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)


Zenslinger said...

What a trip! I was very skeptical of our chances against the Rays -- Astros, too, if it comes to it. But then again, I felt that way in 2018.

Paul Hickman said...

Is that a "sign" from the Baseball Gods ????????

Hunter's Hip !

We shall see

laura k said...

I thought we'd be lucky to avoid getting swept, and now I'm already looking ahead to the ALCS.

Nick Pivetta, our newest hero!

I haven't watched much baseball since October 2018. I'm glad to be back.

laura k said...

Nick Pivetta, our newest hero!

And not only is he Canadian, he's from Vancouver Island!