April 30, 2018

Umpire C.B. Bucknor Changes The Game's Rules On The Fly To Screw Over A Royals Batter - And The Kansas City Announcers Say It's The Player's Fault

At some point, we are going to learn that C.B. Bucknor has been blind since birth and in that moment, everything about his career as a major league umpire will make perfect sense.

A Yahoo headline from April 2017 stated: "This Call From Umpire CB Bucknor Might Be One Of The Worst In History" After the game in question, former player Ray Knight (now an analyst for Nationals games) said:
This guy's struggled forever. I'm just gonna be candid with you, he has never been a good umpire. And I hate to cut people down, but gosh darn, how long are they going to go with this guy? Honestly, Johnny, that was the worst game I've seen called, except the last game I saw him call behind the plate. He is brutal back there.
Several other broadcasters agreed: "This is embarrassing." ... "An absolute joke." ... "I don't even think [Bucknor] knows what town he's in right now." ... "[I] haven't seen a home plate umpire have a nightmare behind the plate like this in a long, long time." ... "I've seen Bucknor call a lot of games but that was rock bottom." ... "The league has to do something about this. That's just pure incompetence."

And then, the very next night, Bucknor's incompetence put him in the headlines again. This time, it was Sports Illustrated: "Bucknor really needs to get his act together because this is getting out of control."

In 2009, Rob Neyer reported that Bucknor "has twice been selected by the players as the worst umpire in the major leagues: first in 2003 and most recently in 2006."

Around the same time, Curt Schilling wrote: "I just don't think he's a very good ump and in his tenure in the big leagues has not improved even a little. ... The MLB umpiring system is the most flawed thing in the sport. There is very little oversight or demand for a major league level of performance."

In the process of getting these quotes, I also saw this tweet: "If I was as bad at life at CB Bucknor is at umpiring I'd be dead."

Okay, so I was listening to the Royals radio broadcast on Monday night. In the top of the seventh, Abraham Almonte took a 3-1 pitch from Carson Smith that he thought was outside. He tossed his bat away and took a few steps towards first base before home plate umpire Bucknor called the pitch a strike. Almonte stopped, put both of his hands on top of his head/helmet and hopped up and down, before walking back to the plate.
Ryan Lefebvre: Called strike! Almonte had thrown the bat over to the dugout. I have never - ever - understood what there is to gain by throwing the bat before you hear from the [umpire] and running up the line. There is no trophy, ribbon, badge, or any kind of gift basket for hustling down to first base.

Strike three over the outside - and that pitch was outside. And the Royals aren't very happy about it. But Almonte may have set himself up on the pitch before that. And he's down on strikes.

And we were mentioning earlier in the game C.B. Bucknor has had a pretty tight strike zone. That was NOT in the strike zone. It was close, [but] it was not in the strike zone. ... And I've always felt like you are asking for it if you do that at the major league level. Or at any level. ... There is nothing good - and potentially only something bad is going to come from running out of the batters' box when you think it's ball 4 and you have not heard from the umpire.

Denny Matthews: Just wait for confirmation.

Lefebvre: Yeah.

Matthews: One way or the other. You've only got two ways to go. Down to first or back to the dugout.

Lefebvre: Right.
Here is Almonte's plate appearance against Carson Smith, from BrooksBaseball. As you can see, Bucknor blew the call on Pitch #5, the one on which Almonte tossed his bat. Bucknor's reputation has me wondering if he initially judged the pitch as a ball, but when he saw Almonte move slightly towards first, he quickly decided to call it a strike. ... And then he blew the next pitch, too (Pitch #6), ringing up Almonte on what was actually Ball 5.



Lefebvre flatly states that Bucknor made the wrong call. But while his comments make it very clear that an umpire will exact his revenge for any perceived slight, both he and Matthews end up blaming the victim.

The moral of Lefebvre's comments is that a player should not act in such a way that forces the umpire to retaliate against him. If a player doesn't want that to happen, then he shouldn't act in a way that will provoke the umpire. In Lefebvre's scenario, Bucknor has no control over his own actions. He is somehow forced to make bad calls because of what the player has done.

Plus, Lefebvre is not consistent with his logic. He says that "only something bad" will happen if you head to first base "when you think it's ball 4". But he said earlier that the pitch was ball 4. Almonte was 100% correct. He had drawn a base on balls. ... However, Lefebvre still blames him for Bucknor getting two calls wrong and sending Almonte back to the dugout.

The announcers make it clear that Bucknor blew the call on ball 4, but they stop there. They don't - but they absolutely should - call him out for changing the rules of the game to personally punish a player who did something he did not like. That is a far worse transgression than leaving the batters' box one or two seconds early.

In a perfect world, any umpire who decided on his own to change the rules based on his own personal biases or some imagined threat to his authority would be fired between innings. In the world that actually exists, that type of behaviour is complained about for maybe 60 seconds (or in a few paragraphs in the next day's newspaper) and then forgotten. It is accepted as "the way the game works".

And perhaps Bucknor is relaxing back at his hotel room, maybe even as I'm typing this, smiling as he thinks about calling Almonte out on "strikes". I'll bet that guy won't toss his bat in front of me again.

Also: In the first or second inning, Matthews said: "C.B. Bucknor is the home plate umpire. [two beats of silence] I will say no more about that." This is Matthews's 50th season calling Royals games. He is well familiar with Bucknor's body of work.

G28: Red Sox 10, Royals 6

Royals  - 300 200 001 -  6  9  1
Red Sox - 015 220 20x - 10 13  0
Xander Bogaerts's grand slam in the third inning - the Red Sox's sixth dong supreme this season, after hitting none last year - turned the game around, erasing the Royals' 3-2 lead and giving Boston a 6-3 advantage. Kansas City closed to within 6-5, but Hector Velazquez fanned two Royals with the potential tying run at second and that was the last threat of the night from the Royals.

Much is being made of the Red Sox tying the major league record (held by the 1996 Expos) of hitting six grand slams before May 1, but that record is meaningless because seasons do not start on the same day. The 2018 Red Sox had the advantage of the earliest Opening Day in history (March 29) and they have played 28 games through the end of April. In 1996, the Expos' season began on April 2 and they played 26 games before May began.

Also, Opening Days in decades past were much later: 1958 (April 14), 1944 (April 18), 1931 (April 14), 1918 (April 15), 1902 (April 17). ... In 1902, the Tigers played only five games before May 1.

The slams were hit April 7, 10, 11, 18, 20, and 30. The first five were hit in less than two weeks.

Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5-5-3-6, 88) had a bizarre first inning. He threw 35 pitches and allowed two hits and three walks (including two with the bases loaded), and he hit a batter. But he also was well ahead in the count on a majority of the Royals batters:
Whit Merrifield: 0-2 count, hit 1-2 pitch to right-center for single
Jorge Soler: 0-2 count, fouls off 4 pitches, walks on 3-2 pitch (10th of plate appearance)
Mike Moustakis: hit by first pitch
Salvador Perez: walks on 4 pitches, run scores
Cheslor Cuthbert: 0-2 count, strikes out on 1-2 count
Lucas Duda: 0-2 count, then 4 straight balls, which forces a run home
Jon Jay: 0-2 count, infield single on next pitch, no play made, run scores
Alex Gordon: GIDP 4-6-3 on first pitch
Jason Hammel (4.2-8-8-3-2, 107) retired eight of his first nine batters, the exception being Mitch Moreland, who led off the second with a home run to deep right.

In the third, Hammel got the first two outs, but would need 35 pitches to get the final out of the inning. Andrew Benintendi reached on an infield single and Hanley Ramirez lined a double into the right field corner that got stuck under the padding and forced Benintendi to return to third. J.D. Martinez walked. Moreland walked (on eight pitches), giving the Red Sox their first run. Bogaerts also saw eight pitches and he belted the last one over everything in left, the slam being measured at 430 feet.

Kansas City tagged Rodriguez for two more runs in the fourth as Gordon was plunked and Alcides Escobar and Merrifield followed with run-scoring doubles. Boston pulled away on Benintendi's sac fly in the fourth and Nunez's single in the fifth (which scored Martinez who had led off with a double).

Moreland was on base four times (home run, walk, double, single) and scored three runs. Bogaerts also had three hits.

After posting Bill James's glowing appreciation of Royals radio announcer Denny Matthews back on March 25, I thought I should listen to him tonight. James wrote his piece after the 1982 season and Matthews is clearly not the same announcer he was 36 years ago. Like every other radio announcer, he now fails to adequately describe pitches and the direction of both foul balls and hits. In the first inning, he used the dreaded "and it's quickly 0-2" (it always takes 2 pitches to get a 0-2 count, it's never quicker or slower than that) and said one pitch was "off the corner" (which corner? there are 4!). His complete description of one pitch out of the strike zone was: "it misses". He did not mention where any of three consecutive foul balls were hit. And he described Soler taking a pitch "under his chin" when it really passed him at about belly-height.

