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.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.