August 16, 2018

Schadenfreude 237 (A Continuing Series)

Greg Joyce, Post:
Aaron Judge ... [is] still not swinging because of lingering pain from a fractured bone in his right wrist, and his rehab process is taking longer than the club originally believed it would. ...

The night Judge was hit by a pitch that caused the injury, the Yankees estimated a three-week time period before he could swing a bat in a game situation. Thursday marks three weeks exactly, and Judge has still not picked up a bat at all. ...

"I haven't really done any motions of trying to extend it out because that's the motion that gets me — when I full extend like that, it kind of bothers my wrist," Judge said, motioning a follow-through with his wrist on a throw. ...

Wednesday marked the 19th game Judge missed since Jake Junis' 93 mph fastball sailed up and in to drill him on the right wrist. The Yankees [are 10-9] without him ...
George A. King III, Post:
"When you fall behind early it can be frustrating ..." [Brett] Gardner said of the Yankees who went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners [in a loss to the Rays]. ...

In 3.1 innings, [Luis] Cessa showed why he is a regular on The-Bronx-to-SWB shuttle. Thanks to leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate, especially his straight-as-rain fastball, Cessa gave up five runs and seven hits to drop the Yankees into a ditch far too deep to climb out of.
Kevin Kernan, Post:
The Red Sox are 10 games better than the Yankees ... The Red Sox deserve to be where they are, all alone in first place in the AL East and the Yankees deserve to be where they are, well behind the Red Sox. ...

Wednesday night's horrible 6-1 loss to the tiny-market Rays at Yankee Stadium brought some truths home for the Yankees about their hitting.

[T]he Yankees came into the night 13th in the AL in batting average (.223) with the bases loaded ...

[T]he team with the best batting average in the AL with the bases loaded is [Cleveland] at .344, the Red Sox are right behind at .342 and then the Astros at .316. ...

The Mariners are one point behind the Yankees and then it's the Royals — the only teams worse than the Yankees' average with the bases loaded. ...

With runners in scoring position the Red Sox lead the AL with a .285 mark, the Yankees are eighth at .252. ...

[T]he Yankees do not have a .300 hitter. Mookie Betts leads the AL with a .352 mark. J.D. Martinez is not far behind at .333.
Daily News:
Judge walked into the clubhouse ... and turned on Franklin's version of "I Say A Little Prayer" on the stereo system.

August 15, 2018

G122: Phillies 7, Red Sox 4

Red Sox  - 003 000 010 - 4 10  1
Phillies - 000 301 30x - 7 12  2
The Red Sox trailed by four runs when they loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts had both singled off Pat Neshek and Jackie Bradley was safe when Phillies first baseman Justin Bour fielded his ground ball and, trying for a force at second, threw it into the middle of Bogaerts's back.

Rafael Devers lined out to right and Martinez did not risk trying to score. Sandy Leon fouled out to third on the first pitch, with Maikel Franco making the catch near the dugout. Pinch-hitter Mookie Betts knocked an 0-1 pitch back to the mound. Neshek reached to his right with his bare hand and slowed the ball down, so no one else had a play. Martinez scored. Phillies closer Seranthony was called on to face Andrew Benintendi, who hacked at the first pitch - which was nothing he could drive by any means - and grounded out meekly first-to-pitcher. Dominguez retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth.

Boston took a 3-0 lead with one out in the third. Vince Velasquez (2.1-4-3-4-2, 63) walked Nathan Eovaldi and drilled Benintendi. Velasquez tried fielding Brock Holt's slow grounder to the right side, but he failed to grab it. The bases were loaded and Mitch Moreland cleared them with a double to the wall in right-center. Velasquez then walked Martinez and Bogaerts to re-load the bases and remove himself from the game. Hector Neris took over, falling behind Bradley 3-0. He recovered to get a fly to short right and a three-pitch strikeout of Devers. The "3" on the scoreboard was nice, but this was also a squander.

That fact was brought into sharper focus when Eovaldi (5-7-3-0-5, 86) was tagged for three runs in the fourth. Devers committed a throwing error on Rhys Hoskins's grounder and Nick Williams singled to right-center. Wilson Ramos doubled off the top of the wall in right for one run and Odubel Herrera's grounder to first scored another run. With two outs, Carlos Santana singled to right, tying the game.

In the sixth, Devers and Leon singled with two outs. Steve Pearce grounded a ball towards right field. Second baseman Carlos Hernandez ranged far to his left and his soft throw appeared to pull Bour off the bag. Devers raced for the plate and scored. 4-3? Not quite. The Phillies challenged the call at first and it was overturned after replays showed Bour had somehow kept a finger-nail-sized area of his right shoe on the base.

The Phillies took the lead against Joe Kelly in the next half-inning when Ramos led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Scott "0-for-his-last-21" Kingery's sac fly to right. Drew Pomeranz gave up a hit and a walk to begin the seventh before getting two outs. The third out was elusive, however, as Ramos doubled in two runs, Herrera singled, and Franco's single brought in Philadelphia's seventh run.

Ramos's two doubles and a triple made him the first player to have three extra-base hits in his Phillies debut since Ed Freed went 4-for-5 in his first major league game on September 11, 1942. Freed's career in the bigs lasted only 17 days.

(Out of curiosity, I used BRef's Play Index to see how many players had three extra-base hits in their major league debut. Since 1908, there have been seven, with Freed being the first. No one has ever had four extra-base hits in his first game. Freed also walked, so he was on base five times. That is also a record for a player's debut, which has been done eight times. That list includes Casey Stengel (September 17, 1912) and Ted Cox (September 18, 1977).)
Nathan Eovaldi / Vince Velasquez
Benintendi, LF
Holt, 2B
Moreland, 1B
Martinez, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Bradley, CF
Devers, 3B
Leon, C
Eovaldi, P
Last night in Atlanta, in the bottom of the first inning:
Ronald Acuna hit Trevor Richards's first pitch of the game for a home run to left-center
Charlie Culberson hit Richards's second pitch of the game for a home run to left-center
Elias reported it was the first time two batters hit home runs on the opposing team's first two pitches since Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco of the Phillies abused Atlanta's Russ Ortiz on September 9, 2004. Acuna (20 years, 239 days old) is now the youngest player in major league history to homer in five consecutive games.

Porcello Is One Of Six AL PItchers With Two Extra-Base Hits In A Season Since 1973

Rick Porcello is one of only six American League pitchers to have two extra-base hits in a season in the DH Era (since 1973).

No AL pitcher has had three extra-base hits in a season since 1973. Porcello may have a chance to be the first when the Red Sox play three games in Atlanta on September 3-5.

Ben Zobrist Ejected After Telling Phil Cuzzi He Is One Reason Players Want Robot Umps

Ben Zobrist was ejected from a game for the first time in his career after telling plate umpire Phil Cuzzi that players would prefer robot umpires.
When you have good, quality at-bats as a hitter and you feel like it's kinda taken away from you, you want some sort of an answer. Or you want to be assured that they're gonna go back and make an adjustment and that's what I asked for. ... [H]e didn't want to talk about that. He didn't want me to tell him that. I just basically said, 'Well that's why we want an electronic strike zone.' ... [I]t's frustrating when you feel like you know the zone and I feel like the at-bat was taken away from me. ...

That's what obviously got me tossed. I'm not going to lie. I think he was going toss me anyway, before I said that, just because I wouldn't go away. ... He knows I'm not going to argue if it's close. I rarely do that. I know the zone pretty well I feel like. If it's close I'm going to walk back. This one I knew. I knew it was never on the plate. I didn't need to look on the video. I got animated, at first, and he didn't even want me to be animated about it. I was told that later.
Cuzzi called Zobrist out on an outside pitch in the sixth inning. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the strike three pitch is called a strike 44.7% of the time.

I posted almost exactly one year ago that Zobrist wants an electronic zone.

