May 28, 2017

G49: Mariners at Red Sox, 1:30 PM

Mariners - 
Red Sox  - 
Christian Bergman / Rick Porcello

Bergman had a very bad start last Tuesday against the Nationals. He allowed 10 runs and 14 hits in only four innings.

Re Brian Johnson: the last Red Sox pitcher to throw a nine-inning shutout in his Fenway Park debut? Pedro Martinez, April 11, 1998. As SoSHer Rough Carrigan put it: "A Brian Johnson hasn't filled in this well since the passing of Bon Scott."

May 27, 2017

G48: Red Sox 6, Mariners 0

Mariners - 000 000 000 - 0  5  0
Red Sox  - 300 002 01x - 6  9  0
Brian Johnson: Have A Drink On Me!

In only the third start of his major league career, Johnson (9-5-0-0-8, 109) pitched a complete-game shutout, leading the Red Sox to their sixth consecutive victory. Of his 109 pitches, Johnson threw 85 strikes (78%).

Jean Segura, the first batter of the game, worked the count full before grounding out. Johnson faced 31 more batters in the game and went to a three-ball count only once: Kyle Seager in the fourth (Johnson struck him out).

Two of Seattle's five singles came in the fifth inning, the only time Johnson was challenged. With runners at second and third, he got the final out when Jean Segura flied to right. (In his previous two starts, Johnson had pitched only 4.1 and 5 innings.)

Boston swarmed all over Rob Whalen (5.1-7-5-2-0, 89) for three runs in the first inning (but also shot themselves in the foot by having two runners thrown out on the bases). Mookie Betts walked on four pitches. He stole second before Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch. Xander Bogaerts singled to left, scoring Betts, but Pedroia was thrown out at third. Andrew Benintendi singled to right-center, bringing Bogaerts home. Hanley Ramirez was hit by a pitch and, after Mitch Moreland flied to right, Jackie Bradley walked, loading the bases. Sandy Leon singled to left. Benintendi scored the third run, but Ramirez was thrown out at the plate.

Whalen threw 33 pitches in that inning, but he settled down after that. The Red Sox helped him out by often swinging early in the count. A string of six batters in the second and third innings saw only 12 pitches; one of those batters, Leon, saw five pitches, so Whalen threw a total of seven pitches to the other five batters.

Jackie Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Moreland had reached on a one-out single before Bradley went deep for the fifth time this year. In the eighth, Moreland drove in Ramirez, who had singled and gone to second on a wild pitch).

Red Sox pitchers have not allowed a run in their last 21 innings. ... Johnson threw 24 balls in nine innings. Whalen threw 14 balls in the first inning alone. ...  Time of game: 2:23.

Seattle's hits: one-out single in the first, one-out infield single in the third, one-out single in the fifth, two-out single in the fifth, two-out single in the seventh.
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,
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,
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.

May 21, 2017

G43: Red Sox 12, Athletics 3

Red Sox   - 200 022 015 - 12 15  0
Athletics - 010 200 000 -  3  6  3
Eduardo Rodriguez tied a career best by going eight innings - throwing under 100 pitches (8-6-3-1-8, 98). After Chad Pinder's two-run homer gave Oakland a 3-2 lead in the fourth, Rodriguez retired the next 10 batters and 14 of his last 15. In that time, his teammates came back, salvaging one game of the four-game series with a total team effort.

All nine batters in the lineup had at least one hit (Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez had three each and Jackie Bradley and Dustin Pedroia had two each).

Eight of the nine batters scored at least one run (Vazquez, Ramirez, Bradley, and Mookie Betts scored twice; Deven Marrero was the only player to not cross home plate).

Eight of the nine batters drove in at least one run (Ramirez, Marrero, and Mitch Moreland drove in two runs apiece; Xander Bogaerts was the lone batter to not have an RBI).

So in the traditional AB-R-H-RBI box score, the Red Sox had only two zeroes.

Usually, when the Red Sox bang out as many as 15 hits, many of them are for extra bases. That wasn't the case on Sunday: 11 singles, 3 doubles, 1 home run (by Moreland). They also had four stolen bases, including two by Andrew Benintendi.

Boston capped the afternoon/evening by sending nine men to the plate in the top of the ninth, scoring five runs off Oakland reliever Josh Smith. Armed with a 12-3 lead, Matt Barnes set down the A's in order. Play-by-play can be found here.

The Red Sox are off tomorrow and begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday (three games against both the Rangers and the Mariners). Then it's back on the road to play the White Sox and the top two teams in the AL East, the Orioles and the Yankees.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Andrew Triggs
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Marrero, 3B
The Red Sox will skip Hector Velazquez in the rotation and have Drew Pomeranz pitch on Wednesday against the Rangers at Fenway Park.

