54%. That’s the expected winning percentage the Red Sox had with one out in the bottom of ninth inning against the Yankees earlier in the afternoon after Clay Holmes gave up three consecutive walks to load the bases. This is even after Nick Pivetta absolutely dealt for five innings, striking out ten, and fell apart in the sixth inning, giving up the lead in the process. Sadly, Alex Verdugo saw something he liked on Holmes’s first pitch, and the ball careened into a double play. Womp womp. Game over. It’s about how this season’s been going, with the Red Sox finding innovative ways to lose in the most improbable of ways, and it’s probably why the Sox have found themselves battling for last place with these Yankees instead of for a Wild Card spot. By the way, these games have been two of the worst-attended Red Sox-Yankees games since the turn of the millennium. It’s crazy what lack of success can do.
Tuesday night’s second game of a double-header following Monday’s rain-out would feature Kutter Crawford facing off against Carlos Rodon. Despite Kutter Crawford’s huge positive trajectory in 2023 and Carlos Rodon falling off a cliff amidst nagging injuries, I’d be disingenuous if I said this didn’t look like a mismatch on paper. Hey, maybe it’s just the residual pessimism from this afternoon.
Luckily, this game started off more in Boston’s favor, as Ceddanne Rafaela torched a ball out of Fenway for his first Major League home run in the bottom of the first inning. Maybe he figured if he hit it past the monster, it would prevent some dork in the crowd from making a spectacle of himself in an effort to get a bitcoin or whatever out of a momentous ball. The ball was a no-doubter, which is the same amount of doubt I have about Rafaela, who’s been chipping away at the ball and notching some webgems, The Red Sox are looking for a fielder that can turn hits into outs and make secure decisions with the ball. Rafaela can be that guy, and he can probably be that guy wherever he plays. The bat, however aggressive, up to a point, is an added benefit.
While the offense was a bit stagnant save for Ceddanne’s solo shot, Kutter was using that namesake pitch to sit guys down, recording six strikeouts in the first four innings, which he got through in just 70 pitches. It sure seemed like a Red Sox pitcher would get to that hollowed five-inning benchmark for the second time in one day, but while he recorded another strikeout in the process, he took a few too many pitches to leave the fifth and allowed a run. That brought out Alex Cora to bring Josh Winckowski in. It’s frustrating that a guy gets pulled after allowing just one run, but when the bats are cold and you have a one run lead and Aaron Judge is coming up, you can’t take any chances. As it turned out, this is one of those times where Cora may have done the right thing. A couple pitches later, the inning was over.
That inning was, anyway. The next inning made that decision by Cora look a bit foolish, when the top of the lineup loaded the bases with no outs. Thirty pitches later, the Sox still had made zero outs. I began to have de ja vu of people giving me grief for applauding Cora’s decision in the fifth inning, as Jake Bauers placed a ball perfectly in the infield to allow the go-ahead run to score. Somehow, Winckowski got out of the inning without getting completely shelled, but the early lead had been lost, and the offense was too motionless to trust.
Cora Cora’d again in the seventh, after Brennan Bernardino quickly showed that tonight was not his night either, and in came Zack Weiss. Contrary to the last time Aaron Judge was coming up, this substitution of a 6+ ERA pitcher claimed off waivers, no matter which arm he throws with, seemed like a punt. Luckily, “All Rise” was sat down on strikes, and then three pitches later, Weiss struck out Gleyber Torres (even if one was a gift.) I will not retract my previous statement, though I am glad to be proven wrong.
Red Sox with RISP in today's doubleheader pic.twitter.com/jNpqCzc5df— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) September 13, 2023
Rafaela kept raking with a leadoff double, which brought Aaron Boone to make a Cora-like decision and bring in Anthony Misiewicz, a lefty quad-A pitcher with a 7+ ERA to face Refsn.... I mean Wilyer Abreu, who was pinch hitting for Rob Refsnyder, the lefty-killer, meaning, Cora out-Cora’d even a Cora-like decision, but I won’t hate on a decision to give one of these new call-ups some playing time. The rest of that inning was a masterclass in how to get a fanbase’s hopes up without anything of substance, as Triston Casas took for a walk and Adam Duvall dueled with Misiewicz all the way to a strikeout to end the inning and strand yet two more runners.
