White Sox manager Robin Ventura used four pitchers to get through the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox. In retrospect, he sure wishes he saved one or two of them for the 14th inning.
Not willing to extend Daniel Webb past three innings and 59 pitches, Ventura turned to Leury Garcia for the 14th against the Red Sox and saw his infielder give up two runs in what turned into a 6-4 loss.
Garcia hit 88 mph on his first pitch and actually got two quick outs with Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski hacking away. Daniel Nava and Jonathan Herrera were smarter and waited out Garcia, whose velocity quickly waned. After those two walks, Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled a liner down to the right-field line for a decisive two-run double. Dustin Pedroia then grounded out to finish the inning.
Other points of interest from the game:
- The Red Sox were the victims the last time a position player won a game; the Orioles’ Chris Davis beat them with scoreless 16th and 17th innings in a game on May 6, 2012.
- The Red Sox opened the top of the first with three straight hits… and then didn’t have another one until the ninth. Following Xander Bogaerts’ RBI single, John Danks pitched six hitless innings, and none of the White Sox first five relievers gave up hits.
- That run the Red Sox scored was their first in the first inning this year.
- That four-pitcher eighth inning went like this: Scott Downs walked David Ortiz was replaced. Jacob Petricka walked Jonny Gomes and was replaced. Donnie Veal came in and got a ground out, a sac fly that reduced the White Sox’s lead from two runs to one and then issued a walk. Maikel Cleto came in then and issued another walk to lead the bases before getting Bradley to pop up to end the frame. So, four walks and one run for the Red Sox.
- That would have seemingly set up Matt Lindstrom to pitch the ninth with a 3-2 lead. The White Sox, though, are already revisiting the closer situation in light of two early blown saves from Lindstrom. Therefore, Cleto stayed in and was set to get a chance to finish it out. Except Cleto walked the first two batters in the ninth. The second of those walks, to Bogaerts, consisted of exactly two pitches outside of the strike zone.
- Lindstrom took over then, leaving him with what might have been the toughest save chance any closer will see this season: one-run lead, two on, none out and David Ortiz at the plate. Lindstrom got Ortiz, but Jonny Gomes hit a slow roller that went as an infield single and Sizemore followed with a sac fly, tying the game. Lindstrom went on to preserve the tie from there and he stayed in and pitched a scoreless 10th, yet all he got was a blown save for his trouble.
- To clarify: Cleto got a hold despite retiring one of four hitters he faced and giving up a run, and Lindstrom was charged with a blown save despite retiring six of seven hitters and not giving up a run.
- Pedroia had two hits and two walks as Boston’s leadoff man in his return to the lineup. He scored three times, which matches the total the team scored in the two games he missed with a sore wrist.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.