May 27, 2017

G48: Mariners at Red Sox, 4 PM

Mariners - 
Red Sox  - 
Rob Whalen / Brian Johnson
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
This afternoon's starting pitchers have a total of seven career appearances between them.

Whalen, a 23-year-old right-hander, made five starts for Atlanta last year. This is first start of 2017.

Johnson, 26, made one start for the Red Sox in 2015 and one start last month. On April 18, he went five innings against the Blue Jays, allowing four runs. This is the lefty's first appearance in Fenway Park.

John Farrell on Johnson:
We've seen a gradual increase in his stuff overall. There's been better crispness, there's been better strike throwing, there's the ability to put away guys with a breaking ball, a slight uptick in velocity...
For Those About To Pitch:
Elias Says:
Masahiro Tanaka was the losing pitcher in the Bronx as the Yankees fell 4-1 to the A's, despite allowing only one run in 7.1 innings in which he struck out 13 batters and did not walk even one. The only other pitcher in Yankees history who earned a loss in a game in which he struck out 13+ batters and did not issue a walk was Roger Clemens. He was the tough luck pitcher on May 28, 2000 versus the Red Sox, outdueled by Pedro Martinez, who threw a four-hit shutout. Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer off Clemens in the top of the ninth inning for the only runs of the game.
That amazing Sunday night game was played almost exactly 17 years ago. I have to note that in the top of the ninth, Clemens retired the first two Red Sox batters. Then Jeff Frye singled (an infield hit that went in and out of Clemens's glove) and Nixon homered. Clemens had apparently barked something at Nixon back in the first inning after Nixon was called out on strikes - and by the final inning, Trot was fired up, eager for revenge. In the bottom of the ninth, Pedro hit two batters and ended up facing Tino Martinez with the bases loaded and two outs. Tino swung and missed Pedro's first pitch before grounding out to second.

May 26, 2017

G47: Red Sox 3, Mariners 0

Mariners - 000 000 000 - 0  6  2
Red Sox  - 010 002 00x - 3  8  0
For the first time this season, the Red Sox have won five straight games. Tonight's win also moved them into second place in the East.

Eduardo Rodriguez (6-5-0-3-4, 112) allowed men on base in every inning, but never buckled. He worked with a man on third with one out in the second inning, and stranded him there. And after a one-out double in the third, Rodriguez kept the ball in the infield and the runner was left at third. Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel each pitched one inning of relief. The Mariners got an infield single off Barnes, but did nothing with it.

Hanley Ramirez opened the second inning with a double off Yovani Gallardo (5.1-7-3-6-5, 112). Groundouts by Mitch Moreland and Josh Rutledge brought Ramirez around to score. Jackie Bradley doubled and Christian Vazquez walked, but Gallardo struck out Deven Marrero.

Boston threatened in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Xander Bogaerts reached first on an infield hit. Ramirez and Moreland both walked, loading the bases. However, Rutledge flied out to right.

Boston had runners at first and third with one out in the fourth, but Mookie Betts grounded into a double play.

In the sixth, the Mariners gave the Red Sox two runs on a silver platter. Rutledge reached on an infield single and Bradley walked. They both advanced when Vazquez grounded out and Gallardo walked Marrero on four pitches, loading the bases. Gallardo's 0-1 pitch to Betts was wild and Rutledge scored. Gallardo eventually walked Betts, reloading the bases. The Mariners went to the bullpen and Dan Altavilla's first pitch, to Andrew Benintendi, was mishandled by catcher Mike Zunino. Bradley scored on the passed ball. Benintendi struck out and, after Bogaerts walked, Ramírez flied out to left. ... So: 1 infield hit, 4 walks, 1 wild pitch, and 1 passed ball. Runs rarely come more gift-wrapped than that.

Neither team got a hit with runners on second/and or third - Mariners 0-for-6, Red Sox 0-for-9 - but it didn't matter to Boston (26-21). ... Oakland scored four late runs and beat the Yankees 4-1 and the Astros blanked the Orioles 2-0. ... The AL East standings haven't looked this good in awhile:
MFY 27-18 ---
BOS 26-21 2.0
BAL 25-21 2.5
The last time the Red Sox were not in third or fourth place was back on April 18, when they were 9-5 and tied for first with both Baltimore and New York.

Everyone says not to look at the schedule ahead, but (1) that only applies to the players and (2) sometimes you can't help it: June 1-8, four games in Baltimore and three games in New York.
Yovani Gallardo / Eduardo Rodriguez
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Rutledge, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Marrero, 3B
Dustin Pedroia, who left last night's game after experiencing some pain in his left knee, is not in the lineup.

After pitching six innings in five consecutive starts, Rodriguez went eight innings last Sunday in Oakland. In those six starts, he has a 2.61 ERA and a 11/40 walk/strikeout ratio.

More about last night, from Ian Browne and T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com:
The four strikeouts from Kimbrel were made possible by a controversial call by home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild, who awarded Nomar Mazara first base after he struck out swinging on a pitch that hit him on the back foot. Fairchild didn't see that Mazara was hit by the offering, and called it a wild pitch. Farrell was told the play was not reviewable.

"It was just a swinging strike three, ball that got away, and obviously he reached first base," said crew chief Alfonso Marquez. "The only thing I can tell you, the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue."

MLB later released a statement acknowledging that the replay official and replay supervisor should have allowed for a review.
A review should have been allowed? There was a review! Two umpires were on the headsets and presumably in contact with whoever in New York, getting a final decision on the play.

According to this story, Farrell was told the play was not reviewable, Marquez said it was a replay issue, and MLB said a review should have occurred. All that seems clear from this article is that the entire umpiring crew had no clue what was going on. Does this make any sense to anyone?

UPDATE: Alex Speier looks at the blown call in a Globe article. He quoted John Farrell:
Strike three/hit by pitch is an automatic out. ... I challenged the call, challenged that he was hit by a pitch, which in fact he was. And then it was brought back to me that it's not a reviewable or challengeable pitch. Any hit by pitch is reviewable. I still to this moment don't know why that ruling came down.

May 25, 2017

G46: Red Sox 6, Rangers 2

Rangers - 000 101 000 - 2  4  0
Red Sox - 202 000 02x - 6 10  0
On a cold, wet, and windy night at Fenway Park, Drew Pomeranz (6-4-2-1-11, 96) pitched perhaps his finest game in a Red Sox uniform. He struck out seven of the first nine batters and tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts. Over six innings, Pomeranz allowed only two Texas runners to advance past first base.

Boston used speed to score two runs in the first inning. Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero both hit their first home runs of the season. And thanks to an umpiring debacle in the final inning, Craig Kimbrel struck out four batters in the ninth, giving Red Sox pitchers 20 punchouts in the game. Boston won its fourth straight game (tying a season-high) and moved closer to both second place (0.5 GB the Orioles) and first place (3 GB the Yankees).

The Red Sox began and ended their night at the plate with my favourite kind of inning: the first two guys are retired and then the fun starts. (We need a name for those kinds of innings. Any ideas?) In the first inning, Bogaerts lined a two-out single to left. He stole second (he's now 8-for-8 in steal attempts) and scored on Andrew Benintendi's single to center. Then Benintendi stole second (he's 7-for-8). After Hanley Ramirez drew a walk, Mitch Moreland singled to right-center, making it 2-0.

Pomeranz struck out the first two batters in the first, all three batters in the second, and the first two batters in the third.

Dustin Pedroia drew a four-pitch walk off Texas starter Nick Martinez (5-7-4-2-4, 96) to start the third. Bogaerts hit a line drive on a 1-2 pitch that got over the Wall into the Monster Seats. Upon his return to the dugout, everyone was seemingly preoccupied, so Bogaerts put both hands up as if ready to give high-fives and jogged the length of the dugout, head down, smiling - before being mobbed. With two outs in the inning, Moreland and Jackie Bradley singled, but Christian Vazquez struck out.

Elvis Andrus got Texas on the board with a home run leading off the fourth. The Rangers added a run in the sixth. Delino DeShields walked. Elvis Andrus struck out. With Nomar Mazara batting, Pomeranz tried to pick off DeShields, but he beat Moreland's throw to second. He scored as Mazara singled to center.

