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Closing Time: Red Sox’ late-inning bullpen vulnerabilities persist in loss to Rays

09.12.13 at 10:37 pm ET
By
Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

For the second night in a row, the Rays got to the Red Sox bullpen and scored a run in the eighth inning. This time, the Red Sox were unable to come back and win in their last at-bat.

With the score knotted at 3, Rubby De La Rosa was ineffective in his one-third of an inning. De La Rosa relieved Drake Britton with one out in the bottom of the eighth and proceeded to give up a long ground-rule double to Evan Longoria. De La Rosa forced Matt Joyce to pop out to foul territory, but he gave up the go-ahead run in the form of a double down the right-field line off the bat of Wil Myers. De La Rosa was removed after a hot shot to shortstop resulted in an error on Stephen Drew and a first-and-third situation. Matt Thornton came in and closed out the inning.

The seventh and eighth innings have proven to be vulnerable frames for the Red Sox and their bullpen. Brandon Workman worked the eighth on Wednesday night and gave up a game-tying home run, and De La Rosa was saddled with the loss on Thursday. De La Rosa has been shaky in relief for the Red Sox in his 9 1/3 innings of work, and he looks unlikely to be included on the postseason roster.

While the Red Sox’ magic number remained at 8, another moment in the game proved more ominous than the loss.

With one out in the sixth inning, the Red Sox held their collective breath when Jake Peavy was pegged with a comebacker line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings, a hot shot that deflected over to Xander Bogaerts at third base and eventually resulted in a forceout. Peavy remained in the game for the last batter of the inning and did not return for the seventh inning. Chances are, even without taking a liner off the wrist, Peavy’s evening would  have been over after those six innings. He did not rush to the clubhouse, however, a potential indication that the impact of the ball did not raise undue concerns.

Yet the vexing nature of his outing was not limited to the near injury. Peavy threw 107 pitches (60 for strikes) and labored through his six innings of work, holding the Rays to three runs but walking a season-high five batters. He gave up only four hits, but three of those hits went for extra bases; a triple from Evan Longoria (he would come around to score the game’s first run), an RBI double from James Loney and a long, deep solo home run from Jennings on a 1-2 hanging slider.

That said, although Peavy walked five batters, his highest single game total since May 19, he wasn’t necessarily wild; many of his pitches were close, but resulted in balls. Peavy ended up paying for only one of his five walks, when David DeJesus, who received the first free pass of the game from Peavy, came around to score on Loney’s double in the third. Peavy walked the first batter of the fourth inning in Matt Joyce, but Joyce was caught stealing. He also walked the first two batters of the next inning, but managed to escape the jam without allowing a run.

Regardless of the loss in the series finale, the Red Sox accomplished what they wanted to in Tampa Bay, taking two of the three games, maintaining an 8 1/2 game lead in the division, and finishing off the season series with Tampa Bay having won 12 of 19 against the AL East rivals.

The Red Sox will head back to Boston for the last regular-season homestand of the season in very good shape, having gone 5-2 on the road trip and winning seven straight series, effectively putting a damper on the playoff hopes of fellow AL East teams in the process. Seven of the nine series the Red Sox play this month are against teams within their own division, and they’ve won eight of their first 11 games this September.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Mike Napoli fanned twice, bringing his season total to 176. While it looks like Napoli won’t finish as the league leader in punchouts (the Astros’ Chris Carter is running away with that title, coming into play on Thursday with 194 strikeouts), it seems he’s destined to set the new Red Sox record for strikeouts in a single season, now just two away from Mark Bellhorn‘s 177 K’s in the 2004 season.

– It was a rough night at the plate for the rookies. Neither Bogaerts nor Jackie Bradley Jr. could figure out Hellickson or the rest of the Rays pitching staff, with both going 0-for-3, while Bradley struck out once and Bogaerts fanned twice.

– With Shane Victorino getting the day off, the Red Sox missed his defense in right field. Daniel Nava got the start in right, and though he’s made strides as a defender and has a played a solid left field for the Sox this season, Nava looked rough making a play on an Evan Longoria triple down the right field line on which Nava let the ball squirt by him and roll along the wall, allowing Longoria to take third base. Nava also factored in the decisive play in the game, as there’s a chance that Victorino might have had a play on Myers’ opposite-field bloop down the right field line.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

David Ortiz certainly has starter Jeremy Hellickson‘s number. With a solo home run and a walk against Hellickson on Thursday night, Ortiz improved to .375 in 24 at-bats against the righty with seven walks (a .516 OBP), a double, triple and three home runs.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia broke an 0-for-21 skid with a solo home run in the fourth inning to bring the Red Sox within a run at the time. The blast was Saltalamacchia’s 12th round tripper of the season, a total that pales in comparison to his 25 home runs in 2012, but is still tied for fifth among Red Sox players this season. Saltalamacchia also drew a key walk in the sixth inning and came around to score the tying run, stealing second base uncontested (his second swiped bag of the season) and scoring on Stephen Drew‘s two-out double.

– Playing third base, Bogaerts showed excellent reaction time fielding a ball that deflected off of Peavy’s right wrist and bounced to his left. He also made a tricky play in the eighth inning, catching a foul pop-up against the wall down the third-base line to record the second out of the inning. Though not his natural position, Bogaerts has shown the capability to play a solid third base, and has yet to commit an error either at third or shortstop through 11 major league games.

Read More: David Ortiz, jackie bradley jr., jake peavy, jarrod saltalamacchia
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