April 22, 2014

G21: Yankees 9, Red Sox 3

Yankees - 202 040 010 - 9 15  0
Red Sox - 000 200 001 - 3  9  2
Tanaka (7.1-7-2-0-7, 105) dominated the Red Sox - though David Ortiz and Mike Napoli did hit back-to-back home runs - and Lester (4.2-11-8-4-7, 118) stunk up the joint on a rainy night at Fenway, but this game was also the tale of two strike zones.

The unwritten rules of baseball state that rookies with only three games of major league experience have to "prove themselves" before they get the benefit of any doubts from the home plate umpire. Not so tonight. Home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott was more than happy to repeatedly call strikes for Tanaka on pitches both outside the strike zone and extremely low in the zone. But when Lester hit the exact same locations, Wolcott called those pitches balls.

What is the difference for a pitcher in getting a first-pitch strike? This year, about 200 points of OPS.
After 1-0 count: .261/.376/.416
After 0-1 count: .217/.260/.330
Several of the balls that were called strikes for Tanaka were on the first pitch of the at-bat:
1st inning:
1st pitch to Ortiz
1st and 3rd pitches to Napoli

3rd inning:
2nd and 3rd pitches to Brock Holt

4th inning:
2nd pitch to Ortiz
1st pitch to Xander Bogaerts

7th inning:
1st pitch to A.J. Pierzynski
3rd pitch to Holt

8th inning:
4th pitch to Grady Sizemore
At the same time, there were several pitches by Lester in the same spots that were not called strikes:
1st inning:
5th pitch to Brian McCann

2nd inning:
5th and 6th pitches to Derek Jeter

3rd inning:
1st pitch to Mark Teixeira
4th pitch to Ichiro Suzuki
Although the blown pitches did not really harm Lester, Tanaka didn't need the extra help, either.

NESN reported that Jacoby Ellsbury was "showered with boos" in each of his five plate appearances, but having listened to the network's own broadcast, I'd call that a bold-faced lie. For Ellsbury's first at-bat, the cheers clearly outnumbered the boos, though NESN, pushing its own fictional narrative early on, showed only anti-Ellsbury signs in the crowd. (As far I could tell, NESN did not show a positive Ellsbury sign all night.)

The man formerly known as LBJ drove Lester's third pitch to deep center field for a triple, a hit aided by fan interference. Jeter's first-pitch single made it 1-0. Two pitches later, Jeter raced to second on a passed ball and continued to third on Pierzynski's wild throw. CI scored on Carlos Beltran's single, putting Boston in a quick 2-0 hole.

Lester allowed three consecutive doubles to Alfonso Soriano, Teixeira, and McCann begin the third, and New York led 4-0. Lester threw 72 pitches in the first three innings. The two Boston dongs cut that advantage in half, but the Yankees added four more runs in the fifth, with Ellsbury's two-run double sending the Boston lefty to the showers.
Example
Masahiro Tanaka / Jon Lester
Sizemore, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Gomes, LF
Pierzynski, C
Bogaerts, SS
Holt, 3B
Bradley, CF
Tanaka has made three starts for the Yankees, allowing only five earned runs (2.05 ERA). More impressively, in his 22 innings, he has struck out 28 batters while walking only two.

Tanaka's 28 Ks are the most ever for a Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts. He joins Stephen Strasburg (2010 Nationals) as the only two pitchers since 1900 to strikeout at least eight batters in each of his first three MLB starts. Tanaka has struck out 10 batters in each of his last two starts.

John Farrell:
Looking forward to seeing him pitch. Anyone who's a fan of the game would want to see [him]. Have only seen highlights or video of him prior to signing with New York. We know he's got a well-above-average split-fingered fastball. ... What probably has been as impressive as anything is the pretty quick transition into the major leagues.
Although the Red Sox are 13th in the American League in batting average (.238), they actually have a higher on-base percentage than the Yankees (.325 to .322). New York has a slight edge in runs per game (3.95 - 3.80).

Tonight is also Jacoby Ellsbury's first game at Fenway since signing a seven-year contract with the Yankees. ... Lester's ERA over four starts is 2.17. ... Shane Victorino will continue his rehab assignment with Pawtucket tonight and could return to the Red Sox on Wednesday. ... The Yankees won three of the four games the teams played on April 10-13.

