The Boston Red Sox have not lived up to pre-season expectations, having lost more games than they have won at this point in the season, which is not as young as it used to be so the team needs to find a consistent solution to some of their woes. Yet, despite the Red Sox's struggles, they are only a few games out of first place, thanks to the rest of the American League East also finding it difficult to keep their heads above the sea of mediocrity.
In fact, once run differential is taken into account and the divisions' Pythagorean winning percentages are put into proper context, the Red Sox have really not been any worse than any other team they are competing against for the division pennant. So with just a few wins in a row, the Red Sox will be able to lay claim to the top spot in the division, a place most people expected them to be.
On Tuesday night, the Red Sox got one of those wins, dispatching the Tampa Bay Rays in a 7-4 contest that was close and evenly matched for the first five and a half innings before the Red Sox hitters put an end to the pitchers' duel and broke the game wide open, providing John Lackey with the run support his stellar pitching deserved.
With the score tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Red Sox held a slim win expectancy edge; considering the inning and score, the Red Sox had a 57.6 percent chance of winning the contest. By the end of the sixth inning, the Red Sox win expectancy had jumped to 96.8 percent as the Red Sox used two walks, one single, and three doubles to push across five decisive runs.
Those five runs in the sixth inning propelled John Lackey's pitching to the valuable position it already warranted and allowed the hurler, who allowed just two earned runs over 8.0 innings while striking out five batters and walking just one, to fully benefit from a spectacular night of pitching. Instead of only getting to celebrate his individual achievements, the run support Lackey received transformed his start into something the whole team could benefit from.
Overall, the win was a complete victory for the Red Sox as the hitters (.268 win probability added) and the pitchers (.238 win probability added) provided the team with almost equal positive value. For a team trying to win on a more consistent basis, repeating the contributions received from the players on Tuesday will go a long way in making the Red Sox look more like the winning club from last season.