Writing about unwritten rules in 8-3 games, no-hitters

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Sunday gave us more fun with unwritten rules in one already much discussed incident. The Rays’ Yunel Escobar decided to take third base in the seventh inning of an 8-3 game against the Red Sox on Sunday, leading to a benches clearing incident and three ejections.

Now, I’m not sure it’s fair to say the Red Sox took exception to Escobar’s decision. Some idiot on the Red Sox did — David Ross, apparently — but I think what happened afterwards was more about an unpopular player’s reaction to being jawed at, a rather ridiculous hothead in Jonny Gomes wanting a piece of the action and some frustration boiling over from there. There was nothing wrong with Escobar taking that base in a five-run game with two innings left to go. Everyone in the Red Sox clubhouse probably realizes that now.

Less talked about (untalked about?) was what happened in a 6-0 game a thousand miles away. Well, no, plenty was written about that game, too. The Dodgers’ Josh Beckett pitched the first no-hitter of 2014 and the first of his career against the Phillies.

And I think it deserves a tiny asterisk.

The first two players to come to bat for the Phillies in the ninth were pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. and leadoff man Ben Revere, both of whom are accomplished bunters. According to Fangraphs data, Gwynn had already attempted eight bunt hits in 66 at-bats this season, succeeding on two of them. Over the course of his career, one out of every 12 of his hits has been a bunt single. Revere had four successful bunt singles in six tries this year and 25 in his career. One out of every 17 of his hits has been a bunt single.

The Dodgers infield, though, played back on both, further back than the group had played earlier in the game. The Dodgers correctly surmised that neither player would be “bush league” enough to try to break up Beckett’s no-hitter by bunting in a 6-0 game and took advantage of it.

That’s just not fair, in my opinion. I think there’s something to “respecting the accomplishment” and such things. I would have been disappointed had Gwynn or Revere tried a bunt with the outcome essentially in no doubt. But I’m more disappointed that the Dodgers capitalized on that to decrease the chances of Gwynn or Revere getting a clean single. If the fielders are playing closer on the corners, as they should have been, then there’s a better chance that a grounder sneaks through.

It this all nitpicking? Maybe. But this is yet another example of why I don’t like unwritten rules. If the Phillies had broken code today and Revere had bunted for a single, there might well have been foolish repercussions down the line. Certainly, there would be no shortage of articles today fuming about his lack of class. His name would have superseded that of Ben Davis, who famously bunted to break up a Curt Schilling perfect game in the eighth inning (in a 2-0 game) in 2001.

But I say it was the Dodgers who broke code. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you’re going to give the hitter all that room to bunt, you have absolutely no right to complain if he takes it.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.