August 31, 2016

G133: Red Sox 8, Rays 6

Rays    - 120 100 020 - 6 12  0
Red Sox - 100 041 02x - 8 12  0
Managers are, generally speaking, stupid creatures. Or, if not stupid, then extremely timid and wildly conservative. A manager is hesitant to do anything out of the ordinary, because if the move doesn't work out, he will be grilled and ridiculed. On the other hand, a manager who slavishly follows tradition - even when it absolutely increases his team's chances of losing - will skate away unscathed and never be questioned.

John Farrell managed "by the book" on Wednesday afternoon ... and it nearly cost the Red Sox the game. The fact that Boston's hitters came through in the bottom of the eighth does not excuse Farrell's counter-productive decisions.

Steven Wright (4-7-4-3-3, 84) was  not very good and left the bullpen with five innings to pitch. Robbie Ross pitched two shutout innings as the Red Sox rallied. Hanley Ramirez crushed a grand slam in the fifth and Jackie Bradley hit an opposite field home run that landed atop the Wall in the sixth. (Xander Bogaerts donged in the first inning.)

(Tampa Bay also had what seemed like a key run wiped off the scoreboard in the fourth when Mookie Betts threw out Kevin Kiermaier trying to stretch a single into a double. Tim Beckham had been at second to start the play and should have scored easily, but he slowed up once he was around third and actually failed to touch home plate by the time Kiermaier was called out at second, which ended the inning. The run would have given the Rays a 5-1 lead.)

Matt Barnes and Fernando Abad took care of the seventh and Abad began the eighth. Nick Franklin reached on an infield hit and, one out later, Beckham walked. Corey Dickerson hit the ball well to right, but Betts tracked it down heading towards the corner. Matt Duffy pinch-hit and Abad walked him, loading the bases.

Farrell did not have many options in the bullpen. Brad Ziegler was out with the flu and Clay Buchholz had pitched the last two nights, throwing a lot of pitches. The only options were Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel (or staying with Abad). Common sense would tell you that this was prime time for Kimbrel. Boston led 6-4, but the Rays had the bases loaded. If there was ever a time that the game was on the line, if there was ever a time to bring in your best available pitcher, it was right now. Yet Farrell did not even have Kimbrel warming up. Why not? Because Kimbrel is the closer and because closers - according to "The Book" - pitch the ninth inning. Farrell did not even consider Kimbrel for a not-all-that-uncommon four-out save. And so it was that Tazawa came in from the bullpen, probably the worst pitcher on the team coming in in the highest leverage situation.

Even if you didn't watch the game, you can probably guess what happened. While Tazawa got ahead of Logan Forsythe 1-2, he then threw a pitch right down the heart of the plate. Franklin lined a single to left-center, bringing in two runs and tying the game at 6-6.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox faced Erasmo Ramirez. Hanley Ramirez walked to start the inning. Tampa Bay played their infield as though they were not expecting the Red Sox to bunt. And that seemed wise, because bunting is, in almost every case, a stupid move. But bunting is what 95% of managers would do in that situation, and so Farrell indeed had Leon bunt. It was successful, and Ramirez was now at second. But Farrell had, generally speaking, just lowered his team's chances of scoring. Looking at data from decades of games, teams score fewer runs per inning with a man on second and one out than with a man on first and no outs.

Brock Holt pinch-hit for Chris Young and singled to left. The Rays' outfield was playing shallow and Ramirez had to hold at third. Aaron Hill - mired in an 0-for-20 slump - lined the first pitch he saw to right field, scoring Ramirez and sending Holt to third. Jackie Bradley then doubled down the right field line and Holt scored easily. Boston had its two-run lead back, 8-6.

And sure enough, Kimbrel was on the mound for the ninth - and he had no trouble setting the Rays down in order.

Hey, let's add an extra level of idiocy to the proceedings. Guess who was the game's "winning pitcher"? Yep, Junichi Tazawa!

The white-hot Dustin Pedroia collected three hits, as did Bradley. Since moving into the leadoff spot on August 10, Pedroia is batting .463 (37-for-80). Pedroia is also 18-for-his-last-24 (.750!) at Fenway Park.
Drew Smyly / Steven Wright
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Leon, C
Young, LF
Hill, 3B
Bradley, CF

August 30, 2016

G132: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

Rays    - 100 000 210 - 4  8  0
Red Sox - 000 012 000 - 3  6  0
The Red Sox had the potential tying run at second base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Chris Young walked, but pinch-hitter Sandy Leon looked at three straight strikes to end the game. (Note: Strike two was actually out of the zone.) Evan Longoria's home run off Clay Buchholz in the eighth inning snapped a 3-3 tie and gave Tampa Bay its margin of victory.

