July 12, 2018

G95: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4

Blue Jays - 200 000 110 - 4 11  1
Red Sox   - 000 500 10x - 6  8  0
Can you think of a better at-bat by a Red Sox player this season than the one Mookie Betts had in the fourth inning last night? I can't.

The Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays 2-0. J.A. Happ had allowed two hits. Happ had also forced Steve Pearce out of the game when he hit him in the left shin with a pitch. Blake Swihart, Pearce's replacement, struck out to begin the frame, Happ's sixth strikeout in the Red Sox's last eight outs. Xander Bogaerts capped a seven-pitch at-bat with a hard ground single to center. Brock Holt grounded to shortstop. The Jays got the force at second but the relay to first was late.

Alex Cora challenged the out call at second and it was overturned as replays showed Devon Travis had already taken his foot off the bag when he caught the ball. So Bogaerts was safe at second on Travis's error and Holt was on first. Eduardo Nunez tapped a grounder in front of the plate. Catcher Russell Martin did not go for the ball, so Happ came off the mound, but seemed to be moving in slow motion. Happ's toss to first was no match for Nunez's wheels - and the bases were loaded.

After fouling off four pitches, Sandy Leon hit the ball towards the shortstop hole. Lourdes Gurriel (his brother plays for the Astros) moved to his right and shoveled the ball with his glove to Aledmys Diaz at third to force Holt. (It seemed like a risky play, but it was also his only chance at an out.) Bogaerts scored on the play. Happ got ahead of Jackie Bradley 0-2 and threw a wild pitch that put runners at second and third. Happ then missed high with two pitches before throwing ball 4 in the dirt. Happ had now thrown 33 pitches in the inning and the bases were loaded for Betts.

Even if you have not heard anything about this game, you probably can guess by now what Betts is going to do. But you only know half the story. Happ got a called strike and a ball before Betts swung and missed, falling behind 1-2. Then Mookie gave a masterful demonstration of how to foul off a ton of tough pitches, hoping to get one he could slam somewhere before making an out.

Betts fouled off Happ's fourth pitch. It's a popup in foul territory beyond first base. Justin Smoak chased it with his back to the infield. After the ball glanced off his glove, he tried catching it with his bare hand, but his momentum had carried him past the ball, and it fell to the ground.

Betts fouled off Happ's fifth pitch.

Betts fouled off Happ's sixth pitch (top of the strike zone).

Betts fouled off Happ's seventh pitch (a changeup low and away, after six fastballs).

Betts fouled off Happ's eighth pitch (another changeup, outside).

Betts fouled off Happ's ninth pitch (back to the fastball, top of the strike zone).

Betts took Happ's tenth pitch, a slider low and inside, for ball 2.

Betts fouled off Happ's eleventh pitch (fastball, low, just barely out of the zone).

Betts took Happ's twelfth pitch (a two-seam fastball; all the other fastballs had been four-seamers) low for ball 3. It was a bit higher than #11 and may have grazed the bottom of the strike zone.

Happ's thirteenth pitch - his 46th pitch of the inning - was a four-seam fastball, pretty much in the same place, maybe an inch or two further inside.

Betts clubbed it over everthing in left for a grand slam.

To say Fenway Park exploded would be an understatement. Mookie knew the ball was long gone the moment he hit it - and he turned and started barking shit at his dugout as soon as he left the batter's box. He actually almost tripped and fell halfway to first, but regained his trot. ("Almost went down. Had to depend on my athletic ability and it came through that time.")

Once he stepped on first and turned towards second, he began yelling again - no doubt announcing to anyone within earshot - which was no one, considering the crowd's roar - that he was fcking baddest goddamn motherfcker ever to play the game of baseball.

Brock Holt agreed:
That was one of the best baseball moments I've ever been a part of. To see him do what he did, he's a bad man.
Since I've been in the big leagues, that's probably the most excited I've been. ... [T]he at-bat, how the whole inning was going, everybody was kind of waiting for something to happen. ... I was just looking at the dugout, excited. A good time to show some emotion.

And to think it was only three days ago that Dan Shaughnessy called these Red Sox "studiously bland ... rarely interesting" and complained about how boring all these wins have been:
On and on it goes. Meaningless game after meaningless game as the Red Sox put up cartoonish numbers while we wait for the real games to start in October. So much winning.

Whoop dee do.
Well, sure. The CHB has built his entire career on gloom and doom. If the Red Sox win, he can't do what he loves to do, which is to stir up shit. He wants bonehead errors and crushing losses and dugout fights and tabloid headlines. He can't changes his stripes. Of course he hates this team.

And it would not be a CHB column without him shaking his fist at a cloud and yelling "baseball ain't what it used to be". He also whined (for the 7,064th time (Yes, I'm keeping track)) that the game has been "taken over by geeks". It's amazing. The CHB has yet to find a take on the Red Sox and/or baseball that he cannot get on the wrong side of.

There was a great shot of David Price on the bench, with a huge smile on his face. On a replay a minute or two later, we saw Price's reaction as Betts swung and hit the ball. He looked utterly confused, as if his mind could not process the information his eyes were sending. It was like his brain was saying "I have been told by the eyes that Mookie hit a monster grand slam on the 13th pitch of his at-bat, but that is obviously completely impossible, so I don't really know what I'm supposed to do ...."

Deadspin: "Mookie Betts's 13-Pitch Grand Slam At-Bat Is Best Viewed In Its Entirety" (Lauren Theisen calls it "the best short film of the summer".)

What I also find interesting is that if Betts had struck out on that pitch, Happ would have thrown 46 pitches in the inning and allowed only one run. NESN reported that the most pitches thrown by a pitcher in an inning this season is 51, by Ivan Nova of the Pirates. I found the game: May 8 against the Cubs. He threw the 51 pitches in the first inning!

