May 31, 2019

Walt Whitman, Baseball Reporter & Poet Who "Knew The Value Of Our Incomparable Materials"

Walt Whitman, 28 years old, approximately
two years before he began writing Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman was born 200 years ago today, May 31, 1819, in West Hills, New York. He left school at age 11 and found employment as a printer's apprentice and typesetter, eventually working at, and writing for, many newspapers. Whitman began composing what would become Leaves of Grass as early as 1850, shortly after his 30th birthday. From its first publication in 1855 until his death in 1892, Whitman continually revised the manuscript, expanding its contents from 12 to over 400 poems.

Whitman was also a huge baseball fan. MLB's official historian (and author) John Thorn posted Whitman's "only known reportage of a baseball game" at his Our Game blog about three years ago.

Whitman's report was published in the Brooklyn Daily Times on June 18, 1858:
The game played yesterday afternoon between the Atlantic and Putnam Clubs, on the grounds of the latter club, was one of the finest and most exciting games we ever witnessed. The Atlantics beat their opponents by four runs, but the general opinion was that the defeat was as much the result of accident as of superior playing.

On the fourth innings the Putnams made several very loose plays and allowed their opponents to score nine runs, and those careless plays were sufficient to lose them the game. On every other innings, they played carefully and well, as the score will show. They were also particularly unfortunate in having three of their men injured in the course of the game. Mr. Masten, their catcher, being disabled from occupying his position on the fifth innings, was compelled to take the first base and his place taken by Mr. Burr, who in his turn was disabled on the seventh innings and his place supplied by Mr. McKinstry, the fielder, Mr. Burr taking the third base. Mr. Jackson was injured on the eighth innings so much as to be compelled to discontinue playing, and Mr. Ketcham was substituted in his stead, so that at one time no less than three men on the Putnam side were so seriously injured as to be unable to run their bases. Notwithstanding these accidents, however, the score is highly creditable to the Putnams (always excepting the fourth innings), and we doubt if any other club can show a better one in a contest with such opponents. The Atlantics, as usual, played splendidly and maintained their reputation as the Champion Club. Messrs. M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, Boerum, Pierce, and Oliver of that club cannot easily be surpassed in their respective positions. Messrs. Masten, Gesner, and McKinstry, of the Putnam Club, also deserve special commendation.

[box score]
Filip Peraić, "Walt Whitman's Guide to a Thriving Democracy" (The Atlantic, May 2019):
Walt Whitman ... is almost certainly the greatest American poet. In many ways, he is also the most enigmatic. Before 1855, the year that Whitman published Leaves of Grass, he had achieved no distinction whatsoever. He had no formal education—no Oxford, no Cambridge, no Harvard or Yale. His life up to his 35th year had been anything but a success. He'd been a teacher, but he was loose and a bit indolent, and he refused to whip his students. He'd published fiction of a dramatically undistinguished sort. He'd edited a Free Soil newspaper, which opposed the spread of slavery into the western territories. But there was nothing remarkable about his journalism. Much of the time, he was a workingman. He was adept as a typesetter, a difficult and demanding trade. In the summer of 1854, he was a carpenter, framing two- and three-room houses in Brooklyn.

On his lunch break, he liked to read. Whitman was taken with the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson that summer. He surely read ... "The Poet," an essay in which Emerson called out for a genuinely American bard. ...

Emerson was looking for a poet whose vision didn't derive chiefly from books, but from American life as it was. One sentence in particular in his essay opens the prospect of a new world—a new poetic world, and perhaps a new world of human possibility as well: "Our logrolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Negroes, and Indians, our boasts, and our repudiations, the wrath of rogues, and the pusillanimity of honest men, the northern trade, the southern planting, the western clearing, Oregon, and Texas, are yet unsung."

Though America had been a nation for nearly 80 years, it was incomplete. ... What America lacked was ... an evocation of what being a democratic man or woman felt like at its best, day to day, moment to moment.
Not long after the initial publication of Leaves of Grass, Emerson wrote to Whitman:
I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it ...

I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, and which large perception only can inspire.

I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of fortifying and encouraging.

G57: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1  5  0
Yankees - 003 010 00x - 4  8  0
The Red Sox's bats were lifeless on Friday night as they dropped the first game of a three-game series against the AL East-leading Yankees.

Boston is now 29-28 and a season-worst 8.5 games out of first place. (The Red Sox were also 8.5 GB after losing to the Yankees on April 17.)

Chris Sale (6-7-4-1-10, 108) struck out the side in the bottom of the first and Rafael Devers led off the top of the second with his eighth home run of the season.

The happy feelings did not last very long. Four of the seven hits allowed by Sale came in the third. Gio Urshela grounded a single to center. After Cameron Maybin struck out, Brett Gardner dropped a single into short center. D.J. LeMahieu drilled a double off the base of the wall in right-center, tying the game at 1-1. Luke Voit whiffed, but Aaron Hicks hit a two-run double to left. Gary Sánchez struck out to end the inning. (If anyone is wondering, Sale did not strike out the side in this inning. (But no one should be wondering.))

LeMahieu's seemingly routine fly ball to right-center in the fifth sailed over the fence.

Yankees pitchers threw only three pitches with more than one Boston runner on base. Those three pitches (which ended up not being recorded even as a plate appearance) came when Eduardo Núñez led off the fifth with a single and Mookie Betts was walked intentionally with two out. With Andrew Benintendi at the plate, Sánchez picked Núñez off second base.

Alex Cora:
It can't happen. Seems like the last seven, eight days we regressed back to being sloppy around the bases. That can't happen. ... I know on a daily basis we've got talent. Keep teaching principles, keep coaching them, and they're going to be fine. They'll find ways to start winning games on a consistent basis.
The Red Sox had a two-out single in the sixth (but Devers popped to third), a two-out single in the seventh (but Christian Vázquez lined to center), and a one-out walk in the eighth (but J.D. Martinez hit into a double play). Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean ninth, striking out the last two batters.
Chris Sale / J.A. Happ
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Pearce, 1B
Núñez, 2B
Bradley, CF
León, C
Word is Eduardo Rodriguez would be available out of the bullpen tonight for two innings. He's scheduled to start on Tuesday in Kansas City.

May 30, 2019

G57: Red Sox at Yankees, PPD.

UPDATE: Tonight's game has been postponed "due to a continued forecast for inclement weather". It will be made up as the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, August 3.
Red Sox - 
Yankees - 
Chris Sale / J.A. Happ
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Pearce, 1B
Núñez, 2B
Bradley, CF
León, C
The Red Sox are 18-10 (.643) in their last 28 games, but only 7-8 in their last 15 games. During those 28 games, Boston leads the majors in runs scored per game (6.54), average (.282), and on-base (.363), and is second in OPS (.857). However, since May 19, New York leads MLB in runs scored with 83 (11 games).

Chris Sale is the only pitcher in major league history with multiple games of 10+ strikeouts and one or no hits allowed against the Yankees (May 22, 2014 and June 30, 2018).

The MFY are 13-3 since May 12 and 28-9 since April 19, the best record in MLB for both time periods.

Depending on what happens in the next two games, Gary Sanchez may become the first Yankee since Babe Ruth to have at least nine extra-base hits in a calendar month without hitting a double. In July 1925, Ruth hit one triple and eight home runs. (On August 1, of course, Ruth doubled!) Maniloaf has one triple and 9 homers this month. (Sanchez doubled on the last day of April, of course!)

J.A. Happ had a streak of allowing two earned runs or fewer in 11 straight starts against the Red Sox snapped in his final start last year. Happ was only the third pitcher since 1913 (when earned runs became an official statistic in the AL) to have a streak that long, behind Bob Shawkey of the Yankees (14 starts, June 29, 1921 to April 15, 19240 and Cleveland's Gaylord Perry (11 starts, September 9, 1972 to September 11, 1974).

Hector Velázquez has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a low back strain. Right-handed pitcher Mike Shawaryn was called up from Pawtucket.

John Oliver, host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight", explains why he roots for the Mets: "I knew it was just not acceptable to come to America [from the UK] and support the Yankees. ... I knew [it] was the wrong thing to do morally."

