Boston Red Sox: Thoughts on the team’s extra inning dominance

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18: Christian Vazquez
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18: Christian Vazquez /

The Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-8 in 11 innings last night, their 14th extra inning win of the season.

Have you ever felt like a 9 inning baseball game is short? Neither have I. That is, not until watching the Boston Red Sox play 17 extra inning games in a season (so far).

With their win last night, the Red Sox improved their extra innings record to 14-3, and climbed up to 3 games ahead in the AL East.

In 2017, the Red Sox are first among all teams in extra innings runs per game. This comes as no surprise seeing as they’ve had so many opportunities. What’s even more important is that the Red Sox are only giving up .05 extra innings runs per game, good for 4th (tied) in the MLB.

Praise the Pen

The Boston Red Sox bullpen has been phenomenal in extra inning games this season. This is reflected in the 14-3 extra innings record, but there’s more to it.

It all starts with Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel serves as the bridge to extra innings, as he’s held opposing batters to a .135 average in the 9th or later, striking out 113 batters in his 61.1 innings pitched. If you find yourself in the box against Kimbrel, pray for a walk.

After Kimbrel, the Red Sox have used a plethora of guys out of the pen. In the 9th inning or later, Blaine Boyer and Joe Kelly have thrown 11 innings each, and have held the opposition to .088 and .057 averages, respectively. They’ve combined for an ERA of 0.00 in these late innings.

Joining the under 3.00 ERA club in the late innings are Brandon Workman and Fernando Abad, both of whom have pitched over 12 such innings.

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The Red Sox have a number of pitchers who have thrown few innings, but in extras it seems as though they always come through. Hell, Mitch Moreland has a 0.00 ERA in extras with 1 full inning under his belt.

With Carson Smith’s weird arm action back in the mix, expect the bullpen to post even better numbers than before. They call Smith’s fastball the Magic Eye because at first you can’t see anything but once you focus in it pops out towards you.

Early Issues

One of my favorite quotes in movie history is from Forrest Gump, who said “the Red Sox starters are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Spot on Forrest. Spot on.

The Sox only have 2 starting pitchers under the 4.00 ERA mark in Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, while Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Doug Fister hover in the 4-5 ERA range.

Related Story: Chris Sale’s striking out players at historic rate

Sale, our undisputed #1, has been struggling lately, with a 4.5 ERA over his last 4 starts, and his starts only going an average of 6.1 innings. The strikeout numbers have stayed steady, but this is not the Chris Sale we’ve grown accustomed to. He will have to get back in form for the playoffs or the Red Sox are in bad shape.

Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is unhappy after allowing a home run. /

Eduardo Rodriguez has good stuff but throws way too many pitches. He strikes out an impressive 10 batters per 9 innings pitched, but his average start is under 6 innings. As a starter, the Boston Red Sox need more.

Doug Fister had been pitching well lately, up until last night. He went only 2 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on 4 hits and 5 walks. I would elaborate but those numbers speak for themselves. Abysmal. I’ve already voiced my opinion on Rick Porcello, so don’t get me started.

All in all, the Red Sox have some clear problems at starting pitcher. These are problems that can only be solved internally, as the pitchers have to make the necessary adjustments. I hope Carl Willis has his big boy boots on, because the Sox need some coaching.

What else can I say?

It’s 12:45am on a Tuesday morning as I write this thanks to the rebellious Boston Red Sox who love staying up past their bedtimes. With no particular rhyme or reason, here are some of my thoughts on the Red Sox offense and defense.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has done it again. Every day he’s in the field he does something that makes me question whether his arm was genetically engineered in a laboratory. After I finish writing this post, I’ll watch JBJ throws until I fall asleep.

Mookie Betts is back baby. I can feel it. He’s been heating up over the past two weeks, and he’s starting to look like the 2016 Mookie Monster we’ve been waiting for. His newly found comfort at the plate has been speaking for itself, as Mookie had 2 more hits and 4 RBIs last night.

Christian Vazquez is swinging a tennis racket right now. He couldn’t miss the barrel if he tried. His impressive season continued last night with a 2-4 performance. Vazquez needs to be in the Red Sox lineup every day.

Rafael Devers has showcased his defensive disabilities lately, and I’m starting to understand why scouts didn’t think he was ready for the show. He’s been producing consistently for the Red Sox on offense, but he needs to slow the game down on defense. Errors are not worth a .289 hitter in the 7-hole.

Next: Mr. Clutch: Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi delivers big hit in Baltimore

Well, there you have it. The Boston Red Sox have won another extra inning game due mostly to the efficiency of the bullpen. I couldn’t be more confident in the Red Sox abilities to win extra inning games, but getting there makes me nervous. Let’s practice winning in 9.