Cora may not have gotten the memo that this team wasn’t winning this game, so in came setup master Chris Martin, who Dave O’Brien announced hadn’t allowed a run in 15 appearances. It sure looked like that streaked was about to be snapped when Trevor Story and Connor Wong collaborated on another masterclass on how to not catch a runner stealing, before Wilyer Abreu saved the day with a laser from left field to home plate on Oswald Peraza’s base hit ball past third to gun down Isaiah Kiner-Filefa. There was a funny moment in the eighth, where Cora got out-Cora’d by Boone again by bringing in Rafael Devers to hit for Luis Urias, and Matt Bowman simply gave Devers an intentional walk. Bowman, who hadn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2019, looked like Justin Verlander out there against these bats, if Verlander gives up base hits to a struggling Trevor Story and then lets him reach second on a wild pitch, that is. Sure enough, though, Bowman would get out of the inning with the lead intact. If you’re keeping track, by the way, the Red Sox were 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position through eight innings. 0-for-16.
Cora, still not convinced we were losing this game in part due to his own decisions, was on a similar vibe as the meme above by putting our closer, Kenley Jansen, into a game we were down. A situation we wouldn’t be in with more secure decision making. I said this last week, but no “the bullpen is tired” will do here, with 18 innings of baseball to be played today and our starters going 10 giving up four runs total. Oh, by the way, Kenley had runners on first and third with no outs, before coming out with some sort of injury with the trainer to make way for.... Nick Robertson. Remember, Kenley Jansen, our closer, got injured in a non-save situation. Perhaps the second-most puzzling injury to happen to a player in a game a New York team played in just over 24 hours (except the Jets are from New Jersey) but this time, I know exactly who to place the blame on, and his name rhymes with Falex Fora.
And, because no team is as bad with runners in scoring position as the Red Sox, the Yankees used this debacle to turn this early-in-the-inning fortune into runs. Wait, teams can do that? In the bottom of the ninth, Wilyer Abreu got rung up on a strike three called that was probably about six inches outside because the umpire just wanted to go home. He feels the same pain we do. The Red Sox, surprise surprise, did not score any more runs.
The Red Sox and Yankees now share the same record. 73-72. For those of you predicting the Red Sox at .500, you’re just about right despite recent performance indicating something to the south of it. Good teams beat teams they should beat and and great teams beat teams they shouldn’t. The Red Sox are doing neither, especially in this stretch against teams they shouldn’t be beating, the Yankees perhaps looking the most beatable of the month save for Kansas City earlier in September. They are trudging along in a deeply flawed and failed season that has 17 games left to play, and 145 games in, this team doesn’t have much of an identity besides a team that can’t get it done. And, worst of all, the front office and manager don’t seem to care. Welcome back to a tie for last place, Boston. You’ve probably belonged here all along.
Ceddanne Rafaela: 2-5, HR, 2B, 1 RBI
Zack Weiss: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 2 K, including Aaron Judge.
Kutter Crawford: 4.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB
Connor Wong: 0-4, 2 K, some of the worst catching I have seen in some time
Adam Duvall: 0-4, 4 K. That’s 14 strikeouts in the last 4 games he’s played. With up-and-coming talent in the outfield on the Red Sox roster, he should be looking at some further reduced time for the rest of the month.
Kenley Jansen: 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 ER. I do hope he’s ok, though. He did not have it tonight.
The people doing a wave in the fifth inning of a 1-0 game while our starting pitcher was losing his edge in real time. If it’s not a blowout in favor of the home team, I’m not participating. Sorry. Have some awareness.
Alex Cora. Enough said.
Play of the Game
You know the drill. Anger-inducing, uninspired loss = no player of the game poll. This game started on the high note of Ceddanne Rafaela smoking a ball past the monster, and that’s my pick for play of the game, though the double looked good too. It’s a shame the rest of the team, and our manager, couldn’t draw some inspiration from a player that truly wants to win.