What do you get if you take the talent level of the end-of-the-year 2012 Red Sox and the ability to turn any situation into a downright artistic defeat? You get Saturday evening's fifteen-inning 6-5 walkoff loss to the Rays, that's what!
The lineup going into the game was just shocking. No David Ortiz and no Mike Napoli meant that Dustin Pedroia was actually the sole carryover from the 2013 starting lineup. We had A.J. Pierzynski batting sixth against a lefty, Mike Carp cleaning up, and a typically black hole bottom-of-the-order in Sizemore, Ross, and Bradley.
And you know what the crazy thing is? They actually scored runs. Five of them! In the first! David Price showed up to the game an inning late, essentially, and the Red Sox had all but put this one to bed before the Rays had even come up to bat. Sure, a flare, an infield single, a four-pitch walk, and a hit-by-pitch wasn't exactly a testament to Boston's offensive prowess, but A.J. Pierzynski hit a three-run home run off of David Price! A.J. Pierzynski! David Price! If this publishing platform allowed me to circle and underline those names ten times that still wouldn't be enough emphasis!
And that was it for Boston's offense. Price woke up, and their next hit came on a Xander Bogaerts bloop in the eighth. And yes, Price was still pitching.
Still, that shouldn't matter. A five-run first is downright demoralizing. If the Rays average under four runs a game as is, surely keeping them under four after such a terrible start should be easy for Jake Peavy, right?
Well, for a while it looked like that might be the case. The Rays took a bizarre approach with the control-challenged righty, taking a hugely aggressive approach to their at bats. At one point in the fourth, four straight batters put the first pitch they saw into play. Still, even with the Rays essentially taking Peavy's biggest weakness out of the equation, they still did work against him. A pair of singles and a sacrifice fly brought home one run in the second, and a couple choppers over Brock Holt cost him another run in the fourth (part of the sequence of four straight first-pitch balls in play).
Then, in the fifth, three straight one-out singles brought one runner home in and put the tying run on first for Brandon Guyer, who connected for his third hit of the day. Grady Sizemore was sloppy getting the ball home, and the game was tied. From 5-0 to 5-5 in five innings.
A stalemate would set in from there. David Price lasted through the eighth inning, Peavy the sixth, and from there it was up to the bullpens. There were occasional threats, but neither side was able to break through until as late as the fifteenth. There, however, Andrew Miller finally gave in. To his credit, Miller did not allow much in the way of strong contact. There was a ground ball up the middle, then a bunt to the left side of the infield that nobody seemed terribly interested in fielding. Then, with two men on and one out, Miller attempted to start a double play on a chopper back to the mound. As ever, though, pitchers throwing to second base proved a difficult proposition indeed. Miller's throw was wide of the bag, and found its way into center field as pinch runner Cole Figueroa scored from second, finally bringing the game to an end.
Before this game began, I described the lineup as a white flag of surrender. If there was any positive to be taken from such a terrible batting order--and oh, do I ever take the word "positive" loosely here--it was that a loss could almost be expected. It's hard to make a loss painful in that situation.
Sure enough, though, this 2014 Red Sox team found the one way. Five runs in the first inning, none for the next fourteen, and a starting pitching performance just bad enough to prolong the suffering for over five hours before we were finally, almost mercifully put to rest. Truly these Sox have made an art form of losing.