The Boston Red Sox possess one of the most prolific power-hitting teams in the major leagues, but their slugging prowess was noticeably absent from their most recent game. The absence of extra-base hits proved to be no big matter, however, as the Red Sox offense scrapped together enough positive plays to prevail over the Chicago White Sox in a 4-3 game.
Unable to hit their way on base to any significantly productive degree, the Red Sox hitters took another approach that ended up being fairly successful. No offense can score runs without first putting players on base, and the Red Sox hitters took that to heart during Friday’s contest. To make up for the fact they only gathered six hits in the contest, although they did get half of them when it mattered most, the Red Sox negotiated seven walks and even benefited from a hit batter, leading to their posting of an impressive .368 on-base percentage despite only amassing a .200 batting average.
Utilizing less physically impressive, but no less valuable, ways to get on base most greatly benefited the Red Sox during the third inning as the offense had just one hit during the inning, but put four men on base. With Victorino on first base and two outs in the inning, David Ortiz drew a walk, Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch, and then Mike Napoli drew another walk to score Victorino. Only one hit may have factored into the run-scoring equation, but the Red Sox still took a 1-0 lead and a win expectancy of 61.4 percent by the end of the inning.
A walk by Will Middlebrooks also helped set the table in the fourth inning, but was not so directly responsible for runs scoring as the walks in the third inning. For the fourth inning, the Red Sox offense was able to string together those elusive hits and have at least one productive inning driven by hits; it proved to be enough. With two outs in the inning and Will Middlebrooks on third base following his walk, stolen base, and being moved over by Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz hit safely in three straight plate appearances to boost the Red Sox lead to 4-0. The series of events proved to be the least meaningful offensive contribution in the contest.
Still, for as much as the Red Sox offense struggled for most of the game, the Red Sox pitchers made sure the White Sox struggled even more. Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster held the White Sox without a hit for the first four innings, keeping the White Sox from tasting much success. Dempster ended up faltering, or regressing to the mean, in the fifth and seventh innings and was eventually charged with allowing three earned runs in 6.3 innings, but considering his ability level, Dempster pitched about as well as could be expected; it should be noted that Dempster only was directly involved in conceding two runs and that relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa allowed a base runner he inherited from Dempster to score the third White Sox run of the game.
After those few pitching hiccups, the Red Sox bullpen combined to pitch perfect eighth and ninth innings to preserve the team’s one-run lead.
The win on Friday extended the brilliant run the Red Sox have been on over the past couple of weeks. Recovering from a slow start to August, the Red Sox have gone 8-4 since August 17 to put their month’s winning percentage over .500. The Red Sox have yet to have a losing month, and August will be no exception.