Baseball is a game of results and processes. The surface figures--wins, losses, and even things like ERA, runs, batting average, and OPS are all a matter of results. Thet are what ultimately determine the results of any individual game. The processes, however, are often what will determine the long-term success of a player, team, etc.
Today, the result of the game was a 4-3 Red Sox win. That is for all intents and purposes as good as a 15-0 win. Nobody will take the win away because it wasn't impressive enough. But the way they got there--it was ugly.
First, credit where credit is due. Jon Lester started out absolutely dominant, striking out the first four batters he faced. While a number of three-ball counts would inflate his pitch count, he battled back nearly every time, allowing just two walks and four hits in six innings, striking out eight batters along the way.
Also very much deserving of acclaim is Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched his third straight game after throwing 45 pitches over the last two days. With a Boston bullpen pushed to the limit between a couple of busy days and a wasted spot or two--we all know who--Papelbon stepped up tremendously in the clutch, providing the Sox with the same kind of quality save he's provided all year so far.
But then there is the matter of blame and processes, because on a normal day, the Red Sox do not win this game.
Two of their runs came on a Carl Crawford pop-up that center fielder Peter Bourjos made a poor play on, allowing it to drop in front of him. Their other runs--one involving doubles from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury, the other a leadoff triple from Jed Lowrie (later oddly ruled a double with an error)--were both more legitimate. But two would not have won this game.
Some would blame that on Bobby Jenks, but to me that's not where the problem lies. His massive ERA will put plenty of people off, but his problems come more from an entirely unsustainable BABIP that started and ended today's game over .400. He can be blamed for the double and the walk, but suddenly pitching in three straight games after having limited use in the past week can't be the best of situations for a reliever.
No, the real blame lies with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the man who actually proved so disastrous behind the plate tonight that it undid any and all good will from his double that helped give the Sox a run earlier in the game. It would be one thing if it was just the three stolen bases--one of which set up an RBI single that would not likely have resulted in a run otherwise.
It was another thing entirely that happened in the eighth inning when, with Bobby Abreu at second (having reached there by virtue of a wild pitch Saltalamacchia failed to make a play on), he allowed a low slider to pass between his legs, under his glove which was well off the ground, and to the backstop. And then the final straw: rising out of his crouch, Salty looked around bewildered, with no clue where the ball was. Bobby Abreu reached third, saw Salty's predicament, and sped home to score a run. On a passed ball. From second base.
The Red Sox' catching predicament has reached a boiling point, and they don't likely have an answer currently with the team. Even as the Sox have won six of their last seven games, it's clearly time for a change to be made.