October 16, 2021

ALCS 2: Red Sox 9, Astros 5

Red Sox - 440 110 000 - 9 11  0
Astros - 000 300 002 - 5 8 0
The Red Sox became the first team in major league history to hit two grand slam in a postseason game. The blasts came in each of the first two innings as Boston tied the ALCS at one victory apiece.

J.D. Martinez lined a bases-loaded home run to right field in the first inning off Astros starter Luis Garcia. Rafael Devers connected for a grand slam of Jake Odorizzi in the second, lifting a fly ball down the right field line.

Kike Hernandez added a solo shot in the fourth, tying a Red Sox record with his fifth home run in a single postseason (Todd Walker 2003, David Ortiz 2004 and 2013).

(More later)

Nathan Eovaldi / Luis Garcia

In 2018, the Red Sox lost ALCS Game 1 to the Astros. Then they went 4-0 against the Astros and 4-1 against the Dodgers.

In 2013, the Red Sox lost ALCS Game 1 to the Tigers. Then they went 4-1 against the Tigers and 4-2 against the Cardinals.

In 2004, the Red Sox lost ALCS Game 1, ALCS Game 2, and ALCS Game 3 to the Yankees. Then they went 4-0 against the Yankees and 4-0 against the Cardinals.

I think we have the Astros right where we want them.

October 15, 2021

ALCS 1: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 003 000 001 - 4 10  0
Astros - 100 002 11x - 5 11 1

Kiké Hernández went 4-for-5, with two home runs and a double, and he made a handful of excellent catches in center field. It turns out what the Red Sox really needed him to do was pitch the eighth inning. And/or slap some sense into manager Alex Cora's head.
The Astros had taken a 4-3 lead in the seventh on Carlos Correa's solo homer. The Red Sox were retired in the top of the eighth, as Cora made the questionable decision to use Danny Santana as a pinch-hitter. The strategy, such as it was, failed – and the reasons for his presence on the roster remain a mystery. Now it was beyond essential that Houston not score any additional runs. All measures must be taken to keep them at four runs so the Red Sox would have a fighting chance in the ninth against Astros closer Ryan Pressly.

So who comes out of the Boston bullpen for the eighth? Garrett Whitlock (1.1 shutout innings in ALDS 3 and two perfect innings (8th-9th) in ALDS 4? Nick Pivetta (four shutout innings (10th-13th!) and seven strikeouts in ALDS 3)?

Hirokazu Sawamura. . . . Didn't see that one coming, did you? . . . That would be the guy the Red Sox thought so highly of, they left him off the ALDS roster. The guy who averaged 5.4 BB/9, the guy who pitched 129 fewer innings than Nathan Eovaldi but walked only three fewer batters.

I have no clue what Cora was thinking. The ALCS is not the time – not even in Game 1 – and certainly not if you are down by one run with only two innings to go in Game 1 – to roll the dice and see what a pitcher's got.

Sawamura was wild all season – and he was wild on Friday night. He walked Yuri Gurriel on a 3-2 count (Gurriel went full sasahe for strike two). Chas McCormick (3-for-4) lined a single to left that Santana pulled up on and watched drop in front of him. No action from Cora. Martín Maldonado squared to bunt and was hit in the chest by Sawamura's 1-0 offering. Bases loaded, no outs. No action from Cora. Jose Altuve, who walked and scored in the first and hit a two-run dong in the sixth, was coming up. No action from Cora. What could go wrong?

Altuve did minimal damage, thankfully. He flew out to center, but Gurriel tagged and scored an important insurance run. 5-3. Oh, look, NOW Cora is coming out to make a pitching change. But the horse was out of the barn, had banged a couple of fillies, and was halfway across the next county. Was Martín Pérez the white flag? It sure felt like garbage time. Pérez's first three pitches to Michael Brantley were nowhere close to the strike zone. Somehow, after a called strike, Brantley rapped into a double play. Garbage Time got the Trashcans.

How key was that fifth run? Well, Hernández belted Pressly's third pitch out to left for his second home run of the night. Kyle Schwarber grounded hard to the right side, but Altuve was in short right and threw him out. Xander Bogaerts hacked at the first pitch and grounded to shortstop. Rafael Devers was patience enough to get the count to 2-2, but he also grounded to Altuve. This time, he was behind the bag at second and made the play to end the game, 4:07 after the first pitch.

Red Sox Leadoff Batters With 2 Home Runs (Postseason Games)

Pasty Dougherty, 1903 WS 2 vs Pirates
Harry Hooper, 1915 WS 5 at Phillies
Johnny Damon, 2004 ALCS 7 at Yankees
Kiké Hernández, 2021 ALCS 1 at Astros

Most Hits In A 4-Game Span In A Single Postseason

13 – Kiké Hernández, 2021 Red Sox
11 – Billy Hatcher, 1990 Reds
11 – Marquis Grissom, 1995 Atlanta
11 – Shemp, 2004 Yankees
11 – Randy Arozarena, 2020 Rays

Most Extra-Base Hits In A 4-Game Span In A Single Postseason

8 – Kiké Hernández, 2021 Red Sox
8 – Shemp, 2004 Yankees

(Caveat: Postseasons are longer than ever now.)

The Red Sox had been 15-0 under Alex Cora in postseason games n which they held a multi-run lead.

Both teams had scoring chances galore in the first three innings. Both starters were shaky and each was pulled after 2.2 innings.

The Red Sox managed to get two singles and two walks off Framber Valdez (2.2-6-3-3-2, 64) in the first and not score. This major squander came about thusly: Hernández singled and Schwarber GIDP. Bogaerts walked, Devers singled, and J.D. Martinez walked. Hunter Renfroe flied to center. 3 LOB.

Houston scored off Chris Sale (2.2-5-1-1-2, 61) in the first. Sale was not sharp. He went to a three-ball count on three of the first four hitters (and two balls on the other). Altuve walked. Brantley lined to center. Alex Bregman singled to left. A wild pitch moved to the runners to second and third. Yuri Alvarez flied to left, scoring Altuve. Correa grounded to second.

Valdez allowed a leadoff single to Alex Verdugo in the second, but Christian Arroyo GIDP and Christian Vázquez struck out. That was the only time Valdez retired consecutive batters (he faced 16).

