To their credit, the Rays have remained competitive throughout Game 2 against the Red Sox despite starter David Price looking not-so-sharp as well as some defensive miscues by the Tampa Bay defense. After the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first, the Rays scratched back for a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Delmon Young. Then, after the Sox scored twice in the third and once in the fourth to go up 5-1, the Rays jumped right back into it thanks to a two-out, two-run double to center by James Loney. In fact, Evan Longoria could have tied the game up with one swing of the bat with one out in the fifth inning, but he ended up walking before Ben Zobrist struck out to end the frame.
The Red Sox offense has been relentless against Price, however, getting to him with selective aggression. In five innings of work, they have tagged Price for eight hits and a walk, pushing across six runs in total. After the Rays’ uplifting top of the fifth inning, the Red Sox immediately got a run back. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the frame with a single, his third hit in as many at-bats on the night and his fifth consecutive hit going back into Game 1. After Shane Victorino flied out to right fielder Wil Myers, Dustin Pedroia laced a double off the Green Monster in left field, allowing Ellsbury to score from first to bump the score to 6-3. Price was finally able to exit after a laborious 20-pitch inning.
It very well may be Price’s final inning as the Red Sox clearly have a working game plan against him, and he was visibly upset throughout the game — frustration likely directed at himself, but perhaps at some of the mistakes his defense has made behind him as well. (Update: Rays manager Joe Maddon has elected to allow Price to start the sixth. Now we wonder if Price will come out for the seventh with his pitch count at 91.)
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.