ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

The Four-Pitcher Slam

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My pal Bob Ryan brought this up first, but it’s worth reliving for a moment. Sunday night, David Ortiz hit one of the coolest home runs in postseason baseball history. There are many reasons for this. One, is the obvious: The game seemed over. The series, really, seemed over. The Tigers led 5-0, the probable Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was on the mound, Detroit had already won Game 1 in Boston and so the Tigers seemed well on their way down World Series Road.

Then, gradually, imperceptibly at first, things shifted — Boston scored a run, Scherzer came out of the game after a dominant inning, the Red Sox got a double, then a walk, then a single, then Ortiz swung at the first pitch …

Magic.

Another thing: You very rarely see a grand slam that actually ties a game in the late innings. I think game-tying grand slams, in some ways, are even cooler than game-winning ones. Being down four runs seems like a nearly-impossible climb. And then, one swing, new ballgame. So awesome.

In 2013, there were 96 grand slams hit. Six tied the game. And only one of those six — Kyle Seager’s improbable game-tying grand slam in the 14th inning against the White Sox — came after the seventh inning. in 2012, only three game-tying grand slams happened after the seventh. In 2011, there were two. So, this is a rare thing.

And it’s even rarer in the postseason. There have only been three game-tying grand slams in postseason history. In 1977, LA’s Ron Cey hit a grand slam off Phillies’ silent man Steve Carlton to tie the game in the seventh of an NLCS game. In 2004, free-swingin’ Vlad Guerrero, then with the Angels, grand slammed Mike Timlin to tie the Red Sox game in the seventh inning.And then there was Ortiz last night.

But the coolest thing — or anyway, the most telling thing — about the Ortiz home run was this: ALL FOUR RUNS WERE CHARGED TO DIFFERENT PITCHERS.

What an amazing and odd statistic. Several people have asked me if this has ever happened before — I have no idea how to look it up. Maybe someone already has, I’ll keep looking. But for now, I think that little tidbit tells you more about baseball in 2013 — and maybe even life in 2013 — than just about anything else.

How did it happen? Scherzer was pulled before the inning began because, I guess, he had thrown 108 pitches. He had actually just pitched a dominating inning, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland decided he’d had enough. Whatever. So Scherzer was not even one of the four pitchers who had a piece of the slam.

Jose Veras started the inning. He forced a groundout and then gave up a double to Will Middlebrooks.

That’s one.

Drew Smyly came in. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury in a six-pitch at-bat.

That’s two.

Al Alburquerque came in. He struck out Shane Victorino but gave up a ground ball single to Dustin Pedroia.

That’s three.

And Joaquin Benoit came in to face Ortiz. He hit the home run.

And that’s four.

I was having an email exchange with Tom Tango and Bill James about length of games — I have to say that most of the time I don’t care much about length of game discussions. For one thing, it’s kind of a fact of life, like the weather. Baseball is built around a deliberate pace, and while sometimes it can get ridiculous (some of those American League East games are longer than the Korean War) it just, hey, you know, Vanilla Ice goes Amish.*

*I have vowed that I will replace the dreaded “It is what it is” cliche with “Vanilla ice goes Amish,” in honor of an actual reality TV show that more or less puts all reason to an end.

But, I must admit — the games in the postseason are taking too long. A four-hour 1-0 game that was almost a no-hitter? That’s just one example but, I’m sorry, that’s just too long — I don’t care how many walks or how long the playoff commercials. Baseball is absolutely still wonderful. That 1-0 game was still wonderful. But it can be wonderful AND still be too long.

See, the issue is that there’s so much NOTHING that happens now in baseball. So much stepping out, stepping back in, pitcher waiting, pitcher throwing to first, pitcher waiting, batter stepping out again, relief pitcher coming in … does ANYBODY like this stuff? No. They don’t. Plus it gives the television broadcasts too much time, which they too often fill with award-show crowd shots* and reiteration of cliches the announcer had just uttered.

*You know how in award shows, the person on stage will sometimes tell a joke and they will scan to a celebrity in the crowd that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the joke. Like someone will tell a Mel Gibson joke and then, suddenly, the camera scans to Marisa Tomei. And even she’s like, “What? Why me?” That’s what I always think of when Fox scans the crowd to show random people during a tense baseball moment.

Anyway, Bill responded this way:

“The PACE of baseball is a huge problem.   The commissioner’s office has tried to deal with this, for years, by nibbling around the edges of it. But the real solutions are extremely simple:

1)  Don’t grant the batter time out between pitches, and
2)  Limit pitching substitutions.

That’s it.   Do those two things, the problem goes away. If you DON’T do those two things, you cannot solve the problem.”

I think that’s probably right. The stalling stuff on both sides — pitcher and hitter — seems pointless and bad for the game. There have been mild efforts to stop it, but I think it’s probably time to just kibosh that.

And then there are the pitching substitutions. I think those speak to the larger issues I was talking about before. We have become so absurdly specialized. I mean, seriously, four pitchers in a single inning with a four-run lead? How is that good for the game? How does that make the game better in any way? How does that even help your team win? And, more to the point, how is that in the spirit of baseball as we know and love it?

All new rule suggestions sound impossible when first brought up. It does not seem feasible that baseball will change its rules so it is more like soccer with a limit on the number of pitching substitutions a manager is allowed to make in a single game. But the question here is simply: Would that kind of rule make the game better?

I think it would. Games would move quicker. I think it would force managers to be MORE strategic, not less because they would have to be smart about how they substituted. And, anyway, it would prevent teams from just throwing stuff at walls.

There was absolutely no good reason whatsoever for Jim Leyland to strangle that inning in an overmanaging feat rarely seen outside of Tony La Russa’s house. Why in the heck did he pull Jose Veras with a four-run lead and one man on second base? What was that Drew Smyly thing about? If you think Benoit is your best pitcher and you’re willing to bring him in the eighth, why wouldn’t you bring him in to face Pedroia? It was Leyland doing stuff just to DO stuff, and it dragged the game to a near standstill. Managers shouldn’t do that. More to the point, managers shouldn’t have the POWER to do that.

I don’t really believe in the baseball gods. But if they are out there, I’m sure they were cheering Ortiz’s grand slam as loudly as anybody.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

New York Yankees relief pitcher Johnny Barbato, right, walks off the field after being relieved in the tenth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Baltimore won 1-0 in ten innings. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 1, Yankees 0: Kevin Gausman didn’t even break as sweat, allowing three hits in eight shutout innings. He got the no-decision, though, as the he, Masahiro Tanaka and relievers traded zeros through regulation. In the 10th, however, the Orioles broke through against Johnny Barbato and Andrew Miller. One wonders if they break through at all, however, if Miller starts the inning rather than comes in with runners on the corer and no one out. Barbato is a rookie with little experience and in that experience he has has demonstrated some pretty ineffective pitching. The Yankees have been stinkin’ up the joint, Miller is one of the best relievers in baseball and he had pitched just once in the previous five days. For the Yankees to go with Barbato there, when a single run means a loss, than Miller, is insanity. The old “don’t use your closer in a tie game on the road” thing was no doubt in play there, but for as conventional as that is, it is not wisdom. It’s the delegation of logic. It’s asking the manager to forget who his pitchers are and what his larger situation is (i.e. the Yankees NEED to win some games right now) in order to adhere to some stupid convention with less than a couple of decades of venerability. The Orioles won this game, but calcified thinking lost it.

Padres 5, Mets 3: Colin Rea pitched no-hit ball into the seventh before Yoenis Cespedes drove a ground ball single to right field with two outs. The hit came as a result of Cespedes going the other way against the shift. I’m assuming some people will say shifts suck because if there wasn’t one here Rea might’ve pitched a no-hitter, but the game story notes that the no-hit bid was extended by the shift several times. In other news, shift politics rather bore me. Hit doubles and homers and you don’t need to worry about shifts. They take away singles. Not much else.

Marlins 4, Diamondbacks 0: The Marlins have won 10 of 11 games. Five have come against bad teams, but what most people forget is that good teams winning a lot of games against bad teams is a huge part of why they’re good teams. I’m not sure if I’m mentally prepared for the Marlins to be a good team in 2016, but here we are.

Cubs 5, Nationals 2: Good teams beat a lot of bad teams. SUPER good teams beat other good teams too. The Nats are good. The Cubs are SUPER good and they cruise in a matchup between the NL’s two best so far. Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings and Ben Zobrist drove in four runs. Every team slumps at times and as a franchise the Cubs have been know to swoon, but this sure as hell feels different to me. These guys are fantastic.

Red Sox 7, White Sox 3: Sox win! Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. all homered. The Sox have won nine of 11. Pedroia is looking like vintage Pedroia. This is another matchup of two good teams. One of ’em took two of three from the other, making them gooder right now.

Indians 9, Tigers 4: Michael Brantley was 4-for-5 with three RBI and Mike Napoli had a three-run homer. In other news, I had this exchange at about 9:30 last night with a Tigers fan friend of mine:

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Cardinals 4, Phillies 0: Brandon Moss hit a homer that they judged to be 462 feet. That would make it the fourth longest by anyone on the season. The previous long homers: Nolan Arenado, 471 feet, Sean Rodriguez, 468, and Byung Ho Park, 466. Home run measuring remains something of an inexact science but that’s pretty rad. Meanwhile, Jaime Garcia pitches seven two-hit shutout innings.

