Terry Francona

Two more ejections as Red Sox complete sweep of Orioles


Home-plate umpire Marty Foster took control of this one with nearly as much finesse as Wily Mo Pena employs attacking a fastball.

Red Sox right-hander Kyle Weiland was ejected from his first big-league start and Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez was tossed an inning later in the finale of the four-game series in Boston on Sunday.

The Red Sox won the game 8-6 to complete a four-game sweep of the reeling Orioles.

Two days after David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg touched off a brawl, there were three HBPs in this one.  Weiland started it off, hitting Mark Reynolds in the hand with a fastball in the third.  Reynolds stayed in to run, but was removed in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Orioles reliever Jeremy Guthrie hit Kevin Youkilis, leading to warnings being issued for the second straight day.  The problem there is that the pitch was a changeup.  Guthrie clearly had no intention of hitting Youkilis, but Foster felt he had to gain control of the situation or some such nonsense.

So, in the fifth, when a Weiland fastball clipped Vladimir Guerrero in the hand, both Weiland and Red Sox manager Terry Francona were tossed.  The Red Sox were up 7-6 at the time, and they were hoping Weiland would get through the inning and become eligible for the win.  Again, there was no intention from Weiland there.

In the sixth, there may well have been some intention.  Mike Gonzalez, who ran a pitch up and in on the Yankees’ Chris Dickerson that left Dickerson with a concussion back in April, threw a fastball behind Ortiz and to the backstop.  It could have slipped, but Gonzalez was the least likely of any Baltimore pitchers, besides maybe Gregg, to get the benefit of the doubt.  He and manager Buck Showalter were tossed immediately.

The dugouts never did get involved in any of the action, and things went smoothly after Gonzalez’s ejection.  The Red Sox added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh that they didn’t need, as the Orioles never scored again after touching up Weiland for six runs in the second.

The Red Sox knocked Mitch Atkins out early, as Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all homered in the second.   That led to the rare relief appearance for Guthrie.   Guthrie was actually pretty successful in his 3 1/3 innings, allowing just one run, but since it was the go-ahead run, he was tagged with his 12th loss of the season.  The unlucky right-hander is nine games under .500 despite a decent 4.18 ERA.

Alfredo Aceves recorded the win.  He pitched the first three of five consecutive hitless innings for the Red Sox pen.  Daniel Bard worked the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 20th save.

Boston won for the 10th time in 11 games to finish the first half 55-35.  It’s the AL’s best record, though the Yankees are just one game behind at 53-35.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.