David Price went the distance for the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night, allowing just two runs. The only problem: the distance was just eight innings, as in that same period of time, Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco bullpen allowed just the one.
Well, what can you really say about this one? Boston's ace mostly lived up to that title today. He allowed just three hits in his eight innings of work, and walked just two more. The problem: two of those three hits left the park. In the fourth inning, just after the Red Sox had scored their one and only run of the night on a Chris Young homer, Price hung a curveball to Brandon Belt. In this park, against this lineup, there are some batters you can afford to do that against, but Belt is not one. A mighty hack sent Price's weak offering into the water, squandering the recently-gained lead.
The Red Sox would actually manage to get into San Francisco's bullpen after just six innings, forcing San Francisco's ace to throw 101 pitches to record 18 outs. That did leave them with something of a chance over the last few frames. But the Sox wasted a leadoff infield single from Young in the seventh, and after a 1-2-3 eighth, it was an unexpected source breaking up the tie. Mac Williamson, a 25-year-old outfielder once drafted by the Red Sox and seeing just his 21st game in the majors jumped on the first-pitch cutter Price offered him in the eighth. It was far from a no-doubter, but the high fly ball just kept going to left, clearing the wall even as Chris Young made a desperate, vain attempt to pull it in.
Much will be made, I'm sure, of the half-inning to come. The same man who had just put the Giants ahead gave the Red Sox a chance to tie things in the ninth when he botched a Hanley Ramirez fly ball to give them a leadoff baserunner. Jackie Bradley Jr. was called out on two strikes a decent ways off the plate, which would have brought the red-hot Chris Young to the plate, but instead saw David Ortiz come in with first base open.
The argument will be made by no few that Young should never have been pulled. That John Farrell should have saved his bullet for Travis Shaw or Marco Hernandez to come. It's true that Young has been on fire of late. He's even hitting righties right now. But looking at that performance over, say, the last three years will show that it's not something that can be relied on, and Santiago Casilla is himself a man with fairly nasty splits against right-handed hitters, allowing just a .612 OPS against them.
The reality is that bringing in David Ortiz forced Bruce Bochy to make a move to Javier Lopez. It also resulted in a walk rather than the out that, realistically, seemed entirely likely if Young had faced Cassila. If there's a mistake to be found here, it's perhaps letting Travis Shaw bat behind him against the tough Lopez, and using Rusney Castillo as a pinch-runner for Ortiz rather than a pinch-hitter for Shaw. But Shaw stepped in, and struck out on four pitches. And frankly, if Castillo had taken the plate, chances are the Sox don't see Lopez pitch that at-bat anyways.
That did leave the Red Sox with a decent chance at the end, as the Giants elected to go with RHP Hunter Strickland against Marco Hernandez. Ultimately, pinch-hitting for Young let the Red Sox avoid one bad matchup, and forced the Giants to bring two other pitchers into the game, which introduces inherent risk that any one of them might not have it that night. But tonight, Lopez and Strickland both rose to the occasion. Hernandez grounded out, and that was that.
Not the outcome that Red Sox fans hoped for, no. But also not one they can be truly surprised by. Madison Bumgarner simply carried the day. Teams don't win many games where they score just one run all night, and that tends to happen with some regularity when he's the man on the mound.