On Monday, the Boston Red Sox started their second straight series against an opponent from the American League Central division. The first series, versus the Chicago White Sox, ended in a sweep for the Red Sox after they dispatched the White Sox in two one-run contests and one blowout. Things did not go as swimmingly for the Red Sox in their opening series contest with the Detroit Tigers as their opponent, however, as the Tigers are a dominant enough team to present the Red Sox with great difficulties.
The difficulties the Red Sox are due to have against the Tigers were evident during Monday's contest, especially with the Red Sox hitters helping the Tigers by performing their worst in the most important situations. A lack of hitting when it could have most helped the club resulted in the Red Sox falling in defeat 3-0.
For the game, the Red Sox only posted a meager hitting line of .200 BA/.314 OBP/.300 SLG with a .284 wOBA, but that does not mean they did not have multiple run-scoring chances. Despite performing so poorly at the plate, the Red Sox still had 13 plate appearances during which they had at least one base runner in scoring position. Of those 13 plate appearances, only one resulted in a positive contribution, a walk drawn by Mike Napoli in the seventh inning with a runner on second base. The walk, while serving to raise the run expectancy that inning from 1.22 to 1.60, did not end up helping the Red Sox as the hitters following Napoli recorded three straight outs.
While getting a hit with runners in scoring position is not mandatory when it comes to scoring runs, not doing so will definitely decrease a club's chances of scoring, which the Red Sox received a reminder of on Monday.
Detroit Tigers pitchers Doug Fister, Bruce Rondon, and Jose Veras all deserve credit for stranding each and every one of the base runners the Red Sox had on Monday, but the Red Sox really should have done better in matching their run expectancies; the Red Sox finished the game with a terrible -5.19 RE24.
Meanwhile, the Tigers had more success with their number of run-scoring opportunities against Red Sox pitchers John Lackey and Matt Thornton. Like the Red Sox, the Tigers found it beyond their capabilities to crack through the Red Sox pitching, putting together a batting line of .242 BA/.257 OBP/.394 SLG with a .276 wOBA, and also like the Red Sox, the Tigers still overcame their overall hitting deficiencies to put themselves in position to have 15 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
There, the similarities end as the Tigers still found ways to score even when the hitters were not at their best. The first one they scored came off an Andy Dirks triple that scored Victor Martinez from first in the seventh inning. For their second run, also in the seventh inning, Andy Dirks was able to score from third base while the Red Sox were turning a double play. Then, in the eighth inning, Prince Fielder's sacrifice fly scored the final run of the evening for the Tigers.
The Tigers might not have been overly impressive at the plate for the vast majority of the game, but through some timely hitting, they still put three runs on the scoreboard. Yet, just like the Red Sox, the Tigers still left many runs out on the base paths, finishing the contest with a -2.19 RE24.
Subtract their three runs from their RE24 and one is left with a RE24 of -5.19, identical to what the Red Sox posted. In a close game, with identical chances for both teams to score, the Tigers made enough plays to secure victory while the Red Sox did not.
Since John Lackey was on the mound, we should not be surprised that the Red Sox offense was shut out, but in continuing to not provide Lackey with run support, they again lost a game in which Lackey provided them with pretty good starting pitching. Fortunately for the Red Sox, it looks like their division rivals are done challenging them for the title so the loss on Monday will not hurt them. Still, it is troubling that they still cannot win games Lackey pitches in at the same rate as they win overall. Perhaps Lackey's next start will be different.