Let chaos reign.
The Rays beat the Yankees 5-2 tonight while the Red Sox fell to the Orioles 6-3. And so, after 160 games, we have a flat-footed tie in the American League Wild Card race.
The Red Sox had their best starter on the mound tonight in the form of Josh Beckett, but he was chased after allowing six runs over six innings. He actually had a 2-1 lead until giving up an RBI single to Chris Davis in the bottom of the fifth and then four in the sixth, including a three-run inside-the-park home run by Robert Andino. Jacoby Ellsbury nearly made a fantastic catch on the fly ball, but lost the handle after running into the center field wall. Symbolic much?
The Red Sox managed to load the bases with one out in the of the top of the eighth inning, but they came up empty-handed after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging and Marco Scutaro grounded out. They had a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, but Orioles’ right-hander Jim Johnson was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to left field and Jed Lowrie to strike out to end it.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, James Shields came up big yet again. He limited the Yankees to two runs over 8 2/3 innings in the victory, falling one out short of his 12th complete game. Johnny Damon drove in the go-ahead run with a single in a three-run third inning and later added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh for some insurance.
The Red Sox are now 6-19 in September. They entered play on September 4 with a nine-game lead in the Wild Card race, but we’re all back at zero now.
The Red Sox will send Erik Bedard to the hill tomorrow night against Zach Britton and Jon Lester (on three days’ rest) against Alfredo Simon in the season finale. As for the Rays, they’ll pitch Jeremy Hellickson tomorrow night against Bartolo Colon and David Price on Wednesday in what will likely be a bullpen game for the Bombers. This probably goes without saying, but I’d rather be the Rays right now.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.