May 29, 2019

G56: Cleveland 14, Red Sox 9

Cleveland - 213 112 400 - 14 18  1
Red Sox   - 120 300 030 -  9 14  0
Cleveland steamrolled over the Red Sox on Wednesday evening, scoring in the each of the first seven innings and making a worthy bid to become the first American League team (ever!) to score in all nine innings.

That still has not happened, thankfully (if (or when) it finally happens, I'd rather it not be against the Red Sox), but that was one of the few positives of the game.

Some of the other bright spots: Jackie Bradley singled, doubled, homered, and scored twice. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts also went deep. Christian Vázquez's bat remained hot as he collected two singles and a double in four trips. SN's batting average has skyrocketed from .218 (on May 3) to .301 in 19 games.

Seven of Cleveland's nine batters had at least two hits. Cleveland had 26 (!) plate appearances with a runner at second or third (or both). Among their 18 hits were three triples, two by Greg Allen.

Carlos Santana had a decent game: he gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead with a triple in the first inning and he scored on a wild pitch; he walked and scored in the third; he hit a solo home run in the fourth; he walked and scored in the sixth; he doubled with the bases loaded in the seventh, knocking in all three runs (Cleveland's final runs for the evening); and (with a chance for a single (and the cycle), he struck out swinging in the ninth.

The Red Sox are 7.5 games back as they head to New York for four games against the Yankees.
Shane Bieber / Ryan Weber
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Holt, 2B
Chavis, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vázquez, C
Mitch Moreland was placed on the 10-day IL with a low back strain. Pitcher Travis Lakins was optioned to Pawtucket and pitchers Colten Brewer and Josh Taylor were recalled from Pawtucket. Taylor is wearing #72.

Ryan Weber pitched six innings of one-run ball (giving up three hits and no walks) at Toronto last Thursday. Weber has allowed only two runs in 14 innings this season (1.29 ERA).

May 28, 2019

G55: Cleveland 7, Red Sox 5

Cleveland - 000 000 025 - 7  8  1
Red Sox   - 000 003 020 - 5 10  0
There was an unmistakable feeling that this game was not going to end well even when the Red Sox still held a two-run lead. But that lead vanished in a flash and then the horror of the top of the ninth inning dragged on and on and on ...

I would have preferred if the Red Sox had said "Fuck this" and walked off the field and given Cleveland a win by forfeit. As far as the standings are concerned, it would have looked the same, but we would have been spared the sight of Ryan Brasier imploding (again) and Travis Lakins pitching as though he expected a hefty fine if he deigned to throw a strike. ... Oh, you know what? Today was also Craig Kimbrel's 31st birthday.

David Price's great effort (6-3-0-1-6, 96) was wasted. With his flu-like symptoms gone, Price allowed only two opposing runners past first base in six innings and faced a mere three batters over the minimum.

Zach Plesac (5.1-4-1-1-2, 86) enjoyed one hell of a debut. After a clean first inning, he allowed a leadoff double in the second and stranded men at first and third. Christian Vázquez singled to start the third, but Plesac picked him off. After a perfect fourth, he issued a two-out walk in the fifth.

With one out in the sixth, Rafael Devers hit his first career triple, a line drive into the soggy right field corner. (The game was begun in heavy rain and delayed 69 minutes in the middle of the second inning - and after play resumed, it drizzled all night.) Reliever A.J. Cole gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts and Boston had a 1-0 lead. J.D. Martinez hit his second double of the night and both X and JD scored on second baseman Mike Freeman's fielding error on Brock Holt's ground ball to Freeman's left.

Marcus Walden walked his first batter in the eighth, then gave up a single and a two-run double. After recording one out, Matt Barnes came in and walked Carlos Santana, but struck out Jordan Luplow and got Jose Ramirez on a grounder to short. Boston reestablished its lead with two runs of its own. Bogaerts doubled and scored on Michael Chavis's one-out single. After Holt flied out to deep right, Steve Pearce dropped a double into right field, making it 5-2.

Brasier began the top of the ninth by throwing 15 pitches to the first two batters. Roberto Perez homered to dead center on the seventh pitch and Jake Bauers walked on eight pitches. Greg Allen - who stepped in with a .087 average, a .157 on-base percentage, and an OPS under .300 - did not bother seeing a lot of pitches. Instead, he crushed Brasier's 0-1 offering to deep right for his first home run of the year, a game-tying, two-run dong.

Lakins took over and hit Freeman in the foot with his first pitch - and then he walked Francisco Lindor. Oscar Mercado squared to bunt and Pearce sprinted toward the plate. Pearce dove, but could not catch the ball. After a slight bobble, he whipped an off-balance throw to third, from his knees as he was falling onto his side. It forced the runner at third, an important first out.

Lakins celebrated that impressive play by walking Santana on four pitches, reloading the bases. Betts could not catch Luplow's drive to deep right, twisting around as he ran back to the bullpen wall. Two runs scored. Ramirez was walked intentionally, Perez hit into a fielder's choice (a runner was forced at the plate), and Bauers lined to right.

Brad Hand struck out Vázquez to start the bottom of the ninth. Betts walked and Devers singled, and it looked like the Red Sox might made it interesting. But looks were deceiving. Bogaerts and Martinez both went down swinging.

The Red Sox failed to take advantage of the Yankees' 5-4 loss to San Diego. The Rays moved to within one game of first place, while Boston stayed 6.5 games out.
Zach Plesac / David Price
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, DH
Chavis, 2B
Holt, LF
Pearce, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vázquez, C
Zach Plesac, the nephew of former pitcher Dan Plesac, will make his major league debut tonight. In 2019, the 24-year-old right-hander has a 1.41 ERA in nine starts (six in AA and three in AAA). Tonight will be only his 50th game in professional baseball. ... (One rude awakening, pls.)

Masslive's Christopher Smith says rain is expected tonight. "The tarp is on the field and heavy rain was falling as of 2:50 p.m. No on-field batting practice is expected to take place. The precipitation potential percentage is 100% at first pitch, per the National Weather Service. It's at 100% at 8 p.m., 94% at 9 p.m., 79% at 10 p.m. and 58% at 11 p.m."

Rafael Devers: Only Red Sox Player In History (Age 22 Or Younger) With An Extra-Base Hit And A Run Scored In 7 Straight Games (And Now: 8 Games!)

NOTE: All stats in this post are for players age 22 or younger. That was not completely clear originally. (Here is a list of all Red Sox players with streak of games with an extra-base hit and a run scored.)

UPDATE: Devers hits his first career triple in the sixth inning and scores on Xander Bogaerts's single. That's eight consecutive games!! In all of baseball history, only Ken Griffey Jr. has a longer streak.
Rafael Devers is the first Red Sox hitter in history (age 22 or younger) to have an extra-base hit and a run scored in eight seven straight games.
May 20 at TOR - 3-for-5, HR, 2 RS, 3 RBI
Mat 21 at TOR - 2-for-3, HR, RS, RBI, BB
May 22 at TOR - 1-for-6, HR, RS, RBI
May 23 at TOR - 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RS, 2 RBI
May 25 at HOU - 3-for-4, 2B, RS
May 26 at HOU - 2-for-4, HR, RS, RBI
May 27 vs CLE - 1-for-5, 2B, RS, RBI
May 28 vs CLE - 2-for-5, 3B, RS
16-for-37, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 10 RS, 9 RBI, 2 SB, 1 BB, 5 K - .432/.447/.892, 1.339
(In his last 30 games (since April 24), Devers is hitting .367/.406/.625, 1.031. (Updated))

Three Red Sox players had six-game streaks: Carl Yastrzemski (June 11-16, 1963), Ted Williams (May 27-June 1, 1939), and Babe Ruth (April 30-May 9, 1918).

As far as Red Sox players and consecutive games with "only" an extra-base hit, Williams had a nine-game streak in 1939 (August 28-September 4) and a eight-game streak in 1940 (August 13-20), and Reggie Smith had a seven-game streak in 1967 (August 19-23).

From today's Red Sox Game Notes:
Prior to Devers, the last players to record an XBH and score a run in 7+ straight games were Ronald Acuña Jr. (8 in 2018), Jack Clark (8 in 1978), and Hank Aaron (7 in 1956)...No AL player had done that in 80 years (Barney McCosky, 7 in 1939).
I did my own search, using Baseball Reference's Play Index, and the Red Sox Media Dept. is wrong. The last two AL players were Francisco Lindor (2017) and Miguel Andujar (2018).

