The Boston Red Sox, the best team in baseball at 21-7, lost to the Kansas City Royals, the worst team in the AL with a record of 7-21, last night in an extra innings battle filled with drama. It was an especially difficult loss to swallow as a fan, considering Boston had their ace, Chris Sale, on the mound to start the game, AND they trotted out All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel in the 9th with a 1-run lead, AND they were playing in the friendly environment of Fenway Park.
Look, this is baseball. There’s 162 games in a season, and very good teams (like the Sox) are going to lose games to very bad teams (like the Royals) sometimes. Furthermore, it’s May 1st baseball. There’s less than 20% of the season in the books, and some guys are still trying to find themselves out on the field. Both of those points, however, don’t negate the fact that losses like last night’s can be gutting from a fan’s perspective.
Boston wasted yet another top shelf start from Chris Sale (they’re now just 4-3 in games started by Sale). Sale was great once again from the hill, tossing 7 innings of 5 hit and 2 run (1 ER) ball. He threw 68 of his 96 pitches for strikes and generated swings-and-misses on almost 27% of his pitches on the way to a rather pedestrian (by Sale’s standards) 6 K’s.
Partly thanks to Sale’s efforts, and a timely little Red Sox comeback across the 6th and 7th innings, Craig Kimbrel came in to the game in the 9th to shut the door and give Boston a guaranteed series win. Instead, he gave up another home run, his 2nd in 8 days, both in high leverage situations, this one tying the game. He threw a fastball squarely down the middle of the plate to Alex Gordon. When Kimbrel is on and throwing absolute fire, that fastball clocks in a 99 mph and likely blows right past Gordon. That particular pitch, though, was only 97 mph, and 97 is FAR slower than 99 in a game of split seconds and inches like baseball. Gordon turned on it and knocked his 1st home run of the year.
(Photo credit: Boston Globe)
After the 2 teams exchanged runs in the 12th, Brian Johnson took the mound in the 13th. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, the last of which being a home run over the Monster in left center. It was his 2nd poor performance in his last 3 outings after pitching lights out through the first 3 weeks of the year.
Perhaps the worst part of the entire ordeal that was this loss, though, was the fact that Boston clawed back from a deficit on 2 separate occasions and came within a few feet of tying the game in the bottom of the 13th. They scored twice in the bottom of the 6th to tie it up and once in the 7th to take the lead. They then tied it up again in the 12th from a Nunez solo shot to extend the game once more. Down 3 in the bottom of the 13th, they scored 2 runs from a JBJ groundout and a Vazquez single. In the next at-bat, Nunez brought the Fenway faithful to their feet once again with a fly ball that looked like it had the game-tying run written all over it, only for the ball to fall no more than a few feet short. They had finally gotten some production from the bottom of the order, and this one just FELT like it was going to go Boston’s way, but alas, it just wasn’t in the cards.
The season lives on, though. The Red Sox will show up to the park today ready for another game. They’ll keep plugging away in their fight for their 3rd straight AL East crown, and the fans will forget all about last night’s game in due time, but for now, it’s perfectly acceptable to wallow in it. So wallow away Red Sox Nation. Wallow away.