So Pomeranz was not happy with being pulled after only four innings yesterday. Maybe he was just generally frustrated with his performance this season. (I know I am. He's gone four, three, and four innings in his last three outings.) And maybe he shouldn't throw 97 pitches in four innings if he has aspirations of going six or seven.

Last night: Mets manager Terry Collins considered intentionally walking Mike Trout with the bases loaded. The Mets began the top of the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead, but the Angels scored twice and had the bases loaded with no outs. Collins decided against the move. Addison Reed pitched to Trout (the potential go-ahead run), who hit a sacrifice fly. The Mets won 7-5.

Batters Intentionally Walked With The Bases Loaded
Abner Dalrymple - August 2, 1881
Nap Lajoie - May 23, 1901
Del Bissonette - May 2, 1928
Bill Nicholson - July 23, 1944
Barry Bonds - May 28, 1998
Josh Hamilton - August 17, 2008

(Information on all six instances can be found here.)

May 20, 2017

G42: Athletics 8, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 020 010 000 - 3  7  1
Athletics - 020 051 00x - 8 11  1
Drew Pomeranz (4-5-2-2-6) had thrown 97 pitches in four innings (24-32-17 24), so manager John Farrell decided to go to the bullpen.

That was a big mistake.

Ben Taylor faced four batters and they all reached base (and all eventually scored). Mark Canha started the inning with a game-tying home run. Jed Lowrie singled and Khris Davis went deep for a two-run dong. Trevor Plouffe walked - and Taylor was gone. Noe Ramirez took over and got Ryon Healy to ground out, but Chad Pinder connected for a two-run homer, giving Oakland a 7-3 lead.

The three home runs in the fifth inning were also the three longest of the year for the Athletics: Pinder (483 feet), Canha (454), and Davis (435). Pinder's shot was the longest by any player this season - and the longest by an Oakland player since ESPN began tracking HRs in 2009.

Hanley Ramirez hit his sixth home run of the year in the second inning. He had two hits, as did Dustin Pedroia and Chris Young. The Red Sox had no walks for only the second game this year; the other game was on April 27, a 3-0 loss to the Yankees.

The Red Sox are now 21-21, the first time they have not been over .500 since April 14, when they were 5-5. Boston has also lost three games in a row for the first time this year.
Drew Pomeranz / Sean Manaea
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ramirez, DH
Young, LF
Benintendi, CF
Rutledge, 1B
Vazquez, C
Marrero, 3B
Over 41 games, the Red Sox (21-20) have won as many as two consecutive games only five times, and have won more than two consecutive games only once: April 3-5 (2 games), April 15-18 (4 games), May 2-3 (2 games), May 6-7 (2 games), and May 16-17 (2 games). On the plus side, their longest losing streak has been only two games (it's happened 5 times).

Pomeranz left his last start after three innings because of tightness in his left triceps. "Mookie Betts has put the ball in play on about 56 percent of his swings this season. Of the nearly 200 hitters who have taken at least 200 swings, he's the only one above 52 percent in that category."

Last night: Jackie Bradley robs Ryon Healy of a game-winning home run.

Chris Sale, on his streak of eight starts with 10+ strikeouts:
I'd rather be 8-0 with no punchouts, honestly. Peripheral stats don't matter in this game. I know people love to crunch numbers and talk about this and that. They're flashy, they're cool, but at the end of the day, they don't matter. They really don't. Other than your win-loss record for your team, every other stat doesn't matter.
Umm, no*. How about "Other than your team's win-loss record, every other stat doesn't matter"?

*: While I know what he means, I am also confident that he understands a win-loss record is never an accurate reflection of a pitcher's performance. For example, Derek Holland is 3-3 and Trevor Bauer is 4-4, but their respective ERAs are 2.70 (8th best in the AL) and 6.65 (48th, next to last). And in the NL, Gerrit Cole is 2-4, 2.84 and Wily Peralta is 5-2, 5.79.

May 19, 2017

G41: Athletics 3, Red Sox 2 (10)

Red Sox   - 000 200 000 0 - 2 10  0
Athletics - 000 011 000 1 - 3  8  1
Chris Sale is pitching so well that you actually get a little concerned when you see that he has struck out only five batters through four scoreless innings. Or when you watch him allow single runs in consecutive innings. Despite doing those things, Sale (7-7-2-0-10, 113) still turned in the kind of start most major league pitchers would consider one of their best of the season.

