The Red Sox sent 10 men to the plate in a six-run ninth to overcome a terrific effort from Felix Hernandez and defeat the Mariners 8-7 on Thursday, completing a three-game sweep at Fenway Park.
According to the win expectancy data at Fangraphs, the Red Sox entered the ninth with exactly a one percent chance of winning. It would have been even less than that if not for Shane Victorino’s solo homer off Charlie Furbush in the eighth, making it a 7-2 game.
The ninth was fueled by walks, three of them in all. Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who lost his job earlier this season because of control problems, issued two of them and allowed two hits without ever retiring a batter. He was pulled from a 7-3 game.
The plan then was to go to Yoervis Medina with Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia due up. However, the umpiring crew said that Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson, who is filling in while Eric Wedge recovers from a mild stroke, signaled with his left hand instead of his right, calling Oliver Perez into the game. Perez has been plenty good against right-handers this season anyway, so it wasn’t necessarily a huge problem. However, he gave up back-to-back hits before striking out David Ortiz for the first out of the frame.
Medina was finally called into what was a 7-6 game at that point. He appeared to have Jonny Gomes struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but David Rackley, who had a terribly inconsistent strike zone all night, called the pitch on the corner a ball. Gomes went on to single in the tying run. After Stephen Drew walked, Daniel Nava hit a ball to the wall in center, ending the game and giving the Red Sox their second walkoff win in about 21 hours.
For Hernandez, it was the fifth time this season in which he’s allowed just one run and ended up with a no-decision. It also happened last time out when he pitched nine innings and struck out 11 against the Twins.
The Red Sox improved to 66-44 with the sweep. Their .600 winning percentage is better by only the Pirates’ .602 mark.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.