We’ve heard a lot recently about the Orioles’ success in one-run games and the Rays’ inability to win one. Well, their fortunes finally reversed today.
We’ll start with the Orioles. They entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead against the Yankees, but things unraveled from there. Wei-Yin Chen was ahead of Jayson Nix 0-2 with two outs and a runner on first, but he ended up walking him. Eduardo Nunez then delivered an RBI single before Buck Showalter brought the hook. His replacement, Pedro Strop then issued two walks, including one to Derek Jeter to force in a run. The go-ahead run scored after J.J. Hardy mishandled a hard-hit ball up the middle off the bat of Nick Swisher.
The Yankees didn’t get much from starter David Phelps, who gave up three runs on three hits and six walks over just 4 2/3 innings, but the bullpen was excellent. Cody Eppley, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano combined to give up just one hit and two walks over 4 1/3 shutout innings. The loss snapped a streak of 13 straight wins in one-run games for the Orioles dating back to June 20 against the Mets. With today’s 4-3 win, the Yankees have a three-game cushion again in the American League East.
As for the Rays, they ended up hanging on thanks to a five-out save from Fernando Rodney and some heroics from B.J. Upton and Jose Molina. Colby Rasmus hit a single to center field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Upton made a strong throw to Molina, who blocked a charging Omar Vizquel from scoring the tying run. You’ll recall last night’s game ended in the same exact fashion, as Blue Jays’ catcher Jeff Mathis was able to hang on following a collision with Elliot Johnson. Crazy.
As you can see with the video here, it looked like the 45-year-old Vizquel hit a brick wall. Molina came up limping after the collision, but he was able to hang onto to the ball to help secure the 5-4 victory. The Rays entered today’s action with 11 losses in their last 12 games decided by one run, but hey, maybe they are turning a new leaf now that the calendar has flipped to September.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.