September 5, 2018

G141: Red Sox 9, Atlanta 8

Red Sox - 010 000 062 - 9 11  0
Atlanta - 200 050 010 - 8 10  2


That was the record of major league teams this season when trailing by six or more runs entering the eighth inning.

The past tense is important because the Red Sox's win on Wednesday afternoon improved that record to 1-487.

Boston actually came from behind twice. They scored six times in the eighth inning to tie the game 7-7 and after Atlanta took an 8-7 lead in the bottom half, Brandon Phillips - in his first game of 2018 - crushed a two-run homer with two outs to give the Red Sox their only lead of the day.

Alex Cora:
You could sense it. They went to the bullpen and Christian gets a hit and Lin gets a hit and then when Jackie got a hit it was like, "OK, it's on." ... They could have folded and said you know what ... it's been a productive road trip ... Whatever, let's go home, enjoy the off day and get Houston on Friday, but it was no sense of that. Everybody was pulling for each other ... we were all in. Here we go ... I think honestly that was the most fun I had all season just watching the last few innings.
That is quite a claim, considering the Red Sox have more than a few magical once-in-a-season games this summer.

Steve Pearce: "It was like, "Uh-oh, we're starting to do it." Then, boom, the hits started to happen, we scored on the error ... We all felt the momentum starting to shift. ... Then we started delivering."

Phillips said, two nights ago: "I love playing this game. ... Just let me keep doing my thing and get a ring."

Less than 24 hours later, he was this season's latest hero: "[I'm] happy that the Red Sox gave me an opportunity to do this. ... That was amazing. ... Especially for me to do it in Atlanta in front of my family and friends. That was pretty awesome."

Yes, it was. And if you were watching the Atlanta feed, it was extra-awesome. Even though Chip Caray and Joe Simpson constantly and shamelessly rooted for the home team, they had nice things to say about the Red Sox in the early innings, but when Atlanta increased its lead from 2-1 to 7-1, the Red Sox became an afterthought ... until the eighth inning.

That's when Dan Winkler gave up four hits to the first four batters on only 10 pitches. There was a nice rhythm to his economical outing: foul, Christian Vazquez single, foul, Tzu-Wei Lin single, called strike, Jackie Bradley single, called strike, ball, ball, Blake Swihart two-run double.

When Jonny Venters took over, play-by-play man Caray reminded Atlanta fans that while there was two opposing runners on base, "they still have a four-run lead". When Andrew Benintendi swung and missed Venters's first pitch, Caray exclaimed, "There's a good start!"

Benintendi swung and missed again before lining an opposite-field single for another run. Steve Pearce pinch-hit for Mitch Moreland and sent a screaming liner to deep left that Ronald Acuna somehow caught with a desperate leap. But that became a sacrifice fly when another run came across - and it was 7-5.

Phillips - who had walked and showed some impressive hustle when he scored in the second - hit a hard grounder to third. The Atlanta announcers were pretty much calling a completed double play when the ball bounced off Johan Camargo's chest and dropped in front of him. Camargo grabbed the ball and threw it wildly past first base. The runners advanced to second and third. Brad Brach was the newest pitcher to try and "stem the tides". Pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler singled to left and two runs scored with Phillips beating the throw to the plate. 7-7!

Eduardo Nunez, another pinch-hitter, flied to center for the second out, but Vazquez singled to right-center, with Kinsler sprinting to third. When Xander Bogaerts was announced as a pinch-hitter, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker brought in his fourth reliever of the inning, A.J. Minter, and made four other defensive changes. Once everyone was set, Minter fell behind Bogaerts 2-0. Caray was silent for 17 seconds before saying of Minter: "Let's see him break Bogaerts's bat here and get this inning over."

Bogaerts walked on five pitches, loading the bases for Mookie Betts, Boston's fifth pinch-hitter of the inning. Minter started Betts off with two balls, as well, before getting a gift strike call and then sneaking a pitch onto the outside black for a 2-2 count. Betts fouled off two pitches before Minter painted the outside edge for strike three.

The Red Sox had six new players take the field in the bottom of the eighth, including pitcher Brandon Workman. He retired the first two batters before facing Freddie Freeman.
Strike one called, outside corner. [Joe Simpson: "Uhh. Okay. ... Not really." Caray: "No." (The pitch was indeed outside.)] Give him that one, don't give him another one. Red Sox shift for Freddie. ... Swing and a HIGH FLY BALL! DEEP RIGHT FIELD! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? FREEMAN HOMERS! ... What do they say? It's not how you start, but how you finish. Freddie Freeman with his first homer from a team other than the Marlins since July 1st. And Atlanta has taken the lead, 8-7.
Caray's use of the "it's how you finish" line was odd, since Atlanta began the first inning with a home run, a triple and two singles. They led 2-0 after the first and 7-1 after five. That saying - when it is used correctly - means that even though a team starts out poorly, it does not matter if at the end of the game, they are ahead in the scoring. In his excessive exuberance, Caray committed two errors with his comment: Atlanta had started off fantastically - and the game was not finished

But Caray did not care. He was not done waxing poetic about this incredibly rare event - a go-ahead home run. After a strike and a ball to the next batter, he proclaimed:
409 glorious feet for Freddie Freeman. And when the Braves were on the precipice of disaster in the top of the eighth inning, they bent, didn't break, Minter got that last out, and Freeman, with two outs, hits a huge home run to give Atlanta the lead.
If you knew nothing about baseball and heard Caray carrying on like this, you might have thought that home runs were an extremely rare event. And that Freeman's shot cured cancer and 16 other diseases and would be the catalyst to world peace.

