Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t lead the league in blown saves. But for some reason, it always feels like a bigger deal when he blows one than when someone else does. And he blew another one today, giving Toronto a victory over Boston.
John Lackey was cruising throughout most of the game. He had thrown only around 90 pitches in eight innings, giving up two runs. Having him come back out for the ninth was a defensible move by Tito. Big series against the Rangers coming up, best to have the pen rested if possible. Unfortunately, Lackey gave up a leadoff homer to Jose Bautista. That made it 5-3, Sox, so Francona made the call to the pen.
Papelbon: Vernon Wells double and an Adam Lind RBI single, 5-4. DeWayne Wise pinch runs for Lind and steals second and an Aaron Hill infield single gets him to third. After a strikeout, came the big hit. Check out the video here, because I can’t do it justice.
Ahem. That tied it up, Daniel Bard came in to relieve Paps and a Fred Lewis sacrifice fly later the ballgame was over.
Just an absolutely demoralizing loss for the Sox. One that, should they fall just short of the playoffs this year, will come back to haunt them, I’m sure.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.