On Scoring Eight Runs

Last night, the Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 20-4. That’s the sort of baseball score that could be a football score, although it’s admittedly difficult to score exactly 4 points in football. Scoring 20 runs pretty much requires a big inning, and in last night’s game, that big inning was the sixth. The Sox batted around and put eight on the board en route to their rout of the Tigers.
Baseball is a funny sport in that pretty much anything is possible, but some things are very, very rare. The eight-run inning is certainly a rare thing, and it’s always fun to break down something unusual and try to figure out what happened. Here’s the play-by-play.

Daniel Nava walks on seven pitches.
My first question: What was Rick Porcello still doing in the game? He’d given up five runs in five innings to this point. He’d served up three big flies. Manager Jim Leyland had to know that if his relievers could keep the Sox contained, his team could still pull off a comeback; heck, the Tigers have the second-best offense in baseball, and they were only down one run. Granted, the Tigers don’t have an especially good bullpen, but just about anyone would have been better than last night’s version of Porcello.
Nevertheless, Leyland let his starter pitch to Nava, who promptly worked a walk. Porcello, to his credit, made him earn it… sort of. After getting ahead in the count 1-2, he missed with three straight to put the lead runner on.
Also, Nava has now reached base safely in 39 straight starts. That’s the second longest such streak in team history.
Mike Napoli doubles on the first pitch. Nava to 3rd.
Well, that went from bad to worse in a hurry. Napoli bashed his 33rd double of the year, which is a personal high by quite a lot.
Stephen Drew is intentionally walked.
For the record, I despise the intentional walk. I think it’s one of the worst strategic moves in any sport. Look, even the best hitters make an out more than half the time. Giving one of those outs away is a terrible idea, and it’s one that backfires more often than not.
Having said that, in this case I can sort of understand the logic. Stephen Drew isn’t an especially great hitter, but he’s having a very good offensive season. Moreover, he’s done pretty much all of his damage against right-handed pitchers (.864 OPS versus just .613 against lefties), and that split has been pretty consistent throughout his career. Porcello, a right-hander, was still in the game (again, why?) and Drew had already taken him deep once. Light-hitting backup catcher David Ross was on deck. First base was open.
So, okay, I can see why it made sense to put Drew on. I probably would have gone to the bullpen for a lefty instead of just giving the Sox a free baserunner, but in that situation the intentional walk wasn’t a horrible move.
It may have even worked, except that as a backup catcher, Ross is an ideal candidate to be pinch-hit for with the bases loaded. John Farrell went to the bench, which led to…
Mike Carp walks on five pitches. Nava scores.
What, were you expecting a grand slam? Porcello threw nothing but fastballs and still couldn’t find the strike zone. This finally, mercifully, meant the end of his night, as Leyland put right-hander Al Alburquerque in the game.
Will Middlebrooks hits a grand slam.
Oh. Maybe going to the bullpen wasn’t such a great idea after all.
It’s been a rough year for Middlebrooks, but he’s been on fire since being called up in August. In 22 games, his line stands at .343/.413/.529. That won’t last – he’s batting an unsustainable .412 on balls in play – but it’s good to see him hit the ball hard.
Jacoby Ellsbury strikes out swinging.
One out. It looked like, perhaps, the Tigers could limit the damage to “just” the five runs. A 10-4 deficit is pretty bad, of course, but no lead is safe at Fenway Park. Just get out of the inning, and maybe Detroit still has a chance.
Shane Victorino is hit by a pitch.
Victorino was immediately pulled for pinch-runner Quintin Berry. As far as I can tell, that was just a precaution.
Dustin Pedroia called out on strikes.
Two out. The Tigers were just one play away from ending the inning without putting the game completely out of reach.
David Ortiz doubles. Berry scores.
Or not. The double was Papi’s 2,000th career hit. That was also one full turn through the lineup, bringing Nava up to bat for the second time in the inning.
Daniel Nava homers to right field.
Runs seven and eight were on the board. Apparently, Leyland had seen enough of Al Alburquerque, who’d given up two home runs, a double and a hit batter in just two thirds of an inning. Right-hander Jeremy Bonderman came in for Detroit.
Mike Napoli strikes out swinging.
Tigers pitchers struck out the side. Well done.

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