Red Sox base running gaffes bite them in loss

Red Sox base running gaffes bite them in loss
July 6, 2014, 9:00 pm
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BOSTON -- In the ninth inning of a tied game against the Orioles, Dustin Pedroia ran the bases like a desperate man. 

A loss would put his team at 10 games under .500 (39-49) and another step closer to the bottom of the AL East. He was going to do whatever he could to make sure the Red Sox staved off another disparaging close-game defeat.

After singling with one out in the ninth and David Ortiz at the plate, Pedroia took off for second. As he slid head-first into the bag, Baltimore catcher Caleb Joseph's throw landed securely in the glove of shorstop JJ Hardy and Pedroia was called out.

Red Sox manager John Farrell challenged the call, but it was upheld.

Ortiz walked with two outs and Mike Napoli struck out to end the inning. Any potential rally started by Pedroia had been squelched by his aggressiveness.

"Trying to score runs," Pedroia said of the reasoning behind his attempt. "Playing passive on the bases all year. Just trying to score, man. They walk David, whatever. I'm trying to get into scoring position and win a game. That's it."

“In that situation Pedey probably slid a little bit early," manager John Farrell said. "I think, in that situation, we’re trying to be aggressive, trying to add 90 feet. We had a key on [Brad] Brach, the pitcher on the mound at the time. Unfortunately we came up a half a hand short.”

Ortiz had the same mindset as Pedroia three innings later.

In the bottom of the 12th inning with one out, he sliced a Zach Britton pitch into the left-field corner. As he rounded first, he appeared to hesitate for a split second -- though he said afterward he did not -- and then tried to stretch his hit for a double. A perfect throw from David Lough was there in plenty of time to cut down Ortiz, who was out by a wide enough margin that he did not slide.

One batter later, Napoli struck out to end the game. The Red Sox lost, 7-6. 

"Trying to get closer to the plate, man," Ortiz said. "With a ball close to the line, was just going for it and the guy makes a nice play. What can you do? Gotta make things happen."

"I’m not going to fault him for an aggressive effort," Farrell said of Ortiz. "He gave everything he had trying to stretch that base hit to a double.”

Farrell added: "We’re always going to err on the side of aggressiveness. We feel that more times than not that creates an image or an attitude in which we play with and hopefully creates opportunities that we can take advantage of.”

There has been talk -- both from players and from their manager -- that the team's offensive woes this season have forced them to press at times in the batter's box. But on Sunday, their two unequivocal leaders seemed to press on the base paths.

Over the course of the season, Farrell admitted, they have run into more outs than they had at this point last year. Throughout their World Series run, the Red Sox made it clear that their overall aggressiveness -- including on the bases -- would be their hallmark. They followed through with one of the highest successful stolen base percentages in the history of the game.

"The success rate on the base paths hasn’t been equivalent to what it was a year ago . . . That’s going to be a little bit harder to reproduce," Farrell said. "Some of the personnel has changed as a result. Our success rate needs to improve."

But as the losses pile up, players may feel as though they're forced to take chances they otherwise wouldn't.

Ortiz insisted he was thinking about trying for second as soon as he made contact in the 12th inning. But had he a more potent lineup hitting behind him, would he have made the same decision? Or did he feel as though it was on him to go above and beyond in order for his team to have a chance to win?

"I was trying to win the game," he said.