By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com
Last night, two events occurred almost simultaneously in the eighth innings in Boston and in New York, and the ways the events unfolded tell the story of the season.
In Boston, tiring ace Josh Beckett was on the mound for the home team facing the pesky Baltimore Orioles. The score was tied 4-4. After getting the first out, J.J. Hardy singled, and then Nick Markakis hit a ground rule double to put runners on second and third. Before the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero could come to the plate, oft-used reliever Alfredo Aceves came into the game.
Meanwhile in New York, tiring ace CC Sabathia was on the mound for the home team facing the relentless Tampa Bay Rays. The score was tied 2-2. After getting the first out, Desmond Jennings singled, B.J. Upton hit an infield single, and then, after an eight-pitch at bat, the dangerous Evan Longoria walked to load the bases. At this point, oft-used reliever David Robertson came into the game.
Two pretty similar situations: eighth inning of a tie game, second and third and one out versus bases filled and one out. Its what happened next that was the tipping point.
In Boston, the Red Sox brought the infield in and Guerrero took a strike before he singled up the middle driving home two. Matt Wieters then lined into a double play, but the damage had been done. Going to the bottom of the 8th, the Orioles led, 6-4.
In New York, the Yankees were at double play depth and on the first pitch Ben Zobrist hit a grounder to second that was quickly turned into a 4-6-3 double play, and no damage had been done. Going to the bottom of the eighth, the score remained tied, 2-2.
In Boston, the deflated Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth and ninth and lost 6-4. The clubhouse was gloomy after the game.
In New York, the elated Yankees scored a pair in the 8th and won 4-2. The clubhouse had a postgame celebration as the team had clinched the AL East title.
Games and seasons are often a series of tipping points and we saw the reality of the results going in opposite directions last night. I will let you argue amongst yourselves if you think that Terry Francona should have walked Guerrero in that situation last night. According to the Boston Globes Pete Abraham, Aceves was told to throw pitches off the plate against the free-swinging Guerrero and he left a pitch right over the middle. We all know that its a lot easier to walk a guy like Guerrero when you call for an intentional walk. Because what happened to the Sox was even more deflating. Maureen Mullen on CSNNE.com quotes Francona, Losings hard anyway, but when you lose with the guys you rely on it's tough."
What Tito is referring to is the price a team pays for when a relief allows inherited runners to score. This IRS is the kind of tax that keeps John Boehner up at night. It has a debilitating effect on the pitcher who was relieved, the pitcher who allowed the runs to score, and the team in general. And this has now happened two nights in a row. Tuesday night, in the eighth inning Jonathan Papelbon came in and allowed two runners he inherited from Daniel Bard, and one of his own, to score and the Sox lost 7-5. Last night, Aceves in the eighth allowed two inherited runners to score in the 8th and they lost 6-4.
The IRS has been a season-long taxing problem for the Sox. Here are some examples:
Scott Atchison has allowed 4 of 8 runners to score - 50
Jonathan Papelbon has allowed 3 of 7 runners to score - 43
Alfredo Aceves has allowed 10 of 26 runners to score - 38
Franklin Morales has allowed 6 of 16 runners to score - 38
Dan Wheeler has allowed 6 of 17 runners to score - 35
Felix Doubront has allowed 3 of 9 runners to score - 33
Daniel Bard has allowed 5 of 34 runners to score - 15
Overall, the AL average is 30 percent and the Sox have allowed 29.5 percent of all inherited runners to score. Average is not good enough if you are postseason team.
The problem is, of course, this teams starters have had an inability to go deep all season long. Here is the average numbers of innings pitched per games started for members of the rotation:
Josh Beckett - 6.5
Jon Lester - 6.3
Tim Wakefield - 6.1
Clay Buchholz - 5.9
John Lackey - 5.7
Alfredo Aceves - 5.3
Erik Bedard - 5.0
Andrew Miller - 4.9
Kyle Weiland - 4.3
American League starters average 6.1 innings per start but the Sox starters average only 5.8 which puts more pressure on the bullpen and more opportunities for inherited runners to score.
What makes last nights loss particularly difficult is that Beckett is this teams stopper and the Sox need to win games in which he starts. Here is the record of the team in games started by members of the rotation:
Josh Beckett - 20-9 .690
Clay Buchholz - 9-5 .643
Jon Lester 16-13 .552
Tim Wakefield 12-10 .545
John Lackey 13-14 .481
Erik Bedard 3-4 .429
Alfredo Aceves 1-3 .250
Kyle Weiland 1-4 .200
The pitching situation has been ugly all season long and the problems only are magnified in September when the hitters are simply exhausted from carrying the the team on its back. To put a positive spin on things, the Rays have lost three to the Yankees and the Sox will not lose tonightguaranteed.
I say it every year starting in April, Damn IRS!