The 8th Inning | The Process Report

The 8th Inning

The eighth inning featured some unconventional strategy from AL teams playing a tied game.

The Rays entered the inning hitting .168 against the Red Sox with runners in scoring position. After the first two batters reached, Matt Joyce came to the plate against the left-handed Franklin Morales in a situation where the outfielder is normally pulled from the game for a pinch hitter. Joyce had started the game as the designated hitter, but was moved to right field later in the game when Wil Myers left injured. Rather than plug Sam Fuld or Kelly Johnson in the field, Maddon elected to forego the DH and move Joyce to right field.

There is no sugarcoating that Joyce has been ice cold in recent weeks. In fact, he last drove in a run against the Orioles on August 23, and was 5 for his last 56 coming into the game. Maddon’s options at that point were to let Joyce hit away, have Joyce attempt to sacrifice the runners over, or pinch hit with Kelly Johnson or Delmon Young. Joyce being the superior defender of the three invariably played in his favor, as Maddon often goes with the glove in the late innings. Besides, it was expected that Young would pinch hit for Jose Molina should the inning get that far so that Jose Lobaton could then be inserted into the lineup after the inning.

Joyce stepped up to the plate with one sacrifice hit in his major league career and a well-established inability to hit left-handed pitching, so it wasn’t risky for Boston to anticipate a bunt. To Joyce’s credit, he added doubt by taking the first pitch. But then he popped the second pitch into the air behind the plate, where Jarrod Saltalamacchia could make an impressive sliding grab.

In a normal situation, Joyce was about the worst possible batter imaginable to have up in the situation, but the circumstances of the late innings and earlier injury to Myers forced Maddon’s hand. Thankfully for the Rays, Lobaton was slotted into the spot Myers vacated in the lineup, and made all of this a moot point. Otherwise, Joyce’s inability to get a bunt down would be fresh in everyone’s mind entering the offseason.

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