The Red Sox dropped their first series of the year Thursday night as the bats fell silent behind an impressive Clay Buchholz.
It was a game which more or less followed the script for a quiet day from the Red Sox offense. While they've got plenty of runs this year, many have come with the help of opposing defenses, leaving plenty of cold bats in the lineup. For some, like Mookie Betts, it's been more a matter of luck than anything--hard-hit balls finding gloves while teammates reach on errors. For others, it's been simple mediocrity.
Tonight, it was a perfect mixture of both, with an absent Hanley Ramirez (one of the batters who's not just hitting, but really earning those hits) tossed in for good measure. The Red Sox went 0-for with runners in scoring position, their only run coming on a sacrifice fly after Pablo Sandoval led off the second with a double. And this time, when the Sox made a bid to actually push across another run in the fifth, with Mookie Betts hitting a line drive out to center with two on and two down, Kevin Kiermaier made up for a bad break with an unreal diving catch.
The really disappointing thing is what the Red Sox wasted with their inability to score. Clay Buchholz was pretty phenomenal tonight. Given the sudden collapses of Wade Miiley and Justin Masterson in the middle innings this past week or so, and Buchholz' own disaster game against New York, whenever something goes wrong for Buchholz--or, really, any starting pitcher--on the mound, there's a certain amount of panic that sets in.
But Buchholz didn't collapse. He gave up a leadoff double to Evan Longoria in the second, but limited the damage to one run. And a few long at bats kept him from going into the seventh. But when a Red Sox starter produces six innings of one-run baseball, striking out ten batters in the process, it's a game the Red Sox should probably be winning.
Instead, the bottom of the ninth came around, it was still 1-1, and the Rays did what the Red Sox couldn't: put together a few hits. It was just a couple ground balls and a flare to right--though the grounder that got by Pablo Sandoval for the walkoff was scalded--but it turns out if you contain those all to a single inning and don't manage to run into any outs on the bases, that's enough.
The Red Sox are probably going to hit at some point. They've got too much talent not to, and are seeing too many likely hits turn into outs not too. They might not score that many more runs on average if those errors go away, but they were scoring enough runs up until this week to win anyways, so who cares?
Tonight, though, they didn't really need that much. Just enough to get Koji Uehara into the game. But they could never get that fourth hit, or more importantly that second run. And whether the pitching staff is going to be good, decent, or a total disaster, they can't afford to lose games when their starting pitcher strikes out ten and allows one run. Not in September, and not in April.