Most Consecutive Games With An Extra-Base Hit & A Run Scored (Age 22 or Younger) (UPDATED)
Ken Griffey Jr.    10 games   July 19-29, 1993
Rafael Devers       8 games   May 20-28, 2019
Ronald Acuña Jr.    8 games   August 8-14, 2018
Jack Clark          8 games   May 11-19, 1978
Miguel Andujar      7 games   April 13-23, 2018
Francisco Lindor    7 games   September 7-13, 2017
Orlando Cepeda      7 games   August 18-24, 1961
Hank Aaron          7 Games   July 16-22, 1956
Willie Mays         7 games   June 21-27, 1954
Barney McCosky      7 games   June 19-26, 1939

May 27, 2019

G54: Red Sox 12, Cleveland 5

Cleveland - 201 000 200 -  5  9  1
Red Sox   - 002 161 11x - 12 13  1
The Red Sox's 12-5 win over Cleveland on Monday afternoon was a team effort. Of the nine batters in Boston's lineup, eight got a hit, eight scored a run, and seven knocked in a run.

J.D. Martinez hit two solo home runs, Sandy León cracked a three-run dong, Jackie Bradley had two run-producing doubles, and Andrew Benintendi, the only batter not to join the hit parade, walked twice, stole a base, and scored a run.

Cleveland led 3-0 in the middle of the third, but that's when the Red Sox's offense got going. Benintendi walked with two outs and stole second. He scored on Mookie Betts's single, and Betts continued on to third on right fielder's Oscar Mercado's fielding error and scored on a wild pitch. Brock Holt tied the game at 3-3 in the fourth, with his single scoring Xander Bogaerts.

The Red Sox took the lead and broke the game wide open in the fifth. Betts (who made a great diving catch in the top of the inning) singled and went to second on a balk. Rafael Devers doubled him home. After Martinez lined out to center, Bogaerts doubled Devers in. Michael Chavis was intentionally walked and Oliver Perez replaced Jefry Rodriguez (4.1-8-7-3-6, 101). Holt grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out. Bradley knocked in one run with a double to center and Leon hit a three-run shot to left.

Martinez homered in the sixth and eighth. Bradley's other double scored the run in the seventh.

Porcello: 6.2-8-5-3-4, 110. Two of the five runs he gave up were unearned.
Jefry Rodriguez / Rick Porcello
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Chavis, 1B
Holt, 2B
Bradley, CF
León, C
Dustin Pedroia has stopped his rehabilitation assignment with Portland and the Red Sox have moved him to the 60-day injured list.

Brock Holt is now back with the team and Darwinzon Hernandez was optioned to Portland.

Bill Buckner Has Died At Age 69

Matt Kelly,
"Bill Buckner, a sweet-swinging left-handed batter who amassed more than 2,700 hits in a career that spanned four decades ... died Monday at age 69.

Buckner was battling Lewy body dementia and was surrounded by his family before his passing, his wife, Jody, told ESPN. He was a beloved teammate and valuable infielder and outfielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Angels and Royals over 22 Major League seasons from 1969-90. ...

Buckner would also show his sense of humor, making fun of his famous error in a cameo on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He partnered with Wilson in numerous public appearances in the decades that followed. ...

Buckner finished his career with 2,715 hits and a near identical number of walks (450) as strikeouts (453). His 1,994 singles rank among the top 50 totals in Major League history."
Kelly notes (as will just about every other sportswriter) that Buckner "ultimately was forgiven" for his 1986 World Series error and received
a standing ovation upon his return to the [Red Sox] via free agency in 1990, and he later helped unfurl the Red Sox's 2007 World Series championship banner to a huge ovation during the club's home opener the following season.
But Kelly - and every other sportswriter - has his 1986 history completely wrong.

Red Sox fans did not wait 21 years to forgive Buckner. They gave him a huge ovation during a public rally for the team in Boston on October 29 ,1986, two days after the team lost the World Series.

On October 30, 1986, the Associated Press reported that "hundreds of thousands of fans ... offered prolonged cheers for first baseman Bill Buckner".

Peter Gammons wrote in Sports Illustrated (November 10, 1986):
The Hub Hails Its Hobbling Hero

He awakened on the morning after the morning after, knowing that he had two more rivers to cross. First, there was a parade in downtown Boston. ... As he started to get out of bed, he heard some mention of the Mets' parade on the radio. "More than two and a half million people honored the world champions yesterday in New York," said the announcer, "and the parade finished with the Mets' team bus going through Bill Buckner's legs."

"Here I just experienced the best year of my life with a team, and I feel rotten," Bill Buckner said to his wife, Jody, as they drove down Route 93 toward Boston last Wednesday morning. "This whole city hates me. Is this what I'm going to be remembered for? Is this what I've killed myself for all these years? Is a whole season ruined because of a bad hop? I've got to go through the humiliation of this parade, partly because I know I don't deserve it. Oh well, there'll only be two or three players and about 50 people who'll show up to boo us." ...

It was a crystal-clear autumn morning ... when the truck neared Copley Square, he saw that the street was lined with faces and banners as far as he could see. Buckner had asked not to speak at the rally at City Hall Plaza, and so he stood at the end of the stage. But when he heard the ringing one-minute ovation that followed his name, Buckner stepped forward and thanked the crowd.

"That was the most incredible experience of my career," he said to Jody ...

After Observing "Armed Forces Weekend" And "Honoring" Memorial Day, How Can Anyone Claim That Sports And Politics Are Not Already Mixed?

Here is something I have always found fascinating. It's an attitude that most people have, a belief that most people act on regularly, yet they remain completely unaware of it.

If you say you like when the Red Sox have a fly-over of military jets for Opening Day, when the Red Sox invite a military officer to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, when the the Red Sox "honor our military heroes [at] each home game" as part of Hats Off to Heroes ... that is thought of as normal behaviour and is not considered political. (It does not matter which party occupies the White House.)

If I say I do not like when the Red Sox have a fly-over of military jets for Opening Day, when the Red Sox invite a military officer to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, when the the Red Sox "honor our military heroes [at] each home game" as part of Hats Off to Heroes ... that is not thought of as normal behaviour and is considered extremely political and (according to some people) has no place on a blog devoted to sports. (It does not matter which party occupies the White House.)

"Sports should be a place to get away from politics, to simply relax and enjoy a game."

I would agree ... except the Red Sox (and every other team in every major sport) have willingly injected politics into the supposed non-political sphere of athletics by paying for military fly-overs, of inviting military personnel to participate in various pre-game ceremonies (have you ever wondered why you've never seen a peace activist throwing out a first pitch?), of noting the presence of soldiers in the stands at games.

Two weeks ago, all MLB teams participated in "Armed Forces Weekend", when "citizens unite[d] and honor[ed] military heroes for the patriotic services in support of the United States". Players wore camouflage-designed caps (with the option of wearing camo-themed socks).

MLB spent last weekend "Honoring Memorial Day". An article at ConnectingVets says MLB "changed their Memorial Day approach to strike a more somber tone to better fit the meaning of the holiday". This year, Memorial Day uniforms featured a poppy and the phrase "Lest We Forget."

MLB's vice president of social responsibility Melanie LeGrande: "We wanted to make sure we were sticking to the true meaning (of Memorial Day). It's really about observing all those who were lost."

Sorry, Melanie. No. The real meaning of "Lest We Forget" is to always remember the horrors of war so we do everything in our power to avoid any and all wars in the future, to make sure no other human beings ever have to experience what the veterans of World War I suffered.

And by that yardstick, it is quite clear that all we do is forget. Hour after day after week after month after year after decade after generation ... zero lessons are learned and nothing is remembered. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are now often used to judge the level of other people's patriotism - and, invariably, to find it lacking. And as last weekend came and went, the US inched ever closer to war with Iran, potentially the eighth country with which the US is currently at war. (Where are the "Always Forget!" ribbons?)

For a time, the Red Sox ran continuous recruitment ads for the US military on TV monitors throughout Fenway Park - not only in the walkways under the stands, but also above the sections of the grandstand, so fans saw the ads without leaving their seats. The ads ran throughout the entire game and filled the screen during every half-inning. (Perhaps the Red Sox still do this.)