Minter returned for the top of the ninth. Caray said the Red Sox "had to spend a ton of energy to get this game tied. Don't give them any more hope. Get that first guy." Atlanta "looked like they were rolling, and then Boston put together a six-run, seven-hit eighth inning" before Freeman hit "an incredible two-out homer".

Swihart popped up to short right. Caray: "Little pop, long run Ozzie, Lane Adams is out there, Ozzie MAKES THE CATCH! WHAT A CATCH by Albies, who came out of nowhere!" ... Out of nowhere? He was the first person you mentioned when the ball was hit. Joe Simpson chimes in and calls Albies "fearless" for making the catch.

Benintendi fell behind 0-2 and singled - just as he had done in the previous inning. Simpson calls him a "good hitter" with a voice devoid of emotion. With Pearce at the plate, Caray made his desires clear: "Let's see if A.J. can get Pearce to hit the ball on the ground and end. this. game." Pearce did not hit into a game-ending double play, however; he struck out looking.

Atlanta was one out from victory. "Phillips is the man that stands in the way of a Braves win." Minter made a toss to first and threw a 95-mph fastball almost over the heart over the plate, a little lower and a tad inside from the heart of the plate. It was his 28th pitch of the game, which tied his career high for a game.

Phillips took a huge gargantuan swing and sent the ball 432 feet to deep left-center. Ronald Acuna was a statue in left field, barely moving as the ball sailed far over his head. Caray says Phillips "almost hit that one to his front porch in Stone Mountain".

A bit later, Simpson says "back in the big leagues, first game, storybook stuff for him" in a voice that sounded like it was two minutes away from suicide. As Laura quipped to me, they announcers acted like the game was completely over in the fifth inning, now it's the ninth and they're praying it's not over quite yet.

Craig Kimbrel came out for the bottom of the ninth. Dansby Swanson swung and missed three pitches and walked back to the bench. Albies popped a 1-1 pitch to Betts in center. Tyler Flowers worked a full-count walk and pitcher Touki Toussaint pinch-ran. Kimbrel also went to a full count on Lane Adams (bsbfb) before fanning him on a 98-mph fastball.
Caray: Swing and a miss and the Boston Red Sox steal one from the Braves, late. They score eight runs in their final two innings and stun Atlanta, which led 7-1. 9-8 is the final score. A very happy homecoming for Stone Mountain's Brandon Phillips. So Boston sweeps the Braves, they take five out of six head-to-head against Atlanta.

Simpson: A lot of good things to talk about, it's just it didn't finish up the way it was supposed to.

Caray: So Boston steals one from Atlanta 9-8. We join you again tomorrow night ...
Both announcers were allergic to the idea that maybe, just maybe, their team lost to a better team. It was impossible to get pissed off at them. Their homerism was so over-the-top, it was (unintentionally) hilarious - especially since I knew that the Red Sox would win the game.

In the end, Caray may have been thinking that maybe it wasn't really about how you finish.

In Oakland, The Ace of Aces gave up six runs in 2.2 innings and the Yankees lost to the Athletics 8-2.
Hector Velazquez / Mike Foltynewicz
Bradley, CF
Swihart, RF
Benintendi, LF
Moreland, 1B
Phillips, 2B
Devers, 3B
Holt, SS
Vazquez, C
Velazquez, P
The Red Sox finish up the regular season's penultimate road trip with an early game at Soulless Corporation Institution Field.

Now playing for the Red Sox, Number Zero, Brandon Phillips:
Number 4 is retired here, No. 7, one of my teammates has that. I was going to pay him for it but then I was like "Uh, they're playing good baseball, let me leave it alone." And then I was going to have No. 44 because it was two 4's, and I was like "Uh one of my teammates has that number, too." So I said, "They're playing good baseball so I'll leave that alone." So I just asked myself what is the weirdest number you have up there? And he was like, "Let me look," and he said "Zero," and I said "Get me that." I'm happy with zero. ... [I]t would be nice to have some bling-bling on my finger too so, that's basically it.
The Red Sox are 96-44 with 22 games remaining. The 1912 team holds the franchise's win record: 105-47-2.
10-12: Minimum record needed to set a new franchise record for wins
10-4: Minimum record needed in next 14 games to set a new franchise record for wins in 154 games

1 comment:

Straddling the Border said...

Following today's win over the Braves to complete the sweep, the Sox would have to finish 15-6 to exceed the 1912 team's winning percentage. They’d be 112-50, for a .6914 winning percentage. (1912: 105-47-2, .688 or per wikipedia and baseball-reference, which ignore the two ties, 105-47, .6908.)