Matthews also makes a somewhat whistling "shh" sound on every "s" he speaks, which becomes extremely annoying - and pretty much the only thing you can hear - after someone points it out to you (thanks a lot, Laura). Hearing Matthews say "Phillips 66" was especially horrific, as was hearing that whistling sound at both the beginning and the end of the word "strikes", which as you can imagine, happened a lot. ... So I won't be tuning in again. Shhorry, Denny.

The Astros beat the Yankees 2-1, so the Red Sox are now 3 GA.
Jason Hammel / Eduardo Rodriguez
Benintendi, CF
Ramirez, DH
Martinez, LF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Bradley, RF
Vazquez, C
The Red Sox have won the most games (20-7) of any team, while the Royals have the fewest (7-20, tied with the Reds (7-21)).

From April 10 through the first game of an April 28 doubleheader, Kansas City went 2-15 (scoring an average of 3.1 runs per game, while allowing 6.7). The Royals have the worst team slugging percentage in the AL (.366) and the second-worst team ERA (5.18).

Boston has won only three of its last eight games, but anything other than a three-game sweep will be unacceptable.
In New York:
CC Sabathia snapped at Angel Hernandez over the homeplate umpire's erratic strike zone.

Angry that a 1-2 pitch to Justin Upton wasn't called a strike, Sabathia and Hernandez exchanged words following the third inning ...

"Don't talk to me. Call f--king strikes!" Sabathia yelled at Hernandez after getting Upton to ground to third for the final out of the frame, stranding runners at the corners.

Aaron Boone came out to protect his veteran southpaw ... while Didi Gregorius came over to Sabathia and tried to usher him toward the dugout.
While I believe (as do many players) that Hernandez is incompetent, the pitch that angered Sabathia was not a strike (#4):

April 29, 2018

G27: Red Sox 4, Rays 3

Rays    - 002 100 000 - 3 10  0
Red Sox - 000 003 01x - 4  7  1
After the Red Sox rallied to tie the game in the sixth on J.D. Martinez's two-run single and Jackie Bradley's sac fly, Sandy Leon's two-out single in the eighth gave Boston its margin of victory.

Facing Rays closer Alex Colome in the eighth, Martinez singled to right, capping a 4-for-4 afternoon. (Colome also buzzed a 2-2 pitch up near JDM's head.) Colome got the next two batters, but then he walked Bradley on five pitches. Leon grounded a single inside the bag at third, down the left field line, which scored Martinez. Leon then added insult to injury by stealing second base!

Rick Porcello had thrown 102 pitches in seven innings, but manager Alex Cora, who has usually been pretty easy on his starters this month, still sent him out for another inning. Porcello (7.2-7-3-0-6, 116) got the first two Rays before giving up a single to C.J. Cron. Cora went straight to Craig Kimbrel. Joey Wendle doubled, but with runners at second and third, Kimbrel got down to business, striking out Brad Miller on three pitches.

Porcello retired eight of the first nine batters in the game, but Denard Span belted a two-run homer in the third. Brad Miller doubled in the fourth and scored on Mallex's Smith single.

The Red Sox batted around and tied the score in the sixth. Eduardo Nunez, facing Andrew Kittredge, reached on an infield single. Andrew Benintendi walked and Hanley Ramirez singled, loading the bases. Martinez's single to left, past shortstop Adeiny Hechavarri's dive to his right, cut the Rays' lead to 3-2 and after Mitch Moreland walked, re-loading the bases, Sergio Romo took over. He struck out Rafael Devers, but Bradley lifted a fly ball to right, scoring Ramirez with the tying run. Moreland stole second and Leon was hit by a pitch, re-re-loading the bases. Tzu-Wei flied to right.

The four hits ties Martinez's career high, which he has done on five other occasions (for four different teams). He had four hits in Anaheim 11 days ago. He also went 4-for-5 twice in a five-game span for the Diamondbacks last September. The first game was September 4, when all four hits were home runs.  He finished that game with a flourish, going deep in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.

Boston is now 20-7, which is tied for the second-best start in franchise history (1994* and 2002). The 1946 Red Sox won 23 of their first 27 games.

(* The 1994 team also went 1-15 from June 3-19.)
Matt Andriese / Rick Porcello
Nunez, 2B
Benintendi, CF
Ramirez, DH
Martinez, LF
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Bradley, RF
Leon, C
Lin, SS
In five starts this year, Porcello has a 1.93 ERA, sixth-best in the American League (three of the five guys above him are Astros!). Opponents are slugging only .230 (18 singles and five doubles), second-best in the AL, behind only Oakland's Sean Manaea (.400).

While the Red Sox (19-7) have lost five of their last seven games, the Yankees (17-9) have won eight in a row and 10 of their last 12. Boston's lead in the AL East is down to two games.

Mookie Betts, who left Saturday's game with right hamstring tightness, is "day-to-day", according to manager Alex Cora. "We'll see how he shows up tomorrow and go from there."

April 28, 2018

G26: Rays 12, Red Sox 6

Rays    - 022 011 114 - 12 18  1
Red Sox - 111 110 001 -  6 12  1
David Price (5.2-8-6-4-5, 85) allowed two two-run dongs in the early innings, but the Red Sox managed to tie the game at both 4-4 and 5-5. The Rays kept scoring, though, with Brian Johnson feeling snowballed after being tagged for seven hits and five runs in the final two innings.

It was a team effort by Tampa Bay. Six batters collected two or more hits - Matt Duffy went 4-for-6 and Wilson Ramos was 3-for-3 - and five Rays scored two runs each, including Johnny Field, who also drove in three runs in the ninth with his first major league homer. The Rays have won eight consecutive games.

Denard Span was credited with an inside-the-park home run in the second when his line drive took an odd hop past Jackie Bradley (or maybe JBJ simply misjudged the ball). Bradley's forward dive left him on the ground as the ball rolled all the way to the wall. By the time Mookie Betts threw it back to the infield, Span was already halfway between third and home.

Betts left the game in the fifth inning with tightness in his right hamstring.

For the Red Sox, who have lost five of their last seven games since opening the season 17-2, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers each had three hits. Devers's fourth home run of the year tied the game in the fifth. Hanley Ramirez had two singles and two walks.

Of Boston's seven losses, this was the first game where the margin of defeat was more than three runs.

Also: Eduardo Nunez felt a little uneasy when Daniel Robertson bent down to tie the laces of his shoe.

Pablo Sandoval pitched the ninth inning for the Giants, who lost to the Dodgers 15-6. He retired the side in order on three ground balls. ... Odubel Herrera battled a tree as he robbed Freddie Freeman of a home run. ... Kole Calhoun: Death To Flying Things Jr.
Yonny Chirinos / David Price
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, 1B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Xander Bogaerts is back in the lineup, but his left ankle still hurts:
Feels like a needle ... a couple of needles pinching, depending on the movement. ... I think I'm good enough to play and that's what I told them ... I feel good. ... [M]y timing is getting there. ... Snell threw me a curveball my first at-bat and I haven't seen a curveball like that in a while.
Brock Holt (left hamstring strain) was moved to the 10-day disabled list. ... Before last night, the Red Sox were 8-1 at home, their best start at Fenway Park since 1998 (10-1).

And: Some words about bases-loaded bunts.

April 27, 2018

G25: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

Rays    - 201 100 000 - 4 10  1
Red Sox - 000 002 010 - 3  8  0
The Rays hit three home runs off Drew Pomeranz (5-6-4-2-4, 81). In the first, Wilson Ramos clubbed a two-out shot to left. Rob Refsnyder began the third with a dong and Daniel Robertson opened the fourth with another homer. In his two starts, Pomeranz has allowed 11 hits, four walks, and seven runs in only 8.2 innings.

Xander Bogaerts had three hits in his return to the lineup, upping his average to .405. Mookie Betts had a busy night, rapping two doubles, walking once, stealing a base, scoring two runs, and driving in one. J.D. Martinez singled and doubled and drove in two.

Blake Snell (7.1-5-2-1-9, 104) kept the Red Sox quiet, striking out the side in the second on his way to retiring the first nine batters. Betts walked and stole second in the fourth and Boston had runners on first and third with one out, but Mitch Moreland grounded into a double play. The fifth inning also ended with a double play, this one off the bat of Jackie Bradley.