After a trip to Boston in April 2014, my partner Laura wrote:
I love Fenway Park, and I'm always happy to be there. On this trip, we saw three great games, two of them wins, so I was thrilled. The games were marred by only one thing: nearly constant propaganda for the US military. This is not an exaggeration.

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

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

There is something particularly Orwellian about watching a baseball game while a constant stream of silent images of war and military run in your peripheral vision.
The Red Sox have chosen to align themselves with the US military (and all of its nefarious activities), which many of the team's fans (and, judging from various public comments, members of the team's ownership group) bitterly oppose. ... I guess even billionaires in their late 60s are susceptible to peer pressure.

There is a common belief that this arrangement is (alleged) not political, but any mention of this arrangement is political - and such talk is to be avoided.

This strange reaction reminds me of the US government's response when photographs and videos of military personnel torturing prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison were publicly released in April 2004. After an initial response of silence, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo, banning the use of cell phones with cameras, digital cameras, and camcorders by American troops and military personnel.

The Defense Department believed the worst aspect of that situation was not that the physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder was happening, but that evidence of these war crimes had been recorded. Similarly, in the minds of many fans, the only thing wrong with the Red Sox's partnership with the US military is that some people criticize it.

It is impossible to separate sports and politics. It always has been and always will be, because sports are played by human beings who live in the world and are aware of their surroundings.

Sports and politics were intertwined during the late 1800s and the entire first-half of the 20th Century, when all baseball team owners colluded to never sign black players. They were intertwined during the First World War, when many major league baseball players were criticized as "slackers" for accepting cushy jobs in shipyards rather than enlist and be sent overseas. They were intertwined in the 1960s when baseball players formed a union and they have remained intertwined in the subsequent sixty years, during each lockout and strike.

They were intertwined in 1966 when boxer Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the US military. "My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother [in Vietnam] ... for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me ... How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail." (Ali had also been under fire two years earlier when, as Cassius Clay, he converted to Islam.)

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and lost his boxing license for three years. During that time, Ali spoke to a group of college students: "My enemy is the white people, not Viet Cong or Chinese or Japanese. ... You won't even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs ... you want me to go somewhere and fight?"

When Ali died in June 2016, enough time had passed that he was universally remembered and applauded as a great and principled man by the same groups of people who would have wanted to string him up 50 years earlier.

They were intertwined at the 1968 Olympics, when US track medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists above their heads on the medal-winners platform in a protest against discrimination. They were intertwined in the 1980s when, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the US led a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow - and when, four years later, the USSR boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In 1995, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Denver Nuggets said he would not salute the American flag during the playing of the national anthem. Following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police officers in 2014, members of the Cleveland Cavaliers (including LeBron James) and Brooklyn Nets wore shirts with the phrase "I Can't Breathe" - Garner's reported last words.

Two years later, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he would no longer "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." In September 2017, Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell followed Kaepernick's example, taking a knee during the anthem. Almost a decade before Kaepernick, Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays stayed in the dugout during the playing of "God Bless America" in protest of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sports and politics remain intertwined to this day as baseball players report hearing racial slurs shouted from the stands, players are asked for their opinions about the possibility of playing alongside a gay teammate, and the traditional visits to the White House by championship-winning teams continues.

Matt Kipp, writing for The Odyssey in October 2016, repeats the common cliche that sports "are supposed to be an escape from the everyday world" and the "serious issues" of politics. He has a message for "all athletes voicing their political opinions: Yes, you have freedom of speech. But please don't bring politics into sports."

"You have freedom of speech. Of course, you do! But don't exercise it in places where I don't think it belongs or on topics I think you should keep silent about." ... Which sounds like the opposite of freedom of speech to me. (Also, people other than politicians are allowed to express opinions about politics. Just like people other than baseball players are allowed to express opinions about baseball.)

Finally, if reading this on what is a baseball blog bothers you, please remember that my comments do not come out of nowhere. MLB and the Red Sox made the first move. They are the ones that continually mix politics with sports. (Having a military presence at the ball park is not a neutral act, any more than having peace activists would be. It's a declaration of your social outlook, it's evidence of how you wish to be perceived.) I am merely voicing my displeasure at something which already exists. So if the mixture of sports and politics bothers you, please take it up with the people stirring the pot.

May 26, 2019

G53: Red Sox 4, Astros 1

Red Sox   - 001 110 001 - 4  7  0
Astros    - 100 000 000 - 1  4  2
Rafael Devers's fourth-inning home run to deep center snapped a 1-1 tie and Boston took advantage of wild pitches, infield errors, a balk, and a passed ball to score its other runs.

A strong outing from Eduardo Rodriguez (6-4-1-1-5, 98) prevented the Astros from sweeping the series. The Red Sox head home for three games against Cleveland before meeting the Yankees in the Bronx on Thursday for a four-game series.

After scoring a run in the first inning on two singles, the Astros would get only two additional hits over the next eight innings. A leadoff double in the third was their final hit of the day.

Boston tied the game in the third. Steve Pearce reached on an infield single to third, took second on a wild pitch, and went to third on Jackie Bradley's groundout to first. Eduardo Núñez also singled to third but Pearce had to stay put. Another Verlander wild pitch put Núñez on second. Andrew Benintendi's sac fly to center finally brought Pearce the final 90 feet.

After Devers gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead with his seventh home run of the season, Núñez doubled with one out in the fifth. Andrew Benintendi reached second on a fielding error by first baseman Yuli Gurriel and Núñez scored. Benintendi stole second. Mookie Betts singled to third and Benintendi went to third on Alex Bregman's throwing error. Then Betts stole second. All that activity came to naught, however, as Devers popped to shortstop and J.D Martinez fouled first.

The Red Sox left two more men on in the eighth before adding an insurance run in the ninth. Bradley made his way around the bases on a walk, balk, passed ball, and a soft grounder to second.

Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, and Marcus Walden each threw one shutout inning of relief.

The Royals beat the Yankees 8-7 in 10 innings, despite blowing a 7-1 lead. The Red Sox are now 6.5 GB.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Justin Verlander
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Devers, 3B
Martinez, DH
Chavis, 2B
Vázquez, C
Pearce, 1B
Bradley, CF
Núñez, SS
Mitch Moreland has a .904 OPS (13-for-41, six singles, seven doubles) against Justin Verlander. He's the team's best hitter against Verlander (min. 10 PA). He is on the bench.

The Red Sox called up Darwinzon Hernandez from Portland and optioned Colten Brewer to Pawtucket.

May 25, 2019

G52: Astros 4, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 000 000 102 - 3  9  0
Astros    - 000 002 101 - 4 13  0
When Matt Barnes gave up a leadoff double to Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-3 game (which the Red Sox had tied mere minutes before on Christian Vazquez's two-run, bases-loaded single), with Houston's 2-3-4 hitters coming up, it was clear that the road to extra innings would not be properly paved.

When Barnes walked Alex Bregman on five pitches, it was clear that the Red Sox would need a big dollop of good luck to make it out of the inning unscathed.

When Barnes walked Michael Brantley (and having thrown only four strikes in 13 pitches), it was clear that it would not be long before the Astros won this game.

The Red Sox played a five-man infield against Carlos Correa, with Mookie Betts coming in from right field to play between first and second base.

When Barnes's 2-2 pitch to Correa was a bit outside and Correa went with it and lined a single to right, that was that. ... The Astros have won 17 of their last 21 games. (The Red Sox have not.)

Boston found itself at a disadvantage right away when David Price left the game after three batters and only 15 pitches (0.2-1-0-0-1, 15) with ye olde "flu-like symptoms". Colten Brewer and Tim Laskins kept the Astros at bay until the sixth when a walk and three straight singles off Laskins - all with one out - gave Houston a 2-0 lead.

Michael Chavis led off the seventh with a single. After two fly outs to center, J.D. Martinez, pinch-hitting for Sandy León, walked and Andrew Benintendi singled Chavis home. Ryan Pressly's first pitch to Betts was in the dirt and got away from catcher Robinson Chirinos. Martinez and Benintendi were both caught off second and first base, respectively, and Martinez was tagged out 2-3-5. Houston added a run in the bottom of the seventh off Hector Velázquez.