Dario Alvarez was the first man out of the Rangers bullpen, in the sixth - and he had serious problems throwing strikes. He hit Moreland with a pitch (after nearly hitting him earlier in the at-bat) and walked Bradley on five pitches (after very nearly hitting him with the first one). Tony Barnette got Vazquez to ground into a double play and then he struck out Marrero, ending the threat.

Pomeranz had struck out five consecutive batters earlier in the game. And he started another string of five straight Ks by whiffing Roughned Odor to end the sixth. In the seventh, Heath Hembree struck out Mike Napoli and Ryan Rua and Robby Scott struck out Joey Gallo. Then Matt Barnes began the eighth by fanning Pete Kozma.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox again waited until there were two outs before getting their bats going. Vazquez doubled off the Wall and Marrero golfed a pitch to left for his first home run since September 28, 2015. (Actually, that was Marrero's only other career dong. So now he has two.)

It wasn't a save situation but Kimbrel was already warmed up and he had not pitched since last Friday in Oakland. (He came in with an ERA of 0.92 and an opponents' average of .092!) His first batter was Mazara, who took a 1-2 pitch that was down and in but well within the strike zone - but it was called a ball by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. Then Mazara swung and missed an inside pitch that hit his left shoe and caromed away. Vazquez chased it, and Mazara reached first.

MLB's Official Baseball Rules, "Definition of Terms", states (page 149):
A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which:

(a) Is struck at by the batter and is missed;

(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone;

(c) Is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes;

(d) Is bunted foul;

(e) Touches the batter as he strikes at it;

(f) Touches the batter in flight in the strike zone; or

(g) Becomes a foul tip.
Perhaps Fairchild thought the ball hit the ground and bounced away and Mazara had reached on a wild pitch? John Farrell came out and asked all four umpires to talk it over. They did - and they could not come to a decision. So two of them put on those bulky headsets and waited for a decision to come from the top secret bunker in New York.

While this was happening, NESN showed a close-up of the pitch from the center field camera and there was absolutely no doubt what had happened. Mazara swung and missed the pitch and the ball hit his foot on the fly. He should be called out on strikes. But when the umpires removed the headsets, they made no call, instead summoning Farrell out of the first base dugout. After only a few words, indicating that Mazara was staying at first, Farrell got very pissed off. And with good reason, as the umpiring crew and whoever was in New York had exposed themselves as a fucking clown show. (I guess it wouldn't be a major league baseball game without the umpires embarrassing themselves.)

I can understand how Fairchild could have missed the ball hitting Mazara's foot. It hit Mazara's foot very near to the ground in the back of the batter's box and perhaps Fairchild's view was blocked by Vazquez. But there is no possible way that the call should have stood after even one review of the replay.

What good is the option of being able to challenge certain calls if the wrong decision is going to be upheld, even in the light of clear, incontrovertible evidence? Either the review team in New York refused to look at any replays, or they are blind, or they and the umpiring crew do not know the contents of the rule book. Those are the only possible explanations.

It's a good thing the score was 6-2 at the time and not 2-2. So, with a runner on first, Kimbrel went back to work. He struck out Jonathan Lucroy on a pitch that was in the exact same spot as the 1-2 pitch to Mazara. The earlier one was a ball, according to Fairchild, and he believed this one was a strike. Kimbrel was not messing around. He struck out Odor on a 2-2 pitch and fanned Napoli on three pitches (Napoli's fourth strikeout of the night). Kimbrel has now retired 32 of his last 34 batters and 52 of his last 56 batters.

Boston is now 18-0 when they have a lead after seven innings. Only two other teams remain undefeated in such situations: the White Sox and Yankees.

The game started 28 minutes late because of a rain delay. Pomeranz was on the mound, ready to pitch to his first batter, when the umpires called out both managers. They did not roll out the big infield tarp, though; they covered only the mound and plate areas.
Nick Martinez / Drew Pomeranz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Marrero, 3B
If the Red Sox win tonight, they will match their longest winning streak of the season (four games). They will likely need Pomeranz to pitch more than four innings, something he has not done in his last three starts.

SB Nation: "A Soccer Player Farted Out A TV Graphic"

Who Is The Red Sox's Best RBI Man?

