White Sox run out of pitchers, hand Red Sox win in 14th


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.

2018 Preview: Detroit Tigers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Tigers.

We can’t blame you if you chose to erase the Tigers’ 2017 season from memory. They plummeted to the bottom of the AL Central division for the second time in three years, hobbled by Michael Fulmer’s chronic shoulder and elbow issues, an untimely implosion from Francisco Rodriguez and the worst version of Miguel Cabrera anyone’s seen to date. Their rotation ranked 13th-best among major league teams; their bullpen, dead last. By mid-July, it was clear the team wasn’t going to touch the division-leading Indians or the surprisingly hot Twins or the streaky Royals. Rather than make a pointless push for the playoffs during the second half, they seized the opportunity to get a head start on a lengthy rebuilding process instead.

Prior to the July 31 trade deadline, the Tigers had already jettisoned some of their biggest contributors—and biggest contracts. J.D. Martinez packed his bags for Arizona as the club gained a trifecta of Diamondbacks shortstop prospects: Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King. Justin Wilson and Alex Avila were swapped for Cubs infielders Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes. In one of the most nerve-wracking deadline deals, Justin Verlander and the outstanding $56 million left on his contract (not including the $22 million vesting option for 2020) were shipped to the Astros for prospect right-hander Franklin Perez, catcher Jake Rogers and outfielder Daz Cameron—with just seconds to spare before the cutoff time.

Of course, the writing was on the wall well before Al Avila decided to host a fire sale. Francisco Rodriguez logged six blown saves in his first 25 appearances with the club and was released after he proved incapable of handling any high-leverage situation. His struggles might have been more easily overlooked had Bruce Rondon not tanked as well, depleting the Tigers of much of their bullpen depth as they dropped yet another closer candidate—Justin Wilson—off with the Cubs.

A dilapidated bullpen wasn’t the team’s only weakness. Perennial All-Star and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera labored through the worst year of his career, slashing .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and a .728 OPS in 529 PA. His power and productivity was zapped by lingering back issues, and he finished the year with two herniated discs in his lower back and a career-worst -0.2 fWAR. Not helping matters was a series of explosive, bench-clearing brawls against the Yankees in August, during which Cabrera got slapped with a seven-game suspension after he incited the first fight against New York catcher Austin Romine.

The offseason yielded few returns. The Tigers declined a $16 million option for Anibal Sanchez and found a taker for Ian Kinsler in the Angels, who helped restock Detroit’s farm system with minor league outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-handed pitching prospect Wikel Hernandez. The team committed another $12 million to rotation and outfield depth with right-hander Mike Fiers, lefties Francisco Liriano and Ryan Carpenter, and outfielder Leonys Martin. Perhaps most notable was a change in management: Brad Ausmus capped a four-year run with the team as Ron Gardenhire stepped into the dugout.

Looking ahead, the Tigers still have a few items to check off their to-do list before they can stage a full-scale rebuild. That includes offloading the remaining $184 million on Cabrera’s contract, something that will be impossible to do unless and until the 35-year-old has a monster bounce-back year in 2018. It also means exploring trade options for Fulmer, who profiles as one of the biggest assets on the Tigers’ 2018 roster and, with four years of control remaining on his current contract, could net some serious talent as they continue to build for the future. Likewise, closer Shane Greene, shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Nicholas Castellanos are all expected to be made available at some point this year.

Come Opening Day, the club will likely roll out a rotation featuring Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers and Matt Boyd. Daniel Norris is also competing for a starting role, though he will likely get edged out by Liriano to start the season. Despite the serious health concerns that were raised last year, Fulmer remains the undisputed ace of the pack after putting up All-Star numbers in 2017, including a 3.83 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 6.2 SO/9 in 164 2/3 innings. No one else (save Verlander) managed an ERA under 5.00 last year; Zimmerman kept a 6.08 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 in 160 innings and led all major-league starters with a league-worst 108 earned runs.

Mikie Mahtook, Leonys Martin and Nick Castellanos project as the Opening Day outfield trio, though JaCoby Jones has looked versatile enough to back up all three spots this spring. Both Mahtook and Castellanos had decent runs last year, while Martin will try to stage a comeback after slashing just .172/.232/.281 with three home runs in back-to-back gigs with the Mariners and Cubs.

Cabrera, naturally, is expected to resume his post at first base and fellow veteran Victor Martinez will continue to slot in at DH. Both Cabrera and Martinez have looked exceptional at the plate this spring, but take that with a grain (or several hundred) of salt. Dixon Machado is set for a full-time role at second base, with Jose Iglesias at shortstop and Jeimer Candelario at third. James McCann and John Hicks are scheduled to share time behind the dish again. Barring a lot of surprises and bounce-back efforts, that doesn’t make for a very intimidating lineup, and probably not one that can supersede the collective .258/.324/.424 batting line the offense managed last year.

In a nutshell: Rebuilds are no fun to watch. The Tigers were very bad last season, and they’re going to be very bad this season. Cross your fingers that Miguel Cabrera looks as sharp in the regular season as he has in camp, keep an eye on that no. 1 draft pick this June, enjoy the September call-ups, maybe attend a few minor league games, and keep reminding yourself that contention is only a few years away (probably).

Prediction: 5th place, AL Central