Roberto Osuna was on the mound in the ninth and he "quickly" loaded the bases with none out. It took exactly three pitches. Rafael Devers singled to center, Chavis beat out a slowish grounder to shortstop, and Jackie Bradley was hit on the right elbow with a pitch. After a mound visit, Christian Vázquez singled to left, tying the game at 3-3. (Three singles, an HBP, and two runs in only five pitches!) Steve Pearce struck out looking. Benintendi fouled to third. Betts walked, re-loading the bases. Mitch Moreland grounded weakly back to Osuna.

The MFY swept a day-night doubleheader from the Royals, so Boston is now 7.5 GB. The Red Sox have not been this far out of first place since April 29. They were a season-worst 8.5 GB on April 17.
David Price / Brad Peacock
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Bradley, CF
Vázquez, DH
León, C
Peter Abraham, Globe:
Since the start of last season, counting the postseason, [the] Red Sox and Astros have split 16 games with Houston scoring one more run (72-71). Four games have been decided by one run, five by two runs.
Dustin Pedroia took himself out of a rehab game last night after four innings because of discomfort in his left knee. Even if FY returns to the Red Sox (and when also remains a wide-open question), there is no way he's pushing Michael Chavis to the bench. In 11 minor league games (AA and AAA) this year, Pedroia is 7-for-37 (.189). All seven hits are singles.

The lastest dispatch from the Dept. of You're Getting Fuckin' Old: Mike Yastrzemski, the 28-year-old grandson of #8, will make his major league debut today with the Giants, playing left field and batting seventh. M-Yaz has played seven seasons in the minors.

May 24, 2019

G51: Astros 4, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 000 001 011 - 3  7  3
Astros    - 011 200 00x - 4  4  0
Sloppy fielding by the Red Sox infield handed the Astros a handful of early runs and the bats wasted numerous scoring opportunities. Chris Sale (6-3-4-2-5, 89) was not sharp and was outpitched by Wade Miley (6-4-1-2-8, 102), which - simply put - should never happen.

The Red Sox are 3-8 in Sale's starts:
I don't really care whether I'm 6-1, 0-6, 0-0 for the whole year. I just want [the team] to win the games I pitch in. It sucks ... I'm not the biggest fan of coming in here to a quiet clubhouse, but it's on me. ... I have to find a way to win.
Miley - throwing more four-seam fastballs than when he faced the Red Sox last week - retired the first ten Boston batters (and had a 2-0 lead) before Mookie Betts doubled in the fourth. Xander Bogaerts walked, but J.D. Martinez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. In the fifth, the Red Sox - now trailing 4-0 - loaded the bases with one out, but Jackie Bradley struck out and Michael Chavis lined out to center.

Bogaerts homered in the sixth and Bradley led off the eighth against Ryan Pressly with a dong, snapping Pressly's MLB record of 40 consecutive scoreless appearances. Betts singled and, with two outs, Bogaerts walked. Mitch Moreland batted for Steve Pearce and struck out looking.

After Heath Hembree walked the bases loaded in the eighth, but escaped trouble, the Red Sox, still down 4-2, made a little noise against Roberto Osuna in the ninth. Andrew Benintendi led off with a fly to deep center, but Marisnick made an spectacular over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. (Marisnick also robbed Benintendi in the fifth with a diving catch in short left-center.)

Eduardo Núñez struck out (Rafael Devers, unfortunately, was given the entire night off). Christian Vázquez homered to left to cut the Astros' lead to 4-3. Osuna struck out Bradley on three pitches.

Boston (27-24) is now six games behind the Yankees in the AL East.

Also, some linescore fun in San Francisco last night:
Diamondbacks - 122 333 400 - 18 21  0
Giants       - 200 000 000 -  2  7  1
In the seventh inning, Giants fans were chanting: "Let Pablo pitch!"
Chris Sale / Wade Miley
Chavis, 2B
Betts, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, DH
Pearce, 1B
Benintendi, LF
Núñez, 3B
León, C
Bradley, CF
Rafael Devers is the only Red Sox player who has appeared in every game this season, starting all but two of the team's 50 games. He begins the evening on the bench.

Devers leads all MLB players with 83 batted balls with an exit velocity of 95+ MPH. The next three: Josh Bell, Pirates (81), José Abreu, White Sox (77), and Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (76).

MFY at Royals was postponed and will be played tomorrow afternoon as the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

May 23, 2019

Extra-Inning Home Runs By Red Sox Not Seen In 68 Years

On Wednesday night in Toronto, Mookie Betts homered in the twelfth inning to put the Red Sox ahead 5-4, but the Blue Jays tied the game in their half of the inning. Michael Chavis hit a home run in the thirteenth, giving Boston a 6-5 lead - and they won the game by that score.

It was the first time the Red Sox hit multiple go-ahead, extra-inning home runs since April 29, 1951, against the Athletics, at Philadelphia's Shibe Park.
Red Sox   - 032 001 000 011 4 - 12 15  2
Athletics - 041 000 010 011 0 -  8 14  1
Dom DiMaggio led off the eleventh with a home run. Tom Wright led off the twelfth with a home run. Ted Williams hit a two-run homer in the thirteenth, but it came after the Red Sox had already scored two runs.

Also: Bobby Doerr hit two home runs before the game went into extras. ... The first seven spots in the Red Sox's lineup had no zeroes in the box score.
Betts's home run in the twelfth inning was the latest he had homered in a game, topping his eleventh inning homer on September 30, 2015 against the Yankees.

Michael Chavis became the first Red Sox rookie to homer in the thirteenth inning or later since Shea Hillenbrand (18th inning, June 5, 2001 vs Tigers) and the first Red Sox rookie to do it on the road since Trot Nixon (13th inning, September 15, 1999 at Cleveland).

Since making his major league debut on April 20, Chavis leads the Red Sox in home runs (10) and RBI (25). Since 1920 (when RBI became an official stat), the only two players to record 10+ homers and 25+ RBI in their first 28 games, all before turning 24 years old, are Chavis and George "Boomer" Scott of the Red Sox (11 HR, 27 RBI in 1966).

Among the 31 MLB rookies with at least 50 plate appearances this season, Chavis is first in OPS (.967). Chavis is first among American League rookies in on-base (.382) and slugging, tied for first in home runs (10), second in average (.283), and tied for second in RBI (25).

Rafael Devers has hit six home runs in his last 17 games, after hitting none in his first 32 games. He has homered in each of his last three games. The only other Red Sox to homer in three straight games at the age of 22 or younger are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, and Jim Tabor. (Williams homered in four straight games, August 1941.) In his last 24 games, Devers leads MLB in hits, batting .356 (36-for-101) with a 1.004 OPS.
The Red Sox began the season with a 4-5 record when scoring five or more runs. Since then, they are 17-0.

G50: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 2

Red Sox   - 001 002 113 - 8 15  0
Blue Jays - 010 000 001 - 2  5  1
Ryan Weber pitched six strong innings (6-3-1-0-4, 93) and every Boston batter had at least one hit.

Jackie Bradley went 2-for-4 with a double, his fourth consecutive game with an extra-base hit (two doubles, two home runs). Bradley had only three extra-base hits in his previous 27 games.

Steve Pearce was 3-for-5 and hit his first home run of the season, a three-run job off Ryan Feierabend, who was pitching in only his second game since July 2014 and his eighth game since 2008. He was pitching in Korea from 2015-18.

Rafael Devers singled and doubled, scored twice and knocked in two runs. Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Núñez each had two hits; X also scored two runs.

The Red Sox remain in third place, 5.5 GB.
Ryan Weber / Clayton Richard
Chavis, 1B
Betts, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Pearce, LF
Benintendi, CF
Vázquez, C
Núñez, 2B
Bradley, RF
Ryan Weber has appeared in three games this season, allowing one run in eight innings. This will be only his fourth start since 2015, and the ninth start of his career.

Tyler Thornburg has been placed on the 10-day injured list (right hip impingement (or, if you prefer, pitching like crap)) and Travis Lakins has been recalled from Pawtucket.

May 22, 2019

G49: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5 (13)

Red Sox   - 002 000 110 001 1 - 6 10  0
Blue Jays - 000 100 111 001 0 - 5 11  0
Michael Chavis's tenth home run of the year, which came with one out in the top of 13th inning, was the difference on Wednesday night.

Mookie Betts had hit his eighth homer an inning earlier, but Rowdy "Roddy" Tellez went deep against Heath Hembree in the home half of the twelfth, to re-tie the game.

The usually reliable Marcus Walden gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth, a two-out single by Danny Jansen driving in Brandon Drury, who had doubled with one out. It should be noted, however, that Walden wriggled out of a bases-loaded-one-out jam in the tenth by striking out Freddy Galvis and getting Drury to fly to left.

Hembree also redeemed himself after blowing the save, retiring the Blue Jays in order in the thirteenth, striking out Galvis and Drury and getting Billy McKinney to fly to left.

Boston took a 2-0 lead in the third on RBI-singles from Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got one run back with his fifth homer, off Rick Porcello (6-3-1-0-4, 80).

The Red Sox loaded the bases in the seventh on Jackie Bradley's double and walks to Andrew Benintendi and Betts. Moreland grounded out to second, but JBJ scored. Scoring with no one on and two outs is fantastic when the Red Sox do it and shitty when the opposition does it. Brandon Workman retired the first two Jays in the seventh, then gave up a single, double, and two walks to hand Toronto a run.

Rafael Devers and Justin Smoak both hit homers in the eighth.

MFY: Gleyber Torres has 12 home runs this year - and 10 of them have come against the Orioles. Gary "Ketchup Sock" Thorne of MASN did not feel like calling one of Torres's blasts. ... CC Sabathia's knee is "barking" and the portly portsider will likely be headed to the IL for the second time this season.
Rick Porcello / Aaron Sanchez
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Vázquez, DH
Bradley, CF
León, C
Alex Cora, on speaking to plate umpire Alan Porter last night about Marcus Stroman possibly quick-pitching Michael Chavis in the fourth inning:
I was telling Alan, if he's going to get on our guys, get on him. It's the same thing with him every day. He competes a certain way and people don't like it. ... It seems like whenever a team comes in, somebody screams at him. I don't know, that's the way he acts.
Stroman responded this morning via Twitter:
Didn't know I had to cater to opposing teams to like me. Everyone messes with timing, deliveries and pitching mechanics these days. Everyone. Get over it. I'm going to keep that dawg mentality always. ... Cora probably still mad I chose to play for @USABaseball over Puerto Rico. Now it makes sense. Lol
MLB's Official Rules includes this comment re Rule 8.05(e):
A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.
Did Stroman quick-pitch Chavis? He began his motion less than one second after Chavis's feet were set in the box.

Update: Before today's game, Cora offered a further explanation of what was going on, explaining he was upset at the plate umpire, not Stroman:
It wasn't even about the quick-pitch. People do that a lot. Nate Eovaldi, he quick pitches and he throws 99, 100. I wasn't actually complaining about the quick-pitch. I was actually telling the umpire because Stroman goes to Chavis and he talks to him and then somebody from the dugout is screaming at Stroman and Alan Porter right away jumps on our guy. ...

It's the Stro-show, you know? He's on the mound and he has his antics and he gets under people's skin and all of a sudden he pitches six innings. ... I said he competes a certain way. Some people like it and some people don't. ... Thank you again to the guys that wrote the headlines and now there's something going on here in Toronto. ...

He even tweeted that I am still mad he didn't pitch for Puerto Rico in the WBC. I had the best time of my life with that team and he wasn't part of it. Highlight of my career. He pitched six innings and he did an outstanding job for Team USA in the finals ... [A]ctually Nolan Arenado called me to tell me that he wasn't going to play for us. Stroman announced it at David [Ortiz's] tournament in the Dominican Republic. The next day I called him and said, "Marcus, I saw your decision and respect it. I wish you luck." He was like, "Hey Alex, let's get together. Let's do something for Puerto Rico." His mom is Puerto Rican. ... He had a choice and he pitched for the gold metal team. No big deal.

May 21, 2019

G48: Blue Jays 10, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 000 001 020 -  3  7  0
Blue Jays - 000 332 20x - 10 11  1
The Red Sox squandered scoring chances all evening, hitting into three double plays in the first six innings, and leaving a total of 10 men on base. Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman (6-5-1-6-4, 105) gave up five hits and six walks in six innings, but the only run he allowed came on a solo home run. In fact, all of Boston's three runs came on solo dongs.

Eduardo Rodriguez (5-6-6-3-5, 95) fell apart in the fourth inning. Vladimir Guerrero singled and, one out later, Rowdy Tellez and Randal Grichuk hit back-to-back home runs. EdRo then walked Freddy Galvis before getting out of trouble ... until the next inning, that is. With two outs in the fifth, Guerrero singled, Justin Smoak walked, and Tellez went yard again, giving him five RBI.

Alex Cora threw in the towel in the sixth, bringing in Tyler Thornburg ... who did just about what you'd expect. He walked Galvis. He walked Billy McKinney. He gave up a run-scoring single to Danny Jansen. He gave up a run-scoring single to Brandon Drury. He recorded two outs before hitting Smoak. Tellez came up with the bases loaded, dreams of his third home run in three innings no doubt dancing in his head. But somehow, Thornburg caught him looking on his 40th pitch of the inning, for strike three. Colten Brewer pitched the final two innings, giving up a two-run double to Drury.

The Red Sox had two men on with none out in the second, but Michael Chavis grounded into a double play and Christian Vazquez was put out 1-3. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Stroman struck out Moreland and Xander Bogaerts. Toronto turned a double play on Vazquez to end the fourth.

After Moreland hit his 13th homer in the sixth, Rafael Devers and Chavis walked with two down, but Vazquez hit into another double play. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with none out, but Tim Mayza struck out Mookie Betts and Moreland, and Joe Biagini got Bogaerts on a grounder to short. Bogaerts batted with seven runners on base and did nothing. Moreland stranded six and Vazquez and Betts left four.

Devers and Jackie Bradley hit solo homers in the eighth. One bright spot: It was JBJ's second homer in two games.

The Red Sox (25-23) are 5.5 GB.
Eduardo Rodriguez / Marcus Stroman
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Vázquez, C
Bradley, CF
Pearce, 1B
J.D. Martinez is ill, but said he could pinch-hit, if necessary. ... Nate Eovaldi threw 35 pitches in the bullpen, including his secondary pitches for the first time since his surgery.

May 20, 2019

G47: Red Sox 12, Blue Jays 2

Red Sox   - 204 002 202 - 12 16  1
Blue Jays - 020 000 000 -  2  3  1
The Red Sox hit four home runs while limiting the Blue Jays to only three hits. One-third of the Boston lineup - Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers - each had as many hits as the Blue Jays. Those three hitters, combined with Michael Chavis, went 12-for-23, with three home runs and eight RBIs.

The Red Sox scored two runs in the first inning after two were out. In the third, Xander Bogaerts drove in two runs with a single and Michael Chavis hit a two-run homer. Jackie Bradley hit his first home run of the year, a two-run job, in the sixth. Devers and Pearce knocked in runs in the seventh and Bogaerts and Devers opened the ninth with hit back-to-back dongs.

Of the 23 hardest-hit balls in the game, 21 belonged to the Red Sox. Devers's home run had a 114.4 mph exit velocity, the third-hardest-hit ball by the Red Sox since Statcast began tracking hits four years ago.

David Price (5-3-2-0-4, 67) gave up two unearned runs in the second. Chavis committed an error and Luke Maile homered to deep left. That was Toronto's last hit of the afternoon. Price, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, and Hector Velázquez faced 23 more batters and allowed only one to reach base (a walk to Freddy Galvis in the seventh). Velázquez struck out the side in the ninth.

Price's four-seam fastball averaged 92.9 mph, a bit more than his season average of 92.4. His velocity improved as the game went on. Price relied on his cutter more than he usual, throwing it 20 times (out of 67 pitches).
David Price / Edwin Jackson
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Pearce, DH
Bradley, CF
León, C
David Price is coming off the injured list (left elbow tendinitis) and making his first start since May 2. Sandy Leon has returned to the team following the birth of his daughter. ... Óscar Hernández and Josh Smith have been optioned back to Pawtucket.

