For all intents and purposes, the regular season of the Boston Red Sox ended on Saturday night with a 6-5 defeat to their division rival, the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, the Red Sox will be required to play their 162nd contest of the season Sunday afternoon, but both of the outcomes that were in doubt when their final series of the season began have been resolved. With the Oakland A’s losing to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, the Red Sox clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Additionally, with the Red Sox loss, the Orioles won the season series against the best team in the major leagues.
Even though the one-run margin of victory suggests the game was hotly contested, the Red Sox were really only in control of the game for an inning and a half. Entering the seventh inning, the Red Sox were losing 4-3 and held a win expectancy of just 31.0 percent, but were able to almost reverse the probabilities by scoring two runs to take a 5-4 lead. Jonny Gomes hit an RBI single to score one of the runs, and Dustin Pedroia scored on an error after Daniel Nava’s single to score the second, giving the Red Sox a win expectancy of 65.9 percent. Those were the last ones the Red Sox would score in the game.
Given the first crack at protecting the lead was reliever Junichi Tazawa, who acquitted himself well by retiring all three of the batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tasked with pitching a second inning, Tazawa quickly lost all semblance of pitching efficacy, surrendering singles to the first, and only, two batters he faced in the eighth inning.
Called upon to pitch with runners on first and second bases and no outs, reliever Franklin Morales was not horrible, but he did make a very costly mistake. After striking out the first batter he faced, Morales gave up a two-RBI double to Steve Pearce, which gave the Orioles a 6-5 lead.
Joining the very disappointing pitching of Tazawa and Franklin Morales, or rather starting the trend of mediocre pitching, was starting pitcher Jon Lester, who looked nothing like the player who has thrown so brilliantly in the second half of the season. Lester walked two batters, gave up 9 hits including one home run and one double, and allowed four runs in 5.0 innings. His pitching was the main reason why the Red Sox were behind for most of the game and why the bullpen was called upon to get so many outs.
No matter, though. Despite the loss, the Red Sox will still be entering the postseason as one of the frontrunners to win the World Series with the Detroit Tigers edging them out as the top frontrunner. One would assume that is more important to them than whether or not they lost the 161st game of the season.