Jacboy Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro

Red Sox rout Orioles in second game of doubleheader, wild card lead back at two games

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After all that, we’re right back where we were when we began the day.

The Red Sox dropped the first game of today’s doubleheader against the last-place Orioles, but they brought their bats for the nightcap. On the strength of 20 hits, they pushed their Wild Card lead back to two games with an 18-9 victory.

This was a brutal game to watch for many reasons. Brian Matusz, who was making his first start since September 5, gave up six runs over 1 2/3 innings to fall to 1-8 on the season. The young left-hander now has a 10.68 ERA this season, which is the worst ever for a pitcher with a minimum of 10 starts in a season. The previous record holder? Roy Halladay in 2000.

Things weren’t much better with John Lackey. Despite getting 11 runs of support, he couldn’t even qualify for the win. Lackey was pulled in the fifth inning after allowing eight runs on 11 hits and two walks. And had a pretty nasty stare for Terry Francona on the way out. His ERA jumped from 6.19 to 6.49 in the no-decision. If Erik Bedard can’t make it back, it really looks like Alfredo Aceves would be Boston’s third starter in a potential playoff series.

Anyway, this night was about the bats for Boston. Of note, Conor Jackson hit a grand slam and Jacoby Ellsbury went 3-for-6 with an inside-the-park home run. Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with four RBI while Adrian Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro also had three hits.

The Red Sox will play five of their final eight games against the Orioles. And after watching tonight’s pathetic performance, Red Sox fans should feel pretty good about that. The Rays will open a four-game series against the Yankees tomorrow night. They play seven of their final 10 games against the Bombers.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: