ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

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?

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.