Don’t blame Will Middlebrooks for the fluky obstruction call that ended Game 3. Don’t blame umpire Jim Joyce, who made the gutsy choice to call it and give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.
Blame the guy who made the bad throw in the first place: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The struggling Saltalamacchia shouldn’t have even been in the game; Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted afterwards that he blew it by not double-switching in David Ross for Salty when he brought in Brandon Workman to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Salty had just grounded out with two on to end the top of the eighth.
There was also a great case for pinch-hitting for Saltalamacchia against left-hander Kevin Siegrist to start the seventh. Salty struggles against lefties anyway, and he’s been awful against everyone of late, striking out 19 times in the postseason. He fanned in that at-bat, and then Farrell pinch-hit Will Middlebrooks for Stephen Drew with one out and Jonny Gomes for the pitcher’s spot with two outs. If Farrell was going to go hog wild with pinch-hitters anyway, he should have had Gomes lead off and Ross bat for the pitcher.
On the crucial play in the ninth, Salty’s initial mistake was to throw the ball to third in the first place. One of the most effective relievers in the league was on the mound in Koji Uehara. One of the worst hitters in the league, Pete Kozma, was due to bat next with two outs. Even without taking that into consideration, the smart play was to put the ball in his back pocket. Given the matchup, it was a no-brainer.
But Salty made the throw, and it was a bad one. It was the second straight loss for the Red Sox swinging on an errant throw to third base. In Game 2, that throw was made by Craig Breslow from behind home plate. But the ball only made it to Breslow because Salty decided to keep his foot on home trying to handle Jonny Gomes’ relay instead of coming off the base to handle it. So, Salty had quite a hand in that loss as well. Throw in his struggles at the plate, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back in the lineup in Game 4. The free-agent-to-be will also sit out Game 5 with Jon Lester pitching (Ross has turned into his personal catcher), so it’s possible Salty has made his last start for the Red Sox.
The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.
Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.
Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.
There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.
Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.
Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.
With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.
Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.