When it was all said and done -- once a 9-6 loss was official, and after Jake Peavy's line in his second start as a member of the Red Sox showed him allowing six runs over five innings -- John Farrell pinpointed the problem that prompted those results.
“I think," the manager told reporters in Kansas City, "the put-away pitch was a little elusive for him."
Indeed, it was more elusive for Peavy then it's been in a decade, as Friday marked the first time since June 22, 2003, that the accomplished right-hander failed to register a strikeout in a start of at least five innings. (The last time he didn't notch a punchout in any start was on June 4 of this year, when he yielded six runs in 2.1 innings, then spent the next seven weeks on the disabled list.)
The Royals deserve some of the credit for that, of course. They've struck out fewer times than any team in the major leagues this season -- 235 fewer times than the Red Sox, actually -- so they generally do a good job of putting the ball in play. And when the ball is put into play, anything can happen. There are occasionally nights like Friday, when Kansas City's batting average was .424 on balls in play.
But Peavy's frustration was a product of his inability to finish the job after putting himself in position to get outs -- and specifically after his teammates put him in a position to win the game.
The Sox offense struck for three runs in the fourth, which staked Peavy to a 6-3 lead, and to that juncture the 32-year-old had effectively capitalized on working himself into pitchers' counts. David Lough's second-inning RBI single came on a 2-2 changeup, but Peavy had successfully retired eight of the 10 hitters he'd gotten to two strikes.
That began to change in the fifth, when Billy Butler lined a hit to left after falling behind 0-2. And then things unraveled quickly in the sixth. Peavy left the game after three successive singles, the first and third of which came on 1-2 fastballs. At that point he was up to 105 pitches, but more damning for his immediate future was his lack of finish in each battle.
Peavy's average of 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings is above the league average, and at this point in his career he relies heavily on not giving away bases with walks and putting hitters away when he has the opportunity to do so. He did fine with the first part Friday, walking only one -- but he struggled mightily with the second.
And, afforded little relief by the pitchers who followed, the Sox saw how much of a battle it can be for him when that's the case.
"A lot of two-strike hits," Peavy told reporters after seeing the Royals go 5-for-13 (.385) with two strikes. The AL average in that situation this season is .178. "My stuff just wasn't sharp at all."
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||1-for-4, BB, SB: An active night for the leadoff man included a single, his 41st steal, a pretty leaping catch at the wall in center, and a 10-pitch walk.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||1-for-4, R, BB, K: His single started Boston's first-inning rally that threatened to produce more than just one run, then he walked to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||1-for-4, R, BB: Came up with two on and nobody out in the eighth, with the Sox trailing by three, and crushed the ball -- right at the third baseman, who stepped on the bag and started a 5-4 double play that squashed hopes of a rally.|
|David Ortiz, DH||2-for-5, 2 R, RBI, HR: His 22nd tater of the year traveled 405 feet to right-center, an encouraging show of power after a stretch in which he's been much more of a singles hitter.|
|Daniel Nava, LF||1-for-4, R, RBI, HBP, K: He whacked a single to right, scoring Victorino with the first run of the game. He was also hit by an Ervin Santana pitch, his AL-leading 13th HBP of the season.|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||2-for-3, R, 3 RBI, 2B, BB, HBP, K: It was a very encouraging night for Napoli, whose biggest hit was a bases-clearing, two-out double to right. He also had a single, a walk, and was hit by a pitch, meaning he reached base in four of five trips.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||1-for-5, 2 K: He singled and scored in the Sox' two-run third, though he failed to deliver in two opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. Nevertheless, he's still had a hit in every game since Jose Iglesias was traded.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||2-for-4, RBI: Both doubling on Friday, he and Napoli remain tied for the team lead with 29 two-baggers. Saltalamacchia's latest was a two-run knock that put the Red Sox up 3-2 in the third.|
|Brock Holt, 3B||0-for-4: The slumping third baseman is now 1-for his last-20 -- and with every unsuccessful at-bat from he or Brandon Snyder, Xander Bogaerts (or Will Middlebrooks) seems one step closer to the big leagues.|
|Jake Peavy, SP||5 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, BB, 2 HR: He managed just one 1-2-3 inning, the fourth, and the two long balls made it seven straight starts in which he's allowed at least one homer. This season he's surrendered 17 circuit clouts in 92 innings -- four more than he allowed in his entire 2007 Cy Young campaign.|
|Drake Britton, RP||0.2 IP, H, 2 ER, BB: The rookie lefty came on with the Sox up two and a man on with nobody out in the sixth, and left with Boston trailing 7-6 after a walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly.|
|Pedro Beato, RP||1.1 IP, 3H, ER, BB, K: He didn't put out the fire that Peavy and Britton left smoldering in the sixth, allowing a Billy Butler double, an Alex Gordon walk, and a Jason Maxwell single before escaping the inning.|
|Craig Breslow, RP||1 IP, 2 H, K: He surrendered two singles and a wild pitch, but escaped trouble with the help of a double play and a strikeout.|
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