Extra Innings

It seems like everyone is making a big deal out of how many extra inning games the Sox have played this season, and how absurdly good the Sox have been in them (15-3). Many people have asked if their success bodes well for the playoffs.

That question has been addressed by a number of people, so I thought I’d look at the circumstances that led Boston to go to extra innings in the first place, and also what happened in those extra innings. You can’t just look at the extra innings themselves; you also need to know how they got there.  Did an offensive explosion tie the game to take it to overtime?  Did the pen hold the other team off for five innings?  Or did the one of the relievers give up a lead and let the other team back into the game?

So, let’s take a look at those 18 games.

April 5th – Pirates at Fenway. The game is scoreless entering the tenth and remains that way until the twelfth, when Sandy Leon drives in Jackie Bradley Jr and Pablo Sandoval with a homer to left-center. Chris Sale went seven followed by Matt Barnes (1), Craig Kimbrel (1), Heath Hembree (2/3), Robby Scott (⅓), and Joe Kelly (2). We’ll chalk this win up to excellent pitching all around.

April 20th – At Toronto. Once again, Sale has no run support and goes eight scoreless before turning a one-run lead over to Kimbrel in the ninth. Kimbrel promptly gives up a dinger to Morales to tie the game.

Mookie Betts gives the Sox the lead in the top of the tenth with a three RBI double and Kimbrel comes back out in the bottom of the tenth to hold the Jays scoreless. So, we have a blown save and a vulture win.

May 17 – At St. Louis. Starter Rick Porcello goes six innings, and the Sox are down 4-0 heading into the seventh. The Sox tie the game at four, scoring two runs each in the 7th and 8th innings. The pen is excellent once again, with scoreless innings by Robbie Ross Jr., Joe Kelly, Kimbrel, Hembree, Fernando Abad,and Ben Taylor. Abad picks up the win when the Sox scored one in the 13th for a 5-4 lead. Taylor earns the save. We’ll give credit to both the offense and the pen for the win.

May 19 – At Oakland. Sale goes seven innings, giving up a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth to tie the game 2-2. Kelly goes 1 ½ scoreless and Kimbrell goes ⅔ scoreless. Hembree comes in for the tenth and *boom*, game over on a solo shot.

June 12 – Phillies at Fenway.  The Phillies score four in the first off Porcello. Boston comes back to tie it at four. Porcello gives another run in the fourth, but once again, the Sox tie the game at five in the eighth. Kelly comes on in the eighth, followed by Scott and Kimbrel, all pitching one inning without giving up any runs. Barnes takes over in the tenth and earns the win when the Sox score one in the bottom of the eleventh. Equal credit to the pen and offense. 6-5 W

June 13 – Phillies at Fenway. David Price goes six, giving up three runs. The game stays tied at three until the twelfth, when Boston scores one to put the game away. The pen was once again excellent, with Scott, Blaine Boyer, Kimbrel, Hembree, and Abad shutting out the Phillies. Abad earned the win. 4-3 W.

June 30 – At Toronto. Doug Fister gives up three runs over five innings and leaves the game with the score 3-2 going into the sixth.  Boston takes a 4-3 lead in the sixth, but the game is tied 4-4 going into the seventh after Hembree gives one back in the bottom of the sixth.  Barnes, Boyer, and Kimbrel keep the Jays bats in check and the Boyer earns the win when Boston scores three in the eleventh. Kimbrel earns the save.

July 3 – At Texas.  Porcello starts the game and is removed after giving up a homer in the seventh to make the score 5-3 Boston. The pen gives up two runs, with Kimbrel getting credit for the blown save when Mike Napoli hits the game-tying home run in the ninth. Hembree picks up the win with two innings of shutout ball as the Sox score two in the eleventh to win.

July 15 – NYY at Fenway.  In a familiar story, Chris Sale pitches 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball and receives only one run in support. He turns the game over to Kimbrel in the eighth,  but Kimbrel blows the save, giving  up a ninth inning home run to Matt Holliday. The game remains scoreless until the 16th, when Doug Fister allows three runs for the loss.

July 18 – Toronto at Fenway. Brian Johnson permits the Jays three runs over six innings and is replaced by Matt Barnes with Boston down 3-1. The Red Sox tie the game at three in the seventh. Both teams score a run in the 11th to bring the score to 4-4. Hector Velazquez pitches four scoreless innings and Hanley Ramirez hits the walk off home run in the 15th.

July 25 – At Seattle. In another war of attrition, the Red Sox give up the tying run to Seattle in the 7th to bring the score to 4-4. It remains that way until the 13th, when Boston takes a one-run lead. Seattle comes back to score two runs on a wild pitch and RBI single off “closer” Fister.

July 29 – Kansas City at Fenway. In a high scoring affair, the Royals and the Red Sox trade runs, Boston coming back from a two-run deficit to score one run in the seventh and another in the eighth to tie the game at eight. KImbrel pitches a scoreless ninth and Barnes shuts down the Royals in the tenth. Nunez drives in the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the tenth.

Aug 4 – White Sox at Fenway. The pair of Sox only manage to score two runs each over six innings. Both pens then pitch very well until Aaron Bummer lives up to his name and gives up the walk-off homer to Mitch Moreland in the 11th.

Aug 13 – At Yankees.  The game in which Rafael Devers says hello to Aroldis Chapman. As is often the case, Chris Sale gets minimal run support and leaves the game tied at 1 after the 7th. The Yankees take a 2-1 lead in the 8th with Barnes pitching,  and then it happens: Devers stuns the baseball world by taking Chapman deep in the 9th to tie the game. Andrew Benintendi hits an RBI single in the 10th and Kimbrel shuts down the vaunted Yankee offense to earn the save.

Sept 5 – Toronto at Fenway. In the second-longest game ever played at Fenway Park, the Blue Jays hold a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but the Red Sox manage to score two to tie the game. After that, the fans see zeros for a mind-numbing nine more innings. Finally, Hanley Ramirez hits a weak RBI single to score Mookie Betts and end the misery.

Sept 18 – At Baltimore.  In another high-scoring affair, the Orioles and Sox are tied at eight going into the eighth, and the ninth, and the tenth, and the eleventh. At that point, the offense finally wakes up and scores two runs to take the lead 10-8. Carson Smith records the save in the bottom of the eleventh.

Sept 19 – At Baltimore.  In another offensive showcase, the Red Sox and Orioles remain scoreless into the eleventh inning. With the bases loaded, Jackie Bradley Jr. scampers home on a wild pitch to score the only run of the game.

I look at the extra-inning games as a snapshot of how the offense and bullpen have performed during the entire season, just like any other small sample. The main difference is that the Sox winning percentage is much, much better in these games, but you could probably take another random 18-game sample and come up with similar results. Or just the opposite. Just as their record in one-run games isn’t a harbinger of things to come in the postseason, their extra-innings record doesn’t predict playoff success. The samples are just too small and subject to luck.  

In the Sox extra-inning games this season, we have seen blown saves, a vulture win, games decided by wild pitches, etc., just like in games decided in nine frames. It’s fun to look at how they won and lost, but don’t make any bets based on the record.

Featured image courtesy of David Dermer/AP.

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Like all little boys who grew up in Little Rock, Rick became a fan of the Red Sox and continues to be one to this day. He is the proud parent to two kids in college and currently lives in Metro Atlanta and is not a member of any known cult. Rick likes to cook for friends and enemies, and his favorite band remains The Clash! Member of the IBWAA because, well, we all need to belong somewhere.

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