The four-game series against the Red Sox has been a nightmare for the Yankees, but it has mercifully ended on a good note for the Bronx Bombers. With his team leading 3-2 in the ninth inning, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera surrendered a lead-off game-tying solo home run to Will Middlebrooks, his seventh save of the season. Rivera had blown seven or more saves just twice previously in his career: seven in 2001, and nine in 1997.
Fortunately for Rivera, the Yankees were able to manufacture a walk-off victory against Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman. With one out, Ichiro Suzuki singled to center, then promptly stole second base. Vernon Wells flied out to right for the second out of the inning, but Suzuki tagged and went to third base. On the first pitch to Alfonso Soriano, Workman threw a 94 MPH fastball neck-high over the plate to Alfonso Soriano. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, positioned to catch the pitch low and away, couldn’t grab it and the ball sailed to the backstop and caromed towards the first base side, allowing Suzuki to saunter home for the walk-off victory.
The Yankees were on the verge of suffering a four-game series sweep at the hands of their bitter rival. Despite scoring eight runs or more in each of the past three games, the Yankees’ pitching could not get the job done. Rivera blew his sixth save on Thursday, the entire bullpen imploded on Friday, and starter David Huff was tagged for nine runs yesterday.
With the Rays in progress, the Red Sox temporarily drop to eight games ahead in first place in the AL East, and the Yankees move to two games behind them for the second Wild Card.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.