Losers of nine straight, the Boston Red Sox no doubt find it hard to uncover any silver linings amidst the oppressive cloud covering of bumbling, inconsistent, and largely incompetent play they have shown of late and overall this season. So let's let the team borrow our high-powered telescope for a moment so that they can discover that it is still possible for them to perform their assigned tasks well even if the outcome is another defeat. While the Red Sox lost again to the Tampa Bay Rays, this time by a 6-5 final score in Saturday's contest that lasted 15 innings, the Red Sox were able to do two things very well.
The first is that they were able to sow together enough positive offensive plays with the reward being their reaping of runs. Unlike in previous contests where the Red Sox hit poorly and did not score any runs or where the Red Sox hit well right up to the crucial moments where they needed to hit well and still did not score any runs, on Saturday, the Red Sox made the most of their limited offensive output.
In the first inning, the Red Sox almost immediately jumped on Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price and rode five straight events that either increased their run expectancy or did not decrease it, getting two singles, a walk, a hit batter, a sacrifice fly, and a three-run home run to give themselves a commanding 5-0 lead and a win probability of 88.5 percent by the end of the inning; the Red Sox added another hit in the inning to give them four hits total for the frame.
For a team that has experienced so many difficulties in pushing runs across the plate, the Red Sox's first-inning performance proved to be a revelation. It also proved to be an aberration because as soon as the first inning ended so too did the Red Sox offense almost completely shut it down and take the rest of the game off, perhaps thinking they had done enough for the day and should not have to work for the rest of Memorial Day Weekend. Over the course of the rest of the game, which lasted another 14 innings mind you, the Red Sox collected just one more hit, four more walks, but were able to find time to strike out 16 times to eventually put a damper on their first-inning offensive explosion.
Similar to the offense that performed extremely well right up to the moment when it performed terribly, the relief pitching provided by the Red Sox was simply sublime until Andrew Miller entered the game and it all fell apart for the club. After Jake Peavy, continuing his disappointing 2014 turn as a Red Sox starting pitcher, allowed five of the nine Rays he put on base to eventually score, the Red Sox bullpen in the form of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica, Chris Capuano, and Burke Badenhop forbade the Rays from adding any more runs to their total.
The six relievers combined to strike out eight batters in 7.7 innings while conceding just seven base runners, none of whom were able to make it to home plate. Each of the aforementioned six relievers added positive win probability to the Red Sox's chances of winning the contest, and righted the Red Sox's pitching ship after Peavy's stormy, unproductive efforts.
Then Hurricane Andrew Miller arrived to throw the ship back off course again in addition to splintering it completely. With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 15th inning, Miller allowed two straight hits before ensuring the Rays' winning run would score with ease, thanks to a throwing error that he committed. Even before the error, the Rays' run expectancy in the inning stood at 1.40 so it is likely the Rays would have found a way to score even without Miller's error, but the error did make sure scoring was as easy as possible for the Rays.
With their latest loss, the Red Sox now possess a playoff probability of 14.9 percent, according to the playoff odds compiled by Baseball Prospectus. The Red Sox are not entirely out of the hunt, considering there are still 114 games left to play, but they are not doing themselves any favors dropping games like they did on Saturday even if there were a couple of silver linings in their losing performance.