The Red Sox's best RBI man is the player with the most runs batted in - but that is a coincidence.

Because RBI are a context-driven stat and a batter cannot control how many of his teammates are on base when he comes to the plate, however many runs a batter drives in is largely out of his control. In a radio interview in 2009, then-Boston GM Theo Epstein said:
Sometimes you guys [in the media] get stuck evaluating players through home runs and RBIs. It's not the way most clubs do it these days. ... [Y]ou guys can talk about RBI if you want. We ignore them in the front office. ... If you want to talk about RBI at all, talk about them as a percentage of opportunity, but it simply is not a way that we use to evaluate offensive players.
You might think that since the Red Sox front office has "ignored" RBIs for at least a decade, the men and women who cover the team might not lean too heavily on the stat, and enlighten the fans why RBIs are fairly useless and perhaps suggest a better way of measuring production. (You would be wrong.)

As Epstein said, if anyone is going to bother with RBI, look them "as a percentage of opportunity". Which makes perfect sense. Even the most statistically-adverse fan can understand that a guy who drove in 100 of 400 (25%) men on base is not a better "run producer" than the guy who drove in 70 of 150 (47%), even though the first player has 30 more RBI.

So who are the best at driving in runs on the Red Sox, through the first 45 games of the season?

First , the counting stats:
             PA  RBI
Betts       192   30
Benintendi  195   25
Moreland    183   24
Pedroia     185   21
Ramirez     152   20
Bogaerts    177   15
Leon         94   14
Young       109   12
Bradley     112   11
Sandoval     67   10
I couldn't resist putting in plate appearances, too. They tell us that some guys, most notably Sandy Leon, have clearly made the most of their opportunities. Although Leon has 83 fewer plate appearances than Xander Bogaerts, he has driven in almost as many runs.

Baseball Prospectus has, among its stats, "RBI Opportunities". The table below lists, plate appearances, number of plate appearances with runners on base, the number of men on each base when the player batted, how many runners were batted in from each base, total baserunners, others batted in (RBI-HR), the percentage of runners on each base driven in, and the percentage of all baserunners batted in.

We see that Mookie Betts, in addition to leading the team with 30 RBI, has also driven in the highest percentage of baserunners. Andrew Benintendi has batted with 22 more baserunners than Betts, but has five fewer RBI. And when it comes to converting men on second or third into runs, Leon is pretty much the best hitter on the team.
            PA PA_ROB R1   R2   R3 R1_BI R2_BI R3_BI ROB  OBI  R1BI%   R2BI%   R3BI%    OBI%
Betts      192   81   60   39   16   7    10     6   115   23  11.7%   25.6%   37.5%   20.0%
Leon        94   40   29   17    8   1     5     4    54   10   3.4%   29.4%   50.0%   18.5%
Pedroia    185   76   48   42   15   3     9     7   105   19   6.3%   21.4%   46.7%   18.1%
Moreland   183   84   59   34   23   3     7     9   116   19   5.1%   20.6%   39.1%   16.4%
Rutledge    45   21   17    8    8   0     1     4    33    5   0.0%   12.5%   50.0%   15.1%
Benintendi 195   99   70   41   26   3     8     9   137   20   4.3%   19.5%   34.6%   14.6%
Bogaerts   177   76   51   33   20   3     4     9   104   15   5.9%   12.1%   45.0%   14.4%
Marrero     45   24   17    6    7   0     2     2    30    4   0.0%   33.3%   28.6%   13.3%
Sandoval    67   38   25   18   12   2     2     3    55    7   8.0%   11.1%   25.0%   12.7%
Young      109   53   42   23   14   0     3     7    79   10   0.0%   13.0%   50.0%   12.7%
Ramirez    152   76   50   40   22   3     5     6   112   14   6.0%   12.5%   27.3%   12.5%
Vazquez     78   37   33   12    7   3     1     2    52    6   9.1%    8.3%   28.6%   11.5%
Bradley    112   55   42   20   11   1     3     3    73    7   2.4%   15.0%   27.3%    9.6%
Hernandez   60   21   15   10    3   0     1     1    28    2   0.0%   10.0%   33.3%    7.1%
Holt        19   11    6    6    4   0     0     1    16    1   0.0%    0.0%   25.0%    6.2%
Selsky       9    5    2    3    1   0     0     0     6    0   0.0%    0.0%    0.0%    0.0%
Travis       4    2    2    1    0   0     0     0     3    0   0.0%    0.0%    0.0%    0.0%
D'arnaud     1    0    0    0    0   0     0     0     0    0   0.0%    0.0%    0.0%    0.0%
Who are the MLB leaders in OBI%? Looking at players with at least 90 plate appearances, here's the Top 10:
Charlie Blackmon (Rockies)  29.2% (Leads MLB with 42 RBI)
Nomar Mazara (Rangers)      24.8%
Adam Eaton (Nationals)      24.4% (9th on team in RBI (on DL))
Mark Reynolds (Rockies)     23.3%
Eduardo Escobar (Twins)     23.1% (7th on team in RBI)
Travis Shaw (Brewers)       23.0%
Aaron Altherr (Phillies)    22.7%
Manny Pina (Brewers)        22.2% (11th on team in RBI)
Avisail Garcia (White Sox)  22.0%
Jean Segura (Mariners)      22.0%
Two other players:
Top MFY: Roland Torreyes, 21.3%
Mike Trout (Angels), 17.5%

