Jake Peavy finally a postseason success with Red Sox

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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: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.