Boston Red Sox fans can cry all they want about the pitching, but the stone-cold bats with runners in scoring position cost them the 2016 ALDS.
Last night’s loss went to Clay Buchholz, but don’t anyone dare point the finger at him. Buchholz went four innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits, a walk, and four strikeouts. It wasn’t until that fourth inning that the Cleveland Indians drew first blood. One would be better off blaming Drew Pomeranz, who came in to relieve Buchholz only to cough up a two-run homer to Coco Crisp, allowing the one run that cost the Red Sox the American League Division Series in just 1.1 innings of work. Even then, the blame can’t be much for Pomeranz either.
In fact, not one person can be blamed for the Red Sox finding themselves out of the postseason; it’s an entire team with the filthy finger pointed at them.
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The offense that was ranked first in the majors for the regular season in batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.348), slugging (.461), doubles (343), runs (878), and RBIs (836) looked like their bats were locked up in a freezer for the last three playoff games. Boston posted a .283 batting average and scored 601 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season, propelling them to win the A.L. East division title. However, out of the 10 teams that made this year’s playoffs, Boston was ranked eighth in runs scored and RBIs (4), sixth in batting average (.200), fifth in OBP (.257), and ninth in batting average with runners in scoring position (.143).
In their final game this year, the Red Sox continued the trend from the first two games against Cleveland, having more base runners but not cashing them. Boston went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving eight runners in total on base; the Indians went 2-for-6 and left five runners on base.
Every time that the Red Sox looked to break the lid open on a flood of runs, the dam would solidify over them. In the bottom of the sixth inning, after David Ortiz‘s sacrifice fly scored the team’s second run, a Hanley Ramirez strikeout would end the threat with Mookie Betts desperately looking to score. When Chris Young walked in the seventh inning, two quick outs from Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. quashed that chance. After Ramirez redeemed himself, scoring Betts on a single and moving Ortiz to second, the eighth inning looked like Boston’s frame to make the comeback complete, until Xander Bogaerts lined out to end that chance.
Despite all of that itching and clawing back to a one-run deficit, the Red Sox still had a chance in the bottom of the ninth. Almost poetically, Travis Shaw had the game on his bat with two outs and two men on base.
Shaw had replaced Pablo Sandoval at third base earlier in the season, when the three-time World Series champion seemed to be a bust of a free agent signing. An injury furthered Shaw’s entrance into the spotlight, only for him to struggle at the plate. Shaw hit just .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs for the year, while Sandoval hit .245 the season before.
All of that would be wiped out if Shaw could just make a hit in the ninth, last night. Instead, Shaw flied out for an easy catch by Cleveland’s right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. The final out made it the final game for the Red Sox in 2016 and the final game ever for Ortiz, as he officially was to retire once the postseason was over for Boston.
That’s not all on Shaw’s shoulders, nor any one man on the Red Sox roster. From the pitching rotation, the bullpen, the hitters, and the coaching staff, this series loss is on all of them. Not to condemn them, nor to take anything away from Cleveland’s solid play either. Simply put: Cleveland capitalized on a bit more of their chances than Boston did. The Red Sox did very well to make themselves relevant again, after being in the A.L. East division basement for two years; however, all that Red Sox Nation can do is see that stat for runners in scoring position and dream about what might have been for Big Papi’s big sendoff.