In the bottom of the second, it was the Astros' turn to leave the bases loaded. With one out, the 7-8-9 hitters reached base against Sale on three consecutive pitches. Gurriel and McCormick both hit hard singles to left and Maldonado was hit by a pitch. Sale rallied after a mound visit. His pitches seemed to be sharper, to have more purposeful locations. After missing inside to Altuve, Sale throws a fastball and two sliders, each one lower than the one before, and Altuve swings at all of them, finally making a half-hearted whiff at a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Brantley lifts a fly to short center. Hernández races in, dives, and makes a remarkable back-handed catch for the third out. At first, I feared it was trapped or the ball would hit right in front of his glove before bouncing off god knows where.

He looks like a happy dog with his head out the window of a speeding car!

Less than five minutes later, Hernández crushed Valdez's 2-1 pitch 448 feet to deep left-center, upping his postseason batting average to .480. (I clocked it on MLBTV as 4:31.) Houston manager Dusty Baker was being interviewed at the time and was saying that Valdez was struggling a little bit. As soon as bat hitting ball made that unmistakable sound, Baker interrupted himself: "Oh, lord . . .". It was Hernández's longest home run in more than five years (April 15, 2016).

After Schwarber grounded out to short, Bogaerts walked and Devers singled to center. Martinez grounded a perfect double play (and inning-ending) ball to second. But the ball went under Altuve's glove and into short center for an error. It also loaded the bases. Renfroe slammed a liner past Bregman at third, who dove to his right, and down the left field line. Two runs crossed. Boston still had men at second and third, but Verdugo fanned and, after a pitching change, so did Arroyo.

Sale's focus, if it was there in the second, did not last. The Astros knocked a couple of one-out singles off Sale in the third. After the Red Sox lefty struck out Tucker, Adam Ottavino came in and retired Gurriel. Houston had left six men on base in three innings (2 at first, 3 at second, 1 at third).

In his last three starts, Sale has recorded seven, three, and eight outs. Granted, the manager's hook is quicker in the postseason, but the combined stats are not pretty: 6 innings, 13 hits, 8 runs, five walks, 11 strikeouts. I'm no pitching coach, but I believe part of Sale's problem rests in that ugly beard he's intent on wearing. Big bushy beards do not look good on slender men. (Actually, they don't look good on anyone.)

Also, the word before the game was that Sale had found some flaw in his delivery. That did not seen to pan out as he continued to avoid throwing his changeup. In ALDS 2, Sale threw only one changeup in 30 pitches. Of his 61 pitches tonight, he threw two.

Hernández's fly ball down the left field line dropped for a double with one out; Alavrez went after it like he was running through quicksand. He needed only a triple for the cycle. (There has been only one cycle in all postseason play: Brock Holt, in Boston's 16-1 rout of the MFY in 2018 ALDS 3.) Cristian Javier struck out both Schwarber and Bogaerts to end the threat. The Red Sox had left six men on base in four innings (1 at first, 3 at second, 2 at third).

Things settled down at this point. Ottavino pitched a clean fourth, the first 1-2-3 inning of the game. Javier also set the Red Sox down in order in the fifth. That half-inning was notable for plate umpire David Rackley calling "strike" on three consecutive pitches outside the strike zone to Martinez. It was as incompetent a display as Gabe Morales's NLDS-ending blown call on Thursday night, though these three mistakes did not (presumably) change the course of the game (or series).

Some good news: Rackley did not call the first pitch a strike.

Brantley singled to lead off the home sixth against Josh Taylor, but Taylor got the next two batters before handing the ball to Ryan Brasier. Correa singled on a ball to Devers's left that got under his glove. Tucker drove a ball to deep right-center. Hernández sprinted after it and as he neared the warning track, he suddenly realized he had over-run the ball slightly. He reached back and was able to grab it. Yoinks!

Verdugo walked against Phil Maton to start the sixth. Arroyo bunted in front of the plate. Maldonado grabbed the ball and tried to tag Arroyo as he ran to first. Arroyo was called safe and the Astros appealed. Super-slo-mo showed that Maldonado might have tagged Arroyo's shirt sleeve, but there was no noticeable ripple in the fabric. However, the call was reversed and went down as a regular old sacrifice. Verdugo went to third on Vázquez's groundout, but Hernández fanned on a high fastball, the only time he did not reach base.

Tanner Houck pitched the sixth. McCormick singled of Arroyo's glove with one out and Altuve launched a two-run homer with two down. 

With the score now tied at 3-3, the Red Sox seventh was infuriating as Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez started swinging at everything out of the strike zone. Schwarber led off against Brooks Raley with a single. Bogaerts took a strike and then went after three straight pitches out of the zone: foul, foul, swing/miss. All five of the pitches Devers saw were out of the zone; he swung at three of them: swing/miss, ball, swing/miss, ball, F8.

Houston changed pitchers, but Martinez stayed with the "plan" against Ryan Stanek. All five pitches he saw were out of the zone and he swung at three of them: called strike, swing/miss, ball, foul, 6-4 FC. That disturbing lack of plate discipline made it doubly frustrating to see Correa belt a two-out homer to deep left, giving the Astros their first lead, 4-3.

The Red Sox were trailing by one run with six outs to go. The Astros went with right-hander Kendall Graveman and Cora sent up the left-hand hitting Santana to hit for righty Renfroe. Graveman had a tougher time with left-handed hitters this year, but this is Santana we're talking about. With an OPS+ of 57, he was 43% worse than an average American League hitter in 2021. Santana's overall stats in 2021 were .181/.252/.345. Against righties, they were .182/.242/.352. He cannot hit anyone. Renfroe batted .250/.286/.491 against right-handers. In this game, he was 1-for-2, with an RBI-double, against lefty Valdez and he whiffed against righty Javier.

Santana saw nine pitches before striking out. Verdugo flied to left-center, Arroyo singled off Bregman's glove at third, and pinch-hitter Travis Shaw hit a fly ball to the warning track in right.

Hernández finished the game with 11 total bases, something that has been done only 19 other times in the postseason (since 1903). It's the second time Hernández has done it in eight days. He had 11 total bases on October 8 in ALDS 2 (single, home run, 3 doubles).

