After splitting the first two games of the season with the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Red Sox won 4-3 Thursday night to lay claim to the season's edge over their most troublesome American League East division rival. At least for now. While the Red Sox did close out the series with a victory and will not look to continue their winning ways against the Milwaukee Brewers, Thursday's win was not on the emphatic variety, at least not when the game is looked at as a whole. Then again, impressive run differentials are most useful in predicting the future of a team's record; a one-run win counts the same as a 10-run win, even if it probably should not.
Although the winning margin of the Boston Red Sox will not qualify to go on their parents' refrigerator, the victory was entirely without performances of note. Going against Orioles pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton, and Evan Meek, the Red Sox were able to post an above-average batting line of .368 BA/.400 OBP/.421 SLG/.373 wOBA on the strength of 14 hits, the most hits a major league team recorded in Thursday's slate of games. Most of the Red Sox's success came when Chen was on the mound; during his 5.7 innings of work, the Red Sox pounded out 12 of their 14 hits, although pounded might be a misnomer considering how little they were able to hit with power or drive the ball with authority.
Given how easily the Red Sox amassed hits against Chen, one could reasonably expect to see a greater return on those hit investments in the form of runs scored. There, one would be disappointed as many of the hits the Red Sox had on Thursday were of the superficial variety; they look nice in a team's overall hitting statistics, but did not really lead anywhere, mostly because of a failure to get them with runners in scoring position.
The Red Sox went just 2 for 10 in at-bats with runners in scoring position, with those two hits scoring two of the team's four runs; Will Middlebrooks, who barely deserves credit for driving in a run since he only did so after grounding into a double play, and David Ortiz were responsible for driving in the other two runs.
Had the Red Sox hit better in their run-scoring opportunities, more likely than not, they would have ended up with more than four runs off of 14 hits and most definitely, they would have prevented themselves from underperforming their run expectancy and putting up a -0.68 RE24.
Red Sox hitters were saved from the embarrassment of having so many hits lead nowhere but to a team defeat by their teammate pitchers, who really carried the team to their win with some dominant performances in high-leverage situations. Together, the Red Sox pitchers threw to a .505 win probability added with Brandon Workman being the only pitcher to appear in the game and not have an adequate degree of success on the mound; Workman allowed an inherited runner to score during his 0.7 innings, which decreased the Red Sox lead to a slim one-run margin.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, the club possesses some of the finest relief pitchers in the major leagues and was able to work through the final three innings with little difficulty. Chris Capuano, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara combined to prevent the Orioles from coming back from one run down, or even reaching a run expectancy of 1.00 that would have provided some indication that the Orioles were even threatening the Red Sox's victory.
Soon enough, the Red Sox will deliver on their hits' promises by scoring more runs, but until that occurs, it is certainly reassuring for the club to know that they do not need to bludgeon an opponents' pitching staff into submission in order to record a victory; with the Red Sox pitching staff, four runs can be enough, especially when the bullpen combines to pitch as they did in Thursday's contest.