The idea of things ultimately evening out isn’t something John Farrell necessarily buys into.
If you flip a coin 100 times, there’s really only an eight percent chance that heads and tails end up an even 50/50.
And just because nearly half of the Red Sox games this season had been decided by one run, it didn’t necessarily mean that those one-run games were going to start breaking their way.
Farrell saw the number of one-run losses pile up until they practically buried the Red Sox in the standings in the first half of the season. No team in the American League has played more than the 38 claustrophobic games the Sox played going into their matchup with the Royals on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
“We’ve had our fair share of one-run games,” Farrell said. “Let’s be honest.”
They were on pace to finish the season with 64 of them, but Farrell couldn’t convince himself that the law of averages would just sort things out.
“I don’t necessarily by into the adage that all things even out because, blind faith, sometimes you’re just expecting stuff to happen,” Farrell said.
If the Red Sox climb out from the bottom of the AL East, it won’t be because of math, Farrell figured. It will be because of execution.
They earned their sixth win in the past seven games because Rubby De La Rosa tossed another shutdown start, giving up just one run over seven innings; Mike Napoli came up with a clutch home run in the sixth inning; and Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara shut the door on the Royals in a 2-1 win.
“When you can limit the opposition to one run you’ve got a chance to make that hold up,” Farrell said.
Still, after piling up more one-run losses (20) than any team in baseball besides the Mets, the Sox have started to get a grip on the close games that had been slipping through their fingers all season.
Their past eight wins at Fenway have all been decided by one run. The past two have been in come-from-behind fashion with the go-ahead run coming in the sixth inning both times.
Of the Red Sox’ past 28 games, 16 have been decided by a lone run and they’ve gone 11-5 in those games.
A month ago, the Sox were at a loss for how things could persistently not go their way. Now, though, there’s a sense that things are shifting.
“The way things were going for us the first half, it felt like every break was going against us,” said Brock Holt. “So you think you keep playing, you keep doing the things you’re doing, something’s got to give. So it’s nice to see some guys step up and get some big two out hits, Napoli obviously with the big home run to put us in the lead.”
Case in point: Holt and Jonny Gomes had their signals crossed in shallow left field all night.
With two outs in the fourth, they both converged on the same shallow pop up by Mike Moustakas. Holt was camped under it, waving everyone off, but Gomes was coming in on the ball, glove and eyes up. The ball ping-ponged off them before rolling a few feet away. Instead of being the last out of the inning, Moustakas scooted to second.
The very next inning, they still weren’t on the same page. With one two outs, Omar Infante lifted another fly ball into shallow left. Holt tracked back a few steps but eventually gave way to Gomes. However, Gomes didn’t make the catch, the ball landing just a few feet in front of the left fielder.
“It just was some miscommunication between me and Jonny there,” Holt said.
They were the kind of plays that could have snowballed into ugly innings, but De La Rosa wouldn’t allow it. Both times, De La Rosa slammed the door shut on the inning with strikeouts. They were his only two of the night.
“Me and Jonny talked before the inning, we were going to let those two drop so Rubby could get those two strikeouts,” Holt joked. “That was our plan all along.”
With De La Rosa muzzling the Royals lineup, all the Sox needed was a run, and it came in the sixth inning when Napoli smashed a 3-1 pitch from Royals starter Danny Duffy over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street.
It was Napoli’s 11th of the season and he said, “I hit it pretty good so yeah, I knew it when I hit it.”
His past three home runs have all bee go-ahead shots and three of the past five have given the Sox the deciding runs.
De La Rosa put up a 1-2-3 seventh before handing off to Miller, who recorded his 10th straight scoreless appearance. Uehara then came on and earned his 20th save with a perfect ninth inning.
It wasn’t because the numbers were starting to even out, Napoli said, it was because all the Sox pieces worked together.
“That’s what we did last year,” Napoli said. “That’s how we win ballgames. It’s not going to be one guy doing it. Everyone’s going to have to contribute. We all know that and we’re going to take it one day at a time.
“We’re going out the same way, playing hard. We won a couple of one-run ball games. Haven’t won too many of those this year. So we’re just going out there and trying to execute and hopefully things start turning our way.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.