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Just three more weeks of this, the 2022 Red Sox resigned to maybe causing some trouble in the playoff race — though that’s largely decided — and watching with the rest of see if Xander Bogaerts enters his “emotional” winter with a batting title.
In a sense, there doesn’t seem to be a real deep need for an autopsy, not when the last thing we saw was a Little League three-run homer, Abraham Almonte’s adventures in center field, and J.D. Martinez missing first base to kill a rally.
No, really. That was all just on Wednesday against the Yankees.
“He was hustling. That’s all he has there. It’s not lack of effort. It’s the other way around,” Cora told reporters about Martinez’s run-scoring hustle turned double play. “It just kind of sums up everything. Just short. We are where we are because we’re short in certain areas and we haven’t been able to finish games.”
I dare say that’s what needs the reminder now. The awful bullpen and the cavalcade of injuries? We know. The borderline-historic struggles within the AL East, leading to a 44-61 record — only the in-town Royals (63) have lost more — against better-than-.500 competition? Quite noted.
The absence of home-run power while still being a top-three offense in the American League? Increasingly too weird to forget.
But this team really wasn’t far from happier returns on an awful lot of nights.
The Red Sox are 22-24 in one-run games this year, the 46 played tied for the fourth-highest total in the majors entering Friday. The bottom five on that list remind us what an interesting sweet spot they’re in: The Dodgers (25 one-run games) and Mets (34), very good teams who don’t play close games, mixed with the Royals (30), Tigers (33), and Nationals (35) who aren’t good enough to get in them.
Miami is in the group with the Red Sox, sitting 59-85 with an MLB-worst 34 one-run losses. Texas is there, seven games behind Boston with a 13-32 one-run record that played a big part in a management cleanout.
It’s the sort of thing that feels more declarative than it is, as one-run performance isn’t super sticky from year-to-year. Boston’s title winners in 2004 (16-18), 2007 (22-28), and 2013 (21-21) were all mediocre in them in their regular seasons. The 1986 team (24-10) was the franchise’s best-ever in one-run games despite a deeply uninspiring bullpen.
Still, it’s two-dozen times where victory was so close. It’s hard to ignore that, at least relative to this team becoming instantly ignorable five seconds after the last out on Oct. 5.
And it started from the jump.
Boston blew three leads and twice blew save chances on Opening Day, the bullpen problems in the final months of 2021 still unsolved.
Of course, none of that is remembered if DJ LeMahieu doesn’t clip Garrett Whitlock with an only-in-Yankee-Stadium home run to tie it in the eighth. Only the second-most frustrating long ball the phenom ended up allowing.
On the day Alex Cora tested positive for COVID-19, Kevin Gausman chews through the Sox for the first of five times in 2022. Alex Verdugo hits into two double plays, Christian Vázquez loses a popup in the wind to allow a run, and the tying run is stranded on third after Bobby Dalbec hits a rocket right at Matt Chapman.
No-hit for nine innings, the Sox still get to extras because it’s scoreless, score two in the 10th, then lose on an inexplicable Trevor Story throwing error (that becomes more explicable when you watch Dalbec at first base) and a Kevin Kiermaier walk-off.
Up, 5-2, in the eighth, the Red Sox turn to Hansel Robles and Jake Diekman to finish it because Tanner Houck is unavailable to play in Canada. Diekman gives up back-to-back doubles to start the ninth against the bottom of the Jays order, rallies with two strikeouts, then throws George Springer a meatball.
“That was a tough one,” Bogaerts told reporters.
Four singles on a getaway day. Five at-bats with a runner in scoring position, and the Sox didn’t get the ball out of the infield. Whitlock lost as the starter and wasn’t his best, but the run was an unearned one stemming from a shortstop Christian Arroyo error. (He also helped strand the tying run in the seventh.)
Nate Eovaldi’s seven shutout innings are for naught, the Sox offense in its most anemic phase as it can’t surmount five Baltimore hits, aided by a Bogaerts throwing error for the first run and a Hirokazu Sawamura air-mail of third base to walk it off in the 10th.
The Sox finish a run of four Fenway games in which they scored five total runs, J.D. Martinez crushing a ball 106 miles per hour to lead off the ninth. Instead of a game-tying home run, the cold and wind keep it in the park for a double, and he’s stranded there. So many stories of the season.
Against the worst team in the majors at that time, the offense totals four hits, with Martinez, Bogaerts, and Trevor Story making the outs in the ninth around three of those hits. Cincinnati’s runs are both unearned, and both come on throwing errors by Bogaerts and Rafael Devers — each of whom, on top of great offensive seasons, have been much improved defensively.
The day after Houck’s successful debut as closer, the Sox sit him, not wanting him to go back-to-back days so quickly. They instead use Robles for a third straight game, and he blows a one-run lead, two two-strike singles scoring the fatal runs.
The offense strands 13 against an awful team and more or less gift them all their runs with bad defense. A popup fell between Story and center fielder Jarren Duran to spark a three-run inning. The winner came after a Vázquez passed ball and scored on a Devers error.
Again without Houck north of the border, the Sox again come from behind, but a one-run lead in the ninth disappears as Tyler Danish and Robles put four straight Jays on without an out. (John Schreiber, among the better options all year, was used for the seventh after Boston took the lead.)
A four-run lead built starting with the game’s first pitch, which Duran put out to center field, drains away as the Sox score just once after the second. Rich Hill sprains his knee, and Danish, Robles, and Diekman are on the mound for four runs in 10 batters.
Devers hits two home runs off Gerrit Cole to make it closer than it deserved to be, given it was 5-0 in the third. After the latter of those made it 6-5 in the fifth, 15 Sox batted the rest of the game. Two walks, no hits.
May as well lump ’em together, part of the 1-6 divisional road trip before the All-Star Game began to crystallized the year’s fate. The first was Chris Sale’s one good 2022 start, literally thrown away on a two-error debacle begun after Matt Strahm got hit by a comebacker, and the second a three-run lead lost when Cora tried to sneak an extra inning out of Kutter Crawford.
Some of these you may not remember. Some, such as Franchy Cordero makes three errors in the City Connect jerseys to make a loss out of a five-RBI game by Dalbec, I’m pretty confident don’t need my help.
Whitlock gives up a walkoff to rookie Nick Pratto after retiring eight straight hitters on 19 pitches, on a night the Sox efficiently erased three deficits. Frankly, I’m still amazed it actually happened, and it’s pretty clear this was the moment being just a handful of games out of a wild-card spot ceased to be interesting.
After back-to-back one-run wins, Schreiber coughed up a tie game in the ninth via a squeeze, but both Devers and Bogaerts came up with the equalizer in scoring position. Both slumping, neither got the ball out of the infield, two innings after Bogaerts was picked off from scoring position in the seventh.
Have we noticed the Sox are 2-6 in one-run games against the Jays this year? Not that it feels super out of place when they’re 3-13 overall and lost 28-5 to them or anything, but still.
Or that they’re 2-5 in them against the Rays, and six of their 10 games at Tropicana Field have been one-run games?
These Red Sox are ending up only slighty lower in the standings than where they belong. Their construction was suspect, their health was abysmal, and they were their own worst enemy in a staggering bunch of these.
But it says something that on a reasonably deep reflection, you can pretty much convince yourself of anything given the number of individual bounces that can swing a season one way or the other to a largely random degree.
“It just kind of sums up everything,” Cora told reporters on Wednesday night. “Just short.”
Ain’t that the truth.
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