If you think Phil Cuzzi has any business working as a major league umpire, check this out:

Whoever heard of someone walking on a 1-6 count?

I also wrote about Cuzzi after his horrible performance on September 26, 2010. The Yankees took 19 pitches thrown by Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning and Cuzzi blew the call on eight of them. He got 42% of the pitches wrong!

I wish more players were as vocal about this issue as Zobrist.

August 14, 2018

G121 : Red Sox 2, Phillies 1

Red Sox  - 001 000 010 - 2  6  0
Phillies - 000 010 000 - 1  2  1
Rick Porcello was just about perfect (7-2-1-0-10, 90) and Brock Holt crushed a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning.

The Red Sox have 86 wins. The team with the second-most wins in the majors has 75. Boston could get to 90 wins before any other team gets to 80!!

If Cleveland, which holds a 12.5-game lead in the AL Central, was in the AL East, they would be 18 GB the Red Sox

With Chris Sale's 5-1-0-0-12 line on Sunday and Porcello's outing tonight, the Red Sox have had starting pitchers in back-to-back games strike out 10+ batters and not walk anyone for the first time in team history.

Porcello allowed only two baserunners. He retired the first 12 Phillies (seven by strikeout) before Rhys Hoskins led off the fifth with a home run. Two outs later, Odubel Herrera singled to right. Porcello set down the next seven batters. Heath Hembree pitched a clean eighth. Craig Kimbrel walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth, but retired the next three hitters.

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead when Sandy Leon homered in the third off Nick Pivetta (6-3-1-1-6, 84). Porcello followed thew dong with a first-pitch double to the wall in right-center. There was not a play at second base, but he went in with a head-first slide anyway. (A shot of the Red Sox dugout showed Sale with such a huge smile on his face he made Mookie look like a perpetual grump.) Speaking of Betts, he walked, but Andrew Benintendi grounded into a double play.

In the bottom of the seventh, Heath Hembree was warming up in the bullpen. Porcello's pitch count was in the mid-80s and NESN's Dave O'Brien made a big deal about the fact that Porcello was up second in the top of the eighth. He and Dennis Eckersley wondered if Alex Cora would let Porcello pitch another inning. They noted that his pitch count was low.

First of all, it was not low. It was clear Porcello was going to be at or over 90 pitches by the end of seven innings. He had thrown fewer than 100 pitches in five of last six starts and he had pitched more than seven innings in only three of his 24 starts this year. He was in no trouble, but Hembree has been warming up since the half-inning had begun. Alex Cora has been saying - since before spring training began - that one of his biggest priorities this season is giving his top pitchers a bit more rest before October. How could they NOT KNOW the seventh would be Porcello's last inning?

Sure enough, Holt came out on deck as Leon led off the eighth. (OB acted like pinch-hitting for Porcello was the most natural decision in the world.) After Leon struck out, Holt crushed Tommy Hunter's first pitch off the front of the second deck in right-center for a go-ahead home run. The estimate distance was 424 feet. Betts followed with a double, but was stranded after stealing third.

With one out in the home eighth, Hembree threw an inside slider on a 2-2 count to Herrera. It broke downward and hit Herrera in the back foot, but he clearly swung at it (or made three-quarters of a swing). Plate umpire Will Little immediately came out in front of the plate and was emphatically pointing at Herrera, who was sitting on the ground, which is not the usual he-got-plunked-he's-going-to-first indication.

Even without Little's gestures, it was obvious Herrera swung and, therefore, had struck out. But O'Brien was off in La-La Land and it took him close to ten seconds before he realized Herrera was not going to first base. "Now, wait a minute ..." As we saw some replays, of course OB and Eckersley acted like, well, clearly he swung, no one would question that!

NESN has hired O'Brien and Eckersley to tell us about the game. It is their job! O'Brien is doing "play-by-play", i.e., telling us what is happening on the field as it happens. OB actually makes it his mission to tell us what will happen before it happens, so he really should have been on top of this play.

But so many times, we can see the ball go over the fence and the NESN announcers think it may have been caught, we see an infielder's foot block a runner's path to a base, but OB and Remy/Eck are in the dark, or they are ignorant of Fenway Park's most basic ground rules? How could they not see Herrera had practically taken a full swing at the pitch?

When Dennis Eckersley tells a story from his playing days, he is usually 100% correct. It's uncanny. After Brock Holt had given the Red Sox a 2-1 lead and put Rick Porcello in line for a W, Eckersley recalled a game in which he was pinch-hit for and the guy hit a grand slam, turning what might have been a loss into a potential victory.

It took Eckersley a minute or so to recall his teammate's name. I thought he said Brian Guyette, but the guy was Brian Dayett. On May 22, 1985, Eckerlsey started for the Cubs against the Reds at Wrigley Field. In the top of the fifth, he allowed three runs and the Cubs trailed 4-2. Chicago loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with one out.

Dayett pinch-hit for Eckersley and hit a grand slam, giving the Cubs a 6-4 lead. It was his only home run that season. The Cubs won 7-4, with Eckersley getting the W.
Rick Porcello / Nick Pivetta
Betts, CF
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Martinez, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Leon, C
Porcello, P
The next run that Mookie Betts scores will link him with Ted Williams as the only Red Sox players to have three 100-run seasons before turning 26 years old. Betts - who will turn 26 on October 7 - scored 122 runs in 2016 and 101 runs in 2017.

The 2018 Red Sox (85-35):
need to play .500 ball (21-21) or better to break the franchise's single-season wins record of 105, which was set in 1912.

have won 10 of their last 11 games, 14 of their last 16, and 29 of their last 35.

are 43-15 (.741) against the other four AL East teams. In the Divisional Era (since 1969), the best record for any AL East team within the division is 33-15 (.688) by the 1998 Yankees.

are averaging 7.9 runs per game in August. They have scored 10+ runs in four of 11 games this month.

have scored 659 runs, 46 more than any other team (Yankees, 613).

have outscored their opponents in every inning this season, especially the fifth and sixth:
RED SOX   -  73 70 70   70 98 80   73 56 48   21   - 659
OPPONENTS -  60 53 55   58 33 38   45 55 39   10   - 446
are one of only three Red Sox teams to win more than 78 of their first 120 games. The other two: 1946 (83-35-2) and 1912 (82-37-1).

pitched their 12th shutout on Saturday, tied for the most in the AL, and their most in a season since 2011 (13). The Pirates lead MLB with 13 shutouts.
ALWC: The Yankees lead the Athletics by 3.5 games and the Mariners by 6.0 games.

David Bote Hits A Two-Out, Two-Strike, Pinch-Hit, Game-Winning Grand Slam For The Cubs

Late on Sunday night in Chicago, when the Cubs batted in the bottom of the ninth, they trailed the Nationals 3-0. Their win expectancy was only 4%.

Washington pitcher Ryan Madson retired Ben Zobrist on a grounder to first, cutting Chicago's win expectancy to 2%. Jason Heyward was safe on an infield single to second (5%). Albert Almora was hit by a pitch (10%). Kyle Schwarber fouled out to third (4%). Madson hit Willson Contreras, loading the bases (10%). Ian Happ pinch-ran for Contreras.

David Bote - a 25-year-old rookie - pinch-hit for the pitcher. Foul. Ball. Called Strike. Ball. Grand Slam to deep center. Cubs win 4-3!

Here is the Win Expectancy Chart for the game:

One of the Cubs rushing along the foul line to the plate seems not to quite believe what's happening is happening.
It was the first two-out, walk-off, pinch-hit grand slam with a team down by three runs in nearly 40 years Roger Freed of the Cardinals hit the penultimate home run of his 10-year career in the eleventh innings against the Astros on May 1, 1979. Freed would play only 27 more major league games. Bote was playing in his 34th major league game.

