After a long regular season with the best teams separating themselves from the rest of their respective leagues, the September Wild Card races have gotten too interesting for fans of the Red Sox Nation. Tampa Bay swept the Red Sox with relative ease this past weekend and DH David Ortiz said, in a refreshingly honest way, that it was time to panic.
Boston is three games ahead of the Rays, and the two teams play four games at Fenway Park this weekend. The Red Sox were a staggering nine games ahead of the Rays on Sept. 1. What has gone wrong for Boston, and right for Tampa Bay, since then?
September stats (AL rank) Batters faced ERA WHIP K/9 Strand % HR/FB % LD % Rays 369 (12) 3.42 (3) 1.10 (2) 6.55 (13) 81.3 (1) 14.9 (14) 17.9 (4) Red Sox 460 (1) 6.61 (14) 1.68 (14) 8.27 (4) 65.9 (11) 13 (T-10) 20.5 (9)
While the lack of Rays strikeouts and their high home run rate is surprising, especially considering the way Tropicana Field has benefited pitchers this season, the rest of the pitching statistics indicate that Tampa Bay’s staff has excelled nearly across the board. The Rays pitchers allow few runs and baserunners and they usually strand runners if they do indeed reach base. Boston’s starting rotation has been ravaged with injuries and the replacements have done a woeful job in nearly every category. If Boston wants to hold on to its quickly diminishing Wild Card lead, its pitching has to improve in a hurry.
(Stats are up to date through Sunday’s games)