September 18, 2011

G152: Rays 8, Red Sox 5

Rays     - 030 120 200 - 8  7  0
Red Sox  - 000 200 300 - 5  8  2
Wakefield (5-6-6-1-5, 103) was ineffective; at this point, he is seriously trying the patience of even his most blindly loyal fans. In addition to allowing 10 base runners in the three innings in which he gave up runs, Wakefield hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. And Jarrod Saltalamacchia was charged with four passed balls, including two on consecutive pitches in the fifth inning. Desmond Jennings singled and stole second on the first pitch to B.J. Upton (a pitchout). After Upton took a strike, Salty's two passed balls moved Jennings to third and then across the plate. It was ugly.

Saltalamacchia leads all MLB catchers with 25 passed balls, well ahead of Josh Thole of the Mets (16). AL runner-up J.P. Arencibia has only 12. Salty also has more passed balls than every other MLB team, except the Mets, who he trails by only one.

With two outs in the seventh, down 8-2, the Red Sox rallied. Marco Scutaro singled off Jake McGee and Jacoby Ellsbury singled off Carlos Ramos. Mike Aviles then cranked a three-run homer to left-center, bring Boston to within three runs.

In the eighth, David Ortiz nearly hit a one-out dong into the Red Sox bullpen, but Matt Joyce caught it at the short fence. Pinch-hitter Carl Crawford doubled, but Darnell McDonald popped out to second.

Look at home plate umpire Jerry Layne's two strike calls on McDonald in that at-bat.
Pitches 2 and 3 - well outside, and both called strikes.

Baseball must institute a system of accurate pitch calling that allows games to be decided solely by the players on the field. However, MLB seems content to allow incompetent umpires to blatantly call pitches wrong, over and over and over, to miss tags right in front of their faces, and to imagine tags that were never made. MLB pretending that its officiating is not a farce is an insult to the integrity of the game.

If you think I'm annoyed simply because these calls went against the Red Sox, you are wrong. Josh Beckett received at least two extremely generous strike three calls against the Rays on Friday night, calls so obviously wrong that Joe Maddon couldn't keep quiet, and was ejected for complaining about them. Those pitches - and any others Beckett actually threw outside of the strike zone - should have been called balls.

It's very simple:
Strikes should be called strikes
Balls should be called balls
Runners who are out should be called out
Runners who are safe should be called safe
Balls landing foul should be called foul
Balls landing fair should be called fair
How could a baseball fan (or player, or team, or commissioner) be against those concepts? And yet MLB actively resists taking the easy steps to make those concepts a reality.
David Price / Tim Wakefield
Ellsbury, CF
Aviles, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Jackson, LF
McDonald, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Scutaro, SS
Price makes his fifth start of the year against the Red Sox in what feels like a cruel mismatch. In the previous four - April 12, June 16, July 15, August 17 - he has a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 innings (18 hits, 11 walks, 21 strikeouts). Price has given up four home runs to the Red Sox, but allowed a total of only eight runs.

Wakefield is gunning (or fluttering?) for his 187th Red Sox win. Since NESN will no doubt point admiringly to Wakefield's 21-7 career record against the Rays, I will add that he was 13-1 between 1998 and 2005. How that totally awesome record (achieved against guys like Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Carl Crawford) will aid him this afternoon against the 2011 Rays is a matter for smarter baseball minds than mine.

Tampa Bay has stolen 22 bases (in 26 attempts) against the Red Sox this season, and Peter Abraham writes that they "may be running a lot with Wakefield on the mound". They may, but opposing runners have only a 50% success rate this season with Wakefield pitching (8 of 16). By contrast, they are 28 of 32 (88%) against Josh Beckett and 29 of 32 (91%) against John Lackey. Contrary to conventional wisdom, runners have been reluctant to run on Wakefield this season - twice as many attempts against Lackey, who has pitched only four more innings than Wakefield - and have been far less successful.

Game thread. ... & Yankees/Blue Jays at 1 PM.

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