Jeff Sullivan, FanGraphs:
In recorded history, there have been 15 walk-off grand slams, with two outs, to erase a three-run deficit. Before Bote, the most recent had been hit by Ryan Roberts [of the Diamondbacks on September 27, 2011.] ...

Bote fouled off the first pitch he saw. He took the second pitch, which was close, but which was called a ball. He took the third pitch, too. This was called a strike ...

At that point, after the borderline call, Bote was behind 1-and-2. The next pitch was low, evening the count at 2-and-2. Now, 2-and-2 is certainly more hitter-friendly than 1-and-2, but at the same time, 2-and-2 is still a pitcher-friendly count. Here are the league-average wOBAs this season through each of the 12 possible counts:
Bote was in the fourth-worst count possible. ... [T]hat means the Cubs' chances of winning would've been even lower than they were when Bote first came up. ... The 2-and-2 pitch wasn't even that bad; Bote simply made perfect contact ...

There is a limit as to how much of a difference is ever possible to make with one swing of the bat. Bote just approached that limit. He achieved the event with the second-highest win-expectancy swing, and he did it in a pitcher-friendly count, which only makes it all the more remarkable. Baseball can hardly get more extreme, more dramatic ...
Here is a list of all of the grand slams hit in the bottom of the ninth (or tenth) with the home team down by three runs (referred to as an Ultimate Grand Slam). posted a list of the six pinch-hit UGSs since 1925, with video of the most recent two:
Samuel Byrd, Reds, May 23, 1936 vs. Pirates (no outs, team trailed 3-0)
Jack Phillips, Pirates, July 8, 1950 vs. Cardinals (one out)
Carl Taylor, Cardinals, August 11, 1970 vs. Padres (two outs, last homer of career, against the same pitcher off whom he hit his first home run)
Roger Freed, Cardinals, May 1, 1979 vs. Astros (two outs)
Brooks Conrad, Atlanta, May 20, 2010 vs. Reds (one out, ball bounced off Laynce Nix's glove, capped a seven-run comeback)
Brian Bogusevic, Astros, August 16, 2011 vs. Cubs (one out)

On Monday, Atlanta's Ronald Acuna "became just the fourth player in Major League history to begin both ends of a twin bill with a home run".

The other three:
Harry Hooper, Red Sox, May 30, 1913, against Senators (3-4, 1-0)
Rickey Henderson, Athletics, July 5, 1993, against Cleveland (6-5, 2-6)
Brady Anderson, Orioles, August 21, 1999, against White Sox (3-4, 5-8)
However, Atlanta was playing at home so while Acuna was the first player to bat for his team, he could not have begun either game with a home run because he came to the plate in the bottom of the first inning. That is also true of Henderson and Anderson.

Harry Hooper is the only player to truly lead off both games of a doubleheader with a home run.

Schadenfreude 236 (A Continuing Series)

The Red Sox have not held a 10-game lead in the American League East since 2007.

Ken Davidoff, Post:
What now?

Luis Severino had hinted and teased that he was headed back toward his ace's throne, away from the malaise that characterized his July. Then Monday night happened.

Against the Mets, of all teams, Severino again fell victim to the gopher ball. He again raised concerns about his reliability as the Yankees continued further down their path toward the do-or-die American League wild-card game on Oct. 3.

What now? ...

Mets ace Jacob deGrom easily outpitched his Yankees counterpart ... [dropping] Boone's bunch to 10 games behind the dormant Red Sox in the American League East. Severino lasted only four innings, his briefest work shift of the season, as he gave up four runs and seven hits, including two homers ...

He now has a 7.84 ERA in his past six starts, and he has permitted at least one homer in his past seven starts, totaling 12 in that stretch over 36 innings.

"I think I keep doing the same mistakes over and over," Severino said. ...

If he can't get right, then the Yankees' October might not be much longer than Severino's effort on Monday.
Stefan Bondy, Daily News:
Severino was bombed again Monday night, this time by the Mets, allowing four runs in just four innings of an 8-5 defeat. It was Severino's shortest outing of the season, and it started with a leadoff home run from Amed Rosario. ...

Severino ... has allowed 30 runs over 36.1 innings in his last seven starts for a 7.43 ERA. That's five more earned runs than Severino allowed in his first 118.1 innings this season, when he was cruising to his second All-Star appearance. ...

Entering mid-August with 44 games remaining, it's unclear who represents the Yankees' best option for a one-game playoff. ...

[J.A.] Happ and Lance Lynn, both originally brought in as insurance, are suddenly the Yanks' most reliable starters.

On Monday, the hapless Mets – who entered the game with the worst batting average in the majors – connected on five homers – including two off Severino by Rosario and Jose Bautista. The Mets had 15 hits total, with every player in their lineup getting at least one.
Marc Carig, The Athletic:
CC​ Sabathia landed on the disabled list​ Monday​ with inflammation​ in​ his right​ knee. ... The veteran lefty has long been dealing with a creaky knee, so [GM Brian Cashman] figured that a sabbatical would be inevitable. ...

But when it comes to Luis Severino, a breather apparently will not be part of the program, even though his recent starts indicate that he might benefit from one. ...

Severino offered ample reason to believe he may be reeling from the career-high 193.1 innings he threw last summer. He labored through his four innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. His pitch count spiraled early. He surrendered a pair of homers ... to the opposite field. Both came off fastballs left up in the zone. ...

"I'm not tired," said Severino ...
Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Remember how the Yankees brought in all that pitching insurance before the non-waiver trade deadline? It may not have been enough. ...

The Yankees added Happ and Lance Lynn at last month's non-waiver trade deadline to bolster the back end of a shaky rotation. Now, those two are the most consistent starters over the last two weeks. Lynn, originally scheduled to be a long-man in the bullpen, had to move into the rotation in place of Sonny Gray, who has struggled. ...

Sabathia also went on the disabled list with the same knee ailment around this time last year.
Dan Martin, Post:
The results may have been all too familiar for Zach Britton, but the lefty insisted he felt better on the mound after Monday's 8-5 loss to the Mets at the Stadium. ...

Britton came on to pitch the ninth in a game the Yankees trailed by a pair of runs and for the second straight outing — and third time in four appearances — Britton couldn't keep the opposing team from scoring. ...

[He] saw his ERA over his past seven outings with the Yankees rise to 8.53 (six earned runs in 6.1 innings).

On the bright side — if there is one — Britton didn't walk anyone ... He did hit Michael Conforto with a pitch, though.
Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
It's never Sonny in the Bronx.

Struggling Yankees' right-hander Sonny Gray made his second appearance out of the bullpen Sunday and left after allowing two runs on five hits in an inning plus of work.

After the Rangers scored two runs off him in the seventh, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre opened the eighth with a double and single and Boone came out to get Gray before any more damage could be done. The right hander has now allowed 45 earned runs in 50 innings pitched at Yankee Stadium this season for a 7.92 ERA. ...

Gray had pitched to a 5.56 ERA as a starter when Boone had to demote him to the bullpen. ...

Gray does not buy into the idea that there is more pressure on him at Yankee Stadium. ...

So where does this leave Gray? In the same role, according to Boone, as basically an unreliable long man.

August 13, 2018

They Have A Choice?

ESPN (August 13, 2018)

August 12, 2018

Umpire Adrian Johnson: A Close Pitch Is A Ball; A Pitch Farther Outside Is A Strike

(I forgot to include this in my game recap.)

More Reasons for Robots:

The first batter Chris Sale faced in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday afternoon was Joey Rickard.

Rickard fouled off the first pitch and then took a slider on the outside edge of the strike zone. However, plate umpire Adrian Johnson called it a ball. Sale's next pitch was even further outside - and Johnson called that one a strike!

I would love to see a Twitter feed that collected screenshots of egregious ball/strike calls. Fans of every team could submit gifs; every game would be covered. Seeing all of the wrong calls in one place - and seeing how many of them there are, every single day - could possibly force MLB to institute an electronic strike zone sooner rather than later.