Hernández is now the only player in major league history to have 11+ total bases in a postseason game three times. He hit three home runs (for 12 bases) in 2017 NLCS 5 for the Dodgers. Babe Ruth had 12 total bases twice and George Brett had games of 11 and 12.

The record is 14 bases, set by Bob Robertson of the Pirates (1971 NLCS 2) and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals (2011 WS 3).

Most 4-Hit Games In Same Postseason

3 – Albert Pujols, 2011 Cardinals
2 – Kiké Hernández, 2021 Red Sox
2 – George Brett, 1985 Royals
2 – Robin Yount, 1982 Brewers

Most Career Postseason Games With 10+ Total Bases

3 – Kiké Hernández (2017 Dodgers, 2021 Red Sox (2))
2 – Babe Ruth (1926 Yankees, 1928 Yankees)
2 – Albert Pujols (2011 Cardinals (2))
2 – George Brett (1978 Royals, 1985 Royals)
2 – Steve Garvey (1974 Dodgers, 1978 Dodgers)

Chris Sale / Framber Valdez

Reaching the ALCS should be reward enough for 2021, a season in which the Red Sox were expected to finish, by most prognosticators, third or fourth in the American League East.

Some might claim that anything after beating the Yankees (easily) in the Wild Card Game is free money. But now that we are here, the Red Sox have as good of a chance as the Astros to move on to the World Series, so winning the pennant is now the expected goal.

Those pre-season predictions from seven months ago are beyond irrelevant. All that matters is whether this Red Sox team, as constituted right now, in the mindset it possesses right now, can beat the Astros in a best-of-seven series.

As one of only four teams still standing, the Red Sox have come out on top in four of five postseason games - three of those four wins at home and two of them in heart-stopping fashion. Manager Alex Cora owns a postseason record of 15-4 (.789), which is the best winning percentage of anyone who has managed at least 15 postseason games. The natural question is: Why Not Us?

The Red Sox were 2-5 against the Astros this year, losing three of four in Houston on May 31-June 3 (2-11, 1-5, 1-2, 5-1) and losing two of three in Boston on June 8-10 (1-7, 3-8, 12-8).

The Astros won the AL West with a 95-67 record (three games better than Boston) and beat the White Sox in the ALDS 3-1. They are managed by Dusty "Stop Clogging My Bases" Baker. This is the fifth consecutive ALCS for the Astros, which is damn impressive. Houston beat the Yankees in 2017 and 2019, while losing to the Red Sox in 2018 and the Rays in 2020.

Although Nathan Eovaldi would be on his normal four days rest today, Chris Sale will get the ball  in Game 1. (Eovaldi will go in Game 2 Saturday afternoon.) Sale has recorded only 10 outs in his last two starts, but on Wednesday, Cora said Sale "feels good about where he's at".

I had a conversation with somebody today, and it was music to my ears because they said something about, "He found it in the bullpen." The last time I heard somebody found it in the bullpen was David Price in [October] '18, and he took off. . . . I think we recognized a few things that are going to get him to the point that he's more balanced and he's more direct to the plate, he's over the rubber – and if he does that, he'll be fine. . . . He's going to pitch such meaningful innings in this series and, hopefully, the World Series, and all this talk is going to be in the past.

The Red Sox made two changes to their bullpen roster for the ALCS. Darwinzon Hernandez and Hirokazu Sawamura are in and Austin Davis and Garrett Richards are out.

When Matthew Kory (Sox Outsider) heard about Sale starting tonight, he thought: "That's… terrifying."

Sale has had two major problems, and both exhibited themselves in [the first] inning [of ALDS 2, in which Sale allowed five runs]. The first is command. . . . It's likely something he's working through, but it's still a thing, and . . . bad things can happen.

The other problem is his changeup. Sale didn't throw it until pitch 23 in his last start, and that was after he'd already given up five runs, which should tell you how much confidence he has in the pitch right now. Without it he's a two pitch starter, which might've worked for him six years ago, but right now it's iffy. . . . 

Alex Cora has been very good at turning mediocre pens into good playoff pens through intelligent decision-making and strategic planning. For the Sox to make the Series he's going to have to pull a rabbit from the hat that's being worn by a rabbit whose hat he just pulled a rabbit from.

The Astros are without their best starter, Lance McCullers, who suffered a forearm injury in the ALDS. 

Kory, again:

The Astros batters were first in baseball in fWAR and first in wRC+. They were also first in batting average, on-base percentage, and third in slugging (behind Toronto and Boston). They're the best hitting team at home and also the best hitting team on the road. . . .

The thing they do best is put the ball in play . . . The Astros as a team struck out 19.8 percent of the time this season, least in baseball . . .

The Red Sox are not a good defensive team. They have bad range and they make too many mistakes. . . . In the ALDS, Red Sox pitchers were able to mitigate the team's defensive issues by striking out a lot of Rays hitters . . . [but] the Astros don't strike out. . . .

Kory concedes that "it's hard to pick the Red Sox in this series", even with Houston's rotation being without McCullers. Perhaps. I'm sure that's what most people who predict these things are predicting. Of course, those people also insisted the Red Sox had no chance against Tampa Bay, that the Rays would roll right over them. (You ever notice how sports and political pundits can be wrong almost 100% of the time and never get lose their cushy jobs?)

My plan (which is actually the only thing I can do) is to watch the games and hope I see a lot of things I like.

Fox Is All Kinds Of Shit

Joe Buck is a smug, annoying doosh bonnet.

John Smoltz is a repellent homophobe who believes science is a conspiracy.

And Fox's camera work is shit. The camera work was fixed in the bottom of the first.

The other problems persist.

October 14, 2021

Dodgers Beat Giants 2-1, Win NLDS; Game Ends On A Blown Check Swing Call By 1B Umpire

Word of advice to Gabe Morales: Stay out of San Francisco . . . for the rest of your life.

It's not pleasant to have any game end on a check swing call by one of the base umpires. But to have the plug pulled on a 107-win season on "an inexplicable call" . . . is beyond brutal. The Giants had the potential tying run on first against Max Scherzer. Wilmer Flores was rung up for something that looked more like a slight muscle twitch than an actual did-he-or-didn't-he swing.

And so the Dodgers won NLDS Game 5 and advanced to the NLCS against Atlanta. Facing elimination following a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in Game 3, they came out on top in the final two games, 7-2 and 2-1.

Giants fans will rightly stew for the remainder of their lives. For the rest of us, after a flurry of chatter about the gross injustice of this call, we will watch the ALCS tomorrow night and the NLCS on Saturday, and life will go on.

MLB will take no action, because MLB's first (and often only) instinct is to do the absolute wrong thing. MLB operates under the premise that it's far better to allow a problem to fester and grow than draw any public attention to it by attempting to fix it. There will be no accountability for Morales. MLB refuses to exercise any quality control over its umpires, which has led to many of them being both incompetent and arrogant. They are wholly unqualified to do their job and will run you in a heartbeat if you dare to question their judgment.

Poor Charlie Brown. He's still tormented by Willie McCovey's line out to end the 1962 World Series. And now this.
Three days ago, Morales said this was not a swing. Because of course he did.
It was a hell of a game.

Mookie Betts went 4-for-4 and scored the game's first run in the sixth on Corey Seager's double (which was LA's first non-Mookie hit). Betts stole second before Seager's double and is the fourth player to have four hits and a steal in a do-or-die postseason game, joining Max Carey of the Pirates (1925 WS 7 against the Senators), Terry Puhl of the Astros (1980 NLCS 5 against the Phillies), and George Brett of the Royals (1985 WS 7 against the Cardinals).

Betts is also the third Dodger with four hits and a stolen base in a postseason game, along with Jim Gilliam (1959 WS 5 against the White Sox) and Maury Wills (1965 WS 5 against the Twins).

Instead of starting Julio Urías as planned, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted for a strategy that saw Corey Knebel pitched the first inning and Brusdar Graterol in the second. Then it was Urías, who threw four innings (4-3-1-0-5, 59). It worked, in retrospect. Knebel allowed a two-out double and Graterol wriggled out of a first-and-second-one-out jam. Six Los Angeles pitchers struck out a total of 13 Giants and walked none.

Giant starter Logan Webb was superb (7-4-1-1-7, 106). Coupled with his Game 1 start, he pitched 14.2 innings in the series, allowed only one run and struck out 17. Darren Ruf tied the game with a long solo home run to center field in the home half of the sixth.

Both teams failed to cash in on scoring chances earlier in the game. The Giants had runners at first and second against Graterol with one out in the second, but Evan Longoria fouled to first and Webb struck out. Flores stranded a teammate at third base in the fourth.

The Dodgers had Betts on second with one out in the third, but responded with two grounders back to the mound sandwiched around a walk. In the eighth, they had men at first and second with one out, but Seager fanned and Trea Turner flied to right.

In the ninth, facing San Francisco's Camilo Doval, who had retired Turner with one pitch and stranded those runners in the eighth, Will Smith grounded out to shortstop. Justin Turner was plunked by a pitch. Gavin Lux grounded a single into right and Cody Bellinger (who batted .165 this season) did the same to right-center, scoring Turner without a throw. With two outs, Bellinger stole second, but both runners were LOB'd.

Scherzer jogged in, hoping to get the final three outs and earn his first career save. Plate umpire Doug Eddings was shitty all night (it was quite a crew with Angel Hernandez at second base; only the best are rewarded with postseason assignments) and he gave Max a generous welcome-to-the-game gift on his first pitch to Brandon Crawford (outside and up), who fouled off another pitch that was out of the strike zone before flying to left.

Kris Bryant's ground ball along the third base line was botched by Justin Turner - it simply went in and out of his glove, rolling into foul territory. Lamont Wade, a pinch-hitter, got ahead 2-0 before Scherzer dropped in a curveball, and two fouls later, Wade was called out on a beautiful pitch, which dotted the far top corner of the zone. Then it was Flores. He took a strike and fouled the next pitch off.

What ended up being the final pitch of the game was low and away. Flores barely offered at it, but Morales decided the Giants' season had gone on long enough.

October 13, 2021

ALCS: It's Red Sox/Astros!


Game 1 - Fri Oct 15 - Red Sox at Astros, 8:00 PM ET
Game 2 - Sat Oct 16 - Red Sox at Astros
Game 3 - Mon Oct 18 - Astros at Red Sox
Game 4 - Tue Oct 19 - Astros at Red Sox
Game 5 - Wed Oct 20 - Astros at Red Sox
Game 6 - Fri Oct 22 - Red Sox at Astros
Game 7 - Sat Oct 23 - Red Sox at Astros


Game 1 - Sat Oct 16 - Atlanta at Giants / Dodgers at Atlanta
Game 2 - Sun Oct 17 - Atlanta at Giants / Dodgers at Atlanta
Game 3 - Tue Oct 19 - Giants at Atlanta / Atlanta at Dodgers
Game 4 - Wed Oct 20 - Giants at Atlanta / Atlanta at Dodgers
Game 5 - Thu Oct 21 - Giants at Atlanta / Atlanta at Dodgers
Game 6 - Sat Oct 23 - Atlanta at Giants / Dodgers at Atlanta
Game 7 - Sun Oct 24 - Atlanta at Giants / Dodgers at Atlanta

World Series 

Begins Tuesday, October 26.

October 12, 2021

Red Sox Are Second Team (Ever) To Clinch A Postseason Series With Consecutive Walkoff Wins

ALDS Tidbits, courtesy of Doug Kern:

The Red Sox are the second team in MLB postseason history to clinch a series with back-to-back walkoff wins. The other was the Twins in the 1991 World Series.