Christian Vazquez is hitting .528, with a 1.263 OPS, over his last 11 games.
Koji Uehara, 44, announced his retirement from professional baseball today. Uehara appeared in 193 games for the Red Sox from 2013-16.

Rob Bradford, WEEI:
In those 193 games, Uehara offered a presence that was almost unimaginable. Over 192.2 innings, he struck out 244 and walked ... 24. His batting average against in those three seasons was .174 with an ERA of 1.78.

The signature season, of course, came during the Red Sox' 2013 World Series run during which he fanned 101, walked nine and finished with a batting average against of .130. [Mariano Rivera's lowest opponent's batting average for a season was .165.] ...

From the time Uehara took over as closer on June 26, 2013 until he got that final out in the World Series, the righty struck out 75 in 58 innings and walked two. TWO. In 54 appearances he allowed runs just four times.

May 19, 2019

G46: Red Sox 4, Astros 3

Astros  - 012 000 000 - 3  4  1
Red Sox - 100 020 10x - 4 11  0
Chris Sale had control problems (5.1-4-3-5-10, 106), tying a career high with five walks. But the Red Sox persevered and snapped the Astros' 10-game winning streak and avoided a sweep.

An infield error and a wild pitch in the first inning helped Boston take a 1-0 lead. In the second, Sale walked Yuli Gurriel, gave up a double to Josh Reddick, hit Jake Marisnick, and threw a wild pitch, allowing Houston to tie the game at 1-1. Sale walked Alex Bregman to start the third and he scored on Carlos Correa's 11th homer of the year.

Boston tied the game with a TO/BE inning in the fifth. With two outs, Michael Chavis homered to left. Mookie Betts doubled and scored on a Xander Bogaerts pop-up that fell in short right-center among three Astros for a single.

Sale got into trouble in the following inning. Gurriel doubled to center and then Sale walked both Robinson Chirinos and Reddick with one out. Marcus Walden came in with the bases loaded and got Marisnick to ground into a 6-3 double play. Sale: "That was honestly probably the biggest moment and he stepped up big for us."

Walden issued a one-out walk in the seventh, but got another double play to end the seventh, though it came only after the Red Sox challenged umpire Laz Diaz's incorrect call at first.

Bogaerts's two-out double off the wall in left-center (just above the 379 marker) in the seventh scored Betts with the go-ahead run.

Matt Barnes pitched a clean eighth against the Astros' 4-5-6 hitters and Brandon Workman earned his first career save in the ninth. He struck out Chirinos, walked Reddick, struck out Marisnick, and retired Tony Kemp on a liner to center.

The Red Sox begin a four-game series in Toronto on Monday afternoon.
Wade Miley / Chris Sale
Chavis, 2B
Betts, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Martinez, LF
Vázquez, C
Pearce, 1B
Devers, 3B
Núñez, DH
Bradley, CF
Alex Cora considered several possible lineups for today, including one with J.D. Martinez leading off. He decided to go with Michael Chavis at the top of the order.

Christian Vázquez - whose slugging percentage so far this season is nearly double what it was last year (.536 to .283) - is making his sixth career start (in 285 games) batting above the #6 spot.

May 18, 2019

G45: Astros 7, Red Sox 3

Astros  - 510 010 000 - 7 13  0
Red Sox - 101 100 000 - 3  5  1
Saturday's game was decided before a second out had been recorded in the top of the first inning. Hector Velázquez (0.1-3-5-2-0, 30) lasted only six batters. Five of them scored and that was a deep enough hole to bury the Red Sox. It was Houston's 10th consecutive win, the team's second 10-game winning streak of the season.

George Springer crushed Velázquez's first pitch of the game off the wall in center field for a triple. Jackie Bradley leaped at the wall, but came up empty. Alex Bregman walked (after Velázquez was ahead 1-2) and Michael Brantley doubled to deep right. Mookie Betts may have been playing too shallow. He raced back and leapt too early, the ball sailing past his glove and thudding against the short bullpen wall perhaps four inches from the top. Springer scored Houston's first run.

Velázquez got ahead of Carlos Correa 0-2, but eventually walked him. Josh Reddick flied to left and Bregman tagged and scored. Yuli Gurriel singled to left-center. Bradley made a perfect throw to the plate, the ball bounced in at a perfect height, arriving just ahead of the runner, and Christian Vázquez dropped it. It was 3-0 and Alex Cora had seen enough. Colten Brewer gave up a two-run double - on his first pitch - to Tyler White, making it 5-0.

The Red Sox never threatened. They were given a run in the bottom of the first when Corbin Martin (4-5-3-4-0, 74), pitching in his second major league game, walked three men in a row after two were out. A run scored on a passed ball.

Mitch Moreland's double in the third scored Betts, who had walked. Vázquez hit his sixth homer of the year (already a career-high) in the fourth. ... The Astros' bullpen retired the last 14 Red Sox batters.

Brian McTaggert's article at stated that the Astros "are only the third team in Major League history to have two winning streaks of at least 10 games before June 1 of a season, following the 1941 Cardinals and 1955 Dodgers".

Using a calendar date makes no sense since every season does not begin on the same day. The 1941 Cardinals opened their season on April 15. By April 15, 2019, the Astros had played 16 games.
                    Opening Day  First Streak    Second Streak     Games Played/Record
1941 Cardinals      April 15     April 25-May 5  May 21-29           39  (30-9)
1955 Dodgers        April 13     April 13-21     April 27-May 7      23  (21-2)
2019 Astros         March 28     April 5-16      May 8-18            46  (31-15)
The 1941 Cardinals' second streak reached 11 games. In that streak, the Cardinals swept a three-game series from the Cubs (May 26-28), winning all three games on walkoff hits: 12-11 (11), 3-2, 6-5.

The 1955 Dodgers' second streak reached 11 games and after winning the first game of a doubleheader on May 15, they were 25-4.
Corbin Martin / Hector Velázquez
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Martinez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Vázquez, C
Bradley, CF
The Red Sox have allowed more than five runs only once in their last 21 games. In that time, they have scored more than five runs 12 times.

OTM's Matt Collins, on last night's game: "If you like being incredibly frustrated during a baseball game, then Friday was the night for you." ... Let's hope Saturday is more pleasant and easy on the nerves.

Sale Battled Toe Injury In Spring Training

Now it can be told ...

Chris Sale had a toe injury during spring training, which was the reason for the Red Sox's plan for a slow build-up to full strength. (So perhaps the team was not clueless when it came to Sale's light spring training load. Maybe they knew exactly what was going on and how to deal with it.)

Pitching coach Dana LeVangie told Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic:
Chris' spring training was different. We tried to do the exact same things we did last year ... [but] he had a little bit of a toe injury that slowed him down a little bit, so there were some things that led up to the early-on stuff. I basically felt like he was going through his spring training, sort of in April.
From The Athletic:
In video from his first start in Seattle [Opening Day, March 28], Sale's arm and elbow appear almost parallel to the ground before delivery.

"We just had a conversation about what his arm path was doing, and how it was maybe affecting his release point, his pitch mix and all the above," LeVangie said. "We wanted a cleaner line going back, rather than straight behind him and it didn't allow him to work more back to front in his delivery."

By his 17-strikeout performance, his arm path had been tweaked slightly.

"Now his momentum is working toward the catcher in the best possible way, his extension is back, pitch mix is far better and it doesn't allow the hitter to see the ball for so long," LeVangie said.

According to The Athletic's analytics guru Eno Sarris, Sale improved his extension (how close to the plate he releases the ball) by an inch. While that doesn't seem like a whole lot, in baseball terms it's significant. ...

After posting an 8.50 ERA in those first four starts, when batters were hitting .311 with a .943 OPS against him, Sale slowly implemented the adjustments suggested by LeVangie, assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson. Over the next five starts, he posted a 1.91 ERA and limited batters to a .157 average and .537 OPS. In three starts this month, he's struck out 41 batters and walked one.

