Sunday's contest for the Boston Red Sox represented another game played and another game lost - their tenth straight defeat - with this one coming again at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays in an 8-5 loss that was close for most of the proceedings. Although the Red Sox still have not figured out a way to compile a complete enough performance to once again taste the sweetness of victory, what the team did on Sunday still allows us to play what I am sure is a game show that will soon be sweeping the nation: Was there a silver lining for the Red Sox in their defeat and if so, what was it?
The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. There was indeed a silver lining to the play of the Red Sox, even if the silver lining was not quite as lustrous as one might prefer it to be. In their latest defeat, the Red Sox offense did something they have done all too rarely this season; the hitters actually looked like the Red Sox offense many preseason prognosticators expected them to be as they combined proficient and clutch hitting in scoring their five runs on the afternoon.
Facing off against the Rays' third-best starting pitcher this season in addition to a very suspect Rays bullpen, the Red Sox were able to tee-off in vintage fashion, pounding out a hitting line of .278 BA/.308 OBP/.500 SLG/.346 wOBA. The on-base percentage did not reach memorable heights, but the Red Sox drove the ball with authority, racking up six extra-base hits during the game.
Furthermore, their hits arrived at important junctures in the game, most notably with runners in scoring position, an area in which the Red Sox hitters have scuffled all season. In 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Red Sox were able to hit safely four times, a masterful performance compared to some of their earlier season fumblings and stumblings at the plate. The Red Sox were also able to slightly exceed their run expectancy for once by posting a 1.06 RE24. Lastly, their mostly positive contributions at the plate were rewarded with a total win probability added of .056. The hitters were not perfect, but compared to recent outings, they put in yeoman's work in trying to lead the team to victory.
Yet, the offense's efforts at leadership were derailed by the pitching staff's sabotage, with starting pitcher Brandon Workman and reliever Craig Breslow making sure that the Red Sox's losing streak would not be ending any time soon. Those two pitchers combined to allow 10 hits (two of which were home runs), issue four walks, and concede all eight of the Ray's runs in what was an incredibly disappointing performance. The Rays hitters simply took advantage of the underwhelming offerings that Workman and Breslow served up.
Breslow, especially, was responsible for the Red Sox losing as the five runs he allowed all came after the score was tied 3-3 and the Red Sox held a win probability of 41.8 percent heading into the seventh inning. After Breslow was removed from the game, the Red Sox had only a 1.1 percent chance of earning a victory.
On top of the loss for the Red Sox, the game was further marred by a ridiculous display of machismo, which is one of the more redundant turns of phrase you are likely to hear, by both teams after Yunel Escobar stole third base with the Rays holding a five-run lead. The Red Sox took offense to the Rays continuing to try to win the game and players milled around not really wanting to fight each other because machismo is just about pointless posturing. The whole sequence after Escobar's steal was absurd and should have never occurred.
Eventually, the Red Sox will put together a complete enough performance to actually win another game. The question remains how often they will be able to do so, though, and if it will be enough to save their season.