Altuve: Two Doubles, Two Triples, No Runs Scored

Houston's Jose Altuve hit two doubles and two triples in last Wednesday's game (May 17) against the Marlins - and did not score a run. He is the first player in baseball history to do so.

Eleven other players have hit two doubles and two triples in the same game before, but all of them scored at least one run.

1st inning: Altuve doubled with one out, driving in a run. Evan Gattis popped out to catcher. Yuli Gurriel struck out swinging.

3rd inning: Altuve tripled with two outs. Gattis was hit by a pitch and Gurriel flied out to left.

5th inning: Altuve tripled with two outs. Gattis popped out to third.

7th inning: Altuve led off, and struck out looking.

9th inning: Altuve doubled with two outs. Gattis struck out swinging.

The first player with two doubles and two triples in the same game was Harry Hooper, who did it for the Red Sox on September 5, 1919. Hooper is also the second player to do it (September 28, 1924 for the White Sox. Heinie Manush also did it twice: May 24, 1929 and July 23, 1932.) Before Altuve, Carl Crawford was the last player to accomplish the feat, on August 2, 2005.

May 24, 2017

G45: Red Sox 9, Rangers 4

Rangers - 000 120 010 - 4  7  3
Red Sox - 001 000 71x - 9 12  1
The Red Sox have scored 32 runs in winning their last three games. They have scored those runs in the best way possible, by relentlessly moving the line, having everyone in the lineup contribute. And they have eschewed the long ball. Of their 39 hits in the three games, 31 of them have been singles. The Red Sox have hit seven doubles and one home run. A key element to the offensive fireworks has been 19 walks.

After Sunday's 12-3 victory over Oakland on Sunday, Mitch Moreland (who hit that lone dong) said the important thing wasn't the number of home runs the team hit, but the number of runs they scored. Dave O'Brien repeated those words late in tonight's game, adding, "But I want to see home runs. And Red Sox fans want to see home runs."

No, Dave, Red Sox fans wants to see WINS. It should be obvious to everyone that it is far more fun to go to Fenway Park - or tune into NESN - and see a Red Sox win with no home runs than to watch the Red Sox club four balls over the fence and lose by three runs. (Though, honestly, in O'Brien's case, considering his ridiculous obsession with home runs, I think he might prefer the dingers and loss. He spent time tonight telling us how many home runs one of the Rangers' young hitters blasted in high school, for god's sake! I swear, if he ever talks about how many home runs Sam Travis hit in Little League, I'm going to lose my mind.)

Okay, so Boston trailed 3-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. Rangers manager Jeff Bannister made several bad decisions in this inning, some questionable, some downright bizarre. First, starter Martin Perez was brought back out for the seventh even though he was at 103 pitches (one shy of his season high). It wasn't the bonehead move that O'Brien and Dennis Eckersley insisted it was, but Perez certainly had done his job and no one would have blinked an eye if Texas had gone to the pen.