The Red Sox cut Tampa Bay's lead in half in the sixth. Christian Vazquez doubled and scored on Betts's double. Betts then scored on Martinez's double. But Snell ended the rally by striking out Moreland. Bogaerts led off the seventh with a yet another double (five of Boston's eight hits were "Baltimore dongs"), but he was stranded at third as Snell got the next three hitters.

Chaz Roe came out of the bullpen with one out in the eighth. Betts greeted him with a double and scored on Martinez's two-out single to left. But (for the third time tonight) Moreland ended an inning, this time with a first-pitch grounder to first.

Boagerts reached on an infield hit in the bottom of the ninth. But Alex Colome was not rattled. He got Eduardo Nunez to foul out to the catcher before striking out Bradley (swinging) and pinch-hitter Andrew Benintendi (looking).
Blake Snell / Drew Pomeranz
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Martinez, LF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Nunez, 3B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Lin, 2B
After a 6-3 road trip, the Red Sox are home for six games: three against both the Rays and Royals. At 19-5, they have the best record in the majors. It is the best start by any team in 15 years. Boston also has the highest team batting average: .270.

Xander Bogaerts is back and in tonight's starting lineup. Manager Alex Cora spoke with X on Thursday:
[H]e was very upbeat. He didn't have to convince me. He was emphatic and genuine and he said it with conviction. He's upbeat and we're looking forward to having him back ... [H]is swing is still there.
Bogaerts was hitting .368/.400/.711/1.111 on April 8 when he suffered a small fracture in the talus bone of his left ankle.

Drew Pomeranz makes his second start of the season. Matt Collins of Over The Monster wrote that Pomeranz's first start "was fine. ... His swing and miss stuff was good and that’s a positive sign, but the efficiency and general command left something to be desired."

The Red Sox struck out nine times last night and so did not set a franchise record by fanning 10+ times in five straight games.

It's official. The street along the first base side of Fenway Park is once again known as Jersey Street. It was changed to Yawkey Way in 1977, following the death of Tom Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox from 1933 to 1976.

Last Wednesday: "Leonys Martin hit a baseball off his beans, and then he hit one over the fence"

PawSox Will Ban All Fans Named "Tyler" Or "Austin" From Upcoming Games Against MFY's AAA Team


The Pawtucket Red Sox will host an "Evil Empire Weekend" on May 5-6, when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (the MFY's AAA team) visit McCoy Stadium for two games.
To start, any fans named Joe or Kelly will be admitted for free to that weekend's games, while any fans self-identifying as Tylers or Austins will be banned from the premises. In addition, fans who confess to being named Aaron, Gary, Aroldis, Didi, CC, Jacoby, Masahiro, Giancarlo (or Mike) will be charged double the price of a regular ticket. ...

Out on Mondor Way, PawSox fans will be able to test their "Kelly-esque" accuracy throughout the weekend, with a pitiable Yankee fan appearing in a dunk tank for fans of all ages to submerge with pinpoint command. ...

There will also be a costume contest at Saturday's game, where one lucky fan dressed in his or her best (but tasteful) "anti-Yankee" apparel will win a free pair of 2018 season tickets at McCoy. The winner will be chosen by crowd vote immediately after the Saturday game ...

Highlights from the Red Sox's historic 2004 ALCS comeback vs. the Yankees will also be shown on the video board throughout the weekend, along with other dramatic Boston conquests from history (of which there are many).

April 26, 2018

G24: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4

Red Sox   - 001 130 000 - 5  8  0
Blue Jays - 111 000 100 - 4  6  0
J.D. Martinez's opposite-field, three-run homer wiped out the Blue Jays' one-run lead and put the Red Sox up 5-3 in the fifth. Matt Barnes provided a bit of drama by walking two men in the eighth, but escaped, stranding runners at second and third. Craig Kimbrel, pitching for the third straight day, retired Toronto's 9-1-2 batters in the ninth.

Chris Sale (6-4-3-2-4, 104) was not his usual self, even though he did retire 10 of his last 11 batters. The Jays scored a cheap run in the first on a one-out walk, a bloop single to right, a hit-batsman, and a sacrifice fly. Devon Travis hit a solo homer in the second and Justin Smoak homered to left in the third on an 0-2 pitch. (Is there a Clubhouse Court to levy a fine against Sale for that infraction?)

Marco Estrada (5-8-5-1-5, 96) struck out five of the first eight Boston batters, including four in a row, and the Red Sox radio announcers declared that the Jays starter was clearly in a groove, and things would not go well for the visitors tonight. Then Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi both doubled to give Boston a third-inning run. (Holt appeared to pull his left hamstring running to second and left the game. Tzu-Wei Lin took over at shortstop; Xander Bogaerts may be back with the team tomorrow night at Fenway.)

Martinez singled to start the fourth and was forced by Mitch Moreland. Eduardo Nunez doubled into the left-center gap. Rafael Devers's fly to center brought in Moreland. In the fifth, Lin popped to first and Mookie Betts flied to deep center. Then it was time for some Two-Outs/Bases-Empty action. Benintendi lined a single to right, Hanley Ramirez's bloop fell into shallow right for a hit, and Martinez pounded Estrada's first pitch over the wall in right.

Sale faced only four batters in the fifth, issuing a one-out walk, but increased his pitch count by 27. He threw 10 pitches to each of the first two batters. Carson Smith took over in the seventh and gave up a one-out triple to Travis. Kendrys Morales pinch-hit and brought the runner home on a groundout that caromed off Smith's glove to Nunez at second. After Teoscar Hernandez doubled - putting the potential tying run at second - Matt Barnes came in and struck out Smoak.

Barnes fanned the first batter in the eighth, but walked Kevin Pillar and pinch-hitter (and Tuesday's hero) Curtis Granderson. Barnes was being squeezed quite a bit by home plate umpire Ramon DeJesus (who made several questionable calls throughout the night (though I suppose that is par for the plate umpire course), but retired Randal Grichuk (who was batting .081) on a grounder to short. Lin charged the ball and got the out, but the runners moved up to second and third. Barnes then struck out Luke Maile.

Kimbrel struck out Travis on a high 3-2 fastball to start the last of the ninth. Morales fouled to third and Hernandez, who battled for eight pitches, popped to first.

The Red Sox are 19-5 and lead the Yankees by four games. (Only the 1946 team had a better record after 24 games (21-3).)

Boston begins a six-game homestand against the Rays and Royals tomorrow night.
Chris Sale / Marco Estrada
Betts, CF
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, DH
Martinez, RF
Moreland, 1B
Nunez, 2B
Devers, 3B
Vazquez, C
Holt, SS
Joe Kelly's six-game suspension was upheld. He will begin serving it tonight.

In the seventh inning last night, Andrew Benintendi was set to score an insurance run on Rafael Devers's fly ball to right. But Benintendi left third base before the ball was caught and had to return to the bag. As it turned out, the Red Sox did not need that extra run. Benintendi said he could not see the right fielder clearly because the second base umpire was screening him.

What in the world was third base coach Carlos Febles doing? Isn't it his job to watch the play and yell "GO!" when the ball is caught? Was he simply standing there like a mute statue while Benintendi did all the work? Febles's apparent inaction came only one day after he committed a huge mistake by sending the not-speedy Eduardo Nunez to an inning-ending out at the plate, aborting a potential game-winning rally.

J.D. Martinez loves Mookie Betts:
[H]e's so hungry for information. He's always in my ear. "Why did I miss that ball? What do you think about of this? What do you think about that? How should I try and hit that? Have you seen my BP?" Always asking me stuff. Always trying to learn. ... I love it because he gets caught up in the process instead of the results. ... Obviously you want hits, but the process is something you can control. ... We talk hitting and I get his perspective on it. It's cool. I kind of like the way he thinks about some stuff sometimes. It's different. I like different because it kind of opens your mind. ... I like information, so bouncing ideas off of him has been good.
Betts (.350/.442/.750; 1.192 OPS) leads the majors in runs scored (25), and is tied for second in runs created, third in doubles, slugging and OPS, fourth in extra-base hits and average, and tied for fifth in total bases.

ESPN: "Believe it or not, the 2018 major league season is already four weeks old. ... We asked ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle, Sam Miller and David Schoenfield to weigh in on some of April's most interesting baseball topics."
How many games will the Red Sox win?

Miller: Oh, 94 or so. [Checks Rick Porcello's numbers so far.] Oh, 97 or so. I wouldn't say it's a team that looks radically better than it did a month ago, and they're probably not one of the superteams, but Porcello's bounce back and Price's revival make them a very interesting October threat.

Schoenfield: My original prediction had the Yankees at 99 wins and the Red Sox at 95. I'm ready to flip that based on what I've seen from the Red Sox rotation and the Yankees rotation. So, Red Sox with 99 wins and the division title.

