Big leads have become the dodo bird of the series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. After the big leads prosper for a few innings, establishing their place in the baseball ecosystem, along comes a new predator against which the big lead has very little protection. The predator, by scoring a multitude of runs, then goes on to hunt the big lead out of existence.
During Friday's contest, it was the Boston Red Sox offense who hunted the Yankees' big lead into extinction, destroying winning margin after winning margin until they had emerged victorious with a 12-8 lead. It was the second straight time in the series that a significant lead had vanished thanks to a late-inning rally. However, unlike in the first game, in which the Red Sox weathered the Yankees' rally and then went on to have a rally of their own to win the game, once the Yankees' lead went extinct, there was no new species to replace it. Additionally, the demise of the Yankees' lead also led to the unfortunate end of the organism that fed upon the lead: the Yankees' chances of winning.
The biggest lead that the Yankees had in the contest, and the one that provided the biggest sense of false security, was the five-run lead they possessed after five innings. Their winning margin had been produced by clubbing the offerings of the first two pitchers the Red Sox put into the game, starter Felix Doubront and reliever Rubby de la Rosa, and scoring at least one run every time they put runners in scoring position.
The ability of the Yankees' hitters to get hits when they were in the best position to score is one reason why they were able to score eight runs off seven hits in the first five innings; furthermore, four of the Yankees' runs were scored by players who had drawn walks so the Yankees were achieving success in multiple ways. At least they were over the course of those first five innings.
For the final four innings of the contest, the Yankees had 14 plate appearances, and only two of the plate appearances were positive. Eduardo Nunez and Chris Stewart both drew walks in the eighth inning, but unlike the earlier innings of the contest, the Yankees were not able to drive in any runs during that inning, despite having two at-bats with runners in scoring position.
While the Yankees stopped scoring after five innings, the Red Sox had not even begun to do their most serious scoring yet. They saved that for the seventh and eighth innings as they absolutely abused the offerings of the four pitchers the Yankees had throwing in those innings. En route to scoring nine runs in just two innings and going from an 8-3 deficit to a 12-8 lead, the Red Sox amassed eight hits and drew two walks that contributed to their run-scoring total as well.
Their offensive output represented a shift in win expectancy of 92.4 percent (from 3.2 percent to 95.6 percent), with most of the value being wrapped up in Mike Napoli's seventh inning grand slam and Shane Victorino's eighth inning two-run home run.
With shaky pitching, especially from the two teams' bullpens, in the first two games of the series, it has proven incredibly difficult for both teams to preserve their biggest leads, leading to dramatic reversals in the teams' fortunes. Over the next two series, it will be interesting to see if either one of the pitching staffs can improve their effectiveness and protect the leads their offenses were nice enough to construct.