The Yankees Could Finish With One Of Their Top 12 Seasons Of All-Time - And The Red Sox Still Lead Them By 9.5 Games

Savin Hillbilly, SoSH, August 11:
The 2018 Yankees are on a pace for 102 wins, which would tie them with the 1936 and 1937 teams (Gehrig, DiMaggio, Dickey, etc.) for the 12th most wins in the history of the franchise.

And we're 9.5 games ahead of them.

In related news, here are the nine times a team won 100+ games but did not finish in first place:
1909 Cubs (104-49) finished second to Pirates (110-42)
1915 Tigers (100-54) finished second to Red Sox (101-50)
1942 Dodgers (104-50) finished second to Cardinals (106-48)
1954 Yankees (103-51) finished second to Cleveland (111-43)
1961 Tigers (101-61) finished second to Yankees (109-53)
1962 Dodgers (102-63) finished second to Giants (103-62)
1980 Orioles (100-62) finished second to Yankees (103-59)
1993 Giants (103-59) finished second to Atlanta (104-58)
2001 Athletics (102-60) finished second to Mariners (116-46)
Damn! This throw.

August 10: It was a strange Friday night in the minor leagues. Hayden Deal threw perhaps the first two-pitch, three-out inning and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers won when they scored three runs on a wild pitch. ... On August 6, the Clearwater Threshers had no hits, no walks, no HBPs - and won 1-0.

Marty Dobrow takes a look back at Charlie Zink's only major league game, a wild affair that occurred 10 years ago today:
Rangers -   0 20 085 101 - 17 20  2
Red Sox - (10)02 020 14x - 19 17  2
The larger the glove, the greater the error. This misplay warranted ejection from the park.

G120: Red Sox 4, Orioles 1

Red Sox  - 100 100 002 - 4  9  0
Orioles  - 000 000 010 - 1  5  1
Chris Sale came off the disabled list - and gave an unprecedented pitching performance.

Since the mound was moved to its current distance from the plate 126 years ago (1893), no pitcher had ever thrown five or fewer innings and allowed one or no hits while striking out 12 or more batters. Not until Sale faced the Orioles on Sunday: 5-1-0-0-12, 68.

Only four of Sale's 68 pitches were put into play. There were two groundouts, one fly out, and a single. He struck out five Orioles on sliders and seven on fastballs (five of which were clocked at 99 mph). Sale's innings:
1st:  F8  Ks  Kc
2nd:  53  Kc  Ks
3rd:  1B  Kc  Ks  Ks
4th:  Ks  63  Ks
5th:  Ks  Ks  Ks
Sale has allowed only one run over his last 44 innings, for a 0.20 ERA. He's the first Red Sox pitcher  in history to post an ERA under 0.20 over seven consecutive starts since 1913, when ERA became an official stat. He has struck out at least 10 batters in seven of his last eight starts and eight of his last 10.

Steve Pearce got the afternoon started with a line shot down the left field line in the first inning for his 10th homer of the season. Brock Holt led off the fourth with a single and J.D. Martinez doubled to right, near the foul line. The ball died in the grass and Adam Jones could not pick it up cleanly and Holt, who planned on stopping at third, raced home on the error, sliding in headfirst ahead of the throw.

Martinez's second double of the afternoon gave Boston runners at second and third with one out in the sixth, but Mitch Moreland struck out and Eduardo Nunez grounded to shortstop.

The Red Sox tacked on two runs in the ninth. Nunez singled and stole second. With two down, Jackie Bradley singled to left, bringing Nunez home. Mookie Betts doubled to right and Bradley scored from first.

After Sale was lifted, Tyler Thornburg got the first two men in the sixth, but Joey Rickard singled. Thornburg walked both Jonathan Villar and, after a passed ball advanced the runners, Adam Jones. Ryan Brasier came in and struck out Trey Mancini in a nine-pitch confrontation (bbcsfbffs).

The shutout bid ended in the eighth with Matt Barnes on the hill. Cedric Mullins and Villar singled. A wild pitch put runners at second and third and then Jones walked. It was an extremely similar situation to what happened in the sixth inning, except there was only one out here, so Mancini's fly to center brought in a run. Barnes then struck out Tim Beckham.

Craig Kimbrel whiffed three in the ninth, but his outing was not smooth. He walked Renato Nunez and allowed a single to Austin Wynns, both with one out. He struck out pinch-hitter Mark Trumbo with his 25th pitch to end the game and complete the four-game sweep.
Chris Sale / Alex Cobb
Betts, RF
Holt, SS
Pearce, DH
Martinez, LF
Moreland, 1B
Nunez, 2B
Devers, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Notes from PeteAbe (Globe):
Bogaerts jammed his left pinky last night sliding into third. X-rays were negative. ... Benintendi had "heavy legs" after the turf in Toronto so they're giving him today off to get two in a row. ... Brian Johnson is in the bullpen today. Rick Porcello will start Tuesday in Philly. Johnson or Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday. ... JD Martinez likely to start both games in Philly. Mookie Betts will get a day so they can string two together for him.
I really wanted the Red Sox to be the team that dumps the Orioles a near-unimaginable 50 games out of first place, but a victory this afternoon will leave Baltimore only 49.5 GB the unstoppable Red Sox. #bestteaminbaseballproblems


When Chris Sale went on the DL with mild shoulder inflammation, he paused a streak of nine starts in which he had a 0.75 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 60 innings. He had allowed no home runs and opposing batters had an feeble OPS of .413. ... Sale leads the AL in ERA (2.04), WHIP (0.87), Fewest H/9 ( (5.75), and Most K/9 (13.2).

Xander Bogaerts, on Mookie Betts, after Betts hit for the cycle on Thursday: "He's fucking amazing. ... He's just fucking amazing."

A Charitable Theory About Some Dismal Umpiring: Hunter Wendelstedt Went Temporarily Blind At The End Of Saturday Night's Game

Hunter Wendelstedt made several jaw-droppingly wrong calls behind the plate in last two innings of Saturday night's Red Sox/Orioles game. A kindly explanation for this fiasco would be that Wendelstedt experienced a bout of temporary blindness, rendering him unable to see any of the pitches and so he simply guessed as to their approximate location vis-à-vis the strike zone.

If I was not so charitable, I'd say that Wendelstedt is a garbage umpire who, if today's calls are indicative of his usual work behind the plate, should have retired quite a while ago (despite being only 47 years old). Or perhaps he hates Buck Showalter and wanted to screw him and his team.

Blind or incompetent? ... You make the call!

Wendelstedt's incorrect calls aborted the Orioles' eighth-inning rally against the Red Sox. He quite possibly altered the outcome of the game. Boston led 5-3 and reliever William Cuevas had walked two batters and thrown a wild pitch and Baltimore had the potential tying runs, to use that inaccurate phrase, in "scoring position".

Cuevas had a 2-1 count on Jace Peterson and he threw another pitch outside - but Wendelstedt called it a strike. Peterson stepped out of the box and stared at the umpire in disbelief. Instead of 3-1, the count was 2-2. Cuevas's next pitch was also outside (he is no idiot) but much closer to the strike zone. Naturally, Peterson had to swing at it. Wendelstedt's shitty call on the previous pitch left him no choice. He swung and missed - and the inning was over. The Orioles lost the game 6-4.

How shitty was Wendelstedt's call of Pitch #4 as a strike? Here is Gameday:
And here is Brooks:
Wendelstedt was also out of his mind when the Orioles batted in the ninth. Craig Kimbrel got a called strike on Jonathan Villar and then delivered another pitch well within the strike zone. Wendelstedt called it a ball (#2). After two fouls, Wendelstedt called Villar out on a pitch that was outside (#5).
Was Pitch #2 to Villar a gift to the Orioles for messing up Pitch #4 to Peterson? Or was Pitch #5 to Villar a make-up to Kimbrel for blowing Pitch #2 earlier in the at-bat?