Doolittle: I would go with 97, which is lower than they currently are getting in my simulations, where they average 102.5 wins. However, I think at a certain point, the Red Sox will want to ease up on their starting pitchers to keep them sharp for October. That's especially true of Chris Sale. Plus, as good as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are, it's unlikely they'll keep their numbers where they are at the moment.
Actually, the Red Sox made it very clear they were "easing up" on Sale as soon as since spring training began. He threw 21 innings in spring training in 2017, but only 14.2 innings this year. His pitch counts for his first three starts were 92, 93, and 87. It was the first time in his career that Sale threw fewer than 100 pitches in three consecutive starts. He has thrown 83 and 103 pitches in his last two outings.

Everyone Says Mookie Betts Has 14 Leadoff Home Runs. Everyone Is Wrong.

Mookie Betts was the first batter to come to the plate in last night's Red Sox game in Toronto. The game began at 7:08, when Betts took Aaron Sanchez's first pitch for a ball. About one minute later, Betts hit Sanchez's third pitch over the left field wall.

Red Sox TV and radio announcers said that Betts had hit his 14th leadoff home run. Blue Jays announcers might have said it, too. You will see the "14th leadoff homer" factoid online and in newspapers today. ... But everyone who passes along that bit of information is wrong.

Mookie Betts has NOT hit 14 leadoff home runs.

As I pointed out last July, Betts has hit a few of those 14 home runs at Fenway Park.
Meaning: In the bottom of the first inning. After the game had already been started. Yes, Betts was Boston's leadoff batter in those games, but he was obviously not the game's leadoff batter. And I think that is a crucial difference that is being ignored. ... [A] true leadoff home run can be hit only on the road, only in the top of the first inning. Likewise, a player can get credit for a walkoff hit only in his own park.
Three of those 14 home runs were hit at Fenway Park - May 10, July 21, and July 22, 2016. Betts came to the plate in each instance after spending a half-inning in right field. He was not leading off the game.

The visiting team did not score in the top of first inning in any of those three games. If it had, the obvious problem with a leadoff home run at home would have been even clearer.

How can a batter "lead off" a game if his team is already trailing by, say, two runs when he steps into the batter's box?

How can he "lead off" a game when he has already caught a fly ball or fielded an opposing batter's hit? (In the July 22 game, Betts recorded the first out, catching Eduardo Nunez's fly ball.)

Also, what if the visiting team's first batter has also hit a home run? How can a game have TWO "leadoff" home runs?

It cannot.

Mookie Betts has 11 leadoff home runs.

April 25, 2018

NESN's City Shots - Which They Want You To Think Are Live - Are Not Usually Live

When NESN returned from commercial for the bottom of the third inning during last night's game in Toronto, viewers were shown a dark night sky with the CN Tower and Skydome clearly visible.
NESN's nighttime shot is looking northwest. I live about 16 miles southwest of downtown Toronto. And this is what the outdoors looked like from my balcony in the fourth inning, approximately 10-15 minutes after the NESN shot:
Ah, the lovely Mississauga suburbs!

NESN continues to use one of its oldest tricks: passing off old footage from another night (maybe another year?) as a live shot. And it's not only road games during which this deception is practiced. NESN also does it for games at Fenway Park. Jere, a fellow member in good standing of the NESN Non-Appreciation Society, exposed this chicanery twice, almost six years ago:

June 9, 2012:
NESN was trying to pull a fast one with those overhead shots. Beautiful indeed, but not from today. Early in the game, when the shadows hadn't even entered the field, they showed a shot where you could see the shadows of the light towers/stands almost completely covering the field, which wouldn't happen for a few more hours. Judging by yesterday's weather, I'd say the shots were at least 2 days old. ... No, they didn't have the word "live" on the screen, but A. they showed it while the announcers were talking and talking about what a beautiful day they were currently experiencing, and B. they don't say "live" during the game anyway, it's implied. ... [It] made me wonder about all their not-obviously-today shots.
July 6, 2012:
Why does NESN continue to show FAKE, NON-LIVE scenes of Boston during the game, trying to pass them off as live shots?? ... I've noticed they do it all the time. ... [W]hen they come back from break showing the city at night from the blimp (when there isn't even a blimp at the game--there's another dead giveaway), and Don [Orsillo] says "beautiful night in Boston as we go to the 6th," that's an obvious deception of the audience. ... Going to the bottom of the 7th, the overhead shot showed home fielders running out of the dugout to their positions--but the road team is in the field in that situation. ... Oh, and one time they stuck with the fake live shot so long, it caused us to miss the first pitch of the inning. Double pet peeve!
Jere's blog is resting in peace. Now he can be found here.

G23: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3

Red Sox   - 100 010 200 - 4  6  2
Blue Jays - 100 011 000 - 3  6  1
Mookie Betts began the game with a home run to left and then erased Toronto's 3-2 lead in the seventh with a two-run shot to right. The Red Sox - at 18-5 - have a four-game lead in the AL East, with the Blue Jays and Yankees both at 14-9.

Red Sox's Best 23-Game Start To A Season
       W-L    RS   RA  RDiff   Finish
1946  20-3   154   97    57    104-50  Won AL Pennant
1904  18-5    81   52    29     95-59  Won AL Pennant
2018  18-5   131   67    64
This year's run differential of 64 is the second-best in franchise history, behind the 2001 team (16-7, RDiff of 67).

The Blue Jays tied the game against Eduardo Rodriguez (6.2-6-3-1-3, 106) in the bottom of the first. Steve Pearce doubled off the left field wall and deftly eluded Eduardo Nunez's tag at second by sliding head-first to the outfield side of the bag, rolling over, and grabbing the base with his right hand. He scored after Rafael Devers committed a throwing error on Justin Smoak's infield hit.

After Betts turned Aaron Sanchez's (6-3-2-2-8, 96) third pitch of the evening into his seventh home run of the year, the Red Sox did not get another hit until J.D. Martinez's one-out singled in the fourth.

Jackie Bradley walked to start the fifth and Christian Vazquez was hit by a pitch. Brock Holt lifted the ball to left-center. Pearce stumbled as he broke back and the ball landed near the warning track. Both runners were running on the pitch. When it looked like the ball might be caught, Bradley, who was close to third base, turned and went back to second - but Vazquez was already around second. And then the ball landed safely. Bradley turned and ran back to third and eventually scored on Holt's double, with Vazquez taking third. The Blue Jays argued that Vazquez had passed Bradley on the base path, but that was nonsense. After Betts flied to right, Andrew Benintendi walked, loading the bases. The Red Sox squandered the opportunity to increase their one-run lead when Hanley Ramirez hit into a first-pitch double play.

The Blue Jays answered in their half of the fifth. Lourdes Gurriel singled, stole second, and scored on Pearce's single to left. Toronto took a 3-2 lead when Yangervis Solarte crushed Rodriguez's first itch of the sixth to deep left.

Danny Barnes was the first man out of the bullpen, in the seventh. With one out, Holt singled and Betts hit an opposite-field dong, giving Boston back the lead. Barnes then walked Benintendi and Ramirez before turning things over to Seung Hwan Oh, who walked Martinez. Bases loaded, one out. Devers took two balls and flied to right, near the line. Benintendi tagged and started towards the plate before Randal Grichuk caught the ball. He scrambled back and tried again, but by then it was too late to try to score. Eduardo Nunez ended the inning with a groundout to first.

The Blue Jays did not get a man on base in the final three innings. Rodriguez got the first two men in the seventh and Heath Hembree struck out Teoscar Hernandez. Joe Kelly got two groundouts to second and a strikeout in the eighth. Craig Kimbrel retired the side in the ninth on a foul pop to the catcher, a grounder to short, and a fly to Mr. Betts right.

From the last out of the second inning to the first out of the fifth, Rodriguez retired a string of eight consecutive batters on 16 pitches. He needed only six pitches in both the third and fourth innings.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Aaron Sanchez
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, 1B
Martinez, DH
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Holt, SS
Xander Bogaerts made his first rehab start last night, playing shortstop for six innings. He went 2-for-3, with a double and a home run. X suffered a small crack in the talus bone in his left ankle on April 8.

Sean McAdam of The Boston Sports Journal explains why third base coach Carlos Febles's decision to waive Eduardo Nunez around third in the top of the ninth inning last night was wrong. The subsequent out call at the plate ended the Red Sox's chance to take a lead on the Blue Jays in a game they lost in the next inning. Both manager Alex Cora and Febles defended the decision (but, hopefully, behind closed doors, they know that Febles screwed up).
First, Nunez is not running well, still hampered by a knee injury from last fall. It's clear that he's not himself on the bases. Healthy, it may have been a close play at the plate, though I'm not convinced the outcome would have been any different. ...