Perez retired Chris Young on a fly to left. Then Andrew Benintendi reached on an infield single to second base. (At that point, Boston had five hits and three of them were infield singles. Who could have anticipated what would soon happen?) Sam Travis followed with a hit to right-center -- he got his first major league hit in his previous plate appearance, an infield hit leading off the fifth - and Perez (6.1-6-3-2-4, 113) left with runners at first and third.

Now here is where Bannister clearly made a gigantic mistake. His team was up by two runs but the Red Sox had the potential tying runs on base with one out. Logic tells you that this is where you bring in one of your best arms (if not the best), because the game is on the line. But Bannister brought in Sam Dyson, the worst possible choice he could have made. Dyson's numbers are ugly: a 9.42 ERA and an opponents' batting average and OPS of .365 and 1.056. (Only two batters in the AL have a higher OPS than that.) To their credit, the Red Sox did exactly what they should have done to a pitcher with that shitty track record.

The short version? Dyson faced seven batters - and got no outs. All seven batters reached base and five of them scored. And the two inherited runners scored, too. ... I repeat, Bannister left Dyson, who was doing nothing right, in to face seven batters.

Moreland, batting for Sandy Leon, was the first batter to face Dyson. He grounded a single past Roughned Odor at second, into right-center, and a run scored. Then Josh Rutledge, pinch-hitting for Deven Marrero, poked the first pitch into right, scoring Travis and tying the game. Shin-Soo Choo's throw to the plate was wild and Rutledge went to second on the error.

The Rangers gave an intentional walk to Mookie Betts, loading the bases. Bad strategy. With Dustin Pedroia at the plate, Dyson threw a wild pitch, giving the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. Pedroia followed by knocking the next pitch off the glove of third baseman Joey Gallo. The ball rolled into short left, and two runs scored. Xander Bogaerts drove a 1-1 pitch into the gap in right-center; it hit on the warning track and bounced into the bleachers for a double. Pedroia had to stop at third. (Dyson was still on the mound, by the way, as the game slipped through the Rangers' fingers.) Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, reloading the bases. Young battled for eight pitches and drew an unintentional walk, forcing in another run (7-3).

Bannister finally emerged from the dugout to pull Dyson, bringing in the awesomely named Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Benintendi should have fouled out to Mike Napoli for the second out, but the Texas first baseman overran the popup and it fell for an error. (Napoli also botched a foul pop in the fourth for an error and the Red Sox had it happen to Christian Vazquez in the ninth. Strange stuff.) Back in the box, Benintendi hit a sac fly to left. 8-3. Travis struck out; he swung and missed at two pitches and took strike three, but the three balls he saw were also in the strike zone. (Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez had a very bad night behind the plate.)

Chris Sale struck out the first man he faced and collected two more strikeouts in the second inning. But he finished the game with only six (7.1-6-4-1-6, 97), ending his streak of starts with 10+ K at eight. Sale walked the leadoff hitter in the fourth and he eventually scored. Texas did not get its first hit until Napoli homered with one out in the fifth.

However, Marquez clearly robbed Sale of two strikeouts, refusing to call strike three on Joey Gallo in the third (he popped to right) and Mike Napoli in the seventh (he singled).

Robinson Chirinos followed Gallo to the plate and Sale's third pitch to him was in the exact same spot as the 2-2 pitch to Gallo - and this time it was a strike. (Perez's first pitch in the bottom of the inning, to Travis, was also in the same spot, also called a strike.)

In the Napoli at-bat, Sale's 2-2 pitch was well within the strike zone. Marquez called it ball 3 and Sale, usually utterly unflappable on the mound, took a step towards the plate, then turned his back quickly, waving his left arm dismissively at Marquez, as if he wasn't worth the effort. Napoli singled on the very next pitch and it appeared that Sale was yelling in to the umpire, perhaps blaming him for the hit, but NESN showed only the back of Sale's head.

So those two plate appearances should have been strikeouts. And there were three other instances where Marquez blew a call early in the at-bat, thus affecting what happened next:
Choo, 3rd inning: Sale's first two pitches appeared to be strikes, but were both called balls. On a 3-1 pitch, Choo grounded to Sale unassisted.

