The Red Sox entered Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the ALCS against the Tigers with a 2-1 series lead despite only scoring seven runs in three games and hitting .133 with 43 strikeouts as a team. After falling to the Tigers 7-3 in Game 4, it appears the lack of hitting may be catching up to them.
Even though the Sox collected 12 hits Wednesday night, matching their total in the first three games, they went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 runners on base, which was definitely a factor in the loss, as once again they couldn’t get anything going offensively.
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“We had 12 hits tonight (Wednesday) and you leave 10 men on base,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “The one thing when we've been in stretches like this, we continually do a very good job of creating opportunities. We did that tonight. We haven't done it so much in the first three games. But that's a tip of the hat to the pitching that we've been facing.”
Although the Tigers pitching staff is one of the best in the league, the Red Sox offense has dropped off dramatically from the ALDS against the Rays. In the four games against Tampa, as a team the Sox hit .317, scored 26 runs and struck out 33 times. After the first four games against the Tigers, the Sox are hitting .186, well over 100 points lower than against the Rays, having scored just 10 runs, while striking out 53 times. The team is also hitting just .162 with runners in scoring position.
A few individuals have seen significant drop-offs from the previous series. After going 5-for-13 against the Rays, David Ortiz is just 1-for-15 in this series. At the top of the order, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino hit .469 in the ALDS, but are hitting just .226 in this series. In addition, the left side of the infield has struggled the entire postseason, as Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks are a combined 7-for-51 (.137).
This doesn’t go along with what took place in the regular season as the Red Sox led all of baseball in runs, averaging 5.27 runs per game, as well as posting the second-best average in the American League, hitting .277 as a team.
With the series now knotted at two, it becomes a best-of-three series with the Sox having to go up against Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander once again, needing to take two-of-three to advance to the World Series. Those three Tigers starters combined to allow just two runs over 21 innings, striking out 35 in the first three games of the series.
Despite taking two-of-three against that trifecta in Games 1 through 3, hitting the way they did is not going to get it done this time around. There is no other way around it – the Red Sox are going to need to hit better.
There are signs that a few players might be coming around, as Ellsbury collected four hits Wednesday night, raising his average from .100 in the series to .333. Mike Napoli also seems to be getting on track, as following his homer on Tuesday he has hits in three of his last six at-bats.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84