Sale struck out 10 batters for the eighth straight start, tying a major league record he already shared with Pedro Martinez. Sale began the seventh inning with eight strikeouts. After Mark Canha flied to right, Sale fanned both Chad Pinder and Josh Phegley to hit double digits.
Mitch Moreland got the Red Sox on the board with a two-run homer in the fourth. Xander Bogaerts doubled and then watched as Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez both struck out looking. Moreland came through by blasting a full-count pitch to right. (Earlier, Benintendi began the second inning with a double, snapping his 0-for-26 slump. He finished the night with two hits and a walk.)

Sale pitched out of trouble in the third when Canha led off with a double; he simply struck out Pinder, Phegley, and Rajai Davis. Oakland got to him in the fifth and sixth, however. Ryon Healy singled with one out in the fifth and scored on Canha's triple. Sale struck out Pinder and got Phegley to fly to left to keep the score at 2-1. But the A's tied it in the sixth. After Davis and Jed Lowrie both singled, Khris Davis doubled to left center, scoring Davis. With runners at second and third and the game tied 2-2, Sale struck out both Trevor Plouffe and Healy.

In the top of the ninth, Sandy Leon singled with one out against Santiago Casilla. Christian Vazquez pinch-ran and Josh Rutledge hit for Deven Marrero. Rutledge singled to center, and Vazquez went to third. The Red Sox came up empty as Mookie Betts lined to third and Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielder's choice.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jackie Bradley prevented an Oakland win when he leapt above the wall in center and grabbed Healy's long drive off Craig Kimbrel.

Bradley could do nothing in the bottom of the tenth, though, as Canha looked at two balls from Heath Hembree before hitting a game-ending home run to left. Canha finished with three hits, missing the cycle by a single.

Most Consecutive Starts With 10+ Strikeouts
Pedro Martinez, 1999 (8 starts)
August    19: 11 K
August    24: 15 K
August    30: 11 K
September  4: 15 K
September 10: 17 K
September 15: 14 K
September 21: 12 K
September 27: 12 K
Chris Sale, 2015 (8 starts)
May   23: 10 K
May   28: 12 K
June   3: 13 K
June   8: 14 K
June  14: 12 K
June  19: 14 K
June  24: 10 K
June  30: 12 K
Chris Sale, 2017 (8 starts)
April 10: 10 K
April 15: 12 K
April 20: 13 K
April 27: 10 K
May    2: 11 K
May    7: 10 K
May   13: 12 K
May   19: 10 K
In Buffalo: David Price (2-5-3-1-4, 65) pitched only two innings in his first rehab start. "I felt great in both innings. Every pitch I threw ... my entire body felt good. Not just my arm." WEEI provided the recap:
Price opened the game by allowing a leadoff double to [Jake] Elmore to end a 15-pitch at-bat. He stranded him there by striking out the side. He then allowed a homer to Raffy Lopez leading off the second before two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Elmore then singled to right to drive in two before Price induced a groundout and struck out Jason Leblebijian to end the frame, and his night.
WEEI gets it wrong: You cannot strike out the side if you also allow a double in the inning. (Because the guy who hit the double did not strike out.) ... The PawSox lost 7-5 in 13 innings. ... That 15-pitch at-bat: fffbffffbffffb, double.
Chris Sale / Kendall Graveman
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
Chris Sale has struck out at least 10 men in each of his last seven starts. He shares the major league record (eight starts) with Pedro Martinez. Sale also leads the majors in WHIP (0.77) and strikeouts (85).

Andrew Benintendi is in an 0-for-26 slump and did not play last night. In the four games before this slump (May 5-9), he went 10-for-19.

David Price will start for Pawtucket in Buffalo tonight. Alex Speier, 108 Stitches: "If all goes well for the lefthander, he could return to the rotation as soon as next week – potentially giving the Sox the sort of steady contributor that has been so glaringly absent from that spot in the rotation to this point in the season."

Red Sox's Ban Of Racist Fan Was Excesssive

Two weeks after the Red Sox announced that a fan who allegedly used a racial slur when talking to another fan had been banned from Fenway Park for life - that incident coming just one day after Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones said he had been the target of racial slurs during a game - the team announced that ushers, security personnel, and others working with the public at Fenway would be wearing buttons reading "Respectful" and "Kind". (The Globe's Peter Abraham tweeted a picture of the buttons last Saturday.)