We have reliable pitch-by-pitch data only to 1988. But no Red Sox player had ever ended an at-bat of 13+ pitches with a home run before. Dustin Pedroia (May 27, 2007) and Adrian Gonzalez (April 6, 2011) both homered on the 12th pitch of an at-bat. (Alex Cora ended an 18-pitch at-bat with a home run (after 14 consecutive foul balls) off Matt Clement on May 12, 2004.)

The last player to hit a grand slam on a 13+-pitch at-bat was Gary Scott of the Cubs, who homered off Phillies pitcher Kyle Abbott on April 20, 1992. Scott hit only three home runs in a career that lasted only 67 games over two seasons.

The five-run inning erased Toronto's lead, which they grabbed in the first inning when Gurriel doubled and Teoscar Hernandez homered to center. Price allowed a solo dong to Kendrys Morales leading off the seventh. Boston got an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh when Bradley doubled off the Wall and scored on Betts's single off the scoreboard in left.

Matt Barnes gave up a leadoff single in the eighth and Justin Smoak's one-out double cut the lead to 6-4. Hernandez singled to center, sending Smoak to third. Curtis Granderson pinch-ran for Smoak. The potential tying runs were on base and there was only one out - and there was nothing going on in the Red Sox bullpen. That did not seem like a good idea. But Barnes struck out the next two batters - Morales and Martin - relying heavily on his curveball.

Travis hit his fourth single of the night off Craig Kimbrel with one out in the ninth, again giving the Blue Jays a shot at tying the game with one big swing. With Yangervis Solarte at the plate, Kimbrel threw a wild pitch (that Solarte swung at and missed) and Travis took second. Solarte grounded to third and Randal Grichuk flied out to Betts in right-center.

The win was the tenth in a row for the Red Sox, who have two winning streaks of nine or more games in the same season for the first time since 1948.

The Red Sox are 37 games over .500 (66-29) for the first time in almost seventy years. The 1949 team was 40 games over (96-56) on September 30. I don't know what happened after that.

[Note: The Red Sox were 37 games over .500 on August 30, 1978, when they won the first game of a doubleheader to improve to 84-47. Thanks to fenfan.]

Finally ... MLB cannot do anything right. On its YouTube page, the title of the video says it was a 12-pitch at-bat.
J.A. Happ / David Price
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Pearce, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Holt, 2B
Nunez, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
The two starters have very similar stats:
Happ  - 18 starts, 4.44 ERA, 10-5, 95 ERA+, 1.177 WHIP
Price - 18 starts, 4.44 ERA,  9-6, 98 ERA+, 1.273 WHIP
Happ  - 105.1 IP, 90 H, 55 R, 52 ER, 34 BB, 115 K, 16 HR Allowed 
Price - 101.1 IP, 95 H, 53 R, 50 ER, 34 BB, 101 K, 16 HR Allowed

July 12 in Baseball History:
1911: In the bottom of the first, Athletics pitcher Harry Krause walks Ty Cobb, who steals second, third, and home on the next three pitches. The Tigers win 9-0.

1921: Babe Ruth becomes the all-time home run leader, passing Roger Connor with home run #137.

1931: A record crowd of 45,715 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis helps establish major league records for doubles in one game and in a doubleheader. Easy fly balls drop for ground rule doubles among the fans encroaching on the field. There are nine doubles in the first game and 23 in the second game.

1979: The White Sox forfeit the second game of doubleheader against the Tigers when over 5,000 fans refuse to leave the field during a Disco Demolition Night promotion. Mike Veeck's promotion involves admitting fans for 98 cents with a disco record and then blowing up the albums in center field after the first game. (video)

AL East: MFY/CLE, 7 PM. ... The Yankees are 3.5 GB.


allan said...

In today's 108 Stitches email, the lead is a CHB column about Price. I did not click on the actual column, but this is what was in the email (presumably the beginning of the column):


Had a quick back-and-forth with my main man, David Price, at his locker Wednesday afternoon. Here's how it went:

Me: "You said you were 'searching' after that bad outing in KC the other night. Did you find what you were looking for?"

Price: "Yup."

Me: "Can you tell me what you learned?"

Price: "Nope."

Me: "Is it mechanical?"

Price: "Yup."


Let's hope whatever Price found and apparently fixed results in a nice outing, say 7 innings and 2 runs.

FenFan said...

According to BBRef, highest over .500 at any point in the season for the Red Sox since 1949, minimum 30 games:

1950: 36 games
1975: 32 games
1977: 34 games
1978: 37 games
1986: 33 games
1995: 31 games
2003: 30 games
2004: 35 games
2007: 31 games
2009: 30 games
2011: 31 games
2013: 34 games

So that "fact" appears to be incorrect. They were 37 games over .500 at one point in 1978.

Another misfire, NESN...

allan said...

The Red Sox won the first game of a doubleheader on August 30 and were 84-47.

That's 37 games over. But they lost the second game, and so were 36 over.

They started the day 36 over and ended the day 36 over. But for a few hours, they were 37 over.

After that, they really started to slide before an amazing push in the last two weeks. If they had won the playoff game, they would have finished 100-63 - again, 37 over.

FenFan said...

BBRef, you failed me! :-D

Point made - I guess the site doesn't take into account the record at the end of the day if there is a doubleheader.

Mea culpa, NESN...

allan said...

No, it's just the opposite, right? It DID take into account the individual games. I tried to do the search myself, but I could not see how.

(NESN probably got this from somewhere else, anyway.)

allan said...

Was looking through the SoSH thread. Mookie's GS came on the 98th pitch. He couldn't have fouled off one more so someone could win $99,999.99?

What a selfish bum.