Red Sox manager John Farrell allowed Clay Buchholz to give up five runs to the Tigers in Sunday’s ALCS Game 2, only to be bailed out by one swing from David Ortiz’s bat. On Wednesday, there was no such rescue after Jake Peavy was allowed to surrender seven runs in three-plus innings in what turned out to be a 7-3 loss.
The score suggests the Red Sox never really got back into the game, but things could have turned out a lot differently. Boston ended up outhitting Detroit 12-9. The Red Sox had four extra-base hits to the Tigers’ two (none of the six overall were homers).
What really undid Peavy was the three walks in a span of four batters in the second. The last of those, a four-pitch walk to an ice-cold Austin Jackson, forced in a run. The Red Sox could have minimized the damage from there had Dustin Pedroia not muffed a double-play ball. They didn’t, and Peavy gave up two more hits, making it 5-0. The remaining two runs scored in the fourth.
After Peavy departed, the bullpen, stellar all month to date, combined to throw five scoreless innings. The group has allowed a total of two runs in 24 innings, both of those coming in the lone loss to the Rays in the ALDS.
With ex-starters Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster, plus another long guy in Brandon Workman, available in the pen, there just wasn’t any reason to stick with Peavy as long as Farrell did. This isn’t the regular season, when a team may play 10 games in 10 days. It’s the postseason: anything goes. Doubront, Dempster and Workman had combined to throw a total of four innings in the past two weeks. They were all ready, and all capable of throwing multiple innings.
Unless it’s Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright we’re dealing with, in the postseason it’s just not worth sticking with a struggling starter in the hopes he’ll turn it around the second or third time through the order. Sure, it can happen, but the relievers are still better bets. If Farrell proves so passive once the ALCS shifts back to Fenway Park, it could cost his team a World Series trip.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.
The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.
You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this: