The last time the Cubs shut out the Red Sox, Fenway Park was six years old. This year, it’s celebrating its centennial.
Ryan Dempster blanked the Red Sox for seven innings Friday as part of a 3-0 Cubs victory. It was the first time the Cubs had shut out Boston since Game 5 of the 1918 World Series.
That was also a 3-0 game, with Hippo Vaughn beating Sad Sam Jones. A day later, the Red Sox bounced back behind Carl Mays and won their last World Series for 86 years. The Cubs, of course, haven’t won since 1908.
Enough with the history lesson, though. Today was all about Dempster, who upped his scoreless streak to 22 innings. Baseball’s unluckiest pitcher while going winless in his first eight starts, he’s now 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA this season.
Dempster helped himself today by going 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. The triple was a ball that a quality right fielder probably would have caught. Adrian Gonzalez, though, should have simply let it drop for a single. Instead, he made an ill-advised dive and played it into a triple.
The Red Sox lost despite outhitting the Cubs 5-4, going 4-for-4 stealing bases and getting help from three Cubs errors, including one while they were in the process of loading the bases in the ninth. They never could push a run across, though. Batting with a total of five runners in scoring position, Dustin Pedroia made the final outs of the fifth, seventh and ninth innings.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was the loser for Boston. He was in classic Dice-K form in his second start back after Tommy John surgery; in the first inning, he walked three batters and gave up a two-run double to give the Cubs the early lead. He never walked another batter and he was pretty terrific from the third inning on — he retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced in his six innings — but it didn’t really matter with no runs on the way.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.