Four key Red Sox decisions explained from Friday’s loss
|04.04.14 at 7:43 pm ET|
Truth be told, the Red Sox‘ inability to sustain any kind of significant offensive attack against Marco Estrada and the Brewers bullpen gave Boston little likelihood of securing a victory to cap off the day in which the team’s 2013 championship was commemorated. Nonetheless, there were four key decisions in the game that played a meaningful role in the outcome.
Here’s a brief breakdown of each:
— Bottom of the second inning: Grady Sizemore tags up on a fly out to shallow right and gets thrown out at the plate for the third out of the inning.
Sizemore had reached third on his first steal of the season (indeed, his first steal since May 11, 2010) with one out, and Xander Bogaerts followed with a fly ball to shallow right. Brewers right fielder Logan Schafer — who had cost his team a run earlier in the second inning with a stray throw to third base when Mike Napoli advanced from first to third on Sizemore’s single — made a perfect throw to cut down Sizemore and end one of the Sox’ only threats of the game. But manager John Farrell had no issue with the decision by third base coach Brian Butterfield to send the runner and force the Brewers to make a perfect throw.
“[Schafer has] got a good throwing arm,” said Farrell. “Felt like his feet [were] pretty much in a standstill position, [so] even though it was a relatively shallow fly ball, we’re challenging it. No second guessing the decision to send him there one bit. He threw a strike from a couple hundred feet away.”
— Top of the ninth inning: Edward Mujica enters the game.
Mujica remains the Red Sox‘ closer on days when Koji Uehara is unavailable, and so he was the natural choice for the Sox in the ninth inning of a tie game on a day when both Uehara and Junichi Tazawa were being avoided after having pitched on both Wednesday and Thursday in Baltimore.
“Didn’t want to go three days in a row, day game after night game, the travel — all things considered, both [Uehara] and [Tazawa] were two guys we just tried to stay away from today,” said Farrell.
— Top of the ninth inning: After a leadoff double by Khris Davis, Mujica tried to throw out the runner advancing to third on Scooter Gennett‘s sacrifice bunt attempt. Mujica’s throw was just late, resulting in a first-and-third situation with no outs that quickly unraveled into a four-run inning.
Given that the runner at third represented the go-ahead run and the fact that Mujica took little time to field Gennett’s bunt, the Sox felt that the right play was to go for the lead runner rather than taking the sure out at first.
“We tried to be aggressive, get the lead runner on the bunt. It kind of led to a big inning instead of just getting a guy out. But those things happen. I thought when he bunted it, he bunted it hard enough that we could get the guy at third. We tried to be aggressive. Unfortunately, it was a real close play and he was safe,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who said he encouraged Mujica to go to third with his throw. “I didn’t think the guy — the play’s in front of me — the guy didn’t get a really good jump I didn’t think. I thought we had a chance and it was close. It could have maybe gone either way, but you know, they called him safe and it ended up being a big inning.”
— Top of the ninth inning: The decision not to challenge the ruling that Davis was safe at third base.
Davis beat the throw to the bag; of that there was no question. But that wasn’t the end of the play. Middlebrooks initially tagged Davis high — around his lower back, the third baseman said — but Davis then slid past the bag. Middlebrooks tried to slap him with a second tag while Davis was separated from the bag, but third base ump Tim Timmons ruled the Brewers runner safe.
“I felt like he kind of came off the bag a little bit but that’s hard to see. I wasn’t sure at the time because it happened so fast,” said Middlebrooks. “But after I watched the replay, I thought I might have had him. That happened so fast, nobody could see that.’
The Sox could have challenged the ruling, and Farrell was in communication with video coordinator Billy Broadbent, the man responsible for relaying word of whether there is a clear need to challenge a ruling on the field. But there was no such clear directive because the replay was, in the eyes of Broadbent on first glimpse and members of the Sox after the game, inconclusive as to whether Middlebrooks had applied a tag while Davis was off the bag.
“You know from my vantage point it looked like his foot got in. The safe call came and from our dugout, didn’t see him come off the bag,” said Farrell. “And even with a conversation internally with our video, it didn’t seem like the replay was conclusive and did not challenge it.”
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