3 Hits & 3 RBI In A Postseason Clincher, Red Sox History

David Ortiz, 2004 ALDS 3 vs Angels
Johnny Damon, 2004 ALCS 7 at Yankees
Dustin Pedroia, 2007 ALCS 7 vs Cleveland
Rafael Devers, 2021 ALDS 4 vs Rays

Walkoff Anything To Win A Postseason Series, Red Sox history

Larry Gardner vs Giants, 1912 WS 8 ("sac fly" before they technically existed)
David Ortiz vs Angels, 2004 ALDS 3 (HR)
Jed Lowrie vs Angels, 2008 ALDS 4 (1B)
Kiké Hernández vs Rays, 2021 ALDS 4 (SF)

Threw 2+ Perfect Innings In A Postseason Game And Got A Win, Red Sox history

Scott Williamson, 2003 ALDS 4 vs Athletics
Jonathan Papelbon, 2008 ALDS 2 at Angels
Garrett Whitlock, 2021 ALDS 4 vs Rays

American League Teams To Win 100+ Games And Not Advance Past LDS

2001 Athletics (lost to Yankees)
2002 Athletics (lost to Twins)
2002 Yankees (lost to Angels)
2008 Angels (lost to Red Sox)
2017 Cleveland (lost to Yankees)
2018 Yankees (lost to Red Sox)
2019 Twins (lost to Yankees)
2021 Rays (lost to Red Sox)

Youngest Players To Homer In Back-To-Back Games At Fenway Park (Years-Days)

19-118, Tony Conigliaro, Red Sox, May 3-4, 1964
20-201, Tony Conigliaro, Red Sox, July 27, 1965 (G1 & G2)
20-244, Wander Franco, Rays, October 10-11, 2021
20-271, Ted Williams, Red Sox, May 27-28, 1939
20-273, Ted Williams, Red Sox, May 30, 1939 (G1 & G2)
20-299, Rafael Devers, Red Sox, August 18-19, 2017

Kiké Hernández, with Hunter Renfroe July 22 vs Yankees: First time Red Sox have had two walkoff sac flies in the same season since 1988 (Mike Greenwell & Dwight Evans).

Ryan Brasier: First pitcher in Red Sox postseason history to face 3+ batters and give up hits to ALL of them.

Austin Meadows: Longest plate appearance (17 pitches) in Rays history. Mike Kelly drew a 16-pitch walk off David Wells, Yankees, September 24, 1998.

Also: Meadows's 17-pitch at-bat is the longest postseason plate appearance since Johnny Damon (Red Sox) had a 16-pitch PA in 2004 ALCS 2 at Yankees.

October 11, 2021

ALDS 4: Red Sox 6, Rays 5


Rays    - 000 012 020 - 5  7  1
Red Sox - 005 000 001 - 6 12 0

Kike Hernández's sacrifice fly scored pinch-runner Danny Santana from third and gave the Red Sox their second walkoff win over Tampa Bay in 24 hours and sent them to the American League Championship Series. 

Boston won the series three games to one over the Rays, the defending AL champs who won 100 games this season for the first time in their 24-year history. The Red Sox have had two walkoff victories within 24 hours in the postseason before, of course. In the 2004 ALCS (October 18, to be exact), David Ortiz won both Games 4 and 5 against the Yankees with extra-inning hits.

The Red Sox will play either the Astros or the White Sox in the ALCS, beginning on Friday night. The Houston-Chicago ALDS Game 4 on Monday was rained out and will be played Tuesday at 2:00 PM ET. The Astros lead the series 2-1.

Boston scored five runs in the third inning, but the Rays chipped away, finally tying the game in the eighth. The Red Sox could not take advantage of a man on second with no outs in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story.

Christian Vázquez, facing J.P. Feyereisen, the Rays' eighth pitcher of the night, grounded a single into left, as Yandy Diaz dove to his left but could not glove the ball. Christian Arroyo bunted Vázquez to second. Travis Shaw hit for Bobby Dalbec, who had taken over for Kyle Schwarber at first base. Shaw fell behind 0-2 but was disciplined, laying off two high pitches for balls. Then he grounded to third. Diaz came in to field the ball, and his throw to first was low. It bounced off Ji-Man Choi's chest and fell to the dirt. Vázuqez advanced to third, where he was pulled for Santana before Hernández stepped in. The Rays brought the infield in to the lip of the grass. On Feyereisen's first pitch to Hernández, Shaw took second uncontested (removing the possibility of a double play with a force at second). That point immediately became moot as Hernández lifted the next pitch to left. The ball was not going to reach the Monster Seats, but the Red Sox started celebrating anyway. It was a fly ball and it was deep enough to most likely get Santana home. Austin Meadows made the catch and threw to the plate, but the ball was off target, up the first base line, and too late. Santana scored standing up.

Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3-2-0-6, 78) was a different and much-improved pitcher than he was in Game 1. He retired the first nine Rays batters and 12 of the first 13. (The last Red Sox pitcher to retire the first nine batters in a postseason game was Jon Lester, against the Rays in 2008 ALCS Game 7.) Hunter Renfroe made a remarkable catch for the first out of the game, running to deep right-center, lunging for and catching Randy Arozarena's drive back-handed and with his glove down around his knees.

Rodriguez struck out the next two hitters to end the first and then struck out the first two hitters in the second. He also fanned Meadows to start the third, but he needed 17 pitches, which set a postseason plate appearance record - a record since (at least) 1988, that is, when pitches began to be officially tracked. Meadows fouled off 14 pitches: Foul, foul, foul, ball, ball, ball, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, swinging strike three.

Jayson Stark reports that Meadows's at-bat lasted 7 minutes and 36 seconds. The longest at-bat during the regular season was 16 pitches, by Pavin Smith of the Diamondbacks against the Mets' Jacob Barnes on May 9. Also, Meadows never had a single game all season in which his two longest at-bats added up to 17 pitches.

Rays manager Kevin Cash relied on starter Collin McHugh (2-1-0-0-0, 18) for only two innings. I'm sure he wishes he had opted for a third. Shane McClanahan was the first reliever out of Tampa Bay's pen and he gave up a single to Vázquez to start the bottom of the third. Arroyo flied to right, Schwarber walked, and Hernandez flied to left. Devers clobbered the first pitch, sending it 404 feet to center for a three-run homer. Xander Bogaerts singled and scored on Alex Verdugo's opposite-field double off the Wall. And he scored on J.D. Martinez's single off the Wall in left-center. McClanahan's replacement, JT Chargois, was hit for another double, also off the Wall, by Hunter Renfroe. However, Vázquez, the inning's tenth batter, struck out.

In the regular season, McClanahan allowed only five runs to the Red Sox in four starts. In Game 4, he allowed five runs in 0.2 innings (eight batters).

The Red Sox managed only one baserunner over the next three innings. Meanwhile, the Rays started to come back. Rodriguez surrendered a double to Jordan Luplow, who lined the ball over a leaping Devers and into the left field corner. It was a bit of a mystery how Devers missed catching the ball; it glanced off the tip of his glove. Luplow took third on a fly out to center and scored on Meadows's groundout to first.