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy talked to WEEI about the team's zero tolerance policy regarding hateful language at Fenway Park:
It's the club's right. We plan on doing it. We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure people who come to Fenway Park, regardless of your religion, your race, your sexual orientation, you feel comfortable at Fenway. That is our job. We need to be held accountable for that. That's something that's really important to John Henry, Tom Werner and to me and to the members of our front office. We want our fans to let us know if they feel uncomfortable. Nobody should feel intimidated by coming to a baseball game at Fenway Park. This is a place to come and relax and enjoy and feel comfortable.
While the Red Sox have the right to refuse entrance to Fenway Park to people who they feel cannot (or will not) abide by the rules they have in place, the lifetime ban was inappropriate, a punishment wildly out of proportion to the crime of which the unnamed fan was accused. Although at least one of the man's credit cards was flagged, his name and picture will not be posted at entry gates, making enforcement of what will probably be a decades-long ban next-to-impossible to enforce.

Having Fenway employees wear buttons with the team's logo and the words "Respectful" and "Kind" seems very silly to me. Is an angry fan really going to keep his mouth shut because he may have seen a "Kind" button on the lapel of the person checking his ticket two hours earlier? It's already fairly taboo to spew racial slurs in public, and now there is the precedent (or possibility) of receiving a lifetime ban if you do so within Fenway Park. I question whether a button will be a deterrent.

In reading the news stories of this incident and its aftermath, I found it interesting that what was said to Calvin Hennick was never mentioned (although Hennick himself posted about it on Facebook). Those posts are no longer available, but the information is in one of the comments under the Globe's story (which you should avoid; not only these comments, but comments posted below ANY online news story, anywhere). The racist fan told Hennick that the pre-game singer had "niggered up" the national anthem.

Hennick: "I thought that surely I'd misheard him. This was the day after Fenway fans had made national headlines for racism, and the man could plainly see me sitting with my black father-in-law and half-black son."

From the Globe:
Hennick asked if he had correctly understood the man and then repeated what he thought the man had just said.

"Yes, that's what I said, and I stand by it," the other fan told Hennick.

That's not OK, Hennick said to the man. You can't say that, he told the man.

"Why not?" the man replied.

At that point, Hennick stood up and found an usher, who immediately summoned Red Sox security. They ushered Hennick's family out of the grandstand and offered them better seats. Then, they asked Hennick to join them in the concourse to identify the man and repeat what was said.

"I was totally happy to do that because if he was going to deny it, I wanted him to deny it to my face like the coward he was," Hennick said.
And, sure enough, the man denied using the slur. The Red Sox opted to ban him for life.

Going back to the slurs yelled at Adam Jones, I doubt you will be surprised to learn that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling described Jones's account as "bullshit", accusing the Orioles outfielder of lying:
I don't believe the story, given the world we live in. I don't believe it, for this reason: Everybody is starving and hungry to sit in front of a camera and talk and be social justice warriors. And if a fan yelled loud enough in center field for Adam Jones to hear the N-word, I guarantee you we would've heard and seen fans around on CNN, on MSNBC, they would've found multiple fans to talk about what a racist piece of junk Boston is ... I spent most of my adult life in baseball parks. I heard the N-word out of my black teammates' mouths about 100 million times. For somebody to talk loud enough for Adam Jones to hear the N-word in center field, other people would have heard it. If somebody did say it, we're going to see it and hear about it, and I would apologize to Adam Jones for doubting him, but until then, I think this is bullshit. I think this is somebody creating a situation.
(Schilling doesn't believe racial slurs were used "given the world we live in". ... Wow. I don't know what planet Schilling's mind is currently on, but it's a long ways away from Earth.)

Here's an eyewitness report that Schilling can dismiss for one reason or another: Niko Poulakidas, a high school senior, was in the center field bleachers, maybe 15-20 rows behind the guy who was ejected:
Early on, people were laughing that he was throwing peanuts at Jones. But towards the end, I realized most people were just giving dirty looks. The N-word was the turning point for sure. Once that was said, everything turned serious. ... The guy seemed drunk and angry, which is probably why no one said anything to him at first. No one wants to start a fight. There probably wasn't a way to reason with a meathead of his magnitude. Some fans finally started yelling 'shut up' ...
After Jones told the press what had happened, several other players told similar stories, including CC Sabathia and Jason Heyward. In the past, David Price and Carl Crawford have talked about the slurs they heard at Fenway. Last year, Jones reported hearing racial slurs in Toronto. ... Red Sox management has said that Red Sox players have acknowledged hearing racial slurs at Fenway.