Tampa Bay scored an early run off Drew Pomeranz (6.2-5-3-2-8, 101) and Hanley Ramirez tied the game in the fifth with a home run down around the Pesky Pole. Boston took the lead in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia walked with one out and went to third on Xander Bogaerts's double. David Ortiz's sac fly brought in one run and Ramirez's single made it 3-1.

As has been a long-standing habit this year, a Red Sox pitcher could not hold a newly-received lead. Pomeranz allowed a leadoff single and got the next two outs, but gave up a home run to left-center to the Rays' 9th-place hitter, Luke Maile, on a 1-2 count.

The Red Sox went down in order in the seventh and eighth. Ramirez singled with one out in the ninth and, with two outs, took second on a passed ball. Young walked and Leon was called out on strikes.

Ramirez went 3-for-4 with two RBI. ... Travis Shaw was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. ... Craig Kimbrel needed 22 pitches to get through the ninth; he allowed two hits.
Jake Odorizzi / Drew Pomeranz
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Holaday, C
Bradley, CF

August 29, 2016

G131: Red Sox 9, Rays 4

Rays    - 002 010 000 - 4  9  0
Red Sox - 020 320 20x - 9 14  0
Rick Porcello (7-6-3-0-7, 10) turned in yet another fine effort, retiring 14 of his last 15 batters, and the Red Sox hitters constructed a balanced attack against the last-place Rays. Four different players drove in two runs: Mookie Betts, Chris Young, Brock Holt, and Sandy Leon.

Betts got things started with his 30th home run, a solo shot to deep left to start the second. Much later in the inning, Brock Holt singled with the bases loaded, and for some bizarre reason third base coach Brian Butterfield waved a slow-moving Sandy Leon in from second base on the single to left. Leon was a dead duck, thus ending the inning and depriving Xander Bogaerts of batting with the bases full.

In the third, Hanley Ramirez singled and Travis Shaw hit a ground-rule double to right-center. Both runners scored on Chris Young's double into the left field corner, snapping a 2-2 tie. Back-to-back doubles from David Ortiz and Betts in the fifth brought in another run and Betts scored on Shaw's single. Leon's two-run single in the seventh scored Ramirez and Shaw.

Clay Buchholz needed 29 pitches to get through six batters in the top of the eighth. He started be allowing two singles and a walk, but then got three outs, allowing only one run. Fernando Abad had an easy ninth, giving up a two-out single, but getting a game-ending double play.

The Red Sox stayed 2 GB as the Blue Jays beat the Orioles 5-1, dropping Baltimore four games back. The fourth-place Yankees lost and are 7.5 GB.
Matt Andriese / Rick Porcello
Holt, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Also, in AL East news, the Blue Jays and Orioles begin a three-game series tonight at Camden Yards.
TOR ---
BOS 2.0
BAL 3.0

August 28, 2016

G130: Royals 10, Red Sox 4

Royals  - 020 008 000 - 10 10  1
Red Sox - 000 130 000 -  4  9  1
... as Sleepy John Farrell and the bullpen blow yet another game. This time it was Matt Barnes who torched the place, facing five batters in the sixth, retiring no one, and allowing five runs.

Boston got its first run on David Ortiz's 31st home run of the season. (This came after the squanderific Red Sox hit into three double plays in the first three innings.) Big Papi's center field blast was career HR #534, tying him with Jimmie Foxx for 18th all-time. Right above Ortiz in 17th place is Mickey Mantle (536).

Xander Bogaerts drove in two run in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie. Then Eduardo Rodriguez tired (5.1-4-5-4-1, 98) as Farrell took a nap, and the game went straight down the shitter.

Yordano Ventura / Eduardo Rodriguez
Holt, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Leon, C
Bradley, CF

Colin Kaepernick Takes A Courageous Stand

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers:
I am not going to stand up [for the national anthem] to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. ...

This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.
49ers coach Chip Kelly said that Kaepernick's decision was "his right as a citizen ... It's not my right to tell him not to do something."

The NFL released a statement: "Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem."

The playing of the national anthem before sporting events is anachronistic and I would heartily welcome the end of this tradition. We don't expect most people to stand for the anthem before they begin their jobs, why professional athletes? It's stupid and pointless and a waste of time.

Inside-The-Park Home Runs

On August 27, 1977, Toby Harrah and Bump Wills of the Texas Rangers hit back-to-back inside-the-park home runs against the Yankees - and on successive pitches!

And there is video!

Amazingly, it was the second time in modern baseball history that this has happened. On June 23, 1946, in the first game of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, Marv Rickert and Eddie Waitkus of the Cubs did it against the Giants. The Cubs lost the game 15-10.