Rodriguez's last pitch was hit by Kevin Kiermaier for a leadoff double in the fifth. Tanner Houck got Arozarena to fly to center, but Wander Franco hit a two-run homer to center.

MLBTV's option of a different audio overlay has spared me the ear-bleeding lecturing of John Smoltz filling every crevice of the TV broadcast. That's the good news. The bad news is that WEEI's Will Flemming's non-stop adoration of Wander Franco was quite possibly worse than Smoltz's lecturing. Franco is precociously talented player, yes, we all agree on that, but for Christ's sake. A newcomer to baseball listening to Flemming's gushing could be forgiven for thinking the young, highly-touted shortstop had batted .935 this season and bashed upwards of 200 home runs. The Franco worship got so bad (did Flemming forget he's actually a Red Sox announcer?) that, coupled with his chronic habit of explaining every possible aspect of the game (it turns out both teams were "all in" on this game, meaning both of them were trying very hard to win; how about that!), we were forced to mute the feed when the Rays were batting. Flemming's habit of using his very loud and sonorous Announcing-The-Second-Coming voice for any run being scored or even an extra base hit was a bit much.

Also: Flemming and Joe Castiglione are deathly afraid of Mike Zunino. God only knows why, but every time the Rays catcher came to the plate, or loomed ominously on-deck, they painted a picture of an absolute beast of a hitting machine who was ready, willing, and extremely able to destroy any Red Sox pitcher. They carried on this way throughout both Games 3 and 4. Never mind that The Mighty Zunino was 1-for-14 in the series as he prepared to leadoff the top of the eighth. Zunino hit a career-high 33 home runs this year, but his .216 average was his best in the past four seasons (2018-20: .201, .165, .147). His 2021 on-base barely cracked .300. There are many good reasons why he usually bats 8th or 9th. One of those reasons is that it's impossible to bat 10th.

So . . . Josh Taylor pitched a clean seventh and I expected to see Garrett Whitlock for the last two innings. However, it was Ryan Brasier on the mound in the eighth. This, it turned out, was a mistake. Zunino doubled to right-center, as Hernandez and Renfroe converged on the ball but neither one really made an attempt to catch it. Kiermaier also doubled to right-center and Boston's lead was cut to 5-4. Arozarena singled to right, tying the game, and taking second on Renfroe's late throw to the plate.

Now Whitlock entered the game - to face the fearsome Franco . . . who lifted a routine fly ball to right for the first out. Yawn. Whitlock got two groundouts and Tampa's go-ahead run was stranded at second.

In Boston's eighth, Verdugo grounded to shortstop. Franco went to his right, backhanded the ball, and fired extremely wide of first base, to the right field side. Choi chased after the ball as Verdugo took second. (I did not hear what Flemming had to say about this strange turn of events.) Martinez flied to right. Renfroe flied to center and Verdugo tried for third. Kiermaier made a high throw from center, but umpire Dan Bellino felt Diaz tagged him in time and called him out, ending the inning. The Red Sox challenged the call and at least one replay seemed to indicate Verdugo got his oven mitt on the base before the tag. The question was whether his mitt came off the bag at any time. It looked like it might have come off from some angles and it looked like he kept it on from other angles. The call was upheld.

Whitlock breezed through the top of the ninth on seven pitches, getting two groundouts and a fly to left. Retiring six batters on 15 pitches made me wonder what would have happened if he had begun the eighth inning. Fortunately, that became irrelevant a few minutes later as the Red Sox won the game, avoiding extra innings and also avoiding a trip to "Champa Bay", as the city was called in a premature (and ridiculous) commercial celebrating the exploits of TB's football and hockey teams and noting that no city has won those championships and the World Series in the same year. Well, that is still true.

In ALDS Game 4, the Red Sox will go with Plan B.

Alex Cora's original idea had been to start Nick Pivetta in Monday's game, but the 28-year-old Canadian threw four shutout innings (all in extras) yesterday. Now, Eduardo Rodriguez will return on three days rest, after facing only nine batters and throwing 41 pitches in Game 1 on Thursday night.

Collin McHugh starts for the Rays, but will likely only face the Red Sox lineup once. He has not pitched more than three innings in a game this year. He gave up three runs in 1.2 innings in Game 2.

Monday's Other Games (ET):
Brewers at Atlanta, 1:00 PM (Tied 1-1)
Astros at White Sox, 3:30 PM (Astros lead 2-1)
Giants at Dodgers, 9:30 PM (Tied 1-1)

October 10, 2021

ALDS 3: Red Sox 6, Rays 4 (13)

Rays    - 200 000 020 000 0 - 4 10  0
Red Sox - 102 010 000 000 2 - 6 15 1
The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the ALDS when Someone Named Christian Vázquez hit the 389th pitch of the game over the Wall for a two-run homer in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, stunning the Rays (who thought they had taken the lead in the top of the inning on a near-home run to right-center that was ruled a ground-rule double and halted a TB runner at third base) and sending more than 37,000 fans at Fenway Park into delirium.

Nick Pivetta (Canadian!) pitched the final four innings, throwing 67 pitches and working out of jams in the eleventh and thirteenth innings. 

Five Red Sox pitchers have thrown 4+ shutout innings of relief in a postseason game:
1912 World Series Game 6 - Ray Collins (7-5-0-0-1)
1946 World Series Game 6 - Tex Hughson (4.1-2-0-1-2)
1999 ALDS Game 5 - Pedro Martinez (6-0-0-3-8)
2017 ALDS Game 3 - David Price (4-4-0-1-4)
2021 ALDS Game 3 - Nick Pivetta (4-3-0-1-7)
Pivetta is also the first Boston pitcher to throw 4+ innings of relief at home, record 7+ strikeouts and get a win since Mark Clear on May 27, 1981. (Note: That was loooooong fucking time ago. I still had two more weeks of high school!)
Chad Jennings, The Athletic:
In casual conversation, [Pivetta is] polite and soft-spoken, but in big games, he's six feet, five inches of untethered emotion. . . . 