Still, Schilling continues to bury his head in the sand or, as Deadspin put it: "Curt Schilling Says No One Denies Racism Exists, Denies Racism Exists". Schilling recently took time out from admiring his large collection of Nazi memorabilia to send a text to WEEI, in which he insisted that Adam Jones is a liar with "an agenda" who created a "fake hate crime":
If he wants to maintain the lie he made here, that's fine. No one denies racism exists, but when people like him lie about an incident and others just take him at his word, it perpetuates a mythical level of racism. And for some reason, it appears blacks believe only blacks can talk about racism and only whites can be racists. I promise you if some scumbag yelled the N-word at Adam Jones in Fenway, it would have been on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media site asap, like every other "incident." Not to mention the liberal Boston media would have broken its neck to identify the racist. But just taking him at his word means there are a bunch of white cowards and racists living here, because no one stood up to the guy. Adam has an agenda and one needs to only look at his past commentary on race and racism to see it. But see, when you question fake hate crimes in this day and age it somehow makes you a racist. If you use this use every word or none at all.
Jones took the high road:
Schilling is over there with his rants. He just wants an outlet. Somebody will take his call, take his rants. He can keep them for himself. Because he's never experienced anything like I have. I'll stick with what [Mark] McLemore said about it: Schilling, hell of a career. But he's never been black, and he's never played the outfield in Boston.
That quote is from a long conversation Jones had with Yahoo's Jeff Passan last weekend.
Yahoo: How many times have you been called a racial slur in Boston?

Jones: To me, a few. To others? Now, you can't just single out Boston. That would be a cop-out. You go around the whole nation, and you hear fans get nasty. I don't know if it has something to do how with how their day went. I understand people's frustrations after they have a tough day. Could've had a tough day at work. Could've been fired. Wife could've chewed 'em out. Kids could've gotten sick. ... When I'm in center field, I hear the good, the bad, the ugly from the fans. I hear it. I hear the chatter of the fans. But that catches you off-guard. I've heard it all. "Go eff yourself." "I'm effing your mom this weekend." When people start to use strong profanity and hate words, you sit there and think, "What is really the issue?" The issue isn't me. The issue is not me being in center field. There's a bigger issue. ...

May 18, 2017

G40: Athletics 8, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 200 100 000 - 3  6  0
Athletics - 300 302 00x - 8 13  0
Hector Velazquez (5-9-6-2-4, 101) allowed three home runs, including back-to-back shots in the first inning.

The Red Sox made Sonny Gray (6-4-2-3-8, 103) throw 31 pitches in the first inning. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia both singled. Hanley Ramirez's single scored Betts and, after a walk to Mitch Moreland loaded the bases, Chris Young's fly to center scored Pedroia.

The A's wiped that lead away very quickly. Rajai Davis singled, but was thrown out trying to steal second. Matt Joyce walked and went to second on a wild pitch. Jed Lowrie crushed a two-run homer to center and Khris Davis followed by hitting a solo shot to right an 0-2 pitch.

Velazquez retired the A's in order in the second and wriggled out of trouble in the third. Davis appeared to have tripled to center, but after the Red Sox challenged the call at third, he was ruled out. (After his slide, he came off the bag for a split second and Deven Marrero tagged his leg.) Joyce and Lowrie then both singled, but Davis grounded into a double play.

Moreland tied the game with a home run in the fourth, but Oakland retook the lead in the bottom half. Ryon Healy singled and scored with one out on Trevor Plouffe's double. Chad Pinder followed with a two-run home run. The bottom of the order added two more runs off Robbie Ross in the sixth.

Boston remains 4 GB in the East.
Hector Velazquez / Sonny Gray
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Young, LF
Bradley. CF
Vazquez, C
Marrero, 3B
Hector Velazquez, who was signed out of the Mexican League exactly three months ago, will make his major league debut in Oakland. In five starts for Pawtucket, Velazquez, a 28-year-old right-hander, has a 1.55 ERA.

You can find Velazquez's PawSox game log here. In each start, he pitched a little deeper than the start before: 4.2 innings, 5.0, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0. He has allowed five earned runs in those starts, but three of them came in his first start. Since then, he has an 0.74 ERA (two earned runs in 24.1 innings). Overall, he has walked five and struck out 20.

If you are asking "Who Is Hector Velazquez?", SoSH's Brandon Magee has the answer. After seeing Velazquez pitch in spring training, manager John Farrell offered this assessment: "A very efficient delivery. Repeatable. He threw strikes. There was a decent depth to his cutter, slider. But he looked very comfortable on the mound for just joining camp."

May 17, 2017

G39: Red Sox 5, Cardinals 4 (13)

Red Sox   - 000 000 220 000 1 - 5 11  0
Cardinals - 130 000 000 000 0 - 4 12  2
Damn sorry I missed this one.

After rallying to tie the game in the late innings, the Red Sox got a 13th-inning rally going after there were two outs. Mitch Moreland hit a ground rule double to left. Jackie Bradley, who had got the Red Sox on the board with a two-run homer in the seventh, was intentionally walked. Chris Young batted for the pitcher and singled to center, scoring Moreland.

