was up, he also gave up a triple to Adam Lind, who had nine triples in his eight-year career entering Saturday’s game.
- Napoli had a hard time with Esmil Rogers: he struck out three times, most notably with two men on base and one out in the sixth. Napoli worked a full count but was fooled by Rogers’ slider, swinging through it for strike three.
He wasn’t alone: immediately afterward, Nava worked a 2-2 count against Rogers but also struck out swinging on the slider, stranding Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz on base.
But Napoli’s struggles continued even after Rogers left the game, as he struck out swinging against Steve Delabar to lead off the eighth inning. He hadn’t struck out more than three times in a game since June 9. That brought his strikeout total up to 102 on the year, just past the halfway point of the season.
Napoli also made an error that led to a run in the top of the ninth, when a grounder skipped over his glove and allowed J.P. Arencibia to take second on a single. Arencibia then scored on a Reyes single.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia had no answer for Rajai Davis, who stole two bases Saturday after stealing two the night before. Davis brought his stolen base total for the year up to 18, tying him for fourth in the AL.
Bautista also swiped second against Doubront, who didn’t pay him much attention as a baserunner after walking him, in the first.
- The Sox made a curious decision in the seventh inning, after Saltalamacchia singled and advanced to third on an error. With Saltalamacchia on third and Iglesias on first, Diaz, making his major-league debut, was left in to hit. Given Diaz’ .241 average at Triple-A Pawtucket this year and Jonny Gomes’ pinch-hitting success the night before, Gomes seemed a likely choice to take Diaz’ place at the plate.
Instead, Diaz was asked to drop a squeeze bunt to bring home Saltalamacchia. He bunted a ball that was relatively easy for Jays reliever Darren Oliver to field, and Saltalamacchia was thrown out easily at home.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- After the Sox ran into two outs at home, both with nobody out, the missed opportunities were starting to pile up. When Shane Victorino hit a bases-loaded, one-out single in the second that scored two runs, he momentarily canceled out those issues. Jose Iglesias and Jonathan Diaz scored, compensating for both a failed squeeze attempt and an excellent throw from Jose Bautista that nabbed Victorino on an aggressive bid for home in the sixth.
Victorino also had a double in the game, and he’s now hit safely in eight of his last nine games. In that span, he’s hitting .382 with a .588 slugging percentage.
- The Sox needed a long start from Doubront: the bullpen was a man short after Clayton Mortensen was designated for assignment earlier in the day, and Koji Uehara was unavailable after closing three straight games.
Doubront responded with a solid 6 1/3 inning effort, tied for his third-longest of the year. Since April, he had only pitched more than six innings once, in an eight-inning start on June 18. He struck out six and walked three, and aside from a double by Rajai Davis and a towering solo homer by Jose Bautista, the Jays didn’t hit him particularly hard all day.
After giving up two runs through the first six innings, Doubront came back out to start the seventh, but after walking Davis and getting a flyout from Colby Rasmus, Farrell replaced him with the right-handed Alex Wilson to face Arencibia, another righty.
Doubront got consistent swings and misses on his changeup, including two for strikeouts, and fanned six batters on the day.
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