Secondly, while it's true the Red Sox have been scuffling to score runs the last few days, they clearly had some momentum going in the ninth and were about to chase Roberto Osuna [and] had Betts waiting on deck ... the hottest and most dependable hitter in the Red Sox lineup for much of the season.

Finally, there was the actual situation to consider. Even if it's agreed Granderson has a below-average arm, he charged the ball quickly and had it in his glove well before Nunez had even hit third base. ...

Martin, waiting at the plate, nearly had time to check his email while waiting for Nunez to arrive.

That's where [Febles's] "I made up my mind out of the gate" line of thinking falls apart. Coaches can have hunches and anticipate, but to decide to send a runner before seeing where the ball is hit, how hard it's hit and the position of the fielder relative to the baserunner are all key variables. ...

[If Febles's decision] didn't explicitly cost the Red Sox the game, then it came damn close.
Chad Finn, Boston Globe:
[Manager Alex] Cora does some things that don't jibe with baseball's conventional wisdom. I'm cool with resting players even in April, because the payoff is having still-energetic players in September and beyond. But the line should be drawn at sitting [Mookie] Betts and Hanley Ramirez on the same day [as happened on Sunday].
Some Fun Facts from when the Red Sox were 17-2:

The 2018 Red Sox became the fifth team in the "modern era" (since 1900) to win at least 17 of their first 19 games and the first team to do so in more than 30 years.
1911 Tigers      17-2
1918 Giants      18-1 
1955 Dodgers     17-2
1981 Athletics   17-2
1984 Tigers      17-2
1987 Brewers     17-2
2018 Red Sox     17-2
After losing on Opening Day, the Red Sox won 17 of 18 games, tying the 1946 and 1988 teams for the best 18-game stretch in franchise history. Those 18 games included winning streaks of nine and eight games. The last time Boston had multiple winning streaks of at least eight games was in 1977, when it had four streaks (one each in April, May, June, and September).

Through 19 games, Boston outscored its opponents by 70 runs, scoring 123 runs (the most in MLB) while allowing 53. The Astros were the next-closest team in run differential (+43). Best run differential through a team's first 19 games since 1900:
1905 Giants    +79
1902 Pirates   +77
1918 Giants    +75
2003 Yankees   +74
2018 Red Sox   +70
When they were 17-2, the Red Sox also led MLB in batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.361), slugging percentage (.497) and OPS (.858). They had struck out in only 16.3 percent of plate appearances, the lowest rate of any team.

Boston hit 11 home runs in its three-game sweep of the Angels. That's the most dongs the Red Sox have hit in a three-game series since June 17-19, 1977, when they bashed 16 (I remember it well! 4 in the B1 against Catfish!) against the Yankees.

Mookie Betts scored 23 runs in the team's first 19 games, second only to Ted Williams, who scored 24 runs through 19 games in 1942. Betts is also the third player in history with three three-homer games before turning 26, joining Boog Powell and Ralph Kiner.

Alex Cora became the first manager since 1900 to start a season with a new club by winning 17 of 19 games. ... The Red Sox are the first team in history to hit five grand slams in its first 19 games. ... Boston's starting pitchers had a 2.17 ERA, the second lowest of any rotation, just barely behind the Astros' 2.15.

* Even with three losses in the last three games, the 17-5 start is still tied for the best 22-game start in team history. The 1904 team started 17-5 and the 1946 team was 19-3.

G16-G22: Red Sox Win Four, Then Lose Three

While I was away on Vancouver Island, the Red Sox played seven games.

G16 - Tuesday, April 17: Red Sox 10, Angels 1
Red Sox - 125 100 010 - 10 15  1
Angels  - 001 000 000 -  1  4  0
Mookie Betts hit three home runs (and walks twice). Shohei Ohtani lasted only two innings, throwing 66 pitches. Jackie Bradley (3-for-5), Brock Holt, and Rafael Devers also hit homers. David Price pitched five innings (5-3-1-4-6, 96), with Brian Johnson going three and Marcus Walden one.

G17 - Wednesday, April 18: Red Sox 9, Angels 0
Red Sox - 105 000 102 - 9 14  0
Angels  - 000 000 000 - 0  6  1
Devers hit a grand slam. Mitch Moreland also drove in four runs. J.D. Martinez went 4-for-5 and scored three times. Rick Porcello: 6-6-0-0-6, 101.

G18 - Thursday, April 19: Red Sox 8, Angels 2
Red Sox - 100 202 012 - 8 14  1
Angels  - 010 010 000 - 2  4  1
Betts led off the game with a home run and the Red Sox rolled to a sweep. Andrew Benintendi drove in three and Martinez and Devers each had three hits. Eduardo Rodriguez: 6-3-2-3-5, 104.

G19 - Friday, April 20: Red Sox 7, Athletics 3
Red Sox   - 030 004 000 - 7 11  0
Athletics - 300 000 000 - 3 10  0
Drew Pomeranz made his first start of the season (3.2-5-3-2-7, 87). Bradley's three-run homer tied the game and Moreland's grand slam extended the Red Sox's winning streak to eight games and raised the team's record to 17-2. Boston is the seventh team since 1900 to win at least 17 of its first 19 games, joining the 1987 Brewers (17-2), 1984 Tigers (17-2), 1981 Athletics (17-2), 1955 Dodgers (17-2), 1918 Giants (18-1), and 1911 Tigers (17-2).

Since losing on Opening Day, the Red Sox have gone 17-1, the first time the team has gone 17-1 over any 18-game stretch since 1988. The Red Sox's +70 run differential is the 2nd-best for any team through 19 games since 1920, trailing only the 2003 Yankees (+74). Boston is also the second team ever to hit five or more grand slams before May 1 (1996 Expos, 6).

G20 - Saturday, April 21: Athletics 3, Red Sox 0
Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  0  0
Athletics - 101 010 00x - 3  7  1
Sean Manaea (9-0-0-2-10, 108) pitched the first no-hitter against the Red Sox in 25 years, besting Chris Sale (7-6-3-1-10, 109).

G21 - Sunday, April 22: Athletics 4, Red Sox 1
Red Sox   - 000 000 100 - 1  6  0
Athletics - 100 000 03x - 4  9  1
David Price (7.2-9-4-1-6, 96) gave up a three-run dong to Khris Davis, who also had an RBI-single in the first inning.

G22 - Tuesday, April 24: Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3 (10)
Red Sox   - 000 001 002 0 - 3  9  0
Blue Jays - 030 000 000 1 - 4  5  0
Holt's two-run single with two outs in the ninth tied the game, but Curtis Granderson (who had three of Toronto's five hits) homered off Craig Kimbrel in the tenth. Porcello: 7-3-3-3-9, 103.
AL East
Red Sox    17    5    ---
Blue Jays  14    8    3.0
Yankees    13    9    4.0
Rays        8   13    8.5
Orioles     7   17   11.5
Other things happened:

Brandon Belt Has A 21-Pitch At-Bat

Brandon Belt of the Giants saw 21 pitches in his first plate appearance last Sunday. Facing Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning, Belt batted for roughly 13 minutes, fouling off 11 consecutive pitches.
fbsffbffbtftffffftffftffx - Flied out to RF
Baseball has not always obsessively kept track of any and all possible data, so this was the longest at-bat since at least 1988:
21 pitches: Brandon Belt (Giants) vs Jaime Barria (Angels), April 22, 2018. Flied out to RF.
20 pitches: Ricky Gutierrez (Astros) vs Bartolo Colon (Cleveland), June 26, 1998. Struck out swinging.
19 pitches: Kevin Bass (Astros) vs Steve Bedrosian (Phillies), July 23, 1988. Flied out to LF.
18 pitches: Brian Downing (Angels) vs Ken Patterson (White Sox), September 1, 1990. Lined out to 2B.
18 pitches: Bip Roberts (Royals) vs Felipe Lira (Tigers), May 18, 1997. Grounded out to 2B.
18 pitches: Alex Cora (Dodgers) vs Matt Clement (Cubs), May 12, 2004. Hit home run.
18 pitches: Adam Kennedy (Angels) vs Luis Vizcaino (Brewers), June 10, 2004. Walked.
18 pitches: Marcus Semien (Athletics) vs Doug Fister (Astros), June 3, 2016. Grounded out to 3B.
Belt, after the game:
When I'm in the field I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off. I'm like "Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go." So I basically had to apologize to everybody after that.
It Turns Out A Woman Can Announce A Baseball Game!

