BOSTON – The Red Sox offensive production has not been a secret this season. They lead the majors with 91 wins, and entered Saturday’s game against the Yankees at Fenway Park leading the majors with 777 runs scored, tied for the major league lead with 23 home runs in September.
On Saturday, though, did they unveil a secret weapon? Before that game they had never employed a sacrifice bunt more than once in a game in the season’s first 149 games. The idea of giving away outs has been anathema to the organization.
In the first three innings against the Yankees Saturday afternoon, though, the Red Sox employed a sacrifice bunt twice against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Both times it led to runs. It was the most sacrifice bunts in a game since also having two on June 19, 2012, against the Marlins.
In the second inning, with no outs and Mike Napoli on second and Jonny Gomes on first, Daniel Nava’s bunt advanced both runners, with Napoli scoring the game's first run on Will Middlebrooks’ groundout.
With no outs in the third, Shane Victorino bunted Dustin Pedroia, who singled, over to second, with Pedroia scoring on David Ortiz’s double. That run would prove to be the difference in the Sox 5-1 win.
“Early on there was just a couple of situations that presented themselves to move a couple of base runners up,” said manager John Farrell.
“It might not be that characteristic of the way we’ve approached things offensively but felt like the remaining part of this month, if there are situations we can look to do some things a little bit different, we’ll take advantage of doing that.”
Victorino’s bunt matched his career-high ninth sacrifice of the season, giving him the team lead. Since 2000 only one Sox batter has had more - Darnell McDonald in 2010, with 12. In that same span, only Coco Crisp in 2007, with 9, has had as many as Victorino.
“We're not going to be able to score 10 runs all the time,” said Napoli. “Sometimes we got to manufacture runs. We did that early today. It just shows that we can do different things, not just bashing. We can get guys over with less than two outs and get guys in. We've got a good offense.”
The Sox’ 114 stolen bases – including Victorino’s in the sixth inning Saturday, his 21st of the season -- are third in the American League, behind only Kansas City’s 141 and Texas’ 122. They lead the league getting caught the fewest times, 19, for a whopping 86 percent success rate.
While much of that can be attributed to Jacoby Ellsbury, with 52 steals and 4 times caught for a 93 percent success rate, Victorino (21/3/88%), and Dustin Pedroia (17/5/77%), 10 other players also have at least one stolen base.
So, perhaps the Sox will be adding more bunts to their arsenal for the rest of the regular season in preparation for post-season play – and World Series play against a National League team?
“Well, today dictated,” said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “We had a couple of situations that came up, and we did it. So was it our style? I don’t know. It’s good to have it down there, have it on the agenda, knowing that we can do that, that it’s in the tank. So I think it was important for us to do things like that. But just different styles and the game will dictate different things.”
It will also give other teams more to think about as they attempt to prepare their defensive strategies against the Sox.
“Yeah, the game will dictate whether we need to bunt or try to bunt,” Colbrunn said. “But if we can execute -- as long as we execute -- we tried to bunt a few times over the course of the season. But this just puts another wrinkle into things for when other teams are preparing for us or anything like that: “Hey, they will do this, they might do this.” We just try to create the unpredictableness.”
* From the All-Star break through Aug. 5, the Sox were 4-4 in games started by left-handed opposing pitchers, including a stretch of going 2-3. Since Aug. 21, though, they are 10-0 when facing a left-handed starter.
* The Sox have the best record in the majors, at 91-59, with a winning percentage of .607. They are a season-high 32 games above .500, their most games over .500 since ending the 2004 season at 98-64
* With the win the Sox have now won an MLB-best 32 series this season, including their last eight. The last time they won eight straight series was 1995.
* They are 12-6 against the Yankees this season, with the season-series finale on Sunday night.
* Jonny Gomes went 2-for-2 with a double, RBI, and two walks, reaching safely in all four plate appearances. He has driven in 16 runs in his last 21 games (16 starts). He singled in a run in the 3rd inning, and is now 13-for-32 (.406) with 21 RBI with runners in scoring position since the start of August.
* Shane Victorino has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, batting .313 , going 10-for-32, after going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI on Saturday. In that stretch, five of his 10 hits been for extra bases, with three doubles and two home runs.
* The Yanks had just three hits in the game, their lowest total since being held to two hits on July 27 against the Rays. It is the seventh time this season they have been held to three or fewer hits.