Scoreless 10th inning. Scoreless 11th inning. Scoreless 12th and 13th. On two days rest, Pivetta just kept going, and he punctuated his biggest outs by screaming, punching, and positively vibrating his way back to the dugout. He'd saved the Red Sox bullpen by eating innings in Game 1, but he might have saved their entire postseason by getting through the extra innings of Game 3. . . .

Pivetta had thrown 73 pitches of long relief on Thursday, and by the time he finished on Sunday, he’d thrown 140 pitches in roughly 72 hours.
That's positively Foulkeian.

There was uncertainty whether Pivetta (who had thrown 50 pitches in three innings, including 27 in the eleventh) or Martín Pérez would pitch the thirteenth. It was Pivetta and he struck out Nelson Cruz before giving up a first-pitch single to Yandy Díaz. Arozarena also jumped on the first pitch, sending a line drive to left. Alex Verdugo was playing towards left-center but he raced over and made the catch.

With two outs, Pivetta fell behind Kevin Kiermaier 3-0. After a called strike and a foul ball, Kiermaier hit a drive to deep right-center. Kike Hernández and Hunter Renfroe chased it. The ball struck the short bullpen wall on the fly, juts missing being a two-run homer, hit the warning track, caromed off Renfroe's right thigh and went over the fence into the Boston bullpen. Díaz had crossed the plate and Kiermaier was around third when it was clear the ball was not being thrown back in to the infield.

There was considerable discussion about how to rule on the play specifically whether the umpires had discretion as to where the baserunners should be placed, and whether the Ray's fifth run should count. Two umpires put on headphones and conferred with Replay Central. At first, they appeared to allow the run, but then Díaz was back on third base and Kiermaier was on second. It was being treated as a ground-rule double. The Red Sox had caught a huge break, just as they had in 2004 ALCS 5, when Tony Clark's line drive into Fenway's right field corner hopped into the stands, stopping Ruben Sierra from scoring a tie-breaking run in the ninth inning.

After the game, umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford explained the ruling while holding his copy of the 2021 MLB Umpire Manual:
It's item 20 in the manual, which is, balls deflected out of play, which is in reference to official baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(H). It says, "If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch." Once that ball hit the wall, it was no longer in flight. Now the ball bounces off the wall and is deflected out of play off of a fielder. That's just a ground-rule double. There's no "He would've done this, he would've done that." It's just flat out in the rule book. It's a ground-rule double.
As Bryan Hoch (mlb.com) wrote:
[T]he ball retains its status as a batted ball until fielded cleanly by a defensive player. So even after striking Renfroe, the outcome is identical to what would have happened if it naturally bounced over the fence. . . . The Rays challenged the runner placement, which was confirmed by replay. Part of the replay review in New York was to make sure Renfroe did not intentionally send the ball over the wall.
So with runners on second and third, Pivetta faced the pesky Mike Zunino, who had fouled off nine pitches in his second-inning at-bat. Zunino fouled off the first pitch from Pivetta, the Tampa Bay catcher's 16th foul ball of the game. On 1-2, he swung and missed a fastball up and in.

Luis Patiño retired J.D. Martinez in the home half on a fly to center. Renfroe worked a full-count walk.  Vázquez had been watching Patiño and saw that the 21-year-old Rays pitcher started both Martinez and Renfroe off with a fastball. So that's what he was looking for. And that's what he got, at 96 and a bit lower than the heart of the plate. Vázquez sent it soaring into the first row of the Monster Seats in left as Fenway park erupted. It was Vázquez's first home run since September 1 (85 plate appearances).

It was the Red Sox's first extra-inning postseason walkoff since David Ortiz stuck the dagger in the Yankees by singling home Johnny Damon in the fourteenth inning of 2004 ALCS 5. It was also the Red Sox's first multi-run walkoff homer in the thirteenth or later since the Kevin "The Sultan of Sweat" Youkilis, on June 22, 2008, against the Cardinals. (Alex Cora played shortstop in that game.)

With 15 hits in this game and 20 hits in Game 2, the Red Sox knocked out 15+ hits in consecutive games of the same postseason series for the first time in their history. (They had 13 and 15 against Cleveland in 2007 ALCS 6 & 7.)

Eduardo Rodriguez, who faced only nine batters and threw 41 pitches in Game 1, will get the ball at 7:00 PM ET on Monday in Game 4. Another victory will send the Red Sox to the ALCS against either the Astros or White Sox (Houston leads 2-1). The Red Sox want to avoid going back to Florida for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Tampa Bay got on the board quickly on Sunday, when Austin Meadows, the third batter of the game, hit a two-run dong. But the Red Sox got one back when leadoff man Kyle Schwarber homered to left-center. His homer did not seem like a home off the bat, but it was aided, perhaps, by a right-to-left, cross-field breeze.

Nathan Eovaldi did not his sharpest stuff, but those first-inning runs were all he allowed (5-3-2-1-8, 85). He recorded six strikeouts in the first two innings (for only the sixth time in postseason history). In the top of the third, Brandon Lowe led off with a grounder to first. Schwarber ranged to his right and went to toss the ball underhanded to Eovaldi. The ball sailed way over the pitcher's head for an error. The error was bizarre, but it also proved harmless.

In the home third, Christian Arroyo lined a single to center, Schwarber ripped a single into the right-field corner, and Hernández lined a single to center, tying the game at 2-2 and chasing Rasmussen (2-6-3-0-1, 33). Rafael Devers followed with a run-scoring single off Josh Fleming and Boston led 3-2.

Ji-Man Choi began the top of the fourth by grounding the ball to Schwarber. He probably could have recorded the out himself, but he tossed the ball to Eovaldi for the out. This time, the toss was on target and Schwarber immediately celebrated by throwing his arms up into the air and then going into a half-squat for a celebratory fist pump. He pointed to the sky and tipped his cap to as Fenway Park gave him a standing ovation. "You've got to be able to make fun of yourself every once in a while and loosen the situation up. . . . I think I got a laugh out of pretty much almost everyone. It's a game."

Hernández opened the fifth by homering over everything in left, a 424-foot blast than extended the Red Sox's lead to 4-2. It was also Hernández's seventh straight hit, a new Red Sox postseason record. 

The Rays tied the game in the eighth against Boston's fifth pitcher, Hansel Robles. Franco greeted Robles with a home run to left. Robles threw a strike on 3-0 and then followed with another pitch to the exact same spot. Big mistake. 