Jonathan Lucroy, 4th inning: The first pitch was on the black. Marquez had called several pitches in that location strikes earlier in the game. But not this time. Lucroy ended up grounding to first.

Napoli, 5th inning: Sale's first pitch was on the inside corner, but called a ball. Napoli took two strikes before hitting a home run.
I mention this in such detail because it is so goddamn annoying. If a pitcher throws a strike, he should get credit for a strike. Yet, at times, this seems like a controversial opinion. An umpire who cannot judge the strike zone correctly from pitch to pitch (never mind batter to batter or inning to inning) is worthless and his performance should be convincing evidence that MLB needs to do something if it wants to maintain its credibility.

Fans watch umpires clearly blow many ball-strike calls in every single game, every single night - and games (many of them important to teams' playoff hopes) are decided on those wrong calls. Having the opportunity to challenge certain calls is a great first step, though, of course, MLB created a cumbersome and time-consuming process to do so. It could easily be streamlined with very little effort, if MLB gave a shit, which it appears not to.

Last season, the constant blown calls behind the plate really got to me. At more than a few points, I wondered if I would have to simply stop watching baseball games, since I was extremely frustrated on a nightly basis because I knew - I could see it on the screen in front of me - that the games were not ultimately being decided by the players.
Martin Perez / Chris Sale
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ramirez, DH
Young, LF
Benintendi, CF
Travis, 1B (major league debut)
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
Can Chris Sale become the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 10+ batters in nine consecutive starts? (The Rangers are fifth in the AL in team strikeouts (averaging 8.3 per game).)

ESPN's Scott Lauber offers "three simple steps" to fix the Red Sox: "Trade for a power hitter [Mike Moustakas, perhaps] ... Make sure Price is right ... Give Farrell some more relief [i.e., a reliable setup man]."

David Price will make his second (and last) minor league rehab start tonight for (and in) Pawtucket against the Louisville Bats.

May 23, 2017

G44: Red Sox 11, Rangers 6

Rangers - 001 011 210 -  6 13  0
Red Sox - 011 034 02x - 11 12  1   
After scoring 12 runs in Oakland on Sunday, the Red Sox flew across the country, had a day of rest, and came out swinging at home, scoring 11 times and easily defeating the red-hot Rangers (who came into the game having won 11 of their last 12 games).

Xander Bogaerts led the way with three hits, four runs scored, and three RBI. Mitch Moreland and Dustin Pedroia drove in two runs each and Mookie Betts and Deven Marerro each scored twice.

Rick Porcello (6.2-11-5-0-4, 111) was not sharp, but he got plenty of run support. He retired the first six batters, but then allowed at least two hits in each of the next five innings. (Porcello tied a season-high by giving up 11 hits and has now allowed 77 hits, the most by any pitcher in either league.)

The game was tied 2-2 when Marrerro and Betts began the bottom of the fifth with singles. Pedroia walked, loading the bases for Bogaerts. This was an interesting at-bat, mostly because it was the highlight (or lowlight) of the utter shitshow put on by home plate umpire Bill Welke. Andrew Cashner's 1-1 pitch to Bogaerts was clearly outside, according to NESN's zone - and Welke called it a strike. (Brooks had the pitch on the border of the zone.) Then Cashner threw one a little low, but right over the middle of the plate (#4) - and Welke called it a ball. (It looks like Welke missed the call on pitch #2, as well.)
All night long, Welke called strikes on pitches that were outside and/or low, while squeezing all of the pitchers when they came inside. From start to finish, his strike zone judgment was a disgrace.

Bogaerts grounded a single to left, scoring two runs. Cashner walked Andrew Benintendi on four pitches, reloading the bases. Hanley Ramirez's grounder to third resulted in a force at home. Moreland flied to left, and Bogaerts scored. When the throw went through to the plate, Benintendi tried for third. The throw was late and catcher Jonathan Lucroy threw to second baseman Roughned Odor who fired the ball to Joey Gallo at third. Benintendi appeared to elude Gallo's tag, but he was called out, and the Red Sox did not challenge the call.

