Behind David Ortiz’s two-homer night, Red Sox take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS

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The Red Sox will head down to Tampa Bay happy campers. After a thorough 12-2 dismantling of the Rays in Game 1, the Sox scored seven runs against 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price in seven-plus innings, just enough run support for John Lackey.

The scoring started early, with Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the game with a single, stealing second base and forcing a throwing error to advance to third base, then scoring on Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly. David Ortiz added a well-struck home run to right-center to make it 2-0.

After the Rays clawed back for a run in the top of the second on a Delmon Young sac fly, the Sox scored another two runs in the bottom of the third on a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and an RBI fielder’s choice by Pedroia. The Sox would make it 5-1 in the fourth on an RBI triple by Stephen Drew.

The Rays did a good job against Lackey, tagging him for seven hits and three walks. James Loney struck a big blow in the fifth, driving a two-run double to center to make it 5-3. With Loney on second, the Rays had two opportunities to draw closer or even tie the game, but after Evan Longoria walked, Ben Zobrist struck out to end the rally.

As quickly as the Rays got those two runs, the Red Sox took one back. Ellsbury led off the inning with a single, then used his speed to score from first on a Pedroia double off the Green Monster.

Lackey took the hill for the sixth, but the Rays chased him quickly. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a single, then advanced to second on Young’s ground out. He came around to score from second on an RBI single to right by Yunel Escobar. Rays manager Joe Maddon then pinch-hit catcher Jose Molina with the left-handed Matt Joyce, prompting Red Sox manager John Farrell to take out Lackey in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Breslow retired Joyce and then Sean Rodriguez to exit the inning without any further damage. Breslow also pitched a scoreless seventh in support of Lackey. Junichi Tazawa worked around a one-out single by Young in the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ortiz struck again, leading off the inning with a home run to right field that wrapped around Pesky’s Pole for his second home run of the night. Prior to Ortiz, the last Red Sox hitter to homer twice in a post-season game was Pedroia in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Rays in 2008.

Closer Koji Uehara disposed of the Rays quickly in the ninth, striking out Joyce and Jose Lobaton, then getting Wil Myers to ground out to first to make the 7-4 Sox victory official. He threw 11 pitches, all of them strikes. Now up 2-0 in the ALDS, the two teams will head down to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday. Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz will oppose Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.