Meadows doubled to left-center. Nelson Cruz was out 2-3 on a dribbler in front of the plate and Meadows went to third. Margot went in to pinch-run as Díaz batted. Díaz would not go quietly. Ball. Foul. Foul. Foul. Ball. Foul. Foul. Finally, he struck out on an elevated 98 mph fastball, fouling it into Vazquez's glove for the second out. Arozarena was next and I wondered if the Red Sox might walk him intentionally and deal with Kiermaier. We had the Red Sox radio as audio and they did not mention it as a possibility at all. Arozarena was 0-for-3 (two strikeouts and a routine grounder back to the mound), but he was a dangerous hitter. Robles pitched to him and he lined an 0-1 pitch into the gap in left-center (Hernández dove after it, but he had no chance). Margot scored and the game was tied.

Garret Whitlock took over and Kiermaier was walked intentionally! What the hell? Zunino was called out on strikes by plate umpire Sam Holbrook on a pitch that was outside. Thanks for the gift, Sam. Renfroe walked with two outs in the eighth, but Vázquez popped to second.

Whitlock set the Rays down in order in the ninth, two strikeouts and another 3-1 from Schwarber. With one out in the home half, Schwarber singled and was replaced by Bobby Dalbec. Hernández struck out on a sinker, down and in, and Devers grounded to second.

Pivetta took over in the tenth, the Red Sox's seventh pitcher. (The Rays used nine.) He allowed a leadoff single to Manuel Margot, who tried to steal second with two out and Randy Arozarena at the plate. He got to second ahead of Vázquez's throw, but overslid the base slightly, lost contact with this left foot, and was tagged out by Christian Arroyo.

In the bottom of the tenth, David Robertson allowed a one-out single to Alex Verdugo. J.D. Martinez hit a deep drive that was caught by Kiermaier in front of the 379 sign in left-center and Renfroe popped to first.

Pivetta threw 27 pitches in a nerve-wracking eleventh, with the Rays failing to put the ball into play. Arozarena drew a seven-pitch walk. Kiermaier spent quite a while at the plate: Throw to first, called strike, foul, throw to first, ball, ball, foul, foul, throw to first, foul, foul, foul, throw to first, ball, swinging strike three. Pivetta needed only four pitches to strike out Zunino, getting him with a high fastball at 96. And he caught Josh Luplow looking at a 1-2 strike.

Arroyo ripped a one-out double down the left field line in the bottom of the eleventh. Dalbec looked horrible, striking out on three pitches, the last one a curve in the dirt. Hernández grounded to Franco's right at shortstop. He back-handed the ball and made a long throw to first on a hop that Luplow made an impressive scoop on.

Both teams went in order in the twelfth, the Rays on 11 pitches, with two strikeouts, and the Red Sox on only six pitches.

Then came the eventful thirteenth.

Drew Rasmussen / Nathan Eovaldi

The Rays had the same lineup for Games 1 and 2, facing lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale, but with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the start on Sunday, manager Kevin Cash will make changes. Jordan Luplow, Manuel Margot, and Yandy Díaz will likely be on the bench, with the lefty-hitting trio of Ji-Man Choi, Austin Meadows, and Joey Wendle seeing action. . . . Kevin Plawecki may get the start as Boston's catcher for Eovaldi.

Although the Red Sox were 8-11 overall against the Rays in 2021, they had a winning record at Fenway: 5-4.

Drew Rasmussen had been almost exclusively used in relief for the Brewers and Rays this season before permanently moving to the rotation on August 12, facing the Red Sox at Fenway Park and allowing only one hit and one run in four innings.

He started against Boston two more times in September, giving up a total of two runs in nine innings. Rasmussen also faced the Blue Jays twice (two runs and six hits in 10 innings) and the Astros once (one hit and no walks in five shutout innings). From August 12 to the end of the season, he made eight starts and had a 1.46 ERA.

Mandy Bell, mlb.com:
Rasmussen doesn't have crazy strikeout numbers, and his hard-hit percentage is high (50.2 percent, ranking in the bottom one percent of the league), but that hasn't deterred him from attacking the zone. He's above average with his in-zone percentage (51.7 percent, 48.5 percent league average) and well above average in first-pitch strike rate (68.7 percent, 60.6 percent league average).

So, when he catches too much of the plate, hitters make solid contact. But he's worked around it with his lethal slider, holding opponents to a .159 average with a .205 slugging percentage. His heater averages around 97 mph. And let's not forget he has one of the best defenses behind him, which can help when hard-hit balls are put in play.

"He does it with pitch efficiency and just constantly attacking in the strike zone and just making quality strikes," Cash said in September. . . .

"We're going to attack guys, and we're going to put hitters on the defensive," Rasmussen said after his last start.
In Game 1, the Red Sox were on the defensive constantly. As I noted:
Of the 33 Red Sox batters who took the first pitch, 22 fell behind 0-1. More than one-third of the batters who saw at least three pitches were down 0-2 after the first two (9 of 26, 35%).
I hope they've conceived a better plan of attack against Rasmussen.

Other series:
ALDS 3: Astros at White Sox, 8:00 PM ET (Astros lead 2-0)
NLDS: Atlanta/Brewers, Off Day (Tied 1-1)
NLDS: Dodgers/Giants, Off Day (Tied 1-1)

October 9, 2021

Schandenfreude 324 (A Continuing Series)

This is just a quick reminder that the New York Yankees' 2021 season is over, kaput, finished, it's deader than Kelsey's nuts, and their overhyped front office is currently staring at a not insignificant pile of problems requiring urgent and careful attention this winter, while the Boston Red Sox, winners of four World Series titles in the last two decades, more than any other team, battered the Tampa Bay Rays 14-6 yesterday, an unprecedented team effort, as six different players knocked in at least two runs, something no postseason team had ever accomplished, transforming the ALDS, with one swing of Kiké Hernández's golden bat (metaphorically), into a far more manageable best-of-three series, with the first two contests at friendly Fenway Park, and Nathan Eovaldi, their most consistent starter of 2021 and the awesome fireballing dude who turned the allegedly fearsome Yankee bats into soggy noodles last Tuesday, on the hill for Sunday afternoon's game.