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.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: