With the Boston Red Sox’s division rival, the Tampa Bay Rays, seemingly having forgotten how to lose a single game, the onus has fallen upon the Red Sox to match the Rays’ winning ways. For the two games previous to Saturday’s contest against the Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox had failed to do so, largely because of a conspicuously absent offense. In the two games, both ending in losses for the club, the Red Sox mustered up one single run.
However, on Saturday, the Boston Red Sox bats broke out in both a way that is familiar and surprising and powered the team to a 7-3 victory. Their performance in the contest was familiar because the Red Sox offense has been potent overall for most of the season; for the season, the Red Sox hitters have posted a batting line of .273 BA/.345 OBP/.438 SLG with a .340 wOBA.
Yet, the way in which the Red Sox tore the cover off the ball was unfamiliar considering who their opponent was. In their nine games against Orioles pitching, which includes Saturday’s breakout performance, the Red Sox bats have been largely silenced. Three hundred twenty-six plate appearances have resulted in the Red Sox only managing a hitting line of .197 BA/.253 OBP/.355 SLG. It is no wonder the Red Sox have won just three of their nine games against the Orioles this year.
On Saturday, it was a different story for the Boston Red Sox as they hit with the power that had been missing from most of their previous outings against the Orioles. Four of the Red Sox’s 10 hits went for extra-bases, and three of the four extra-base hits were home runs. Those three home runs, two by Stephen Drew and one by Shane Victorino, accounted for six of the seven runs the Red Sox scored.
The power display put on by the Red Sox netted them an impressive slugging percentage of .541 for the game and is the biggest reason for why the Red Sox emerged victorious. Combined, the three home runs gave the Red Sox a win probability added of 0.358.
Not to be lost in the bright lights of the offensive display was the respectable work done by the Red Sox pitchers on Saturday. Ryan Dempster, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara held the Orioles to three runs with a combination of good pitching and good fortune.
Their 3.26 fielding-independent ERA backed up their 3.00 ERA, but the pitchers did benefit from all the fly balls the Orioles batters hit not translating to home runs. Red Sox pitchers gave up 13 fly balls, but each one stayed in the ball park. Since the home run per fly ball ratio is 10.8 percent, we should have expected the Red Sox pitchers to concede one to two home runs, which is the reason why their expected fielding-independent ERA was 5.28 for the game.
Still, the pitchers escaped unscathed from the fly ball assault and posted a win probability added of 0.234 as they were almost equal to the hitters in their contributions to the victory.
Hopefully, for the Red Sox, Saturday’s result means they have finally unlocked the mystery that was the Orioles pitching and will return to their usual offensive form. Accomplishing that feat would go a long way into reversing their current 3-6 record versus the Orioles. The new offensive production would also make sure the Red Sox do not fall behind the Rays any more in the division race.
While the Red Sox’s postseason spot is virtually assured, they will need to continue to hit well against the Orioles, whom they play ten more times this season, if they want to avoid the wildcard playoff game.