On Tuesday, the well-rested Red Sox offense struggled to score against Braves starter Charlie Morton. The first inning included a no-out bases-loaded scenario, but Boston got just one when Rafael Devers was plunked at the plate, scoring Kiké Hernández.
Then, in the second, newcomer Danny Santana started the inning with a triple, only to be stranded there with the Red Sox finishing up a second straight inning with a double play.
From there, Morton settled in and allowed just one more hit over 7.0 total innings of work. Boston pitcher Garrett Richards, while not masterful, held Atlanta to three runs over 5.2 IP, but the Sox offense could not put the ball in play to overcome a two-run deficit at home. They now 13-13 at Fenway Park.
By most offensive measures the Red Sox have impressed. They’re at or near the top in hits, doubles, runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, runs created, and BABIP. Most importantly, they lead baseball with a .332 weighted on-base average (wOBA), which is perhaps the clearest measure of offensive production.
But their success in the aggregate, as a full body of work, masks a glaring problem. The Sox have failed at putting the ball in play productively at some key opportunities for scoring.
In a critical clutch measure, batting with two outs and runners in scoring position, Boston has recorded a solid team wOBA of .343, the third-best mark in the American League, sixth-best in baseball. But in opportunistic situations when the stakes are lower, the Red Sox have almost literally dropped the ball.
Take, for instance, Boston’s .296 wOBA with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. In a mirror image of their overall production, this mark the third-worst in their league and sixth-worst in baseball. Surprisingly, in the AL, the Yankees have been worse (.294) this season. Perhaps less surprisingly, so too have the Orioles (.279).
Even more troubling are situations with a runner at third and one or no outs. Here the Red Sox have a wOBA of .238, the third-worst mark in baseball and a .260 slugging percentage that’s dead last in the Major Leagues.
After the game Tuesday, Manager Alex Cora said he knew the team wasn’t executing effectively, which is is especially important in a season where pitching around baseball has outperformed. “We haven’t done the job,” Cora said. “It’s very important to make contact with men at third. You just put the ball in play and you’re going to cash in.”