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.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.