I have no clue, but you know what would be nice? If the umpire could call the goddamn pitches correctly in the first fucking place.

For the entire game, when a left-handed batter was at the plate, Wendelstedt did not know his ass from an oboe.
These calls were not the judgment of a nervous rookie ump summoned from AA ball.

It's the work of a 20-year veteran. And if Wendelstedt is representative of the level of competence necessary for major league umpires, then the entire system is a joke. MLB must restore some semblance of sanity to the officiating process and start using some form of electronic strike zone.

Bring on the robots!

August 11, 2018

G119: Red Sox 6, Orioles 4

Red Sox  - 000 111 021 - 6  7  0
Orioles  - 011 001 001 - 4  7  0
Again, the Red Sox trailed the Orioles and, again, they calmly came back and won. J.D. Martinez hit two home runs and drove in three runs, giving him 104 RBI, with 42 games left in the season. Boston used seven pitchers in Saturday's nightcap, with starter Hector Velazquez (2.2-2-2-1-0, 41) facing the most batters (12).

One interesting feature of this game was that none of the Red Sox's first five pitchers recorded a strikeout. An Orioles batter did not see strike three until the final out of the eighth inning. (Thinking the Red Sox might have zero punchouts when the game was over, I did some BRef research, which is below.)

The Orioles took an early 2-0 lead. In the second inning, a single, a hit batter, and Renato Nunez's double gave Baltimore one run. Jace Peterson walked to lead off the third. With two outs and the runner on second, Brandon Workman relieved Velazquez. Trey Mancini singled to center and Peterson scored. Then Workman walked the next two hitters to load the bases, but got a force on a grounder to shortstop to avoid any more harm.

Martinez ended a 10-pitch at-bat in the fourth with his 36th homer. He swung and missed the first two pitches. Then it was foul, ball, ball, ball, foul, foul, foul, home run.

Eduardo Nunez - both teams had a Nunez at third base - tripled to start the fifth. If you think there has been a lot of triples lately, you are correct. That was the Red Sox's 25th triple this season and almost half of them - 12 - have come in the last month, since July 10. Dan Butler's sac fly scored Nunez.

The Red Sox scored the go-ahead run in the sixth without a hit. They saw 27 pitches and put two of them into play (a double play and a fly out). Orioles reliever Cody Carroll walked Steve Pearce. Orioles reliever Cody Carroll walked Martinez. Xander Bogaerts hit into a 6-4-3 DP. Orioles reliever Cody Carroll walked Rafael Devers. Ball four was wild and Pearce scored. Somehow, Nunez fell behind 0-2 before lining to right.

Heath Hembree picked off Cedric Mullins for the second out in the bottom of the sixth, but three pitches later, he gave up a game-tying home run to Joey Rickard.

Pearce singled with one down in the eighth and Martinez hit #37 to left-center. Boston led 5-3. Some horrifically bad calls from plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt saved the Red Sox's bacon in the eighth. William Cuevas had walked two batters and thrown a wild pitch. The potential tying runs were in, to use that inaccurate phrase, "scoring position".

Cuevas had a 2-1 count on Peterson. He threw another pitch outside - and Wendelstedt called it a strike. Instead of 3-1, the count was 2-2. Cuevas threw a pitch outside but closer to the zone. Naturally, Peterson had to swing at it. Wendelstedt's shitty call on the previous pitch left him no choice. He missed it, and the inning was over. (As was the no-K possibility.)

Mookie Betts doubled with two outs in the ninth and scored on Brock Holt's single, giving Kimbrel a two-run lead to save. After two strikeouts, Kimbrel gave up a home run to Trey Mancini, but he rebounded to whiff Chris Davis. It was Kimbrel's 100th save for the Red Sox.

Since the start of the 2001 season, the Red Sox have had only two games in which they did not strike out an opposing hitter:
June 14, 2006 - Twins 8, Red Sox 1
May 1, 2008 - Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 0
Those types of games happened much more frequently in decades past. A quick look shows the 1978 Red Sox had eight games with no strikeouts and the 1942 club had nine such games.

The Red Sox's longest game with no strikeouts? July 23, 1932 (G1). Boston lost to the Yankees 4-3 in 15 innings; Ivy Andrews and Wilcy Moore teamed up to face 61 MFYs and strike out none of them (14.2 innings). More recently, the Red Sox did not strike out any Orioles in 12 innings on September 13, 1983 (G1). Oil Can Boyd went 11 innings and Bob Stanley pitched the twelfth. 51 batters, no Ks.

Here are all 430 Red Sox "Zero K" games since 1908. (There are only six games shorter than eight innings.)
Hector Velazquez / Yefry Ramirez
Betts, RF
Holt, 2B
Pearce, 1B
Martinez, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Nunez, DH
Butler, C
Bradley, CF
Ramirez allowed five walks and five hits and five runs in 1.2 innings in his last start.

The Red Sox have won eight of their last nine games, 12 of their last 14, and 27 of their last 33.

The Red Sox lead all teams in wins (83), runs (649), hits (1,115), doubles (262), batting average (.270), slugging (.465), OPS (.804), total bases (1,915), winning percentage (.703), and run differential (+208). They are second in stolen bases (92, to Cleveland's 93) and on-base percentage (.340, to the Cubs' .344).

The Red Sox lead all teams in Run Scoring Percentage (35%), which is the percentage of times a baserunner eventually scores. The worst teams (Orioles, Royals, Marlins) are at 27%.

The Red Sox lead all teams in Extra-Base Hit Percentage (9.8%) and AB Per RBI (6.6%).

The Red Sox have the second-lowest Strikeout Percentage (the number of plate appearances that end with a K): 19.7%, behind Cleveland's 19.1%. The Yankees are tied at #21 (22.8%) and the White Sox are last (25.9%).

Also: The Marlins have issued 58 intentional walks this year and and the Astros have given only three. The Red Sox have issued four. ... 22 of the 30 teams have either one or zero complete games. ... Most and fewest triples: Diamondbacks (39), Cardinals (6). ... The A's have stolen 27 bases, the fewest of any team; in fact, there are seven teams have been caught 27+ times. ... The Rangers lead all teams with 23 bunt hits; the A's have bunted for no hits.

G118: Red Sox 5, Orioles 0

Red Sox  - 000 031 001 - 5  9  0
Orioles  - 000 000 000 - 0  5  1
David Price (6-5-0-0-10, 94) had little trouble with the Orioles. He allowed five hits, but never more than one in an inning. He has a 1.69 ERA over his last five starts, with 33 strikeouts in 33 innings.

Jackie Bradley hit two solo home runs, but it was Eduardo Nunez who got the Red Sox on the board first, with a two-run shot in the fifth.

Baltimore got only two runners past first base: Wynns singled in the third and was on second with two outs (and with three outs!); Adam Jones doubled with one out in the sixth, but he did not advance, as Price got a strikeout and a comebacker to the mound to end the inning and his outing.

Baltimore starter Jimmy Yacabonis (4.2-5-3-0-2, 60), making only the third start of his 19-game career, breezed through the first four innings, allowing only a one-out single in the second to Xander Bogaerts (3-for-4). Things were not so smooth in the fifth. Bogaerts led off with a single and, with one out, Nunez turned on an inside 3-0 pitch and lined his seventh home run down the left field line. One out later, Bradley struck an 0-1 offering to right-center. JBJ's ninth-inning dong was hit just to the left of straightaway center.

Bogaerts scored his second run in the sixth. After doubling with one out, he took off for third on an 0-1 pitch to Brock Holt. When catcher Austin Wynns's low throw skipped past Renato Nunez, Bogaerts came home.