After Rick Porcello (6-9-4-3-6, 87) left, the Red Sox used eight relievers. Fernando Abad pitched the eleventh and twelfth innings, allowing one walk and facing only six batters. Ben Taylor issued a two-out walk in the thirteenth, but held on for the save.

It was the first game in Red Sox history that the team had eight different relievers appear in a game and allow no runs.
Rick Porcello / Mike Leake
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
Porcello, P
Leake leads the National League in ERA (1.94) and is third in WHIP (0.993).

May 16, 2017

G38: Red Sox 6, Cardinals 3

Red Sox   - 110 020 020 - 6  6  0
Cardinals - 003 000 000 - 3  6  3
From Mookie Betts leading off the game with a home run to Craig Kimbrel striking out the final St. Louis batter with a 99-mph fastball, this game was pretty much positive from start to end.

Eduardo Rodriguez (6-5-3-2-5, 110) stumbled in the third and the Red Sox lost the lead for a short time. But he bounced back, and the bullpen did its job. Only six of the final 26 Cardinals batters - starting with the first out in the third inning - reached base and none of them advanced past first.

Jackie Bradley hit a solo homer in the second inning. (That blast was to the opposite field, as was his seventh-inning single, a good sign.) Armed with a 2-0 lead, Rodriguez allowed a single to Kolten Wong, the #8 hitter, to start the third and then he hit opposing pitcher Lance Lynn with a pitch. Dexter Fowler doubled to left, scoring Wong. Tommy Pham's sacrifice fly to center scored Lynn. Fowler took third on that fly and scored when Matt Carpenter popped to short left-center. Xander Bogaerts went out and made a sliding catch; his throw home was on target, but late. The Cardinals led 3-2.

The Red Sox's fifth-inning rally sort of mirrored the Cardinals' third, with the bottom of the order setting the table. Bradley walked and Deven Marrero reached on an infield error. Rodriguez's dribbler in front of the plate accomplished the same thing as a bunt, advancing the runners to second and third. Bradley scored on Betts's groundout to short, and Dustin Pedroia's single put the Red Sox in the lead, as Marrero scored.

Boston tried to get some insurance in the seventh against Jonathan Broxton. Bradley singled and Marrero bunted him to second. But JBJ was stranded there as pinch-hitter Chris Young flied to center and Betts grounded to short.

The Red Sox had better luck in the eighth. Sam Tuivailala retired Pedroia, but Bogaerts dumped a single into short right. Lefty Brett Cecil came in and before throwing a pitch, he seemed to have picked off Bogaerts. But Bogaerts took off for second and somehow slid head-first around Aledmys Diaz's tag, pulling his left arm back and rolling slightly towards the outfield, jabbing his right hand at the base. The Cardinals challenged the safe call - and it was upheld.

Cecil then threw nine pitches, walking Andrew Benintendi (bsbbb) and Mitch Moreland (bbbb), leaving the bases loaded for the next reliever. That was Miguel Socolovich, against whom Christian Vazquez lifted a fly to short right-center. Fowler made the catch and Bogaerts took off from third. Even though the fly ball was not deep, the throw had to be perfect - and it was not. Bogaerts slid across the plate, making it 5-3. More fun ensued when Bradley popped a pitch over by the left field line. Pham was standing in foul territory when he tried to catch the ball; it hit off his glove and landed in fair territory. Benintendi scored easily but Moreland, running hard from first with two outs, was thrown out at the plate (though it was somewhat close).

After Rodriguez pitched six innings, Robby Scott issued a one-out walk in the seventh, but got the next man before handing the ball to Heath Hembree, who got a force play to end the inning. Matt Barnes was warming up while the Red Sox batted in the top of the eighth, but it was Hembree who returned to the mound. He retired the first two batters, gave up a single, and then got the final out on a popup to third.

Kimbrel threw only eight pitches. Randal Grichuk popped to right, Wong flied to left, and Mike Adams struck out, being utterly overmatched on the last two pitches, both of which he swung at and missed. ... Kimbrel has now retired 23 of his last 24 batters.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Lance Lynn
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
Marrero, 3B
Rodriguez, P
The Red Sox (19-18, 4 GB) have two games in St. Louis before going to Oakland for four games. Then a day off next Monday before the Rangers and Mariners visit Fenway.