Other cool inside-the-park home run factoids:
Brooklyn's Jimmy Sheckard hit inside-the-park grand slams in consecutive games on consecutive days in 1901, the only player in major league baseball history to do so.

On April 27, 1949, Pete Milne hit an inside-the-park grand slam for his only career home run.

On July 25, 1956, Roberto Clemente became the only player to ever hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam in a 9–8 Pirates win over the Cubs.

On September 2, 1975, Johnnie LeMaster hit the only inside-the-park home run to be recorded in a first career major league at-bat, against future Hall of Famer Don Sutton.

On October 4, 1986 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Greg Gagne of the Twins tied a modern-era major league record by hitting two inside-the-park home runs against the White Sox. Only 18 players in major league history have performed this feat, with Gagne being only the second since 1930.

On May 26, 1997, Sammy Sosa of the Cubs hit an inside-the-park home run in the top of the sixth inning against the Pirates. In the bottom of the sixth, Tony Womack also hit an inside-the-park home run, marking the unusual occurrence of opposing teams hitting an inside-the-park home run in the same inning.

August 27, 2016

G129: Red Sox 8, Royals 3

Royals  - 020 000 001 - 3  6  1
Red Sox - 220 121 00x - 8 12  0
Dustin Pedroia (4-for-5) came within one hit of tying the major league record for most consecutive at-bats with a hit.
August 25 vs Rays
1st inning: L6
3rd inning: Single
6th inning: Single
8th inning: Single

August 26 vs Royals
1st inning: Single
2nd inning: Single
4th inning: Walk
6th inning: Single
8th inning: Single

August 27 vs Royals
1st inning: Single
2nd inning: Double
4th inning: Single
6th inning: Single
8th inning: 4-6-3 DP
The record is 12, set by Johnny Kling (August 24-28, 1902) and Walt Dropo (July 14-15, 1952).

Pedroia's feat of reaching base in 12 straight plate appearances fell short of the MLB record of 16, set by Ted Williams in 1957.

Over his last 16 games, Pedroia is batting .484 (30-for-62).

Xander Bogaerts doubled, homered and drove in three runs. ... Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez hit back-to-back dongs in the fifth. ... Price: 6-5-2-2-7, 110. Price's season ERA is now below 4 (3.97).
Danny Duffy / David Price
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Leon, C
Young, LF
Hill, 3B
Bradley, CF
Elias:
Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts both reached base in all five of their plate appearances [on Friday night] ... Pedroia had four singles and a walk in the leadoff spot for Boston, while cleanup hitter Betts notched the first five-hit game of his major-league career. ...

Pedroia and Betts are the first leadoff/cleanup combo in Red Sox history to go 9-for-9 or better at the plate in a game. The last duo on any team to achieve that feat did so over 94 years ago. On July 10, 1922, in the first game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh, Dave Bancroft went 5-for-5 atop the New York Giants lineup, while cleanup hitter Irish Meusel went 4-for-4 in the Giants' 19-2 pummeling of the Pirates.

August 26, 2016

G128: Royals 6, Red Sox 3

Royals  - 500 000 010 - 6  9  0
Red Sox - 100 001 001 - 3 15  0
Steven Wright had a rough first inning, walking two men and giving up a three-run homer to Eric Hosmer. Then he allowed a single and two-run dong to Alex Gordon. Wright did settle down, however, and blanked the Royals over the next five innings (6-7-5-3-1, 95).

In the bottom of the first, the Red Sox had a run in and the bases loaded with only one out. But Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley both struck out to squander that opportunity.

Boston also wasted a 1st-and-3rd/no-outs situation in the third, as Hanley Ramirez popped to short and - yes, once again - Leon and Bradley both struck out.

The Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the ninth and with two outs had the potential tying run at the plate, but Leon grounded to second.

Some Good Things: Mookie Betts went 5-for-5, with two RBI. Dustin Pedroia was 4-for-4 with a walk, a run, and an RBI. Xander Bogaerts had three hits and David Ortiz hit his 41st double (but when the Red Sox needed him to be clutch, he grounded into a double play in the ninth).

Elsewhere: The Blue Jays pummeled the Twins 15-8 to claim sole possession of first place. The Yankees routed the Orioles 14-4.
Ian Kennedy / Steven Wright
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Steven Wright returns after missing three starts when he injured his right shoulder sliding into second base as a pinch runner on August 7. His last start was on August 5. .. In addition to activating Wright, the Red Sox optioned Heath Hembree to Pawtucket.

Clay Buchholz is headed back to the bullpen, as Eduardo Rodriguez will start on Sunday night.

It's a very tight three-team race with only 35 games to go in the regular season:
BOS 71-56 ---
TOR 71-56 ---
BAL 70-57 1.0
AL East: BAL/MFY and MIN/TOR.