For the majority of the season, and even during the Red Sox’ stretch where they lost six of seven games in the first week of May it was hard to pinpoint where the team was going wrong in losses.
Their pitching was still fairly consistent, only allowing more than five runs three times in that seven-game span. Their offense was still performing well, still at or near the top of the AL in average, on-base percentage, and runs per game – so, where was the team going wrong?
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The team has now played just over 50 games this season and it has become apparent what the biggest key to their success is – the ability to perform with runners in scoring position (RISP).
With the team hitting .373 with RISP in wins, compared to just .177 in losses, the just under .200 point difference is clearly an indication of just how important the stat is. A perfect example came in Saturday’s come-from-behind win over the Indians when they scored four runs in the eighth inning to win, 7-4. Boston went 3-for-5 with RISP in that inning alone, which enabled it to come away with the win. Back when the team went 2-9 over an 11-game stretch things weren’t clicking and frustration was setting in as during that span the team was 4-for-40 with RISP at one point.
"We continued to create many opportunities, and that two-out base hit or with runners in scoring position has been elusive," said manager John Farrell during the stretch.
Going into Monday, David Ortiz led the way hitting .378 with RISP, followed by Mike Carp at .375 and Daniel Nava at .362. On the other end of the spectrum is Will Middlebrooks, a lowly .143, with Jarrod Saltalamachhia not much better at .167.
When looking for a true barometer of just how clutch a player is, there is no better stat than RISP with two outs, the equivalent of a third down in football. Here is where the team really struggles, having five regulars hitting below .250, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Saltalamacchia each at .200, as well as Middlebrooks - a horrid .105. It should be noted Stephen Drew is hitting .412 in this situation, by far the best on the team.
Batters in the middle of their lineup will need to start hitting in these situations as when the games start to mean more you cannot afford to fail to capitalize on scoring opportunities on a consistent basis. As the second full month of the season wraps up, teams’ identities start to come out and with the Red Sox the biggest difference for them between winning and losing is hitting in the clutch.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84