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October 4, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game One Recap: Red Sox 12, Rays 2

by Zachary Levine

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“Myers” was the name they chanted, because it was easy. It’s two syllables, and that’s a good place to start. And Wil Myers had the most embarrassing play of the Devil Rays’ brief and sudden return to existence in the fourth inning Friday.

He went back on a loud but ordinary David Ortiz fly ball, heard footsteps from Desmond Jennings, and let it drop. Before too long—or after an eternity to Myers – the Red Sox had turned a two-run deficit into a three-run lead and were on the way to a 12-2 bludgeoning in Game 1 of their Division Series at Fenway Park.

It’s easy to put Myers on the hook for that five-run explosion, but the defense all around was atrocious, and Matt Moore was hit around a bit by the league’s best offense, which has been known to do this from time to time. You can actually come up with just how much of this was Myers.

Had Myers been able to make the routine catch, the Red Sox would have had a runner on first and one out, which according to our run expectancy matrix results in .4934 runs per inning. Drop it, and it’s 1.866 runs expected with second and third with no outs, a difference of about 1.37 runs. Granted, that’s for an average lineup and situation, which doesn’t describe the Red Sox order in a playoff game at Fenway Park.

Jonny Gomes doubled off the Green Monster to tie the game, and the rest—what turned Myers’ 1.37-run mistake and expectancy of maybe a tie into a near-certain loss—was some old-fashioned Devil Rays baseball. There was an inability to get an out at first on a roller to the right side. There was a misplay by Sean Rodriguez off the Monster. There was a Jose Lobaton passed ball that continued the inning after a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury.

For Gomes, who was intentionally walked as the Red Sox batted around again one inning later and chased Moore, it was a first playoff hit in his ninth plate appearance.

John Farrell had a decision to make with the right-handed-hitting Jonny Gomes and switch-hitter Daniel Nava and appears to have picked right, sitting the overall superior performer in Nava for Gomes, who is steadier against lefties. Gomes will start again Saturday against David Price and could get three cracks at the Green Monster this series with Tampa Bay starting lefties in all three games at Fenway.

There was some doubt as to whether it would be Moore again or Price if the series were to go to five, but after Moore’s outcome in Game 1, something shocking would have to happen to Price for it even to be a question.

Even before things got bad, even while he still carried a no-hitter into that fateful and forgettable fourth, Moore was teetering. His first two scoreless innings were each 21 pitches long and featured a walk, a hit batter, and a wild pitch, and while he was never really bad, he wasn’t putting hitters away and was susceptible to some lousy fortune on batted balls.

Meanwhile, Jon Lester was remarkably efficient, even for giving up two runs early as a result of home runs. He started the game blazing, combining a fastball that was consistently 96 with a cutter at 92-93 to strike out the side in the first, culminating in blowing 97 by Myers on the last pitch.

He went fastball heavy again in the second, again with good velocity—Brooks Baseball had him at an average of 94.6 mph on the four-seamer and topping out at 97.5—and Farrell believes that’s what made the rest of the night. Overall, his first 19 pitches were fastball varieties.

“We’ve seen a number of starts in the second half where once he settles in and he creates such good rhythm—that rhythm and balance in his delivery is what allows him to sustain that power throughout when he’s out there,” Farrell said. “It’s made his cutter more effective. His changeup got some swings and misses because of increased velocity to his fastball. He was in a good place today.”

Here’s how he transitioned over the course of the game:

Pitch type

Innings 1-2

Innings 3-8

Fastballs
(4-seam, 2-seam, cut)

28

63

Curveballs

0

11

Changeups

4

8


“I felt like I had a good cutter early on,” said Lester, noting that the pattern was more by feel than design. “Lost in in the middle innings and then found it toward the end.”

He was removed to a standing ovation after 7 2/3 innings and 114 pitches. Even if he has to pitch a Game 5 back at Fenway, he’ll have an extra day of rest given the travel days. He should be more than good to go if the Rays can re-exorcise the Devil, beat two out of three of John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Jake Peavy, and get there.

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  Boston Red Sox,  Wil Myers,  Tampa Bay Rays

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