Three Boston relievers pitched the final three innings, with Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Brasier, and Matt Barnes each retiring the side in order.

The Red Sox's 83rd victory of the season lowered their Magic Number to clinch the AL East to 37.
David Price / Jimmy Yacabonis
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Holt, 2B
Núunez, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Two games today! The afternoon game is a make-up of the July 25 washout that was mishandled so poorly by the Orioles and umpires.

Manager Alex Cora plans on having Hector Velazquez start tonight's game, but he is also available this afternoon. One bullpen consideration is that the Red Sox don't want Chris Sale to come off the DL tomorrow and throw more than 100 pitches.

Plan Ahead!: It's not too early to note on your calendar when you will be watching the Red Sox in October.

Fun Fact: The Orioles were eliminated from the AL East race [sic] with last night's loss.

46.5 GB with 46 to play.


Schadenfreude 235 (A Continuing Series)

Larry Brooks, Post:
This was such an eyesore you would be excused for thinking it was last weekend at Fenway Park and the other guys were the Red Sox.

But not so. Try Friday night in The Bronx against the Rangers. Try 12-7 the other way. ...

[The Yankees] no longer have to worry about expectations. They are expected to finish second in the AL East. That's the benefit arising from last weekend's train wreck. ... For months, it had seemed a no-brainer for the manager to give the assignment to Luis Severino ...

But not so fast. ... [In his last six starts, Severino has] a 7.31 ERA while allowing 47 hits (and nine home runs) over 32 innings. Suddenly, Severino's history in last year's wild-card game, in which he retired only one batter and allowed three runs on four hits creeped back into relevance. ...

So there was Tanaka, presenting an interesting alternative for Boone to consider. And there was Tanaka struggling from the get-go on Friday, requiring 18 pitches to get through the first inning, 36 pitches to get through two, 53 to last through three before allowing six runs on six hits — including loud, louder and loudest home runs — in five innings of work. ...

This was a mess. Tanaka never seemed in command, even ... before it all went awry ...

The splitter was unreliable and so was the slider ... Essentially without weapons, the 29-year-old was reduced to bringing a plastic spoon to a gunfight.
Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
After being the Yankees' best pitcher over the last month, Tanaka could not find it Friday night, getting lit up for six runs on six hits in five innings. ...

Tanaka gave up three home runs ... In his five previous starts, dating to his July 10th return from the disabled list, Tanaka had allowed a total of three home runs in 30.1 innings pitched.

And that throws a wrench into the Yankees' rotation in the final weeks of the season. ...

The Yankees ... need their rotation to settle in down the stretch as they plan out who will get that first start in the postseason and who will get the first start of a division series, if they get there. ...

"I have an idea. ... I am not here to explain everything, but I have an idea of what's wrong," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Austin Romine knew it didn't feel right. The Yankees catcher looked up at the video board and saw that Aroldis Chapman's fastball was coming in at 95 miles an hour and went into "emergency mode." ...

[T]he drop in velocity has been a red flag. While the Yankees' closer said that his knee is fine and physically he feels fine, he has struggled to reach the high velocity that has made him so effective in his last few appearances. ...

Thursday night, he touched 99 mph twice, but worked in the 95-96 range. Aaron Boone said that he thinks it is a mechanical issue with Chapman. ...

Chapman did complain of soreness after throwing 39 pitches in an implosion at Fenway Sunday night ...
Kirk Meyer, Daily News:
Two weeks after suffering a chip fracture in his wrist, Aaron Judge still doesn't know for sure when he'll return to action. ...

"[H]opefully I'll be swinging a bat in the next couple days, or next week ..."

The Yankees doctors had initially told the All-Star right fielder that he could return roughly three weeks after he was hit by a pitch against the Royals on July 26, though that timetable appears unrealistically optimistic now. ...

Manager Aaron Boone had initially declared that Judge would be back to swinging a bat just a week into recovery, though that has not been the case. ...

Judge ... spun the Yankees' disastrous weekend in Boston as a chance for the team to learn.

"It was a good experience for us, we've got a young team," he said. "For them to go out in that environment and face some adversity, it's gonna go a long way for us down the road."

Bryant: Veterans Speak Out Against The Militarization Of Sports

Howard Bryant has written a new book — The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism — and he recently contributed an article to WBUR's website.
Veterans Speak Out Against The Militarization Of Sports

While researching my book The Heritage, I was struck by the enormous effect the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have had on sports — how they look, how they're packaged and how they're sold. Before 9/11, giant flags and flyovers were reserved for the Super Bowl. Today, they are commonplace. Even the players wear camouflage jerseys. The military is omnipresent. And it's by design.

The public accepts this as supporting the troops, but one group of individuals — the veterans themselves — is more skeptical. ...

Bill Astore is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who writes about the increased militarization of sports — and its perils — on Bracing Views, his personal blog, as well as the website Tom Dispatch. ...

"[I]t's not something that I see should be flying over a sports stadium before a baseball game or a football game. You know, these are weapons of death. They may be required, but they certainly shouldn't be celebrated and applauded." ...

Astore grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts ... He's an avid Red Sox fan, and when he watches sports, he sees the perpetual selling of war, and something very cynical: patriotism for sale, with troops as bait. ...

In the years following 9/11, professional sports took a healing gesture and transformed it into a way to make money. In 2015, Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released the report "Tackling Paid Patriotism," which criticized the deceptive, taxpayer-funded contracts between the Pentagon and virtually every pro sports league. ...

[Astore:] "I was disgusted by it. ... [T]o learn that these had been paid for — that corporate teams, teams owned by billionaires, basically, were collecting money from the military. Paid for, obviously, by you and me, by the American taxpayer. Well, it was sad." ...

The ballpark ceremony obscures the realities of war and, by focusing on soldiers, inoculates the government from antiwar criticism. Bill Astore tells me it's a form of emotional manipulation. ...

Recruiting is a main reason the military is embedded in sports. In an interview for my book, I told three-star General Russel Honore I didn't want the Army recruiting my son while he watched the Red Sox. His response? "You better hold on to them, if you don't want them in the Army. We're gonna recruit the hell out of them. That's how we man the force." ...

I asked one baseball executive, who told me his sport promotes the military not out of patriotism but out of fear — the fear of being called unpatriotic. Nearly 20 years after 9/11, Bill Astore believes these rituals have served their purpose.

"We sing 'God Bless America' during the seventh-inning stretch, because, well, that's what we do now," Astore says. "We have a huge flag and military flyovers because that's what we do. We celebrate a military person after the fourth inning because that's what we do. And we've come to expect it. ... [A]ll of this needs to be ratcheted back ... to a simpler time — when you played the national anthem, you respected our country and then you play ball. And you just enjoy the game the way it was meant to be enjoyed."
We can — and should — ratchet it back even further than that. Playing the anthem and making any kind of patriotic display is NOT the way baseball was "meant to be enjoyed". Perhaps when that was first done, there were veterans who believed that the intrusion was wrong to the same extent Astore is disgusted by this current display. It's all on a continuum.

Most people do not salute the flag or sing the national anthem before they begin their work day. There is absolutely no need — or coherent reason — for professional baseball players (and other athletes) to do so.

Bryant comments that "recruiting is a main reason the military is embedded in sports". In April 2014, my partner and I saw three games at Fenway Park. She wrote that those games
were marred by only one thing: nearly constant propaganda for the US military. This is not an exaggeration.

Throughout Fenway Park, as in many sports venues, monitors show a TV feed of the action on the field. Right now, between innings, the Fenway Park monitors show a continuous feed of advertising for the United States Army. During the game, the ads continue on a sidebar beside the action.

Let that sink in a moment. The constant advertising crammed into every moment of the ballgame, and the constant linking of sports and the military, are now joined in this doubly offensive development.

