Aced out: Red Sox again unable to sustain attack against elite pitching
|09.08.13 at 7:22 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Perception met reality today at Yankee Stadium.
The perception that the Red Sox cannot beat great pitching still exists. It will not be dismissed until the Sox beat some of the game’s aces. Yankee ace Hiroki Kuroda, who admitted he never felt sharp in Sunday’s outing, limited the Sox to two runs and five hits in six innings in a 4-3 victory over Boston. While the Sox have proven they can rip apart pitchers like David Huff and Rick Porcello, the question of whether the Sox can beat baseball’s pitchers — ones they will face in the post-season — still lingers.
The Sox had Kuroda on the ropes, forcing him to elevate his pitch count dramatically in the opening innings en route to a season-high 117 pitches. The pitcher acknowledged that the day was a labor-intensive one.
“Today it was hard for me to find that good pitch,” said Kuroda through his translator. “They were on a roll, so I was looking for pitches to get outs.”
Kuroda found a way to get outs all afternoon. He even managed to work his way through the Sox lineup after David Ortiz led off the sixth with a double. Ortiz scored on a fielder’s choice, but Kuroda limited any further damage by putting away Mike Carp, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew to end the inning.
“Kuroda did an incredible job, considering he was at 55 pitches after two and 85 after four, to give us six innings,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “When you get through that sixth inning, going through who he had to go through, it was really important.”
The Sox threatened again in the seventh inning. Girardi entrusted his 3-2 lead to reliever Shawn Kelley, and the Sox put runners on second and third and had Dustin Pedroia at the plate with two outs, but he had an inning-ending groundout — part of a day in which the Sox were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“You take this team hitter-by-hitter,” said Kelley. “You don’t look at the big picture. You don’t even look at the inning, just the outs you’re asked to get. Whether there’s a hit, a walk, or a strikeout, the batter comes up and you assess the situation. It was a one-run ball game and there were runners on. Pedroia’s in the box, there’s two outs, so you literally need to take it pitch-by-pitch. Once you start looking ahead, that’s when that lineup is going to eat you up.”
When Sox hitters work the count, they are virtually unstoppable.
When Detroit visited Fenway Park last week, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked how pitchers can counter the Sox lineup after falling behind early on in the count.
“You don’t,” said Leyland. “If you do, you’re gonna get your [tail] whooped.”
The very next night, the Sox dropped 20 runs on Detroit, the start of one of the most dramatic Red Sox offensive runs in memory. The team entered Sunday having scored 54 runs in its prior four games, but New York found a way to limit the hottest offense in baseball through its starting pitching.
“You know how to pitch,” said Mariano Rivera, who blew the save but picked up the win. “You have to trust your beliefs.”
And the belief is that the Sox still cannot beat the game’s aces, a perception the team will look to counter in Tampa Bay against one of baseball’s best pitchers in David Price on Tuesday night.
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