Obstruction

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

75 Comments

Angels 4, Athletics 3: The Angels take a two-game lead in the west, winning this on a sac fly in the tenth. The play of the game, however, came in the ninth when Erik Aybar chopped one down the first base line. Pitcher Dan Otero and first baseman Brandon Moss converged on the ball and all three of them, more or less, were in the same place at the same time. Otero had the ball and tagged Aybar, but the umpire awarded Aybar first base, claiming Moss obstructed Aybar. Which seems odd as it appears as though Aybar went out of the baseline — way onto the infield grass, actually — in an effort to avoid being tagged and was never really near Moss. I guess the idea is that Aybar could’ve ran where Moss was, as opposed to the infield grass, if he wasn’t there. The A’s are protesting, but I doubt it has a chance given that this is technically a judgment call. Watch the play and judge for yourself:

Reds 7, Cubs 2: The Reds stole six bases, all in the first four innings, and built up an early 6-0 lead on the power of those steals, six hits and four walks. Dylan Axelrod pitched five scoreless innings, striking out eight.

Tigers 3, Yankees 2: Alex Avila knocked a walkoff RBI single with two outs to win it. The Tigers dodged a bullet in the top of the ninth when Brian McCann almost hit a homer but it hooked foul. Phil Coke then pumped fastballs by him to strike him out. Kyle Lobstein held the Yankees in check a day after David Price was beaten up like crazy. Because baseball makes sense like that.

Giants 4, Rockies 1: Yusmeiro Petit set a record: by retiring his first eight batters here he completed a string in which he had retired 46 straight batters. A record most of us didn’t see coming because six of Petit’s eight appearances in that stretch were relief appearances, but just because you didn’t toss a perfect game and then some doesn’t make it any less of a record. Overall Petit allowed one run on four hits in six innings, striking out nine.

Orioles 5, Rays 4: The O’s take three of four from the Rays and now have a seven-game lead in the East with 30 to play. J.J. Hardy put them ahead with a seventh-inning single and Steve Pearce hit a homer.

Braves 6, Mets 1: Mike Minor with a Baseball Bugs night: he hit an RBI single, doubled and scored and pitched seven innings of shutout ball before leaving in the eighth after surrendering just one run.

Indians 3, White Sox 2: Michael Bourn had three hits, two of them triples, and Carlos Carrasco allowed one run over six and two-thirds. The Tribe now heads to Kansas City for a big weekend series with the Royals. They’re four back in the wild card and five and a half back in the Central. This may be their last best chance to firmly insert themselves into the playoff picture.

Twins 11, Royals 5: Minnesota scored six times in the tenth inning, beating up Bruce Chen, who gave up five hits and walked two. Jordan Schafer — who I had no idea had wound up in Minnesota — drove in four for the Twins.

Astros 4, Rangers 2: Jason Castro hit a grand slam in the fifth to account for all of Houston’s runs. How do you account for runs anyway? Is it a LIFO or FIFO thing? That’s basically the extent of my accounting knowledge, by the way. Like, if I was asked to infiltrate a devious accountant’s cell and they held me at gunpoint, suspecting that I was a spy, my only material would be some LIFO/FIFO comment. After that, I’d probably be found floating in the Danube or something. Tough world out there.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

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.