There is something particularly Orwellian about watching a baseball game while a constant stream of silent images of war and military run in your peripheral vision.
The military never stops recruiting, of course. A steady supply of new, young members is essential to its existence, and sports is not the only avenue pursued by recruiters. In the United States, children as young as five - kindergartners, in other words - sometimes come home with worksheets that mention careers in military, asking "Which branch would you choose?"

August 10, 2018

G117: Red Sox 19, Orioles 12

Red Sox  - 300 206 350 - 19 16  1
Orioles  - 044 002 011 - 12 17  0

After Xander Bogaerts gave the Red Sox a quick 3-0 lead with his 17th home run of the season, Nathan Eovaldi's (2.2-10-8-2-0, 71) streak of shutout innings in a Boston uniform abruptly came to an end at 16, when the lowly Orioles scored four runs in each of the second and third innings. (In both innings, Baltimore's #6-#9 batters scored the runs.)

Were you worried? You should not have been. (WEEI had it right, above.) The Red Sox outscored Baltimore 16-2 over the next 5.5 innings, an offense explosion that seemed like an equal partnership of awesome hitting by the Red Sox and inept pitching from the Orioles.

When Boston scored six runs in the sixth, they sent 11 batters to the plate and had only three hits, two of which were singles (and two of which were by Brock Holt). Orioles relievers walked five men in the inning, two with the bases loaded. There was a seven-batter stretch in which the Red Sox had only one official at-bat: BB, BB, 3-2, SAC, BBI, BB, BB)!

The Red Sox also batted around in the eighth, scoring five times on three hits. Baltimore contributed only two walks and a hit batter that time.

In the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Boston sent 26 men to the plate; 19 reached base, and 14 scored.

Drew Pomeranz got credit for the win, pitching out of the bullpen for the first time since the game of the 2016 season. He walked one batter in a scoreless fifth inning.

The Red Sox have won 26 of their last 31 games.

Going down the lineup:
Mookie Betts - Single, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 runs scored, 3 RBI (.352 average leads AL)

Andrew Benintendi - Home run, walk, 3 runs scored, 3 RBI

Mitch Moreland - Single, double, run scored, RBI

J.D. Martinez - Single, double, BBI, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI* (.332 average is #2 in AL)

Xander Bogaerts - Home run, 2 walks, 2 runs scored, 4 RBI

Brock Holt - Home run, 2 singles, 2 walks, 3 runs scored, 3 RBI

Jackie Bradley - Triple, double, single, 4 runs scored, RBI

*: Martinez has driven in 101 runs, with 45 games remaining on the schedule.
In the last 38 years (since 1980), this is only the eighth regular season game (and ninth game overall) in which the Red Sox have scored 19 or more runs:
August 21, 1986    - Red Sox 24, Cleveland 5
April 12, 1994     - Red Sox 22, Royals 11
July 23, 2002 (G1) - Red Sox 22, Devil Rays 4
June 27, 2003      - Red Sox 25, Marlins 8
August 12, 2008    - Red Sox 19, Rangers 17
September 4, 2013  - Red Sox 20, Tigers 4
August 15, 2015    - Red Sox 22, Mariners 10
October 10, 1999   - Red Sox 23, Cleveland 7 (ALDS 4)
On the Orioles' side, Cedric Mullins made his major league debut. He batted ninth and played center field. In his first two at-bats, he hit a double and a single (on his first two big league swings). He knocked in a run with each hit and he later scored. He also walked in the fifth and doubled and scored in the ninth.

The Rangers beat the Yankees 12-7 - Ronald Guzman became the first rookie to hit three home runs in a game against the MFY - so the Red Sox's division lead is back to 9.0 games. (Guzman is also the first player in history to homer in each of his first four games against the Yankees.)
Nathan Eovaldi / Dylan Bundy
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Holt, 2B
Butler, C
Bradley, CF
Nathan Eovaldi has pitched 15 shutout innings since joining the Red Sox.

Not Unexpected: Drew Pomeranz has been demoted to the bullpen. Brian Johnson will remain in the rotation.

August 24-26 Is Nickname Weekend

On the weekend of August 24-26, players once again will be wearing nicknames on the back of their jerseys. ESPN has a preview. (The first one on the list is fantastic.)

Far too many of the Red Sox's nicknames (& some quotes) are duller than dishwater. BJ, JBJ, Evo, Work, Swi. Seriously? Look, when your last name is "Butler", "Butler" is NOT a nickname. (Mookie gets a pass, because Mookie!.)
Matt Barnes: "BARNACLES"
Andrew Benintendi: "BENNY"
Mookie Betts: "MOOKIE"
Xander Bogaerts: "BOGIE"
Jackie Bradley Jr.: "JBJ"
Dan Butler: "BUTLER"
Rafael Devers: "CARITA"
Nathan Eovaldi: "EVO"
Heath Hembree: "HEATER HERE"
Marco Hernandez: "MARKITO"
Brock Holt: "BROCKSTAR"
Brian Johnson: "BJ"
Joe Kelly: "JIMMY B"
Ian Kinsler: "BOOTSIE"
Craig Kimbrel: "DIRTY CRAIG"
Sandy Leon: "NOAH"
Austin Maddox: "MADD DAWG"
J.D. Martinez: "FLACO"
Mitch Moreland: "2 - BAGS"
Eduardo Nunez: "NUNIE"
Steve Pearce: "LATE LIGHTNING"
Dustin Pedroia: "PEDEY"
Drew Pomeranz: "BIG SMOOTH"
Rick Porcello: "VEINTIDÓS"
David Price: "SLIM DUNKIN"
Eduardo Rodriguez: "EL GUALO"
Carson Smith: "SMITTY"
Blake Swihart: "SWI"
Tyler Thornburg: "THORN"
Christian Vazquez: "COLO"
Hector Velazquez: "CABEZON"
Brandon Workman: "WORK"
Steven Wright: "KNUCKSIE"
I will continue to believe that many players have more obscene nicknames that cannot be used. And I would like to know what those names are.

August 9, 2018

G116: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 5

Red Sox   - 200 020 001 - 5 10  1
Blue Jays - 211 031 00x - 8 12  0
Apparently, you can't win them all.

By the time the 2018 season comes to an end, I think Mookie Betts will have done just about everything you can do on a baseball field*. He was the bright spot in Thursday night's loss when he became the first Red Sox player in three seasons to hit for the cycle. Betts is the only player to hit for the cycle in the majors this year.

Betts grounded a single into left field to begin the game, tripled to deep center in the second inning (Kevin Pillar leapt at the wall and crumpled to the dirt), doubled to the base of the left field wall in the fourth, walked in the sixth, and homered in the ninth (after fouling off a pitch he felt he should have smashed).

Brock Holt had been the last Red Sox player hit for the cycle, on June 16, 2015, against Atlanta. (Like Betts, Holt batted leadoff.)

*: And off the field, as he announced he will be a father later this year, probably around the time he's named World Series MVP.

Is there a name (cutesy or otherwise) for hitting for the cycle and drawing a walk? There should be.

From 1908 to now, 20 Red Sox players have hit for the cycle, but only four have also drawn a walk:
Leon Culberson, July 3, 1943
Lou Clinton, July 13, 1962
Carl Yastrzemski, May 14, 1965
Mookie Betts, August 9, 2018
Eduardo Nunez had three hits and J.D. Martinez hit his 35th home run. Other than that, there was not much to cheer about. Rick Porcello did not have a good evening: 4-6-7-3-5, 79.

I did not watch much of this game (although I did see Mookie's home run). I spent the afternoon with longtime JoS reader Jake Of All Trades (and his partner) drinking beer and talking about the Red Sox, books, travel, writing, and dogs. They attended both of the Red Sox's wins in this series and - at roughly the same time tonight's game ended - pulled out of Toronto on a train to Vancouver!
Rick Porcello / Ryan Borucki
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pearce, 1B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Nunez, 3B
Holt, 2B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
In his last five games, Craig Kimbrel has allowed six hits, five walks, and five runs - in only 5.1 innings - with opposing hitters bashing away to a 1.112 OPS. He has also blown two saves and yet the Red Sox are 5-0 in those games. Pitching coach Dana LeVangie thinks he may have found the problem.

