As the Red Sox played at Great American Ball Park in front of just over 13,000 fans on Wednesday evening to see the lowly Reds improve to 59-91, there was another AL East vs NL Central matchup finishing up on MLB TV. A crowd of 46,175 stood for every pitch thrown by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the eighth, as they willed the bottom of the Yankee order to turn that lineup over one more time with the hopes of seeing Aaron Judge stroll to the plate for another chance at history. Judge walked on four pitches while the crowd booed mercilessly, stuck on 60 home runs for the night, and the Yankees won 14-2.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this mediocre-at-best Red Sox roster, playing out the string, would be prepared for the madhouse they’d be walking into for a four-game weekend series. With three of those four games on national television, the majority of that national audience isn’t tuning in to see you, but rather that 6’7’’, 282 lb., free-agent-to-be, gentle giant in the other dugout. The hope would be to see some positive signs out of the young guys with some experience playing in big games in September to be prepared for 2023 and beyond while seeing some pride out of the veteran pitchers against Judge to break that record somewhere else.
On Thursday night, the Red Sox went down to the Yankees in the fifth inning, crawled back from three runs down, before losing 5 to 4 in extra innings. On Friday night, the Red Sox went down again in the fifth inning, crawled back again from three runs down, and lost again 5 to 4. This time, it was an eighth-inning single off the bat of Jose Trevino to hand Matt Strahm the loss and give New York their second straight win to open the series, and fifth straight win overall. Neither Michael Wacha nor Rich Hill allowed a hit to Aaron Judge, who is 1-for-6 (a single) with three walks in the series thus far, but the Red Sox have now lost three straight and sit at 72-78 with 12 games to play.
The good news is there have been a few positive signs from the kids over these two nights. On Thursday night, Triston Casas hit his third home run of the season and Reese McGuire stepped up with a pinch-hit three-run, go-ahead home run a few batters later. On Friday, it was Casas again who looked like a polished hitter under the bright lights. He worked a seven-pitch leadoff walk against Gerrit Cole in the fifth inning, led off the seventh with another walk, and then stepped up and ripped a single into right field with one out in the ninth inning to get the tying run into scoring position. Rookie reliever Zack Kelly continued his hot start with a shutout inning and fellow rookie Kaleb Ort bounced back after suffering the loss the previous night also to throw a shutout inning in relief of Hill.
As we test out a new idea in some of the game recaps at Over The Monster, we will be looking at Fangraphs’ Win Probability Added (WPA) metric, outlined in detail here. In short, WPA keeps a running tally throughout each plate appearance of how each player contributes to their team’s odds of winning, both positively and negatively. A clutch hit that increases a team’s probability of winning will add to the batter’s WPA while subtracting from the pitcher’s WPA.
WPA is not subjective in any way, so I’ll give my Three Stars of the game to start and see how it compares to the algorithm. The First Star has to be Alex Verdugo for his three-run, two-out home run to tie the game in the 6th inning. After taking a two-strike pitch that was a millimeter out of the strike zone, Verdugo homered, and Gerrit Cole and Aaron Boone were both ejected moments later. I didn’t blame Cole for getting run; he was probably done for the night anyways and, “I gotta have it.” For the Second Star, I’ll roll with Tristan Casas who, as mentioned, was on base in three of his four key plate appearances. The Third Star might have gone to Tommy Pham for his first-inning solo home run but he gave that back with two of the worst throws from the outfield in modern baseball history in the 5th inning. I’ll instead go with Kaleb Ort who struck out both Aaron Hicks (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs) and Giancarlo Stanton in his shutout 7th inning while keeping Judge in the yard.
Let’s see how WPA saw it. (Fangraphs Link)
Game 150, September 23: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4
1) Alex Verdugo (.253 WPA). 2-4, HR, 3 RBI
2) Triston Casas (.197). 1-2, 2 BB, K
3) Kaleb Ort (.085). 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K.
1) Reese McGuire (-.262 WPA): 0-4, 1 K.
2) Matt Strahm (-.243): 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.
3) Rich Hill (-.224):5 IP. 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and two runners on in the top of the sixth and the Red Sox down 4-1, Alex Verdugo hit a three-run home run off of Gerrit Cole to tie the game. (WPA: .322)
Who was the Red Sox Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (suggest in the comments)
Up Next: Game Three of the four-game set is at 1:05 today (NESN, MLB Network). Nick Pivetta toes the rubber (10-11, 4.35) against Domingo German (2-3, 3.12).