It sure appeared as though Bobby Valentine was more interested in proving a point than winning a ballgame on Tuesday night.
With a 5-4 lead after seven innings, Valentine sent Alfredo Aceves out to earn a two-inning save against the Angels. Aceves got through the eighth unscathed, but he lost the game on an RBI single and a sac fly in the ninth.
Aceves, of course, had just returned from a three-game, team-imposed suspension. He hadn’t pitched since Thursday, when he was left in to give up five runs in one-plus innings in a loss to the same Angels team.
Aceves pitched a one-two-three eighth inning tonight. Leaving him in to start the ninth was certainly defensible, but there should have been someone warming up behind him. Valentine didn’t bother getting anyone up until two men reached with one out. By then, it was too late; Aceves gave up a broken bat RBI single to Mike Trout and a game-ending sac fly to Torii Hunter.
If this were 1982, Valentine’s handling of Aceves may have been pretty typical. But the fact of the matter is that hardly anyone is sent out for two-inning saves these days. Aceves didn’t have one this year. In fact, there’s been exactly one two-inning save in a one- or two-run game all year; the Giants’ Jeremy Affeldt recorded it on June 4.
No, this was Valentine trying to show who’s boss. Aceves thinks he deserves to close, so Valentine made him go prove it by giving him a more difficult assignment than any closer is asked to handle these days. And Aceves probably would have handled it if not a fluke HBP — Erick Aybar reached to start the Angels’ rally because a curveball bounced off his back foot.
The Red Sox made it clear they’re trying to start over when they sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford packing last week. It’s time to finish the job and drop the axe on Valentine as well.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.