AL East: TEX/MFY, 7 PM.

Blue Jays Announcers Say The Red Sox "Took A Lot Of Heat" For Signing J.D. Martinez

How annoyed was I by all the crap during Tuesday's NESN broadcast? I realized, in the interest of my short-term sanity, I should listen to the Blue Jays' feed, with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, on Wednesday.

Although Martinez and Tabler praised every facet of the Red Sox team and organization for three hours, it was dreadful. Martinez's nasal whine is something you never get used to and Tabler's analysis invariably devolves into an aural instruction manual on how to play the game. But they did say a few amazing things while the Red Sox were pounding out 10 runs:
1. The MVP doesn't just have the best stats or is the best player. He's the most valuable.

2. The "analytical world" discounts the value of the stolen base.

3. The Red Sox took a lot of heat for signing J.D. Martinez.

4. A player with an OPS of .800 or higher is a "superstar".
T2, Jackie Bradley at the plate:
Buck Martinez: And that's the beauty of this Red Sox ball club. You can shut down their big guys, but there are enough bats in this lineup to do a lot of damage.

Pat Tabler: And that's why I think J.D. Martinez is going to get a lot of votes for the MVP. It depends on how you define MVP and what he means to a team. It's not just the guy with the best stats or the best player. It's the guy who is the most valuable, and by him going into this lineup, it's made everybody around him better and they've got some really good hitters at the bottom of the lineup now. ... That was the one thing missing from the Boston Red Sox last year, was that run producer in the middle of the lineup. Right now, they are the best hitting team in the American League. [Bradley walks]

Martinez: Yeah, and you know this, having been a player. When you have that horse in your lineup, everybody kind of defers to him. They say, well, okay, if we get in a jam, J.D. will take care of us. If we get up against a tough pitcher, J.D. will take care of us. Really takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the lineup.

Tabler: I remember that like it was yesterday, in 1992, when Dave Winfield came over here. That was the type of influence he had on the team, exactly the same kind that J.D. Martinez has had on the Red Sox this year.

Martinez: David Ortiz was that guy for so many years for the Red Sox. Of course, he didn't play last year and they really missed that presence. 1-0 to Eduardo Nunez. Bradley is perfect this season in steal attempts, he's 11-for-11. As I mentioned on the pre-game show, this is another aspect of the Red Sox that people were overlooking, their ability to steal bases.

Tabler: Yesterday, going into that game, they were tied for the league lead with 87. They picked up a couple more yesterday.

Martinez: The analytical world discounts the value of the stolen base, but having been a former catcher, I can tell you - it's a distraction. It's a distraction for the pitcher, the catcher, and the middle infielders. Everybody's got to keep an eye on Jackie Bradley Jr.
Tabler's explanation - the Most Valuable Player is the most valuable player - is not helpful.

When things look bleak, other Red Sox hitters are saying "J.D. will take care of us"? I do not believe that for a micro-second.

The analytical world does not discount the value of the stolen base. That is nonsense. Theo Epstein is happy to tell you there is a place for the stolen base in the modern game. But, as with bunting, the risk in many cases is not worth the reward. This FanGraphs article states that "stolen bases are only beneficial if they are swiped with roughly a 75% success rate":
This number stems from looking at a run expectancy chart and comparing the difference in expected runs after a successful stolen base and the difference in expected runs after a failed attempt. ... Of course the break-even point is not the same for every situation. Previous studies have shown this required success rate drops as the game moves into the later innings and increases the further a team is down by ...
I'm a huge supporter of "the analytical world" and I love the fact that the Red Sox run. They do it smartly and that shows in their high success rate.

T5, Mookie Betts leading off:
Martinez: Boston, the first team to record 80 wins this season. They were also the first team to have 80 wins in 2009.
No, they were not.

The 2009 Red Sox won their 80th game on September 8. At that point, four other teams had already won more than 80 games, including the Yankees with 90. Before 2018, the last time the Red Sox were the first team to 80 wins was 2007, when they were 80-51 on August 26.
Still T5:
Martinez: We mentioned the 80-34 record, the franchise's best winning percentage all-time. And they are projected to have 114 wins. Been a long time since they've gotten off to this great start.
Yes, never before is certainly a long time. Also, can 114 games be considered "a start" of a season?

Still T5:
Martinez: This is the guy, J.D. Martinez, signed as a free agent and - the Red Sox took a lot of heat for signing him. Like, really? We don't need his bat. Boy, do you ever need his bat. And the difference is dramatic.

Tabler: It was late, too, wasn't it?

Martinez: Real late.

Tabler: Late in the off-season.

Martinez: February, yep. Nobody wanted to step up.
Who with any connection to the Red Sox - from John Henry all the way down to seven-year-old fans - said of J.D. Martinez: "We don't need his bat"? And the organization took heat for signing him? When? Where? Who? ... Maybe other teams in the AL were pissed that a division winner for the last two seasons had now added a great hitter to its lineup, but that's about it.

They also seem to fault the Red Sox for not "stepping up" earlier to sign JDM. Dave Dombrowski's waiting game was an off-the-charts success because the Red Sox were able to get Martinez for about $100 million less than what he was reportedly looking for/expecting. This was one of the biggest stories of the winter - and Martinez and Tabler get it wrong from every possible angle.
B4, Devon Travis leading off:
Martinez: He got off to a slow start and was eventually sent back to the minor leagues. ... Since he's come back from AAA, Pat, he's been a very consistent hitter.

Tabler: And I love the OPS. His on-base plus his slugging. Up over .800. That's superstar territory right there. If you have a second baseman with an OPS of .800 or better, you've got a really good player.
Tabler considers a player with an .800 OPS a "superstar"? Going into last night's games, there were 63 players in the major leagues with an OPS of .800 or higher. That seems like an excessive amount of "superstars" to me.

Among MLB second basemen, there were five with an OPS over .800 and another two above .790. Could there be five (or seven) second basemen that qualify as superstars? If seven, that would mean that roughly one out of every four teams has a superstar at second base. Not just a really good player, or a star, or an All-Star, but a "superstar".

In May, Bill James posted an article titled "So what is a Superstar, zactly?"
You can make a relatively clear determination as to how many players in baseball are considered "stars". It's 2 to 5 per team. It is very clear, from the way that the word is used, that every team has stars. Baltimore has not been winning a lot of games this year, but you can still say who the stars of the team are (Manny Machado and Adam Jones). ...

An announcer will say about an opposing team that "There are a lot of stars on their roster" or "there are not many stars on this team", but he will very rarely say that there are NO stars on the team. ... The number of "stars" per team has to be somewhere between 2 and 5, so let's say that it is 3 or 4.

I'm not trying to tell you how many players should be considered stars; I am merely observing how the term is used. If you want to say "That is too many players to be considered stars; there should only be about 20 players in baseball considered 'true stars',", that's fine, but what you are really saying is that "I want to define the word differently than everybody else uses it." Define it however you want, but don't expect other people to pay attention to you.

If there are 3 or 4 stars per team, that means 90 to 120 in baseball. Let's say 100. If we have 100 "stars" in baseball, and 7 players who are superstars [this info from more than 2,000 fans in a poll James conducted], then we have an answer to one of the questions which causes confusion in this discussion: What percentage of stars should be considered superstars? It's about 7%. My best guess.

Having reached that realization, I then thought that maybe it would be fun to draw up a list of who exactly was a superstar at each moment in baseball history.
I love it: "maybe it would be fun". ... James quickly realizes that the number of superstars "has to be more like 15%". The entire article is, as you might expect, extremely interesting.