April 5, 2016

G1: Red Sox 6, Cleveland 2

Red Sox   - 002 002 002 - 6 11  0
Cleveland - 000 200 000 - 2  5  1
David Price pitched six innings and struck out 10 batters in his Red Sox debut. Mookie Betts and David Ortiz each hit a two-run homer. And Boston's late-inning trio of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel played their roles to perfection, allowing only a meaningless two-out walk in the ninth.

Price (6-5-2-2-10, 103) struck out two batters in each of the first three innings, as he expertly worked the corners. His only stumble came in the fourth, when he threw 33 pitches (11 to Mike Napoli before getting a generous strike three call) and allowed four of the five hits he ultimately surrendered. Price's two walks came back-to-back to open the second inning, but he worked out of trouble, getting a fly to center and two swinging strikeouts.

Price was the first Red Sox pitcher with 10+ strikeouts in his Boston debut since Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007).

Travis Shaw collected the Red Sox's first hit of the season, a grounder to right with two outs in the second. Brock Holt followed with a single of his own, but Blake Swihart struck out. After Jackie Bradley singled to begin the third, Betts put Boston on the board by crushing an inside fastball to left.

Cleveland tied the game in the fourth, but the Red Sox snapped the 2-2 tie in the sixth. Hanley Ramirez grounded a single up the middle. When Travis Shaw followed by golfing a single to right, Ramirez gambled and raced to third, barely beating an off-line throw. It was a daring move - and it paid off immediately as Brock Holt looped a single to left. Because he was on third, Ramirez was able to score the go-ahead run. Shaw took third on a force play and scored on a wild pitch.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against the Cleveland pen - a two-base error, an intentional walk to Ortiz, and an unintentional walk to Ramirez - but lefty reliever Ross Detwiler got Shaw looking at strike three, and Holt lined to third.

Ortiz's bomb was a line drive to right on a 2-2 pitch, his fifth career Opening Day home run.

Everyone in the Red Sox lineup (except for Xander Bogaerts) had either a hit or a walk with five batters - Betts, Ortiz, Ramirez, Shaw, and Holt - each getting two hits. Dustin Pedroia, however, who had hit safely in his nine previous Opening Days, went 0-for-4.

The other big story in this game was the horrific strike calls made by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. All afternoon long, he called strikes on pitches that were either too low or outside the strike zone. Both teams were incredulous at Hirschbeck's outrageous calls, none more so than Cleveland's Mike Napoli, who was run up three times. It is quite possible that none of the pitches that ended Napoli's at-bats were strikes. Also, Shaw's strikeout with the bases loaded in the seventh was not in the zone. Hirschbeck was making it up as he went along right to the very end, calling a game-ending strike three on Juan Uribe on an outside pitch from Kimbrel.

Early in the game, NESN's Dave O'Brien said that Hirschbeck is "a pitcher's umpire" and that he "likes to move the game along". Jerry Remy later said that Hirschbeck had been "consistent" all day long. O'Brien's comment seems to condone the idea that an umpire can take it upon himself to arbitrarily change the rules, though O'Brien may not realize that is what he was saying. As far as Remy's comment, yes, Hirschbeck was indeed consistent, for the most part, although there were plenty of low and outside pitches he rightly called balls. But time and time again, Hirschbeck chose to alter the game's most fundamental rule - the dimensions of the strike zone - according to some personal whim, to the point that the outcome of the contest was almost certainly affected.

David Price / Corey Kluber
Mookie Betts, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Brock Holt, LF
Blake Swihart, C
Jackie Bradley, CF


allan said...

And the Yankees lost to Houston 5-3.

mattymatty said...

I believe what Remy and O'Brien meant to say was wow is Hirshbeck terrible.

allan said...

They sort of did a few times, Remy in particular saying that a couple of pitches were absolutely not strikes. But to say the other things they did - without qualifying it or explaining how the umpire is changing the rules in the middle of a game - burns me up. (I wonder if they are actually forbidden to criticize to that degree.)

Hirschbeck has been known for years as a "pitcher's umpire", so he's clearly calling non-strikes strikes on purpose. It's not a trait that comes and go with individual games. It's a pattern with him. So I'd say he needs to (a) be given further training to re-learn the actual strike zone, or (b) be relieved of his duties if he cannot do a proper job.