Right now, there seems to be no team that can stop the Tampa Bay Rays. Not even the Boston Red Sox, who have had the league’s best record for most of the season, could derail the Rays train on Monday as they fell in a 3-2 defeat. The loss on Monday to the Red Sox, in addition to confirming that the Rays’ winning streak is no mirage, put in danger the Red Sox’s hold on the American League East division crown.
Although the impact of the win by the Rays was a dramatic one as it represented their sixth straight victory and also brought them within a half game of the Red Sox, the actual game played out in less than scintillating fashion. There was never a time in the contest where momentum shifted from one team to the other and then back again.
Instead, from the very outset of the game, the Rays engaged in simple erosion of the Red Sox’s chances of winning. Slowly, but surely, the Rays whittled down the Red Sox’s win expectancy until there was simply nothing left.
Most of the whittling done by the Rays on Monday was done by starting pitcher Matt Moore, who simply outclassed the Red Sox hitters for a full 9.0 innings and shut down one of the most proficient offenses in the major leagues this season. Moore’s amazing win probability added of 0.634 was the result of limiting the Red Sox hitters in every conceivable way.
He only allowed two hits and issued one walk during his start, meaning only three of the 29 batters he faced even made it on base. Then, out of those three Red Sox who were not completely overwhelmed by Moore’s pitching and did manage to find their way on base, not one made it past second base. With no Red Sox base runner journeying past second base, it is easy to see why Moore was able to throw a shutout.
The Rays also benefited from their offense doing just enough to support Moore’s spectacular pitching. Overall, the Rays hitters only posted a win probability added of -0.138 against the Red Sox pitchers, but they were able to capitalize on enough run-scoring opportunities to put three runs on the board. The preferred method of scoring for the Rays on Monday was to get a runner to third base with less than two outs and then hit a sacrifice fly; two of their three runs were scored in this manner.
With three more games left to play in the four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox are in real danger of leaving for Baltimore in second place in the American League East, especially if their offense stays missing.