April 21, 2014

G20: Orioles 7, Red Sox 6

Orioles - 006 000 010 - 7 10  0
Red Sox - 000 030 111 - 6 11  0
Boston tried to capture some comeback magic for the second day in a row, but fell just short. Mike Carp grounded out to end the game with the potential tying run at third and the winning run at second.

Clay Buchholz (2.1-7-6-1-1, 55) breezed through the first two innings, but allowed five singles to begin the third. After the Red Sox recorded one out on a fielder's choice, a double and another single finished his afternoon.

(MLB's game story.)
Example
Wei-Yin Chen / Clay Buchholz
Holt, 3B
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Gomes, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Nava, RF
Ross, C
Bradley, CF

April 20, 2014

G19: Red Sox 6, Orioles 5

Orioles - 300 011 000 - 5 12  3
Red Sox - 000 003 201 - 6  8  0
Down 5-0 in the sixth inning, the Red Sox rallied for a dynamic walk-off win thanks to some timely hitting (Jonny Gomes's three-run homer in the sixth) and three Baltimore errors (Boston's final three runs were unearned).

Dustin Pedroia scored the winning run with two outs in the ninth when Baltimore left fielder David Lough uncorked a very wild throw to the plate on a shallow line out by Mike Carp. Pedroia wasn't attempting to score on the play, so Lough didn't actually need to throw home, but when the baseball sailed far to the left of catcher Matt Wieters and to the backstop, FY sprinted towards the plate and slid home with the game-winner.

The night had a delirious finish, but a depressing beginning. The game was perhaps two minutes old when Nelson Cruz crushed a Peavy (5.2-10-5-4-5, 102) pitch - only his fifth of the evening - over the Wall. Peavy then walked Chris Davis, and allowed singles to Adam Jones (4-for-5) and Wieters. J.J. Hardy's sac fly made it 3-0 before the Red Sox had even batted.

And while Boston had at least one runner on base in four of the first five innings against Jimenez (5.1-4-3-3-5, 107), it was mostly a tease. Grady Sizemore walked, stole second, and was stranded at third in the first. Brock Holt was left at second in the third. Gomes's two-out double in the fourth was wasted. Xander Bogaerts singled to start the fifth, but never advanced.

On the other side, Peavy seemed allergic to a 1-2-3 inning. He gave up a walk and single with two outs in the second, a leadoff single in the third, and a two-out walk in the fourth. In the fifth, the Orioles finally made him pay. With two outs, Wieters and Hardy singled, and Lough doubled to make it 4-0. A leadoff double in the fifth by Ryan Flaherty and Jones's two-out single gave the Birds a five-run pad.

Boston began its comeback with one out in the sixth when David Ortiz singled. After Mike Napoli drew a full-count walk, Gomes went deep to left for his second dong of the season. In the sixth, Holt singled with one out. An error by Hardy at shortstop allowed Grady Sizemore to reach base, and Pedroia's single loaded the bases. Ortiz singled one run home and a second run scored - the game-tying run - on Flaherty's throwing error on Napoli's grounder.

Baltimore threatened to re-take the lead against Andrew Miller in the top of the ninth when Jones doubled towards the left field corner. Wieters grounded to second and Jones took third. Miller induced Steve Lombardozzi (who replaced Hardy in the seventh) to tap weakly back to the mound for an important second out. Then Edward Mujica came in and struck out Lough.

Brian Matusz fanned Sizemore to start the home half of the ninth, but Pedroia lofted a double off the top of the Wall in left. Replays were inconclusive whether it was a double or a game-winning home run - a fan's glove interfered with the ball's flight - and the original call was upheld.

On a 2-0 count to Ortiz, Matusz threw a wild pitch that gave Pedroia third. Ortiz was walked intentionally. Darren O'Day came in from the pen and drilled Napoli on the left knee with an errant 1-0 pitch. Napoli crumpled to the ground and was in a considerable amount of pain, but stayed in the game. With the bases loaded, Mike Carp batted for Gomes. He took ball one, then lined out to the opposite field. Lough had run in to shallow left to make the catch. Pedroia was not going to try to score, but Lough let loose with a throw anyway. Jonathan Schoop could have cut it off, keeping Pedroia at third, but he backed out of the way, and the ball sailed to the backstop. Pedroia then raced home, scoring without a throw.