Blue Jays 12, Rangers 2: Edwin Encarnacion homered, doubled twice and drove in six runs. Is that good? I feel like that’s pretty good.

Reds 9, Brewers 5Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer and Alfredo Simon made it through seven effective innings and two-thirds of a not-so-effective one. Maybe he ran out of gas in the eighth when he allowed a two-run homer before leaving, but with the Reds’ bullpen stinkin’ like it stinks, you stretch a guy if you can. The pen came in and allowed another couple of runs in the ninth, but you know the old saying “you don’t lose often when you score nine runs and you’re playing Milwaukee even if your bullpen is a friggin’ train wreck.” I think Joe McCarthy said that.

 

Mariners 6, Astros 3: It was tied at three in the ninth when Luke Gregerson loaded up the bases and Robinson Cano cleared them off with a three-run double. A rare good start from an Astros’ stater is again wasted by the Houston pen. But sure, Carlos Gomez is the issue here.

Rockies 17, Giants 7: Remember yesterday when I said that the back end of the Giants rotation was bad? I should’ve said it was a tire fire in a sulfur mine. Matt Cain, who is clearly not right, allowed eight runs, six earned, on ten hits in four innings. The Rockies scored 13 runs in the fifth inning, which Cain started but couldn’t finish. Cain and Jake Peavy may be famous, but they’re killing San Francisco right now. In other news, Tim Lincecum will throw his little showcase for teams in Arizona later this morning. If the Giants aren’t at least thinking about getting back together with their old flame something is wrong.

Colin Rea loses no-hit bid in the seventh against the Mets

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Colin Rea works against a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
AP Photo/Gregory Bull
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Update (12:01 AM EDT): And it’s over. Yoenis Cespedes drove a ground ball single to right field with two outs in the seventh inning to end Rea’s no-hit bid.

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Padres starter Colin Rea has tamed the hot-hitting Mets lineup so far this Thursday night. The right-hander has walked only one, the lone batter above the minimum he has faced. Rea has also struck out three while accumulating 76 pitches.

The Padres’ offense provided Rea with five runs of support, scoring once in each of the first, second, and third, as well as twice in the sixth. Wil Myers smacked a solo homer off of Jacob deGrom in the first inning. Rea helped himself with an RBI single in the second, Alexei Ramirez brought in a run with a double in the third, Derek Norris drove a solo homer in the sixth, and Jon Jay shortly thereafter hit an RBI double.

The Mets entered play Thursday tied for the National League lead in home runs hit as a team with 40. Rea, meanwhile, came into Thursday’s action with a 4.61 ERA and a 22/13 K/BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings spanning five starts and one relief appearance.

If Rea is able to complete the job, he would become the first pitcher in Padres history to throw a no-hitter. Jake Arrieta threw the first no-hitter of the 2016 season on April 21 against the Reds.

We’ll keep you updated as Rea attempts to navigate through the final three innings.

Jason Heyward hopes to return to Cubs’ lineup on Friday

Chicago Cubs' Jason Heyward hits a double to drive in Dexter Fowler off Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 22, 2016, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 8-1. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward hasn’t played since Sunday due to a sore right wrist, but he’s hoping to be included in his team’s lineup on Friday, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Matt Szucur, Ben Zobrist, and Kris Bryant have handled right field while Heyward has been out.

Heyward, 26, has gotten off to a disappointing start, as he’s batting .211/.317/.256 with only four doubles, no home runs, and 13 RBI in 104 plate appearances. He signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs back in December.

Heyward said he hurt his wrist putting emphasis on it during hitting drills. He said, “I was doing some work off the tee and doing a drill with a donut on the bat, swinging, trying to stay through the middle, and I put more emphasis on [his wrist] and strained it from that.”

Cardinals plan to get creative to keep Aledmys Diaz in the lineup

St. Louis Cardinals' Jedd Gyorko high-fives with Matt Carpenter as they and Aledmys Diaz, center, leave the field following the Cardinals' 11-2 victory over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Saturday, April 23, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta is expected to return from the disabled list in early June, which means current shortstop Aledmys Diaz would return to the bench. There’s only one problem: Diaz has been one of the best hitters in baseball. The 25-year-old owns a sparkling .381/.422/.679 triple-slash line with 14 extra-base hits (including five homers) in 90 plate appearances.

The Cardinals plan to get creative to keep Diaz’s bat in the lineup. Per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the club is considering using Peralta at first and third base. Peralta, 33, last played third base in 2010 with the Indians and Tigers. He has logged only three games and nine total defensive innings at first base in his major league career.

Diaz isn’t about to displace Peralta. Last season, Peralta was one of the best-hitting shortstops, finishing with a .275/.334/.411 triple-slash line with 17 home runs and 41 RBI in 640 plate appearances. He was even more productive in 2014, his first year with the Cardinals.