Raul Ibanez, Derek Norris

Orioles win in 12, Yankees prevail in 14 versus A’s


With the Orioles already having dispatched the Red Sox in 12, the AL East appeared on the verge of being knotted at the top again. However, the Yankees overcame a 9-5 deficit in the 13th and beat the A’s 10-9 in 14 innings Saturday.

Baltimore improved to 4-0 in extra-inning games at Fenway Park this year by beating the Red Sox 9-6. Jim Thome’s ground-rule double broke the tie in the 12th, and the Orioles were able to add on from there. Incredibly, the Red Sox are 0-7 in extra-inning games at home this season.

The A’s got homers from Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter to take a commanding 9-5 lead on the Yankees in the top of the 13th. However, the Yankees came right back afterwards, loading the bases with none out and getting a game-tying two-run homer from Raul Ibanez with one out.

The Bombers went on to win it in 14 after another wild sequence. Alex Rodriguez appeared to hit a game-winning single with one out and the lead runner on second, but pinch-runner Melky Mesa, making his major league debut, missed third base on the turn and had to go back to the bag.

That loaded the bases for Robinson Cano. Cano hit a comebacker to Tyson Ross that bounced out of and back into the pitcher’s glove, leading to an awkward but successful throw home for the force. Catcher Derek Norris could have chanced turning it into an inning-ending double play since Cano hardly busted it out of the box, but he decided not to risk throwing it into the runner and giving the Yankees a win that way. Eduardo Nunez then came up and his a spinning grounder to first that Brandon Moss failed to glove, ending the game. It was ruled an error on Moss, though it was hardly an easy play with the way the ball was moving.

The game featured a controversial call in the bottom of the first. Travis Blackley picked  Rodriguez off first, but second base umpire Larry Vanover decided to call it a balk only after watching the play unfold and seeing A-Rod tagged out. The implication being that Vanover would have let it go had A-Rod made it back safely. Whether it was a balk or not (and that really could have gone either way), that’s not the way the game is supposed to be umpired and Vanover should get a talking to over it. The Yankees went on to score two runs after the play, contributing to an early exit for Blackley.

Helped out by that play, the Yankees really should have won in regulation. That they didn’t was due in part to a lack of effort. Cano initially gave up on a Moss grounder into the hole in the seventh because he thought first baseman Nick Swisher would grab it. When Swisher’s dive came up short, Cano made his own half-hearted dive and missed the ball, giving Moss a single. He later came around to score the tying run. Also, in the bottom of the seventh, Swisher opened the frame with a popup to shallow right. Disappointed, he didn’t run out of the box, and he ended up on first instead of second when the ball fell in. The Yankees failed to score in the inning, even though Swisher advanced to third with one out because of a HBP and a sac bunt.

The Yankees again almost won it in the 12th, but Ibanez was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to second.

Ibanez turned a single into a double with some great hustle in the frame, which is perhaps why he wasn’t removed for a pinch-runner after reaching. He then went to third on a wild pitch, forcing the A’s to pull the infield in. Unfortunately, Russell Martin’s grounder was hit right to second baseman Cliff Pennington, who threw home. Ibanez tried to bowl Norris over, and when that didn’t quite work, he gave up a little push to finish knocking him to the ground. Norris held on, though, and the A’s got out of the inning.

With the win, the Yankees maintained a one-game lead over the Orioles in the AL East. The A’s are three games up on the second wild card, pending the Angels’ result tonight.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.