Jenny Cavnar deserves congratulations for doing the play-by-play of the Rockies TV broadcast last Monday, but in 2018, this should not be news.

So it's been a quarter-century since a woman called a baseball game on TV - and you can count the number of times in history it has happened on one hand? That is pathetic - there is no other word for it. It's also yet another sad commentary on the dismal state of baseball broadcasting. There are 60 men calling major league baseball games for English-language television and radio outlets and if you believe that those five dozen guys are the most qualified announcers on the planet, well, then, you also probably think that no woman could possibly be better than even the worst major league umpire.

Also: the Rockies took no shit on Twitter from various sexist trolls.

Yankees Misspell Didi Gregorius' Name In Bat Day Advertisement
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
It's not like he hasn't been the starting shortstop since 2015 or anything.
And:




April 16, 2018

G16-G22: Red Sox at Angels, Athletics, Blue Jays

I am away for the next nine days, exploring Vancouver Island.

This is what the Red Sox will be doing:
G16 - Tuesday, April 17:     Red Sox at Angels, 10 PM
G17 - Wednesday, April 18:   Red Sox at Angels, 10 PM
G18 - Thursday, April 19:    Red Sox at Angels, 10 PM
G19 - Friday, April 20:      Red Sox at Athletics, 10 PM
G20 - Saturday, April 21:    Red Sox at Athletics, 9 PM
G21 - Sunday, April 22:      Red Sox at Athletics, 4 PM
G22 - Tuesday, April 24:     Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7 PM
Hey, Red Sox: If you want to be 20-2 when I watch you two Wednesdays from now, go right ahead.

April 15, 2018

Patriots Day Game Postponed; Red Sox Face Ohtani On Tuesday

Tomorrow's Patriots Day game between the Red Sox and Orioles has been postponed because today's rain is expected to continue overnight and into Monday morning.

The game has been rescheduled for Thursday, May 17. This is the first Patriots Day game to be postponed in 34 years (1984).


The big news: Shohei Ohtani, the Angels' 23-year-old rookie pitcher/DH, will make his third start on the mound on Tuesday night, against the Red Sox and opposite David Price. Ohtani was scheduled to face the Royals today, but that game was one of six cancellations throughout MLB.

The three games in Anaheim will feature two of the top three winningest teams in MLB: the Red Sox (#1, 13-2, .867) and the Angels (#3, 13-3, .813). (The Mets are #2, 12-2, .857. Oh, and the Yankees are tied for #15.)

Ohtani took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his last start, on April 8 against Oakland. His 12 strikeouts in that game tied an American League record for a pitcher in one of his first two games; the other two were Elmer Myers of the 1915 Philadelphia A's and Tim Fortugno of the 1992 Angels.

Of the 45 batters Ohtani has faced this season, only six have reached base.

In each of his seven starts as the Angels' DH, Ohtani has had at least one hit. He set an Angels' franchise record with 16 total bases and seven RBI in his first four career games. He is the first player with two pitching wins and three home runs in his team's first 10 games of a season since Jim Shaw of the 1919 Senators.

Ohtani has 11 RBI in the first eight games of his career. Only three players in history have had more: Dale Alexander (14, 1929 Tigers), Mitchell Page (13, 1977 A's), and Alvin Davis (12, 1984 Mariners).

Ohtani is hitting .367/.424/.767 for an OPS of 1.191. He does not have enough plate appearances to qualify among MLB's leaders, but his slugging is 64 points higher than Ozzie Albies's .703 and his OPS is 48 points higher than Bryce Harper's 1.143.

Likewise, his WHIP is 0.467, which dwarfs the MLB-best 0.629 posted by Jose Berrios of the Twins.

Some Ohtani-related reading material:

Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs, April 6: Shohei Ohtani and Beyond: a History of Double-Duty Players
[S]ince the inception of the American League in 1901, 20 players pitched at least 15 times in a season and played a position (besides pinch-hitter) at least 15 times as well; four of them did so twice. Fifteen of those 24 player-seasons predated Ruth, with all but one of those falling between 1901-1909. Only two have occurred since the start of World War II ...

We’ve grappled with other ways of looking at players who have spent time as both pitchers and hitters, but we’re really in uncharted territory with Ohtani.
Mike Duncan, The Hardball Times, April 11: Shohei Ohtani, The Bambino, and Bullet Joe
One might still walk away [from reading Jaffe's article] believing that Ruth was the last great two-way player. But this is not true. Long after Ruth committed full time to hitting, there remained a wealth of phenomenal two-way players accomplishing phenomenal two-way feats.

They can't be found in the major league baseball records because they were not allowed to play major league baseball. I speak of the black and Latino stars of the Negro Leagues. ... Four in particular stand out as all time greats: Bullet Rogan, Martín Dihigo, Double-Duty Radcliffe and Leon Day. Ohtani's arrival is the perfect opportunity to look back at their spectacular careers, both to put Ohtani's accomplishments in more complete historical context and to celebrate the undisputed, but often forgotten, greatness of these legendary players.

G15: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Orioles - 100 000 000 - 1  3  1
Red Sox - 000 012 00x - 3 10  0
Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland each had three hits in four trips to the plate. Despite having 33 plate appearances, the Baltimore Orioles failed to out-hit either Boston batter. Benintendi doubled, tripled, and singled and Moreland had two doubles and a single.

The Red Sox have won 12 of their last 13 games and are 13-2 (a team record through 15 games). They lead the AL East by 3.5 games over the Blue Jays, with the Yankees 5.5 GB.

On a raw, cold, and rainy afternoon (34 degrees*, with a 25 mph wind blowing in from center), the Red Sox finally got to Dylan Bundy (5.2-7-3-2-6, 94) when it looked like the Orioles right-hander might outpitch Chris Sale (5-2-1-2-8, 93).

*: It was the coldest game time temperature at Fenway Park since April 17, 2003. That game, a Pedro-led 6-0 win over the Devil Rays, was also 34.

Sale - eschewing long sleeves (as usual) despite the cold - threw more than 20 pitches in three of his five innings (21-12-22 27-11). He allowed a single to Trey Mancini on his first pitch of the day and Manny Machado's double two batters later gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead. Sale did not allow another hit, though he issued a walk in both the third and fourth innings. In the fourth, he faced only four batters, walking one and striking out three, but he needed 27 pitches.

Boston got a runner as far as second base against Bundy in the second, third, and fourth innings, but could not get the big hit to get on the board. Mitch Moreland doubled with one out in the second and Rafael Devers walked, but Christian Vazquez struck out and Brock Holt fouled to third. Benintendi doubled with two down in the third and watched as Hanley Ramirez fanned. J.D. Martinez walked to start the fourth and took second on a two-out wild pitch, but Vazquez popped to second.

Matters improved in the fifth. Tzu-Wei Lin singled with one out and was forced by Jackie Bradley, who stole second. Benintendi tripled into the right field corner to tie the game at 1-1. Ramirez stranded him with a line out to center.

Martinez reached on a fielding error and Moreland's opposite-field drive short-hopped the wall in left, giving Boston runners at second and third to start the sixth. Bundy's first pitch to Devers was wild and Martinez scored (Moreland remained at second). Devers and Vazquez both struck out, but Holt reached on an infield single and Lin's liner to right bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Boston led 3-1.

Benintendi singled and stole second in the seventh and, after Ramirez and JDM went down on strikes, was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score on Moreland's hit to left.

Heath Hembree gave up a single to the leadoff man in the top of the sixth, but got the next three batters. He also pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two. (He had a six-pitch stretch in which he retired four batters.) Matt Barnes struck out the first two batters in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel fanned the last two batters in the ninth.

Six games were postponed throughout MLB today, including a Tigers/MFY doubleheader.
Dylan Bundy / Chris Sale
Bradley, RF
Benintendi, CF
Ramirez, DH
Martinez, LF
Moreland, 1B
Devers, 3B
Vazquez, C
Holt, 2B
Lin, SS
                                 Record      12th Win
         Regular Season        After G14     Occurred
2004 -  98-64  2nd AL East*       9-5           G18         * Won World Series
2007 -  96-66  Won AL East*       9-5           G17         * Won World Series
2013 -  97-65  Won AL East*      10-4           G16         * Won World Series
2016 -  93-69  Won AL East        7-7           G21
2017 -  93-69  Won AL East        9-5           G22
2018 -                           12-2           G14

April 14, 2018

Minor League Items: Michael Chavis And Bacon-Themed Fireworks


April 11: The Miami Marlins were outdrawn by their AA affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The Marlins drew 6,150, while Jacksonville (playing its home opener) had a crowd of 6,960.
(Somewhat related: The official attendance for the Rays/White Sox game on April 9 was 10,377. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the actual attendance was 974 (see photo).)

