The Red Sox weren't sharp behind John Lackey in Baltimore on Friday night, failing to chase down catchable flies, feet seemingly stuck in cement when trying to move laterally for a groundball, misfiring to miss a chance at a double play, and not catching a throw to first base.
They didn't do much at the plate, either, struggling with three Oriole pitchers en route to a shutout that left us wondering how the night might've been different if Daniel Nava had delivered when Chris Tillman's wildness loaded the bases in the first inning.
But ultimately the game, and the Red Sox grip on first place, was lost when the O's made John Lackey pay for a few big mistakes.
Lackey settled in some over the middle frames, and generally wasn't terrible in his 18th start of the year, though Baltimore bruised him with three home runs over his 6.1 innings. And, really, he was asking for it in the case of Adam Jones' twin shots.
Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net, you can see here that Jones has a tendency of hammering pitches up and over the middle of the plate. He loves to get his arms extended, and since the start of 2011 he owns a .973 slugging percentage on pitches over the middle of the plate at the top of the strike zone. When the pitch is a bit more outside, his career slugging percentage is a robust .667. To avoid getting beat by Jones in a big way, a pitcher's best bet is to go down and away or up and in, especially if fastball is the pitch of choice.
Yet, pointing out that the teal box represents the home run, here's the location of pitches in Jones' first at-bat:
Splitting the plate in half and leaving the ball nearer the heart of the plate isn't a good idea, either, with Jones' slugging at .714 over the middle-middle portion of the zone lifetime. However, here's his second blast:
Manny Machado's sixth-inning clout was more forgivable, as although Lackey left the ball up, the Baltimore third baseman doesn't have a history of driving that ball out. Jones' two, however, suggest that for all the facets and factors of a baseball game, sometimes a couple pitches served into an all-star's wheelhouse are all it takes to determine the outcome.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||2-for-4: He ended recent struggles with a double among two hits, though after not running down Nate McLouth's triple, his defense came into focus. He's got a UZR of 1.2 this year, ninth in MLB for CF.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||0-for-4: Not a good night at the plate for Victorino, but he did save the Sox a run by gunning down a runner at the plate -- his team-leading seventh outfield assist.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||1-for-4: He interrupted a 1-for-19 skid with a single, then was retired in each of his next three trips. His OBP, now .380, has slid 26 points since the Fourth of July.|
|David Ortiz, DH||1-for-3, BB, K: Big Papi extended his hitting streak to seven games -- though he hasn't connected for an extra-base hit in his last six tilts. The Sox need him to be a power threat between Pedroia and Napoli.|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||0-for-3, BB, 2 K: He's been surprisingly good, and rangy, at first base this season -- but Friday was a rough night. He threw too high on a would-be double play ball, then should've been given the error that went to Lackey.|
|Daniel Nava, LF||0-for-3, BB, 3 K: He was at the plate for the Sox' lone legitimate scoring attempt, striking out for the first of three times to kill an opening-inning rally. He also whiffed to end the game, exasperatingly flipping his bat after -- and summing up his night.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||0-for-3, K: Now with three hits since July 10, it's probably getting to the point the Sox start managing Saltalamacchia's workload to keep him fresh. It's a good sign that David Ross is on the road with the team, even if he is still a ways off.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||0-for-3: He's got only one hit since coming off the disabled list, and if he and Drew both continue to struggle at the plate, the Sox may have no choice but to upgrade for the sake of offense on the left side of the infield.|
|Jose Iglesias, 3B||0-for-3, K: Had it not been for his sizzling start, this would've been exactly the type of game expected of Iglesias: hitless in three at-bats, one strikeout, one dazzling defensive play.|
|John Lackey, SP||6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3 HR: Despite the home runs -- which were as many as he'd surrendered in his previous three starts combined -- he worked into the seventh inning for the eighth straight start.|
|Drake Britton, RP||1 IP, 2 K: The rookie continued to get the job done, retiring all three hitters he faced -- including strikeouts of Jones and Chris Davis. He remains unscored upon in four appearances, allowing only three of 14 to reach.|
|Jose De La Torre, RP||1 IP, H, ER, HR: With the game pretty much out of reach, he came in and followed Lackey's lead, allowing a J.J. Hardy homer. Indicative of his role, De La Torre has entered five of his six appearances with the margin at least five runs.|
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