Boston added four more runs in the sixth. And it all happened after Dario Alvarez retired the first two batters. Marrero walked. Jeremy Jeffress came in from the pen and walked Betts. Pedroia lined a double towards the right field corner. Nomar Mazara dove for the ball but it bounced in front of him and caromed away. Two runs scored, giving the Red Sox a 7-3 lead. Bogaerts followed with a double to left-center that scored Pedroia. After Benintendi was given an intentional pass, Jeffress walked Ramirez, loading the bases. With Moreland at the plate, a wild pitch brought in Bogaerts.

Moreland drove in a run in the eighth and Boston's final run scored on a balk.

The Yankees and Orioles both lost, so the night was a total success. The Red Sox are 3.5 GB.

For reasons that remain unknown to me, NESN's poll question concerned ties (again). "Should tied games end after 12 innings?" When NESN asked a question a month ago about the possibility of having games end in ties, 8% of voters said that ties should exist. Tonight, 12% of voters answered Yes to the Tie After 12 Innings question. ... NESN's viewers are getting dumber.
Andrew Cashner / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
Also: Sam Travis, a 23-year-old 1B/DH, has been called up from Pawtucket. In 23 games since April 22, Travis is batting .344 with a .909 OPS.

The Red Sox have made the playoffs eleven times since 1995. Alex Speier (108 Stitches) notes that all eleven of those teams won at least 24 of their first 43 games. Boston is 22-21 this year. From Speier's Monday newsletter:
To date, the 2017 Red Sox have been a team that has been unable to define itself. They've staggered through fitful performances, winning no more than four straight this year and losing no more than three straight. ... The inconsistency has been somewhere between puzzling and maddening to both observers and members of the team alike, a head-scratcher for a team expected to run away with the division.
T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com:
Cashner ... allowed two runs in seven innings in a 9-3 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday in Arlington. Cashner has had trouble against leadoff hitters in an inning. They are hitting .306 off him and his seven leadoff walks are the fourth most in the Majors. But opponents are hitting .103 off him with runners on base and .074 with runners in scoring position.
Fangraphs: "Craig Kimbrel Is Basically Perfect Again"

May 22, 2017

What You've Been Waiting For: An Eric Gagne Update


I know that at least a few of you have been wondering what Eric Gagne was up to these days.
Eric Gagne Ends Comeback Attempt
Connor Byrne, MLB Trade Rumours

Former star closer Eric Gagne has elected to end his comeback bid, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 41-year-old told Cotillo that he plans to turn his attention to coaching.

Gagne, who last pitched in the majors in 2008 and retired for the first time in 2010, decided in February that he would attempt to get back to the leagues. He then impressed out of Team Canada's bullpen during the World Baseball Classic, which led multiple teams to show interest in Gagne. The Dodgers, with whom Gagne spent the majority of his career, even discussed a minor league contract with him in early April, but no agreement came to fruition with them or any other major league organization. Undeterred, Gagne signed with the independent Long Island Ducks two-plus weeks ago. He didn't fare well over 3 2/3 innings, though, leading him to wrap up his playing career for good.

Gagne debuted in the majors as a starter in 1999 and went on to pitch for four teams ... He won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 ... Gagne appeared in the Mitchell Report in 2004 for using human growth hormone ... [and] alleged that 80 percent of his Dodgers teammates used performance-enhancing drugs.
I was surprised to see that Gagne pitched in five postseason games for the 2007 Red Sox. Only one of them was in a high-leverage situation, so perhaps my amnesia is understandable.

ALDS: Leading 9-0 in Game 3, the Red Sox were three outs away from clinching the series. Gagne's first batter doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly. That ruined the shutout, but Gagne got the next two batters.

ALCS: In the ninth inning of Game 1, Boston led 10-2. Gagne allowed two hits and one walk, but no runs. In Game 2, Gagne began the top of the 11th inning, with the score tied 6-6. His three batters: strikeout, single, walk. Both baserunners eventually later scored, as Cleveland won 13-6. Gagne's next appeared was in the ninth inning of Game 6, preserving a 12-2 lead by retiring three straight batters.

WS: In Game 1, with Boston leading 13-1, Gagne retired the Rockies in order in the bottom of the ninth.