In truth, a four-game series was probably the best-case scenario for the Red Sox.
Sure, sweeps are great, but there’s nothing wrong with being tested a bit. And not only did the Red Sox pass their test with flying colors, but they got to use Jake Peavy in their Game 4 victory over the Rays rather than have him sit around for another week.
That delay certainly would have been a source of concern for Red Sox management. Peavy, the team’s big trade deadline acquisition, was more solid than stellar in 10 starts for Boston, going 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA. The team was 5-5 in his outings. He’d also taken ugly losses in his only two ever postseason starts with the Padres in 2005 and 2006. He gave up 13 runs and 19 hits over 9 2/3 innings, striking out just five, in a pair of NLDS defeats. Both came versus the Cardinals, and the Padres failed to advance both years.
Those playoff performances weren’t chief among Boston’s worries or the Red Sox never would have given up Jose Iglesias for him in the first place. But they couldn’t have wanted him to have to make his first start in the ALCS having gone three weeks without pitching in a game.
In Tuesday’s win, Peavy scattered six hits over 5 2/3 innings. He seemed well in control until Yunel Escobar ripped a line drive down the left-field line in the sixth that just missed going over the fence and turned into a double. Escobar came around to score on a one-out single, but Peavy got Wil Myers afterwards He still seemed to have quite a bit left in the tank at that point, but this being October and all, the Red Sox smartly went to the pen and brought in Craig Breslow to face James Loney. The relief corps combined for seven strikeouts in 3 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way.
Because the Red Sox failed to score until the seventh, Peavy didn’t get a win for his trouble. That hardly matters now, though. After 12 seasons, the former Cy Young Award winner is going to an LCS for the first time.
Update (11:09 PM EDT):
From unlucky to lucky, the Cardinals maintained their position in the National League Wild Card race with walk-off victory over the Reds on Thursday night.
The Cardinals went into the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead over the Reds, but saw the game tied when Scott Schebler dribbled a two-strike, two out ground ball down the third base line. It seemed as if the baseball gods had turned their backs on the Cardinals.
In the bottom of the ninth against reliever Blake Wood, Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk. Randal Grichuk then struck out, leaving all of the Cardinals’ hopes on Yadier Molina. Molina went ahead 2-0 in the count, then ripped a 95 MPH fastball to left field. The ball bounced high and over the left field fence for what seemed like an obvious ground-rule double. Carpenter motored around third base and scored the winning run.
The Cardinals poured onto the field in celebration and the umpires walked off the field. Manager Bryan Price wanted to have the play reviewed, but when he went onto the field, the umpires were nowhere to be found. Price chased after them but to no avail. As the Cardinals left the field and the stadium emptied, the Reds remained in the dugout. The Reds’ relievers were left in a bit of purgatory, standing aimlessly in left field after exiting the bullpen. Finally, the game was announced as complete over the P.A. system at Busch Stadium. The results are great if you’re a Cardinals fan, but terrible if you’re a Mets or Giants fan.
As Jon Morosi points out, the rules clearly state that the signage above the fence in left field is out of the field of play. The umpires got it wrong.
Price, however, also took too long to speak to the umpires. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
If this happened between two teams playing a meaningless game, it would’ve been a lot easier to swallow, but Thursday’s Reds-Cardinals game had implications on not only the Cardinals’ future, but the Mets’ and Giants’ as well.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 during Thursday’s win against the Phillies, snapping his hitting streak at 30 games. It marked the longest hitting streak of the 2016 season. Freeman’s streak of 46 consecutive games reaching base safely ended as well.
The longest hitting streak in Atlanta Braves history belongs to Dan Uggla, who hit in 33 consecutive games in 2011. Tommy Holmes hit in 37 straight for the Boston Braves in 1945.
During his hitting streak, Freeman hit .384/.485/.670 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 136 plate appearances. That padded what were already very strong numbers on the season. After Thursday’s game, Freeman is overall batting .306/.404/.572 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI< and 101 runs scored in 677 plate appearances.