'We didn't cash in': Cold spell continues for Sox on offense

May 8th, 2024

ATLANTA – With one swing, Tyler O’Neill seemed poised to turn the tide on what had been a night of futility and frustration for the Boston bats.

There were two on and two outs in the top of the eighth in a tie game, and O’Neill placed a drive that seemed headed for the the gap in left-center at Truist Park.

But Adam Duvall, the right-handed hitter O’Neill essentially replaced on the Red Sox, came out of nowhere and made a diving catch to prevent at least one run from scoring, and possibly two.

Out of thin air, Duvall turned what could have been a satisfying win for Boston into a 4-2 defeat against the Braves.

“I think that [could have been] the key hit of the game,” said Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. “Duvall made a great catch, made a great play. That’s going to happen. That’s baseball.”

Thus far, the Red Sox are 1-3 on a road trip that will conclude on Wednesday when Nick Pivetta is activated from the injured list to face former teammate Chris Sale.

Despite their recent struggles offensively, the challenge of facing Sale is one Boston will embrace.

“We know how good of a pitcher he is. He’s a superstar,” Devers said. “We know how competitive he is but we are as competitive as he is. We know it’s a tough matchup but we’re up to it and we’re ready to face him.”

The past five games, the common theme in all four losses is that runs have been scarce.

In Tuesday’s defeat, the Sox went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position while leaving 13 on base.

“We didn’t do much,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We had traffic all over the place and we didn’t cash in. I think in certain situations, we have to be humble, take what they give us, advance the runner, put the ball in play and we didn’t do that. And [Duvall] made that play at the end. Overall, the line is moving. Now we’ve got to cash in.”

Through it all, the Red Sox (19-17) continue to pitch just about every game.

This isn’t to say the offense hasn’t contributed. On April 27, the Sox routed the Cubs, 17-0. As recently as Sunday at Target Field, Cora’s squad belted the Twins, 9-2.

Is it just a matter of time before the offense produces on a more consistent basis?

“One hundred percent,” said righty . ”It’s early in the season. Obviously we’ve seen what the offense can do. I think it’s just a matter of time before we start clicking on all cylinders.”

Here are some other takeaways from Tuesday.

Crawford continues to shine
While Crawford put his team in an early hole by giving up a two-run homer to No. 9 hitter Jarred Kelenic in the bottom of the third, the righty was nails otherwise.

It was Crawford’s fourth consecutive quality start in his coming-of-age season. The 27-year-old has a 1.75 ERA and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts.

“I just focus on making sure I'm on the attack,” said Crawford. “I try not to get behind in counts. I try to get ahead on the first pitch. And I feel like I was able to do that after that [third inning]. But yeah, that’s kind of the focus there. Stay on the attack, fill up the zone, make them swing and try to go six.”

Double play confusion
When the Braves added a second run in the bottom of the eighth to take a 4-2 lead, it could have been avoided with some better communication by Boston’s young middle infield.

On a grounder to first baseman Garrett Cooper, second baseman Vaughn Grissom moved toward the bag to retrieve the throw in hopes of turning a double play. But shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela took the throw instead. He got the force, but couldn’t get the ball back to first base because Grissom was in his way.

“[Rafaela] was playing pull. He assumed that Vaughn was going to get to the bag,” said Cora. “The throw was to [Rafaela], so he made sure to get one out. We’ll get it right. That stuff is gonna happen. We’ve got a kid playing for the first time at second base on an everyday basis and we've got a kid at shortstop. It’s a learning experience and we’ll get better at it.”