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.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.
The Reds announced on Twitter that the club has hired former manager Lou Pinella in a consultant capacity as a senior advisor to baseball operations. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer adds that Pinella will also spend time with the team at spring training.
Pinella, 72, was last seen with the Giants in 2011, also in a consultant capacity, but he spent only the one season there. He has 23 seasons of experience as a manager, with his most recent four coming with the Cubs between 2007-10.