August 13, 2017

G117: Red Sox 3, Yankees 2 (10)

Red Sox - 000 010 001 1 - 3  4  0
Yankees - 000 010 010 0 - 2  5  0
This is one of those games that, in the dark ages before October 2004, I would have been fuming for hours afterwards, even though the Red Sox had won. It was a close, tense game - and the Red Sox came out on top, extending their lead in the AL East to 5.5 games, but several instances of managerial incompetence threatened to overshadow a lot of the good feelings.

After Chris Sale had given his team (yet again) a superb outing (7-4-1-2-12, 114), John Farrell brought in Matt Barnes for the eighth, and it was clear from the outset that Barnes was not sharp. He retired Brett Gardner, but he fell behind Aaron Hicks 3-0 before walking him on a full-count pitch. Aaron Judge lined a first-pitch single to right, and Barnes walked Gary Sanchez on four pitches, loading the bases. Farrell had Addison Reed and Robby Scott warming up, but he stayed with the ineffective Barnes. (For whatever reasons, Barnes has been a disaster on the road this year, with a 5.20 ERA; his Fenway ERA is 1.55.) With Todd Frazier at the plate, Barnes missed with two of his first three pitches, throwing them in the dirt. Frazier eventually lined a 3-2 pitch to center. Jackie Bradley made the catch and Hicks scored. Judge tagged and went to third. Bradley did not throw to third, however, he threw to second. Farrell brought in Scott, who got Didi Gregorius to swing and miss at three straight pitches. (Maybe Scott should have started the inning.)

Where was Craig Kimbrel during all of this? Farrell was asked after the game if he considered bringing his closer into the game in the eighth? "It was a thought." Well, great! The Yankees led 2-1 and Aroldis Chapman was on the hill to nail down the victory. If he succeeded, then Kimbrel would not have thrown a single pitch in this important series (though Farrell did have him warm up on Saturday when the Red Sox were ahead by five runs with two outs to go.) Chapman struck out Hanley Ramirez on three pitches, the last one clocked at 103. And he got ahead of Rafael Devers 1-2, as the rookie failed to catch up to a 102-mph fastball. Chapman's next pitch was out over the plate at 103 and Devers got his bat on it, lofting it to deep left center. It kept carrying and Brett Gardner and Hicks watched it disappear over the fence. The game was tied - in truly shocking fashion.

Over Chapman's eight-year career, left-handed batters had faced him 418 times before Devers stood in. Only one had hit a home run: Luke Scott on June 26, 2011. Devers was now #2! It was also the first home run that Chapman had surrendered this year. Chapman rebounded, striking out Xander Bogaerts and getting Brock Holt on a grounder to shortstop. Chapman has allowed six runs (five earned) in six appearances this season against the Red Sox.

With the score 2-2, Farrell went with Addison Reed in the bottom of the ninth. In Friday's game, Reed had allowed all four of his batters to reach base. He began this inning by walking Chase Headley. Ronald Torreyes promptly bunted Headley to second. Jacoby Ellsbury was announced as a pinch-hitter for Austin Romine as Carl Willis came out for a chat with Reed. The first pitch to Ellsbury was a ball - and suddenly, Farrell wanted to make a pitching change. He came out of the dugout, but was stopped by crew chief Fieldin Culbreth.

Rule 8.06(c) states that a manager or coach cannot make multiple mound visits while the same batter is at the plate. Because Willis had come out after Ellsbury was announced, Farrell was not permitted to make a change until Ellsbury's plate appearance was completed. Although Farrell said afterwards that he was aware of the rule, he also said "I messed up trying to get Kimbrel into the game." Reed looked extremely pissed off when Farrell came out of the dugout. Ellsbury grounded Reed's next pitch to second. Holt threw to first for the out, but Headley went to third. Farrell re-emerged to bring Craig Kimbrel in.

Farrell's thought process didn't make much sense. If throwing ball one to Ellsbury was so bad that Farrell wanted to yank Reed immediately, why not simply bring Kimbrel in to begin that at-bat? And why did Reed throwing one pitch out of the zone bother Farrell so much, yet he sat placidly while Barnes imploded in the previous inning, throwing only five strikes in his first 15 pitches and loading the bases in a tie game?

Kimbrel's first two pitches to Gardner missed. But he got two called strikes and Gardner swung and missed at an outside fastball to end the inning.

Chapman returned for the tenth, having thrown just 13 pitches in the ninth. Boston's first batter was Mitch Moreland, pinch-hitting for Sandy Leon (who had looked bad all night, striking out in all three of his at-bats). Moreland bats left-handed, so this was a very poor match-up for the Red Sox. Lefties have hit only .194 against Chapman this year and Moreland has a .218 against lefties this season - and .238 for his career. If Farrell wanted to hit for Leon, why not send up Christian Vazquez, since Vazquez was going to catch in the bottom of the inning anyway? Moreland's at-bat: called strike, two fouls, and a swinging strike three. Pure stupidity from Farrell.

Jackie Bradley took two strikes before an inside pitch drilled him in the back. And then Chapman lost the zone. He fell behind Eduardo Nunez 2-0 and 3-1. His fifth pitch was outside the zone, but was called strike two. Chapman missed again, and Nunez walked. New York manager Joe Girardi made a change, and Chapman was booed as he walked to the dugout. Tommy Kahnle threw strike one to Mookie Betts, before missing with four balls. Boston had the bases loaded with one out. Andrew Benintendi lined a 2-1 pitch into right field for a single, scoring Bradley. After a mound visit, Kahnle struck out Ramirez. Devers then hit a wicked rope to left that Gardner sprinted back on and leaped and somehow snared.

