Last night, Mariano Rivera surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Stephen Drew with two outs in the ninth. Joba Chamberlain then allowed what became a game-winning RBI single to Shane Victorino in the tenth. Tonight, it seemed like a real team effort as four Yankees relievers combined to allow nine runs in the eighth and ninth innings as the Red Sox went on to win 12-8.
Phil Hughes started off the bullpen meltdown by allowing an RBI infield single to Dustin Pedroia in the seventh. Joe Girardi came out to replace Hughes with lefty Boone Logan for the platoon advantage against David Ortiz. Ortiz struck out, but Girardi left Logan in to face Mike Napoli. While Napoli doesn’t have much of a platoon split over his career, Logan does. Thus, it was no surprise when Napoli drove a fly ball to deep right field for a grand slam. In Logan’s defense, Napoli’s fly ball is a catchable out in 29 other ballparks, but that is no excuse. Preston Claiborne later came on and ended the inning with no further damage.
Claiborne, a 25-year-old rookie, remained in the game to start the eighth with the game still tied at eight apiece. After David Ross struck out, Will Middlebrooks singled to left to bring up Shane Victorino. Victorino, who recently changed from switch-hitting to hitting right-handed full-time, drove Claiborne’s 85 MPH slider into the seats in left field to break the tie and put the Sox up 10-8. They weren’t done. Mike Carp singled, which brought Girardi out again, this time to bring in Joba Chamberlain. The embattled former top prospect quickly got the second out of the inning, but things quickly got out of hand. He intentionally walked Ortiz, unintentionally walked Napoli, walked Nava with the bases loaded to force in a run, and allowed an RBI single to Drew, boosting the Red Sox lead to 12-8. All told, Hughes, Logan, Claiborne, and Chamberlain combined to allow nine runs on eight hits and four walks while recording just six outs.
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finalize the 12-8 victory, lowering his ERA to 1.12 in the process. With the Rays in progress, the Red Sox temporarily move to seven games ahead in first place in the AL East.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.