After scoring 54 runs in the previous four games, it is no surprise that the Boston Red Sox came back down to earth in Sunday's game against the New York Yankees. No team will be able to average more than 13 runs per game in perpetuity, and the Red Sox are no exception. Add in their inevitable regression to the mean to the fact that they were facing one of the best starting pitchers in the major leagues this season, and it makes perfect sense that they would only score three runs in a 4-3 loss.
Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pitched just 6.0 innings on Sunday, but he did not let his not pitching deep into the game affect him in any meaningful way. He still contributed a win probability added of .119 as he held the Red Sox offense in check during his appearance. Only seven of the 25 Red Sox batters Kuroda faced reached base, five via hitting their way on base and two by drawing walks, and then two of those base runners went on to score.
Kuroda might have desired to post better than a left on base percentage of 71.4 percent, but since he did not allow many base runners to begin with, he was able to get away with not being a completely stellar pitcher once the Red Sox did reach base. He also struck out 24.0 percent of the Yankees who dared to step in the batter's box against him, impressive in most every important aspect of pitching.
When Kuroda left the game after the sixth inning and was replaced by Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley, the Red Sox still were unable to break through the pitching and defense of the Yankees to score multiple runs. Against Kelley, Dustin Pedroia did have an at-bat with runners on second and third and two outs, but grounded out to end any chance of the Red Sox scoring in that inning.
The hits with runners in scoring position that came so easily for the Red Sox in their previous four games were noticeably absent on Sunday, with the club getting just one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Still, the Red Sox were never too far from the Yankees in the contest, thanks to the pitching of starter Jon Lester, who continued to impress in the second half of the season. Lester pitched 8.0 innings and gave up only three runs to the Yankees; he also struck out six batters and walked just one. While his 4.19 expected fielding-independent ERA indicates that he was fortunate to not see one of the 11 fly balls he allowed become a home run, he was effective enough where it counted to make sure the Red Sox had a chance to regain control of the game.
Regaining control of the game, at least for one plate appearance, was exactly what the Red Sox did in the ninth inning, the second inning of closer Mariano Rivera's appearance. Will Middlebrooks hit a solo home run to begin the ninth inning and gave the Red Sox a 50.0 percent chance of winning with the score tied 3-3. Their win expectancy decreased immediately afterwards as the next three Red Sox batters failed to reach base, but Lester's pitching did pay dividends.
What did not pay any dividends for the Red Sox were the efforts of reliever Brandon Workman, who replaced Lester. With a runner on third base and two outs, Workman threw a wild pitch to allow the game-winning run to score and end the game. The wild pitch was the worst possible play at the time, and the Red Sox paid for it with a loss.
The defeat suffered at the hands of the Yankees is not very concerning, though. Even with the loss, the Red Sox still have a 100.0 percent chance of making the playoffs.