It was the singular play that symbolized a horrendous night of baseball for the Red Sox
Mookie Betts has shown more often than not, in his first full season with the team, that he is not just a highly-skilled player with multiple tools, but a smart one as well. Friday night, he did not show those qualities in a brutal 12-8 loss in 10 innings to Houston at Fenway Park.
Down a run with one out in the bottom of the eighth and the Red Sox threatening against Astros reliever Pat Neshek, Betts thought he had a good enough lead from second base to take off for third on his own.
Astros catcher Jason Castro fired a bullet to Luis Valbuena that caused Valbuena to lose balance over the bag. But not before the Houston third baseman caught the ball and snapped his glove down to easily nab Betts for the second out. Xander Bogaerts walked and David Ortiz put a perfect swing on a tailing outside fastball from Neshek to drive it off the Monster for a game-tying double. But it should have been the go-ahead and eventual game-winning double.
With Xander Bogaerts at the plate, why in the world was Betts stealing?
“I had a sign, it was a tough at-bat for a righty, I was trying to force something and I shouldn’t have,” Betts admitted. “I was trying to put points together pretty much and didn’t have the right points. In hindsight you can always make the right decision. If I’m safe it’s a great play, since I’m out it’s terrible, so you just have to live and learn from it.
‘Obviously, I know I messed up. The game continues. You’ve got to cheer on Bogey, have to forget it.”
“Overaggressive,” Red Sox manager John Farrell lamented. “Ill-advised. Overaggressive. We sacrifice him to get into scoring position because Neshek is under is under 1.15 seconds in his unloading times [to the plate]. Overaggressive decision on his part to attempt to steal.”
Indeed, Betts opened the inning by getting on base on an error from shortstop Carlos Correa. Brock Holt put down a perfect bunt to move Betts into scoring position with one out with the heart of the order coming up.
But that wasn’t the only visit to bizarro land for the Red Sox. Alejandro De Aza took off for third and was called for the “fourth” out of the inning when Houston first baseman Chris Carter forgot that Ryan Hanigan was the third out of the seventh inning on a ground out. Third base umpire Laz Diaz even made the “fourth out” call.
“He’s going first to third on a continued play,” Farrell said. “The fact is the third out is made at first base, he’s got the play behind him so if anybody lost the outs, the throw was made to third base.”
Then there was Hanley Ramirez hesitating on a pair of run-scoring doubles off the Monster before forgetting to take first base on Ball Four in the the seventh. Did Ramirez forget the count?
“Apparently, he may have,” Farrell said. “It’s Ball Four and he did not take the base until [home plate umpire Cory Blaser] told him it was Ball Four.”
Farrell has watched his team finally gain the scoring touch. They scored eight runs in the first inning Thursday night. They scored eight runs Friday. They have finally showed signs of putting big innings together and fighting back in the late innings. They were down 5-2, 7-5 and 8-7, only to battle back each time to tie the game.
“Our offense did a great job tonight,” Farrell said. “Three times we battled back when being down. A number of good swings. David obviously with a big one in the eighth inning to tie it. We continue to battle back. Our offense is swinging the bat well. We’re scoring a good number of runs. But the larger concern is getting deep into the games by the guys that are starting out the ballgame.”
Justin Masterson was good in the first three scoreless innings Friday. He couldn’t get out of the fourth, allowing five runs and seven hits.
“First three innings he was solid,” Farrell said. “And then in a matter of thirteen pitches there’s three runs on the boards and seven hits in the fourth inning. They went early in the count. When he did try to alternate, get a first-pitch slider in there, it was a ball. He had to fight back in the count. They were aggressive and took him the other way. I thought he came out [strong] early and had good life to his stuff. But to close out the fourth inning, it couldn’t happen.”
But after using Koji Uehara for just 11 pitches in the ninth inning Friday, Farrell decided it was time for Noe Ramirez to make his major league debut, with Junichi Tazawa unavailable. Farrell, who used five relievers, did not even think of using Uehara for the 10th.
“No,” Farrell said. “With knowing this probably has a chance to get into an extended situation. Ramirez and Koji were the last two guys in the bullpen. In a tie game, not going to pitch him two innings.”