April 12: With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning, Joel Booker of the Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox, Class A) attempted a straight steal of home...

Coming, June 2: The Lehigh Valley IronPigs will be shooting off "Bacon-themed" fireworks. (The LVIP like bacon. Back in 2014, players wore uniforms featuring "a bacon pinstripe on the side of the pants and a giant slice of bacon on the hat".)
Michael Chavis, the Red Sox's top positional prospect, according to Sox Prospects, was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (info). In a statement posted to Twitter, Chavis, a 22-year-old third baseman, said that he "fully support[s] the drug testing programs" in both the major and minor leagues and that his positive test is "frustrating".
Equally frustrating is that everything I've accomplished in professional baseball will now be questioned ... I cannot sufficiently verbalize how this entire situation has left me with feelings ranging from anger, fear, frustration, sadness, confusion and complete despair. ... I will continue to stay true to who I am and what I know, and I promise each of you to win back any respect you might have lost in me because of this situation.
Chris Colabello (who played with the Twins and Blue Jays from 2013-16) was suspended for 80 games in 2016 for the same performance-enhancing drug. Colabello maintained his innocence and said recently he believes Chavis:
One hundred percent. I know exactly what he's going through. There's not a question in my mind, and that's without having even spoken with him. Obviously, I could be proven wrong at some point. I know what I know. I know what I went through. So I have no reason to doubt he's not telling the truth.

G14: Red Sox 10, Orioles 3

Orioles - 000 020 001 -  3  9  3
Red Sox - 301 401 10x - 10 15  0
On May 1, 1918, Walter Johnson pitched a four-hit shutout and the Senators beat the Red Sox 5-0 at Fenway Park. That dropped the team's record from 11-2 to 11-3.

Nearly 100 years later, Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez each drove in three runs to push Boston past the Orioles 10-3, making the 2018 team the first in franchise history to begin a season 12-2.

L W W W W W W W W W L W W W

Hector Velazquez turned in yet another fine start (5-6-2-1-5, 86). He allowed a leadoff single to start the game, but retired the next eight batters, including striking out the side in the second. With two outs in the third, he gave up a double and walk, but got Manny Machado on a liner to center.

Baltimore got two hits to open the fourth, but Velazquez ended that threat with a double play (Adam Jones) and strikeout (Tim Beckham). Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run homer in the fifth, but Boston had eight runs by that point.

After Joe Kelly pitched a perfect sixth, Marcus Walden worked the final three innings for his first career save. He fanned two in the seventh and got an inning-ending double play in the eighth. He allowed a run in the ninth as Chris Davis doubled and came around on two groundouts.

In what is quickly becoming routine (though no less exciting), the Red Sox attacked the opposing starter in the early innings. Alex Cobb (3.2-10-8-1-0, 79) did not retire any of the first four Boston batters in his Orioles debut. Mookie Betts walked and Benintendi doubled him home. Betts hurt his left knee sliding into the catcher's shin guards and was eventually pulled after three innings. X-rays on his foot were negative.

Ramirez bashed a knuckle-curve over the Wall in left for his third home run of the year. (The ball is a blur in front of red-shirt guy's face, below.)
Manager Alex Cora thought he would give Ramirez a second day of rest after Hanley was hit with a pitch on the wrist on Thursday. But Ramirez told Cora last night: "Let me see how I feel." Apparently, he felt good.

J.D. Martinez, who had three hits and two RBI, smoked a single to center. Cobb got Rafael Devers to hit into a double play. Jackie Bradley singled, but Sandy Leon flied to center. Martinez homered into the Red Sox bullpen in the third. Leon began the fourth with a single and Tzu-Wei also singled (with one out). With two outs, Benintendi singled to right for two runs and Ramirez doubled to left to give the Red Sox a 8-0 lead.

Lin batted in the fifth with runners on second and third and one out, but he lined out to Machado, who threw to third to double off Bradley. Swihart doubled in the sixth and scored on Martinez's single off the Wall. With two outs in the seventh, Brock Holt reached on an infield hit and scored on Swihart's single.

When Betts left the game, Swihart took over in left, Benintendi moved to center, and Bradley went to right. JBJ (playing in right for the first time since 2015) made a great diving catch in the gap.

Martinez had three hits and five of his teammates - Benintendi, Ramirez, Holt, Line, and Swihart - each had two.

The game between the Tigers and the third-place Yankees was postponed because of bad weather. The teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday. The Yankees are now 5 GB.
Alex Cobb / Hector Velazquez
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Ramirez, 1B
Martinez, DH
Devers, 3B
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Holt, 2B
Lin, SS
Alex Cobb pitched in 115 major league games for the Rays. He signed with the Orioles three weeks ago. MLB.com has no real idea who he is.

Last night: The Marlins scored three runs on a sacrifice fly. ... The Angels moved Shohei Ohtani from #8 to #7 in the lineup. He increased his OPS to 1.191 (which would lead all of MLB if he had enough qualifying AB). ... Five of last night's 11 winning teams (45%) were "obriened" (i.e., winning the game but being outhit by the losing team).

April 13, 2018

G13: Red Sox 7, Orioles 3

Orioles - 100 000 200 - 3  9  0
Red Sox - 411 001 00x - 7 11  0
Eduardo Nunez's three-run homer snapped a 1-1 tie in the first inning - and that was enough runs for the Red Sox to post another victory. Boston's 11-2 record ties the franchise record - set in 1918 - for best record after 13 games.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman came in with an 8.68 ERA and after allowing seven hits and two walks and six runs in 2+ innings (57 pitches) he he departed with a 11.91 ERA. After Baltimore had scored in the top of the first, Mookie Betts drew a five-pitch walk and went to second when Andrew benintendi grounded back to the mound. Mitch Moreland singled and J.D. Martinez brought Betts in with a sac fly to center. Rafael Devers (3-for-5, 2 runs) lined an opposite field double towards the left field corner, with Moreland stopping at third. Nunez then cracked a 1-1 pitch into the Monster Seats.

Tzu-Wei Lin and Betts had back-to-back doubles in the second, giving the Red Sox a 5-1 lead. Tillman loaded the bases with no outs in the third - surrendering singles to Devers and Nunez and hitting Jackie Bradley with a 2-1 pitch. Pedro Araujo's first pitch to Christian Vazquez eluded catcher Caleb Joseph and Devers scored on the passed ball. Vazquez worked a 10-pitch walk, reloading the bases, but it was a LOB-otomy as Lin, Betts, and Benintendi squandered the opportunity.

In the past week, the Red Sox have been scoring early and often:
0407 vs TBR: 4 runs in 1st, 4 runs in 2nd              - 8-2 after 2 innings - win 10-3
0410 vs NYY: 1 run in 1st, 3 runs in 2nd               - 4-0 after 2 innings - win 14-1
0412 vs NYY: 4 runs in 2nd, 2 runs in 3rd              - 6-0 after 3 innings - win  6-3
0413 vs BAL: 4 runs in 1st, 1 run in 2nd, 1 run in 3rd - 6-1 after 3 innings - win  7-3
Eduardo Rodriguez (6-5-1-2-8, 104) was solid, striking out the side in the second and two men in both the fourth and fifth. Manny Machado had a two-run double off Heath Hembree in the seventh. Joe Kelly got a rousing ovation (he said it was "freaking badass") and pitched a clean eighth on nine pitches. Matt Barnes gave up a two-out single in the ninth, but got the final out on Trey Mancini's fielder's choice to shortstop.
The 27 runs the Red Sox scored against the Yankees was the most in a three-game series against the MFY since August 21-23, 2009 (29 runs: 11-20, 14-1, 4-8).

The Red Sox have hit three grand slams this season. Actually, they were hit in a four-game span: Xander Bogaerts on April 7 (Rays), Betts on April 10 (Yankees), J.D. Martinez on April 11 (Yankees). The Red Sox say the last time the team hit three grand slams in a four-game period was in 1925. (Why can't the media department give the 1925 dates? They must know them. Anyway, I looked at the 1925 schedule at BRef, but I don't see where it could have happened.)

The Red Sox have won 18 of their last 21 extra-inning games, including the last nine.
Chris Tillman / Eduardo Rodriguez
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Martinez, DH
Devers, 3B
Nunez, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Lin, SS
BOS  10  2  ---
TOR   8  5  2.5
NYY   6  7  4.5
BAL   5  8  5.5
TBR   3  9  7.0
The Orioles are 5-8, so the Red Sox will not be challenged by a competent team until next Tuesday in Anaheim.

The Red Sox (12 games) and the Yankees (13 games) have scored the same amount of runs this season (69), but the Red Sox have allowed 31 fewer runs (40-71).

The headline on Joel Sherman's column in the Post now reads: "This Painful Yankees Malaise Can't Last Much Longer". ... Why can't it? It might not, but it certainly could. And what constitutes "much longer"? Three games? 25? 149?

David Price will not miss his next scheduled start next Tuesday night. Price left Wednesday's game after one inning with a lack of feeling in his fingertips.

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN:
Ohtani has already done things we have never seen. Even Babe Ruth never had an eight-day stretch when he won two games as a starter and hit three home runs at the plate. Ohtani accomplished that within the first 10 games of his career. He has struck out 18 batters, walked two and leads the majors with a 0.462 WHIP. The WHIP figure ranks fourth all time among players with at least 13 innings pitched. At the plate, he has an OPS+ of 236. No one with a minimum of Ohtani's 29 plate appearances has a better career mark. No one! Chew on that combination of numbers for a minute.
7 games as DH: .346/.414/.769 (1.183 OPA, 3 home runs, 11 RBI)
2 games as Pitcher: 13 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 18 K (1.72 ERA, 0.462 WHIP)

Schadenfreude 222 (A Continuing Series)




Joel Sherman, Post:
For the first two-thirds of Thursday night's game at Fenway Park, you could have initiated a pretty strong argument about just which phase of the Yankees was the worst — their starting pitching, their offense or their defense.

In what is now a two-week-old season, the Yankees have done a poor job of harmonizing the team. ...

But in the finale against the Red Sox ... the Yankees assembled the opposite of a masterpiece. They were not undermined by one area. This was systemic failure.

Sonny Gray could not locate, finish off hitters or find common ground in pitch selection with Gary Sanchez. That left him needing his defense more than ever, but Sanchez had difficulty corralling a hard-to-catch pitcher (three wild pitches) and Giancarlo Stanton and Tyler Wade each botched plays. And until Aaron Judge opened the seventh with a double, Rick Porcello was no-hitting the Yankees.

"We'll turn the page," Aaron Boone said after a 6-3 loss.

He actually has been saying that a lot ...

[W]ith a chance to reverse both their early meh play and the Red Sox's strong opening surge, the Yankees behaved like the second-best team in the series. Boston took two of three and even in winning the tension-filled middle game the Yankees had a sense of hanging on despite scoring 10 runs. ...

There are five more series between the teams and 149 more games for the Yankees to rewrite all of this.

But they will need to actually, you know, play well to do this. ...

[Sonny] Gray joined Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka — the prime-aged top-three starters in this rotation — in getting brutalized at Fenway: 17 runs on 22 hits in 13 innings. ...

Boston — under its own rookie manager, Alex Cora — has matched the best 12-game start in franchise history. The Red Sox also had the upper hand in a series that will be remembered for two benches/bullpen-clearing altercations in the middle game.

And also for this — Boston being better.
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
So, this was the plan all along, wasn't? A dynamic young manager, inspiring his baseball team to a fast, impressive start. Spinning scoreboards that resembled pinball machines more than ballparks. The occasional lights-out performance from a starting pitcher. Engaged fans.

Just the way the Yankees drew it up.

Only these are the Bizarro Yankees, also known as the Boston Red Sox, also known as the best team in the American League and the A.L. East (by 2.5 games) and, specifically, the A.L. East, Heavyweight Division (by 4.5 games). The Bizarro Yankees splattered the Real Yankees again Thursday night, this time by a 6-3 score ...

In the 14 days since [Opening Day], things have turned upside-down. The Sox recovered on Day 2, didn't lose for almost two full weeks, winning from way ahead and winning from way behind and throwing a 14-1 haymaker at the Yankees in the first of 19 meetings between the rivals on Tuesday.

The Yankees? Putting it kindly, Stanton is no longer on a 324-homer pace. The bullpen, which was their crown jewel, has stumbled. Even Severino, who looked so untouchable in his first two starts, was bombarded Tuesday night at Fenway ...

They won Game 2 of the series, but only after Masahiro Tanaka tried mightily to blow an 8-1 lead ... [On Thursday] there was no life to them, little energy, little fight against Rick Porcello — loser of 17 games last year — who no-hit them for six innings. ...

For now, for the moment, for the Sox, the good times never looked so good.

(So good. So good. So good.)
George A. King III, Post:
Aaron Boone sighed lightly before answering each of the first two postgame questions following a disheartening loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night. ...

"We didn't play good behind him," Boone said of starter Sonny Gray, who got hammered for six runs and seven hits in three-plus innings. ...

Second baseman Tyler Wade's throwing error to the plate fueled a four-run second inning. Left fielder Giancarlo Stanton botched Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s fly ball near the left-field foul line and seats by overrunning it and having it land in fair territory behind him for an RBI ground-rule double in the third, when the Red Sox stretched the lead to 6-0. ...

The victory pushed the 10-2 Red Sox 4.5 games ahead of the 6-7 Yankees in the AL East. It wasn't until July 7 the Yankees were that far out of the top spot last season. ...

"[W]e will turn the page," said Boone, whose club might suffer multiple paper cuts doing that with the way it played Thursday evening.
George A. King III, Post (early edition):
Nothing the Yankees attempted to do on a rainy April night against the Red Sox worked. Sonny Gray was awful. Second baseman Tyler Wade made a mental mistake and a physical blunder on the same ground ball. Giancarlo Stanton overran a fly ball near the left-field line that went for a run-scoring double. Gary Sanchez lost the battle with Gray's pitches in the dirt when the catcher was charged with three passed balls in three innings.

Finally, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello kept the Yankees scoreless and limited them to two hits and no runs over seven innings in a 6-3 victory that was witnessed by 36,341 in New England's drenched living room. ...

As bad as Tuesday night's 14-1 embarrassment for the Yankees was, the third game of three against their blood rivals was worse ...

Gray (1-1) stranded two runners in the first but faced nine batters in the second when the Red Sox scored four runs and were helped by Wade's ill-advised throw to the plate on a ground ball that resulted in a run. ...

After being outscored 27-11 and losing two of three in awful fashion, the upcoming weekend in Detroit against the hapless Tigers is going to look like Paris in the spring to the Yankees. ...

Since joining the Yankees in August, Gray has made three starts against Boston, posting a 7.20 ERA.
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
The Yankees must not have had any fight left in them.

A day after the brawl, the Bombers looked lifeless and sloppy in a 6-3 rubber-game loss to the Red Sox ...

Rick Porcello no-hit the Yankees for the first six innings ...

Sonny Gray was awful, Tyler Wade couldn't hit or field, and Stanton overran a routine fly ball that he appeared to have lost in the rain.

Gray, who has performed like a No. 4 starter and always pitches at a snail's pace, struggled to find the strike zone and put hitters away. He allowed six runs on seven hits, walked two and uncorked three wild pitches. In his first three starts, Gray has only managed to total 13 innings.

MIA
Basically the entire team ...
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
The Yankees were punchless at the plate against Rick Porcello on Thursday night, but Sonny Gray's continued struggles were the biggest takeaway from the team's lackluster 6-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Gray, who has a 6.92 ERA this season, was supposed to be a No. 2-type starter, but he's pitching more like a No. 4-5 right now.

On Thursday night, the 28-year-old righty nibbled - as he's known to do - instead of attacking. He worked at his usual slow pace, was all over the place and couldn't finish hitters off. ...

Gray had two strikes on eight hitters - and five of them reached. An error by the usually sure-handed Tyler Wade - whose batting average now sits at .097 - and a misplay by Giancarlo Stanton that turned a routine fly ball to left into a ground-rule RBI double didn't help matters either. The sloppy-fielding Bombers lead the AL with 13 errors.

Six of the first seven hitters Gray faced reached base in the second inning, and the Sox opened up an insurmountable 4-0 lead as Porcello flirted with a no-hitter for much of the night. ...

Luis Severino (5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER) and Masahiro Tanaka (5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER) were also lousy in the Red Sox series.
Dan Martin, Post:
If the Yankees are going to live up to their high expectations this season, they have to get past the Red Sox.

They now have alarming evidence Sonny Gray isn't going to provide much help against their rivals.

Gray was awful ... giving up six runs — with three wild pitches — in just three-plus innings.

Afterward, he couldn't explain what went wrong.

"I'm not sure," Gray said. ... "[Y]ou can give up four runs pretty easily." ...

In seven career starts versus Boston, he's 1-5 with a 5.97 ERA ... [I]n four starts at Fenway, Gray is 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA.
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
Aaron Hicks has returned. ...

He finished 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
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