Alex Rodriguez has a theory about run production for a major league offense, a theory based on his 22 years of pumping out hits and runs in the American League.
It is a fairly simple notion, which Rodriguez admits is not backed up by any scientific analysis on his part. Nor are there any guidelines on how to make it happen.
Rodriguez said a team should strive to score five runs every game, regardless of the pitching matchup, the ballpark, the weather conditions or the time of day.
It is more a self-imposed directive, like an NFL team aiming for 28 points on a Sunday.
“There’s no computer or anything that says it,” Rodriguez said at his locker before the New York Yankees’ game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday night. “It’s just that, generally, when I’ve had conversations with my teammates, regardless of what is going on with anything else as an offense, I feel like our responsibility is to go out and try to score five runs. Anything over that is a bonus, anything under it is just not good enough.”
Not long after he had explained his thesis, Rodriguez went to the field hoping to prove it, and he nearly did. He hit a two-run home run in the third inning and a two-run double in the fifth. Both hits were off Red Sox starter David Price. Rodriguez then scored after a single by Mark Teixeira. It was the first time in eight games the Yankees had scored more than three runs.
But on a breakout night for the hitters, the pitching did not hold up, and the Red Sox won, 8-7, to complete a three-game sweep and assume first place in the American League East.
Nathan Eovaldi, the Yankees starter, gave up six runs on 10 hits in five innings and squandered leads of 3-1 and 6-4. In the fifth, he allowed a single by Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and a two-run home run by third baseman Travis Shaw, who launched a screaming drive into the grandstand in right field to even the score, 6-6.
After Yankees reliever Ivan Nova got five outs, Dellin Betances came on in the seventh with two outs and a runner on, and the Red Sox got to him again.
The first batter Betances faced, Christian Vazquez, hit his first home run, driving a tantalizing 97-mph fastball over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street. It was the second eventful home run Betances gave up this series. On Friday, Ortiz’s two-run home run in the eighth inning decided the series opener.
Price, who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox in the offseason, did not have a particularly good outing, either. He also surrendered six runs. But he was still the pitcher of record when Vazquez homered, so he improved to 4-0, despite an ERA of 6.14.
The Yankees added their seventh run in the eighth after Starlin Castro doubled with one out. He went to third on a groundout by third baseman Chase Headley and then scored on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara, who then walked pinch-hitter Brian McCann. But Uehara struck out the next pinch-hitter, Carlos Beltran, to end the threat. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth and earned his second save of the series and eighth overall.
The loss was particularly aggravating for the Yankees because the missing offense had finally materialized. Going into the game, the Yankees averaged 3.63 runs per game in the first 22 games, one of the lower averages in the American League.
“And that’s why the record is what it is,” said Rodriguez, who now has five homers this season.
The Yankees are now 8-15 and in last place in the division. Entering Sunday, they had not scored a run in 13 consecutive innings and had scored two or fewer runs in their last four games (1.25 per game, all losses) and also in nine of their previous 14 games.
The Yankees were waiting through a rainy evening Sunday to find out if their lineup could score any runs, let alone five, to end their slump.
Rodriguez’s five-run theory does not specify a surefire way to score the runs. The way the Yankees have been playing, they might have to be satisfied with four. Until Sunday, they had won the five games in which they had scored at least four runs.
“Every team I’ve ever been on, I just thought five runs was a great goal to have,” Rodriguez said. “You’re not going to reach it every night. Some nights you’re going to go above. But if that is your target every night, it kind of keeps you focused in one direction.”
In general, Rodriguez said the key to ending the current losing streak was good pitching, good fielding and timely hitting.
In the last three seasons that the Yankees did not make the playoffs, they averaged fewer than five runs per game. In 2008, they averaged 4.87; in 2013, they averaged 4.01; and in 2014, it was down to 3.90.
The last-place Yankees are seven games under .500 for the first time since Girardi took over in 2008. The last times they were that far under .500 were in 2005 and 2007, under manager Joe Torre, and in both seasons, they rallied to make the playoffs.
“One of the things that Joe Torre always advocated in our clubhouse — and I think about this often — is, think small and big things will happen,” Rodriguez said before the game. “That’s, I think, where we are today.”