The only downside to Dallas Braden’s perfect game yesterday is that we narrowly missed out on a chance to have him once again bring the 209 noise about respect and the unwritten rules and all of that jive.
The scene: fifth inning, nobody out, Evan Longoria at the plate. He attempts to reach on a drag bunt. Bunt goes foul, life goes on, Longoria ends up going down on strikes.
Braden kept his cool about it, but I can’t help but think that he was seething inside about someone trying to break up his no-no with a bunt. Not doing that sort of thing is one of the unwritten rules, you know.
Just ask Bob Brenly. He was the Diamondbacks manager back in 2001 when Curt Schilling had a perfect game going against the Padres in the eighth inning. Padres catcher Ben Davis laid down — or rather, popped up — one of the uglier bunts you’ll ever see, but the ball managed to elude second baseman Jay Bell just long enough for Davis to reach. The Diamondbacks freaked out, with Brenly calling the move “chicken” after the game and saying “Ben
Davis is young and has a lot to learn. That was just uncalled for.”
That set off a nice little controversy about whether it’s kosher to break up a no-hitter with a bunt. My memory has it that Brenly’s position was a minority one and that at the time most people were of the view that an opposing team can and should do everything in its power to win the game. That game was 2-0 at the time and the Padres and Diamondbacks were tied for first place, so I was totally cool with the bunt attempt.
I haven’t seen anyone complaining about Longoria’s attempt yesterday, but it was 4-0 at the time, which I suppose makes it a tad less defensible. Of course, it was also earlier in the game, so that makes it a tad more defensible.
My guess is that even hardcore unwritten rules guys would have a tough time criticizing Longoria’s bunt attempt. But the day is still young and, to my knowledge, no one has thrust a microphone into Bob Brenly’s face about it yet.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.