Kimbrel faced the Yankees' 2-3-4 hitters in the bottom of the tenth. Hicks hit a hard grounder down the first base line that Moreland, now at first, gobbled up and tossed to Kimbrel for the out. Judge was dispatched with high heat, striking out for the third time in the game. (The now-impotent Judge has struck out in 30 consecutive games, two away from the major league record.) Kimbrel battled Gary Sanchez for nine pitches before getting a lazy fly ball to right, which Betts caught for the final out.

It was perhaps fitting that Betts made the final putout, as it was his misplay in right that allowed the Yankees to tie the game in the fifth. Boston had taken a 1-0 lead in the top half, when Holt walked, went to second on a wild pitch (that really didn't get that far away from Romine), and scored on Bradley's single through the infield and into left-center. Headley had singled off Chris Sale and with two outs Romine flied to deep right. Betts went back to the base of the wall and put his glove up, but he may have closed the glove too early. The ball fell to the dirt. Headley scored and Romine was inexplicably given credit for a triple. Sale stranded the runner at third by striking out Gardner.

Sale ended six of his seven innings with a strikeout, and seven of his final eight outs were strikeouts. He displayed a knack for striking out the Yankee at the plate while the ESPN announcers were busy gushing about how super-duper the New York player was.

The Red Sox hit the ball hard against Jordan Montgomery (5.1-2-1-3-4, 84), but all of their lines drives found MFY gloves.

The Red Sox are 12-4 since Devers joined the team on July 25.
Chris Sale / Jordan Montgomery
Nunez, 3B
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, 1B
Young, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Holt, 2B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Matthew Martell,
What makes Sale so dominant is he has two put-away pitches. Both his four-seam fastball and his slider rank in the top five of MLB in terms of strikeouts by pitch, according to Statcast. Of his MLB-leading 229 strikeouts, 104 have come via his four-seam fastball and 98 have come against his slider.
Much has been made this season of Sale's dominance and his MLB-best strikeout total, but as 538's Michael Salfino noted earlier this month, Sale still has nothing on Pedro Martinez. Salfino stated that the MLB strikeout rate this season (21.6%) is the highest of all time.
In every year since 2009, the leaguewide strikeout rate has broken a record that was set the previous season. ... So how can we tell whether Sale is historically great? A better way to compare baseball's strikeout kings is to look at how much better each pitcher was than the leaguewide rate.
The Strikeout Kings Relative To Era (Since 1961)
Pitchers with biggest difference between their strikeout rate and the league rate that season.
    YEAR   TEAM             PITCHER           LG K%   PIT K%  DIFF.
1   1999   Red Sox          Pedro Martinez    16.4%   37.5%   +21.1
2   2001   Diamondbacks     Randy Johnson     17.3    37.4    +20.1
3   2000   Red Sox          Pedro Martinez    16.5    34.8    +18.3
4   2000   Diamondbacks     Randy Johnson     16.5    34.7    +18.2
5   1995   Mariners         Randy Johnson     16.2    33.9    +17.7
6   1984   Mets             Dwight Gooden     14.0    31.4    +17.4
7   1999   Diamondbacks     Randy Johnson     16.4    33.7    +17.3
8   1997   Mariners         Randy Johnson     17.1    34.2    +17.1
9   1998   Cubs             Kerry Wood        16.9    33.3    +16.4
10  1989   Rangers          Nolan Ryan        14.8    30.5    +15.7
11  1998   Mariners-Astros  Randy Johnson     16.9    32.4    +15.5
11  2002   Diamondbacks     Randy Johnson     16.8    32.3    +15.5
13  1987   Astros           Nolan Ryan        15.5    30.9    +15.4
14  1997   Expos            Pedro Martinez    17.1    32.2    +15.1
15  1962   Dodgers          Sandy Koufax      14.1    29.0    +14.9
16  1976   Angels           Nolan Ryan        12.7    27.3    +14.6
17  1973   Angels           Nolan Ryan        13.7    28.2    +14.5
17  1997   Phillies         Curt Schilling    17.1    31.6    +14.5
17  1991   Rangers          Nolan Ryan        15.2    29.7    +14.5
17  2017   Red Sox          Chris Sale        21.6    36.1    +14.5
21  1993   Mariners         Randy Johnson     15.1    29.5    +14.4
22  2002   Diamondbacks     Curt Schilling    16.8    31.1    +14.3
23  2017   Indians          Corey Kluber      21.6    35.8    +14.2
24  1979   Astros           J.R. Richard      12.5    26.6    +14.1
24  2017   Nationals        Max Scherzer      21.6    35.7    +14.1

(The above chart was published on August 2. Sale's current numbers might not match those exactly.)

A great tweet yesterday from Alex Speier:
Context on Devers/Benintendi: At @LowellSpinners game tonight, one player in Spinners lineup is older than Benintendi; 7 older than Devers.
Lowell is Class A ball, by the way.

From Elias: "Andrew Benintendi ... also had two homers and six runs batted in a game last month in Arlington. He is the fifth player to produce two games of that kind in a rookie season, along with Hal Trosky (1934 [Cleveland]), Rudy York (1937 Tigers), Cody Ross (2006, once for the Dodgers, once for the Marlins), and Max Kepler (2016 Twins)."

And: Why does Derek Jeter hate Red Grooms?

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