May 17, 2019

G44: Astros 3, Red Sox 1

Astros  - 000 000 030 - 3  6  0
Red Sox - 000 001 000 - 1  9  0
Two nights ago, Eduardo Rodriguez had pitched six solid innings and the Red Sox had a 5-2 lead. Rodriguez had retired six of his last seven batters, but had also thrown 99 pitches. Manager Alex Cora decided to send Rodriguez out for the seventh. It was a very bad idea. In seven pitches, Rodriguez had loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter. All three baserunners eventually scored. The Red Sox won that game in extra innings, but that did not make Cora's decision a good one.

After a day off (the second of the week), the Red Sox played the Astros on Friday night. Rick Porcello cruised through seven innings. He had allowed only one hit to his last 19 batters and was at 91 pitches. After what happened on Wednesday, I expected to see a reliever in the top of the eighth. But Cora tried the same thing again, sending his starter out for another inning, this time with a 1-0 lead. Houston's #9 hitter, Jake Marisnick, smoked a 1-1 pitch to left for a double, the ball bouncing twice before hitting the wall near the AL East standings. Ryan Brasier (a poor choice these days as the first guy out of the pen) started warming up. As he did, George Springer launched Porcello's next pitch one row beyond the bullpen in right-center for a 2-1 Astros lead. (Springer is now 10-for-19 with three homers against Porcello lifetime, including postseason games.)

Brasier came in and walked two batters and threw a wild pitch and allowed another run. (He has allowed seven runs in his last five innings.) Trying to sneak your starter through another inning in a 5-2 game is one thing, but in a 1-0 game, it's a different matter. Cora should have had a reliever ready as soon as Porcello allowed a baserunner. And I'm baffled as to why Brasier was the first man up instead of Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes.

After the game, Cora accepted the blame:
That was a bad decision. ... He goes seven, and every pitch is high-leverage. He did his job, you know? ... I just made a bad decision, put him in a bad spot, and we paid the price. ... Should have taken him out after seven. It's not because of what happened. I just put him in a bad spot there. ... [H]e did an outstanding job for seven against the best lineup in baseball.
Cora made another error in the bottom of the ninth. After Christian Vazquez doubled with one out, Cora allowed Eduardo Nunez to bat against Roberto Osuna. I would have taken my chances with Jackie Bradley or Steve Pearce (even against a righty). I blinked and Nunez's at-bat was over (I read online he grounded the first pitch to third). Andrew Benintendi drew a four-pitch walk. Mookie Betts had a chance to win the game, but he lined out to left. (Betts had a single and four hard-hit outs, as the indifferent BABIP gods turned their backs on him.)

The Red Sox were frustrating to watch at the plate all evening. Mitch Moreland left J.D. Martinez at second base in the first inning, Nunez stranded men at second and third in the second, and a leadoff double by Xander Bogaerts in the fourth was followed by two strikeouts and a grounder to second. After singles from Benintendi and Betts with one out in the fifth, Astros starter Gerrit Cole (5-6-0-1-7, 99) struck out Martinez and Moreland, both swinging.

Bogaerts (3-for-4) opened the sixth with a single. Rafael Devers and Michael Chavis struck out, but Vazquez (3-for-4) lined an opposite-field single to right (the team's only hit in 11 AB with RATS).

Porcello (7-6-2-1-3, 95) was stingy (until he wasn't). Through seven innings, he allowed only three hits (a one-out single in the first, two hits in the second (one of which probably should have been ruled an error on Chavis), and another infield hit in the fifth) and one walk (with two outs in the fifth). Only three Houston runners got as far as second base.

Also: NESN almost missed the first pitch of the game because the Astros' lineup was on screen for so long. (Hard to believe, and yet ...)

The Yankees moved into first place after scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth and beating the Rays 4-3. The Red Sox are 4.5 GB.

After losing on April 6, the Red Sox were 4.5 GB with 152 games to play. But making up ground is not always so easy. Since then, the Red Sox have gone 21-13 (.618, a 100-win pace) and, after losing on May 17, are still 4.5 GB, now with 118 games to play.
Gerrit Cole / Rick Porcello
Benintendi, LF
Betts, CF
Martinez, RF
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Devers, 3B
Chavis, 2B
Vázquez, C
Núñez, DH
Since April 27, the Astros (13-4) and Red Sox (12-4) have been the best teams in baseball. (The Cubs are also 12-4.) The Astros have also won eight games in a row and 11 of their last 12.
                                  RS  RA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  2B  HR   BB   K
Astros (since April 27)  14-4    121  58  .291  .356  .554  .909  31  41   63  128
Red Sox (since April 24) 14-5    131  61  .282  .379  .478  .858  36  31  104  155
                                  IP     H    R-ER  BB    K  HR   ERA   BF
Astros (since April 27)  14-4    160.0  115  58-58  49  176  20  3.26  643 
Red Sox (since April 24) 14-5    175.1  123  61-57  52  212  17  2.93  700
Roster: Sandy Leon is on paternity leave and catcher Oscar Hernandez has been called up from Pawtucket. Pitcher Chandler Shephard was designated for assignment to make room for Hernandez on the 40-man roster.

David Price is scheduled to come off the IL and start in Toronto on Monday. ... The rehab assignments of Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt have begun again, with Pedroia playing second and Holt DHing for Pawtucket tonight. ... Nathan Eovaldi will throw a bullpen session next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Marcus Walden has a 0.54 ERA over his last 20 appearances (10 appearances since April 20), with 19 strikeouts and one walk. The one run he has allowed in those 20 games (16.2 innings) was a solo home run.

Andrew Benintendi is 2-for-32 (.063) in the first inning this season. With four walks and one HBP, his first inning on-base percentage is .189. ... Jackie Bradley has yet to come to the plate in the first inning this season.

May 16, 2019

Same As It Ever Was On WEEI And NESN

I missed the games on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday because friends were visiting from Ontario. Watching and listening on Wednesday night, I learned that the goings-on at WEEI and NESN had not changed in my short time away.

Lou Merloni, sitting alongside Joe Castiglione in the WEEI radio booth, seemed to be impersonating NESN's Dennis Eckersley in the top of the third, calling a strikeout by Eduardo Rodriguez "a beautiful thing" and then referring to a "changeup piece". Later on, Merloni seemed to be confused about what time zones were and how they worked.

In about the third inning, Merloni explained (as though he was revealing top secret information) that the Red Sox were not the only team to do something (that everyone knows every team does every day), like adjust their plan at the plate depending on who is pitching. At home, I was going to make a joke about Merloni saying something else blindingly obvious, such as "The Red Sox aren't the only team that has scouting reports, you know" but I kept quiet. Then, in the top of the seventh, Merloni said almost those exact same words about scouting reports. (Was I surprised? No. I was not.)

Joe Castiglione continues to make numerous mistakes about pitch location. One lowlight was a fourth-inning pitch to Rafael Devers that was allegedly "sinking low and away" when it came in above his waist. LOOK at your monitor, Joe, for god's sake!

With Mookie Betts on first in the opening inning, Rockies starter German Márquez threw over to first and Castiglione said what he almost always says ("throw to first, runner back standing"; if he doesn't say that, it's "runner back with a hand tag"), but Betts was actually diving back on his belly as Castiglione said it this time. He did not correct himself.

In the next inning, Castiglione said the count on Devers was "quickly 0-2", when it actually took the same number of pitches every 0-2 count does: two. The count was neither quickly nor slowly 0-2.

Over on NESN, an on-screen graphic in the top of the second stated that the 24 strikeouts by the Rockies on Tuesday night tied both a "franchise high and a season high". Note to NESN: If the 24 strikeouts were the most in any game the Rockies have ever played, then it is unnecessary to also state it was the most strikeouts in a Rockies game in 2019. (Similarly, if you say someone is the first guy in major league history to hit five home runs in a game, you do not need to add that it was also the first five-homer game of his career.)

In the eighth inning, NESN's high-home camera operator thought Rafael Devers hit the ball about 975 feet. ... It was caught in the middle of the warning track.

The members of the Fenway Park grounds crew who update the standings on the left field wall have figured out how to show that a team is 0.5 games out of first place. Usually (always?), the 1/2 would be placed directly above the "4" and "9" and "11" rather than over to the right (where the other fractions always go). ... Now if they could remember that when New York and another team each have the same record, New York should always be listed below the other team, all will be well. (Why don't people who work for the Red Sox know this?)