The Boston Red Sox had to be breathing a huge sign of relief on Tuesday as they looked into their opponents’ dugout and did not see a single player wearing a Tampa Bay Rays or a Baltimore Orioles uniform. Instead, they saw the Seattle Mariners, a club that unlike the Rays or the Orioles cannot mount a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Red Sox. Nor did anything happen in Tuesday’s contest, which concluded in an easy 8-2 victory for the Red Sox, to make one revise that assumption.
Victory was so easily attained by the Red Sox on Tuesday that they really only had to do any sort of strenuous work for two innings. After the first two innings, the Red Sox held a 5-1 lead and a win expectancy of 84.3 percent. Neither one of those advantages were ceded by the Red Sox for the rest of the game. In fact, the lead continued to grow run by run by run until what little hope the Mariners had of coming back was mercilessly crushed.
The solitary run the Mariners scored with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning was more embarrassing than useful. Although it closed the deficit from a seven-run one to a six-run one, it did not actually improve the chances of the Mariners winning in any significant way.
Most of the credit for the victory will go to the Red Sox hitters, who pounded out eight hits and an impressive hitting line of .324 BA/.343 OBP/.647 SLG with a .423 wOBA.
However, with an offense as prolific as the Red Sox possess, one expects that level of production so it was actually not the most notable achievement by the Red Sox on Tuesday. That honor goes to rookie starting pitcher Brandon Workman, who in what is perhaps his last start of the season since he will be moved to the bullpen to make room for newly acquired Jake Peavy, put together his finest performance of the season.
In 6.0 innings of work, Workman allowed the Mariners to score just one run against him, but what made his performance even more deserving of accolades is that his earned run average for the game very nearly matched his peripheral pitching statistics. His 0.54 fielding-independent ERA and 2.16 expected fielding-independent ERA were just as superlative due to his dominating pitching.
Despite conceding a .400 batting average on balls in play, which might normally spell doom for a pitcher, Workman was able to limit the damage the Mariners hitters could do by striking out 36.0 percent of the 25 batters he faced and stranding 85.7 percent of the seven base runners he allowed.
A prime example of Workman’s ability to overcome the Mariners hits with strike outs occurred in the sixth inning. With one out, the Mariners loaded the bases with three straight singles, half of the hits Workman allowed in his start, only to have Workman strike out the last two batters of the inning. Those two strikeouts were both a spectacular and fitting way for him to end his outing.
It was also a necessary end to his outing as the Red Sox are still fighting to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Rays, who continue to win almost every time they step on the field. The Red Sox will need every masterful pitching performance they can get for the rest of the season, and Workman delivered on Tuesday.
Now all the Red Sox need to do is make sure they continue to combine great hitting with great pitching in as many games as possible. Easier said than done, but Tuesday’s contest was a great start.