The narrative of the ALCS through nine innings of Game 1 and seven innings of Game 2 was all about the Tigers’ pitching dominance and the Red Sox offensive futility. That came to a screeching halt in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Sox mounted a potentially series-altering rally against the Tiger bullpen.
Jose Veras started the bottom of the eighth in relief of starter Max Scherzer, staked to a 5-1 lead. He got Stephen Drew to ground out for the first out of the inning, but then allowed a double down the left field line to Will Middlebrooks. Tigers manager Jim Leyland opted to play matchmaker, pulling Veras for lefty Drew Smyly as Jacoby Ellsbury came to the plate. Smyly couldn’t do his job, walking Ellsbury after getting ahead in the count 1-2. Leyland again came out to the mound, this time bringing in right-hander Al Alburquerque.
Alburquerque got Shane Victorino to strike out for the second out of the inning. Dustin Pedroia kept the rally going with a grounder to right field. Middlebrooks took a wide turn around third base, but he was held up, leaving the bases loaded for David Ortiz. Leyland yanked Alburquerque for closer Joaquin Benoit, looking for a four-out save.
Benoit’s first pitch to Ortiz was a 74 MPH change-up, and Ortiz was ready for it. He launched it into the air to right-center towards the Red Sox bullpen. Right fielder Torii Hunter paced back after it, then leaped in an attempt to rob the home run, but could not come up with it. He careened over the fence, landing hard on the other side as a crowd of Red Sox relievers huddled around him following the game-tying grand slam.
Hunter was shaken up, but not seriously injured. He returned to his position and Benoit struck out Mike Napoli to end the inning, sending the game to the top of the ninth knotted at 5-5.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.
A report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reveals that prospective Marlins’ owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have already initiated several key firings within the organization. While the sale of the team is still pending final approval next month, Jeter reportedly pushed club president David Samson to remove four special assistants this week: Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jack McKeon and Jeff Conine.
Hall of Fame infielder Dawson, outfielder Perez and Marlins’ legend Conine served as special assistants to the president. McKeon, who served as team manager from 2003-2005 (and briefly in 2011), was terminated from a 12-year post as special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.
The move didn’t come as a big surprise to Dawson and McKeon, Jackson and Spencer noted. It’s part and parcel of dealing with new ownership. But it was disappointing news nonetheless, especially as the long-tenured McKeon might lose an opportunity to return next September to manage one game and cement his status as the oldest manager in MLB history.
Should the Marlins’ sale go through in October as expected, this figures to be the beginning of several cuts. Per Jackson and Spencer:
Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.
Any replacements for those already released from the team have yet to be announced.