The win lifted Boston's record to 9-10. They can get back to .500 with a win Monday morning in the annual Patriots Day 11 AM contest.
Example
Jake Peavy / Ubaldo Jimenez
Sizemore, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Gomes, LF
Nava, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Pierzynski, C
Holt, 3B
This is ESPN's Sunday Night game, but it starts an hour earlier than usual. (Perhaps so players can get an extra hour of sleep before Monday's 11 AM start.)

Mets Fans Create "Jeter Retirement Barf Bag"

The bag states:
Directions: Should the sappy and sycophantic musings of Kay, Waldman, Sterling, Francesa, et al regarding the impending retirement of Derek Jeter induce vomiting, open bag rapidly and insert stomach contents. ...

WARNING! Repeated exposure to video clips of Jeter's last 2 truly great plays may cause nausea and vomiting ("the flip" vs Oakland in 2001 and "the dive" vs Boston 2004 – note the years)

Should vomiting occur for more than 4 hours, please console yourself with the thought that were it not for the Alex Rodriguez stellar/drug enhanced performances in the 2009 postseason, "The Captain" would be 14 seasons removed from his last WS Crown

Avoid pink Jeter jerseys, YES network flashbacks and Mariano Rivera retirement ceremonies, and references to Jeter being the first ever unanimous Hall of Fame selection.

H/ts to Baseball Think Factory, John Torres, and Bar Stool Sports.

April 19, 2014

G18: Red Sox 4, Orioles 2

Orioles - 100 001 000 - 2  5  1
Red Sox - 100 100 20x - 4  6  1
Brock Holt's triple scored Mike Carp, snapping a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning. Then Holt scored an insurance run on Jonathan Herrera's bunt down the first base line.

David Ortiz hit a solo home run down the right field line in the fourth. ... Ortiz and Pedroia each had two hits and a run scored. ... Doubront (6.2-5-2-2-7, 107) was followed by Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.
Example
Felix Doubront / Bud Norris
Sizemore, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Carp, LF
Ross, C
Holt, 3B
Herrera, SS
Bradley, CF
Happy 24th birthday, Jackie Bradley! ... Xander Bogaerts, who has the day off, leads the team with a .411 OBP.

April 18, 2014

G17: Orioles 8, Red Sox 4

Orioles - 103 020 101 - 8 15  0
Red Sox - 000 120 100 - 4 11  0
Nick Markakis lined John Lackey's first pitch of the game down the left field line. The ball landed foul, kicking up only dirt to the left of the chalk line.


Third base umpire Will Little signaled a fair ball and Markakis pulled in at second with a double.

Boston manager John Farrell challenged the call. As two umpires donned headsets to listen as the play was reviewed, Fenway Park's scoreboard showed replays of the ball landing foul. So now everyone in the park knew the ball was not a double. After a delay of roughly three minutes, the word came from New York that Little's initial call was upheld. It was a double.

It's bad enough that an umpire, properly aligned over the foul line (as I assume Little was), cannot make the correct call on a ball landing only several yards away, and directly in front of him. But to have clear, convincing replays showing the ball landing in foul territory - no white chalk dust was kicked up by the baseball - and STILL have the wrong call stand is maddening.

On a call so obvious that still gets called wrong, one has to wonder: why? Are the officials reviewing the plays in New York legally blind? Are they flipping a coin to determine their decisions? Perhaps they are continuing to punish Farrell, who expressed his distinct lack of faith in the replay system after another blown call (in the Yankees series) was upheld? If the answers to those questions are "no", then why are clear calls being blown? Will we hear after this game - as we did after that Yankees game - that MLB did not have access to all of the replays shown on television - a patently absurd excuse? With each blown call, MLB umpires are revealing themselves as nothing but incompetent arbiters, not worthy of holding jobs in the major leagues.

Naturally, Markakis ended up scoring in the inning, on Adam Jones's single. In the third, Baltimore put the game out of reach, scoring three times, and taking a 4-0 lead. Markakis knocked in one run with a "real" double to right field and Nelson Cruz singled two more runners home.

Lackey (5.1-10-6-4-6, 100) allowed six runs for the second consecutive start.

It was another frustrating night for the Red Sox bats. They loaded the bases in the second with one out, and could not score. And when it looked like they might come back, they stranded two runners in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Example
John Lackey / Chris Tillman
Sizemore, LF
Nava, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Napoli, DH
Carp, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Pierzynski, C
Bradley, CF
Holt, 3B
Ryan Roberts has been designated for assignment; Brock Holt has been called up from Pawtucket.

Boston is home for the next seven games, four against Baltimore and three against the Yankees.