Red Sox mount improbable comeback, walk off winners in Game 2 to even ALCS at 1-1

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Has the sleeping giant risen from his slumber? The Red Sox led the American League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and (of course) OPS during the regular season, but between Game 1 and the fifth inning of Game 2, they looked more like the Miami Marlins. They were no-hit through eight and two-thirds innings in Game 1 and didn’t get their first hit until the sixth inning in Game 2. It was rough to watch for Sox fans.

Behind 5-1, the Red Sox pushed across one run in the sixth inning on Dustin Pedroia’s RBI double off of the Green Monster, but down four runs, it looked like it was too little, too late, especially with the way Scherzer was pitching.

Scherzer was lifted after seven innings and 108 pitches, giving way to the same bullpen that very nearly preserved Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter in Game 1. But the combination of Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, and Joaquin Benoit could not halt a Red Sox comeback. David Ortiz struck the big blow against Benoit, sending a game-tying grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center with two outs.

After Koji Uehara mowed down the Tigers in the top of the ninth, Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave Rick Porcello the gargantuan task of shutting down a reinvigorated Red Sox lineup to get the Tigers into extra innings. He could not do that. Jonny Gomes led off with a ground ball deep in the hole to shortstop Jose Iglesias. Rather than pocket the ball, Iglesias fired the ball to first base, but it skipped wide of Prince Fielder into the stands, allowing Gomes to go to second base with nobody out. Porcello then uncorked a wild pitch, giving Gomes the privilege of casually strolling into third base, giving him plenty of ways to score the winning run with Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the dish. Saltalamacchia went ahead 3-1 against Porcello, then hit a 94 MPH fastball on the ground to left field. Gomes touched home as the Red Sox dugout excitedly poured onto the field in jubilation. Porcello walked off the field to a shellshocked Tiger dugout wondering how they let this one slip away.

To put this in context: Per FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a four percent chance to win when Victorino struck out against Alburquerque for the second out in the eighth inning. They were 53 percent to win after Ortiz’s grand slam. They were 81 percent when Gomes singled and advanced to second on the error, and 93 percent when Gomes reached third base on the wild pitch.

Baseball is a funny game, isn’t it?

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.