Craig Kimbrel's last 15 batters:
Infield single

May 15, 2017

MLB: Slow To Learn & Mookie Improves On 2016

David Schoenfield, ESPN:
The changing face of the leadoff hitter is a revolution that has long been called for by statistical analysts, stressing that getting on base is a more important factor in scoring runs than speed and the ability to steal bases. Some managers are finally willing to toss aside any notion of convention by putting these sluggers in the leadoff spot.
It is astounding that it has taken so long - as in more than 100 years long! -- for the people in charge of constructing baseball teams/lineups to realize that perhaps the most "important factor in scoring runs" is "getting on base". I would call it an essential factor.

What is even more amazing is there are people in high management positions in this multi-billion-dollar industry who seem to have not yet realized this. As Branch Rickey wrote, almost 65 years ago, in a seminal piece of baseball analysis: "Baseball people generally are allergic to new ideas."

Matt Collins (Over The Monster) explains that after his fantastic 2016 season, Mookie Betts is still improving: fewer strikeouts, more walks, still aggressive on pitches in the zone while avoiding non-strikes, and more power.

A commenter: "I also think any article about Betts should remind everyone that he was a second baseman throughout his minor league career. So, in addition to his awesome hitting, Betts is providing (way) above average value playing RF, while only having two-ish seasons worth of pro experience at that position. When we consider other position change experiments (Hanley to LF, Swihart to LF), that is... astonishing."

May 14, 2017

G37: Rays 11, Red Sox 2

Rays    - 110 100 107 - 11 16  1
Red Sox - 100 010 000 -  2  6  1
Any thought of a Red Sox comeback was put to rest when Robbie Ross and (especially) Heath Hembree imploded in the ninth inning.

Drew Pomeranz (3-3-2-3-3, 57) left the game with left triceps soreness after throwing his fourth-inning warm-up pitches.

Mookie Betts walked and stole second in the first inning, and he scored on Xander Bogaerts's double. Dustin Pedroia's two-out single scored Deven Marrero in the fourth.

Evan Longoria's single off Matt Barnes in the seventh gave Tampa Bay a two-run lead, 4-2. That seemed like enough of a cushion even though the Red Sox had three innings remaining in which to bat. It turned out to be an accurate assessment, but the Rays put seven more runs on the board anyway. It was 5-2 when Hembree entered the game with two outs. The first three batters he faced drove in a run with a single, then Steven Souza hit a three-run homer. Hembree also gave up a double before finally getting the third out.

The game took 4:32 to play, missing the record for a nine-inning game by only 13 minutes.

David Price's scheduled minor league start for Pawtucket was rained out, so he threw a simulated game indoors instead. After throwing 75 pitches, Price said, "I threw all of my pitches to both sides of the plate. I did really well today." He plans on pitching for the PawSox in Buffalo on Friday.
Matt Andriese / Drew Pomeranz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
Marrero, 3B
David Price will start for Pawtucket today. He is scheduled for five innings or 70-75 pitches.

Craig Kimbrel has faced 59 batters this season and struck out 33 of them. His K/9 of 17.8 would be the highest of his career. Kimbrel has walked only two batters all year, both coming on April 9. Since then, he has faced 48 batters without issuing a base on balls.

Mookie Betts became the Red Sox's current leadoff hitter last Saturday; he has 12 RBIs in his last six games at the top of the order. Betts is the first player with three games of three or more RBIs from the leadoff slot over a span of five days (4-1-3-0-3) since Alfonso Soriano (Cubs, 2008). The only other Red Sox players to do that were Tommy Harper (1973) and Darren Lewis (1998).

In yesterday's Padres/White Sox game, Jose Abreu reached on an error. Avisail Garcia was at the plate. San Diego pitcher Trevor Cahill had this sequence: ball, foul, swinging strike (Abreu to second on wild pitch), ball (Abreu to third on wild pitch), ball, ball (García walked; Abreu scored on wild pitch). Cahill also threw a wild pitch earlier in the game and now has eight this year.

May 13, 2017

G36: Red Sox 6, Rays 3

Rays    - 010 020 000 - 3  3  0
Red Sox - 002 040 00x - 6  7  0
After losing the lead in the top of the fifth, the Red Sox quickly grabbed it back in the bottom half. Chris Sale (7-2-3-2-12, 111), Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel limited the Rays to three hits.

The two clubs traded home runs in the early innings. Logan Morrison's solo shot got Tampa Bay on the board in the second. Mookie Betts gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead, as Sandy Leon had walked before he went over the Wall. In the fifth, Sale walked Derek Norris with two outs and Kevin Kiermaier followed with a dong, giving the Rays a 3-2 edge.

Leon worked a nine-pitch walk against Blake Snell (5.2-6-6-3-5, 113) to start the Red Sox's fifth. Jackie Bradley doubled to left and Leon went to third. Deven Marrero doubled to center, scoring both baserunners, and then he scored when Betts doubled to left. Dustin Pedroia bunted Betts to third and he scored on Xander Bogaerts's groundout.

Armed with a three-run lead, the Red Sox pitchers shut down any attempt by the Rays to get back into the game. After Sale walked Daniel Robertson with one out in the sixth, he struck out Evan Longoria and Rickie Weeks. Corey Dickerson reached on an infield single with one out in the eighth, and Kelly responded by whiffing Steven Souza and Brad Miller. Kimbrel set down the Rays in order in the ninth, striking out the final two hitters.

Sale struck out at least one batter in every inning (223 112 1), including seven in the first three innings. It was his seventh straight start with 10+ strikeouts.
Blake Snell / Chris Sale
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Young, DH
Moreland, 1B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Marrero, 3B
The Red Sox (18-17, 4.5 GB) have been unable to generate any momentum this season, as the results from their 35 games show:
That is the very definition of "treading water".

However, I will admit that it's nice that their longest losing streak is only two games. The Red Sox and Orioles are the only two teams that have not had a losing streak of three or more games this year.

May 12, 2017

G35: Rays 5, Red Sox 4

Rays    - 000 230 000 - 5 11  3
Red Sox - 000 000 400 - 4  5  2
After the Red Sox were silenced by Alex Cobb for six innings - they managed only one single and two walks - they broke through for four runs in the seventh. But they could not do anything more against the Rays bullpen, squandering a prime scoring chance in the eighth before going down quietly in the ninth.

The Rays built a 5-0 lead off Rick Porcello (6-9-5-0-7, 105) in the middle innings. After an infield error (yep, by the third baseman), a single, and a passed ball, Tim Beckham drove in two runs with a two-out single in the fourth. Tampa Bay began the fifth with Derek Norris's single and Corey Dickerson's run-scoring double. One out later, Evan Longoria homered to left.

This was all that Cobb (6.1-4-4-3-5, 107) allowed through the first six innings: Xander Bogaerts's single with two outs in the first, a walk to Bogaerts with one out in the fourth, and a leadoff walk to Mitch Moreland in the fifth.

With one out in the seventh, however, everything changed (thanks in no small part by some sloppy Rays fielding). Chris Young doubled to right. Moreland drew another walk. Josh Rutledge reached on infield single and Young scored on Cobb's throwing error. Sandy Leon followed with a ground-rule double to right, scoring Moreland and Rutledge. After Jose Alvarado relieved Cobb, Rays second baseman Brad Miller made two errors on Jackie Bradley's grounder, allowing Leon to score the fourth run. Erasmo Ramirez came in from the pen with the potential tying run at second and retired Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia.

Ramirez dug a hole for Tampa Bay in the bottom of the eighth when Bogaerts doubled and Benintendi walked. After Young flied out - and Bogaerts took third - Rays manager Kevin Cash called on Danny Farquhar. He struck out Moreland. Then Alex Colome got Rutledge to ground out to third. Colome remained on the mound and retired Leon, Bradley, and Betts in the ninth.

ESPN's Scott Lauber thought that Rutledge's spot in the eighth inning would have been a perfect spot for Hanley Ramirez to pinch-hit, but "manager John Farrell said Ramirez told him Friday morning that he would need at least one more game off after experiencing spasms in his right trapezius muscle Wednesday in Milwaukee".

The Red Sox are 18-17.
Alex Cobb / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Young, DH
Moreland, 1B
Rutledge, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Red Sox Announcement: "Due to sustained periods of rain expected Saturday evening, first pitch of Saturday's Red Sox-Rays game has been rescheduled [from 7:10 PM] to 1:05 PM."

ESPN's Scott Lauber writes about the black hole that is third base:
Through 34 games, the Boston Red Sox already have used six third basemen. And between them, Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez, Steve Selsky, Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero have posted a .574 OPS, dead last in the majors at the position. Worse yet, they have combined for 12 errors, four more than any other team's total at third base.
ESPN's stats actually have Boston's third basemen's combined OPS at .587, still 30th out of 30 teams (also well below the AL average of .752). The Red Sox's third basemen are 28th in on-base percentage (.267), 29th in slugging (.320), and 26th in batting average (.216).

Two words that we may be hearing sooner rather than later: "Rafael Devers". Sox Prospects on Devers, who is 20 years old and currently in Portland (AA):
All-Star potential regardless of position due to his value at the plate. Potential to be a plus hitter for average with plus-to-better power. One of the most exciting young players in the system in years. Mature approach for his age, has shown the ability to handle aggressive assignments.