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Yankees top Red Sox 4-1 in 16th; Boston plays under protest

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BOSTON — Didi Gregorius lined a go-ahead single in the 16th inning and the New York Yankees outlasted the Boston Red Sox 4-1 Saturday in the longest game between the bitter rivals at Fenway Park since 1966.

Matt Holliday hit a tying home run off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth that cleared the Green Monster, and it took 5 hours, 50 minutes and 512 pitches to finish. That is, if it’s really over – the Red Sox put the game under protest after a bizarre play on the bases involving Holliday in the 11th.

Both teams burned through their bullpens, and the relievers won’t get much rest. The Yankees and the AL East-leading Red Sox are set for a day-night doubleheader Sunday.

Boston starter Chris Sale struck out 13 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He leads the majors with 191 strikeouts.

Yankees starter Luis Severino allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. He gave up Mitch Moreland‘s sacrifice fly in the third.

Ben Heller (1-0) went two innings. Seven Yankees relievers combined to blank Boston on four hits for nine innings.

Doug Fister (0-3) gave up three runs in the 16th. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, Gregorius and Austin Romine hit RBI singles and Gary Sanchez added a sacrifice fly.

A day after Yankees blew a ninth-inning lead and lost, they rallied to win for just the eighth time in 28 games. New York closed within 3 1/2 games of Boston.

The Red Sox had been 43-0 when leading after eight. Kimbrel, the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, had his first career blown save at Fenway following 30 successful ones.

Red Sox manager John Farrell put the game under protest after an odd sequence in the 11th.

Holliday led off with a walk and Ellsbury followed with a grounder to Moreland at first base. Moreland threw to second for a forceout but Holliday retreated toward first and slid into the bag as shortstop Xander Bogaerts‘ throw arrived.

Moreland wasn’t able to reach the ball, which hit Ellsbury and bounced into foul territory. Farrell argued in favor of an interference call and after a lengthy review, the umpires allowed Ellsbury to stay on first.

The clubs last played 16 at Fenway on June 4, 1966, when Jim Gosger’s three-run homer gave Boston a 6-3 victory.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Manager Joe Girardi said the club was “hopeful” that OF Aaron Hicks, on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right oblique, would “start doing some light baseball activity” when the club returns from its season-long, 11-game trip.

Red Sox: Placed RHP Joe Kelly on the 10-day DL before the game with a strained left hamstring and recalled RHP Brandon Workman from Triple-A. . RHP Blaine Boyer left with right elbow tightness. . Bogaerts put on a soft brace to support his left ring and pinkie finger under his batting glove halfway through batting practice.

HONORED

The Red Sox welcomed about 1,300 Vietnam veterans and their families onto the field during a pregame ceremony.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Bryan Mitchell (1-1, 5.06 ERA) is set for the opener and RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-8, 5.47) in the nightcap Sunday.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (4-11, 4.75) and LHP David Price (4-2, 3.91) are slated to start.

Astros exemplify the player-unfriendly bent of analytics

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Even as recently as a decade ago, Sabermetrics was a niche interest among baseball fans. As various concepts began to gain acceptance in the mainstream, players slowly began to accept them as well. Players like Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke were hailed as examples of a new breed of player — one who marries his athleticism with the utilization of analytics. This year, much was made of certain players’ data-driven adjustments, including Daniel Murphy and J.D. Martinez. Both had great seasons as a result of focusing more on hitting more fly balls instead of ground balls and line drives.

Statistics can clearly benefit players. They can also be used against them, and not just by opposing players. The Astros, who are in the World Series for the first time since 2005, are a great example of this. The Astros spent a few years rebuilding after a complete overhaul of the front office, which included bringing in analytically-fluent Jeff Luhnow as GM after the 2011 season. That overhaul instilled so much confidence that, in 2014, Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter predicted that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. He’s only four Astros wins away from being proven correct.

The Astros’ front office, though, took advantage of its players at various times throughout the process. Their success is owed, in part, to exploiting its players. On Twitter, user @chicken__puppet chained a few tweets together exemplifying this:

At its core, analytics is about optimization: getting the most bang for your buck. If you read Moneyball, you know this. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) quickly became synonymous with the field and $/WAR was a natural next step. Sabermetrics defaulted to ownership’s perspective, so highly-paid players who performed poorly were scorned. Cheap players who performed well were lauded.

It is no mere coincidence that once most front offices installed analytics departments, teams stopped handing out so many outrageous contracts to free agent first baseman/DH types. Instead, teams focused on signing their young players to long-term contract extensions to buy out their arbitration years ahead of time, ostensibly saving ownership and the team boatloads of money. Teams began to pay close attention to service time as well. Service time determines when a player becomes eligible for arbitration and free agency, so teams that are able to finagle their players’ service time can potentially delay that player’s free agency by a year. The Cubs tried to do this with third baseman Kris Bryant in 2015, as Craig wrote about.

There is a very real ethical component to covering and being a fan of Major League Baseball, despite the common plea to separate sports from politics. The Astros and Cubs aren’t the only ones exploiting their players; the Angels, for example, made some odd personnel choices earlier this season that happened to allow them to avoid paying some players incentive bonuses. Every front office, in one way or another, games the system because the system is set up to benefit ownership first and players second. And if the likes of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa can be taken advantage of so freely and openly, what hope does anyone else have?

Fans have been conditioned to group players and owners together as one group of rich people. In reality, the player earning $30 million has more in common with the office worker making $35,000 a year than with team owners. When fans hear about Correa making $507,500 instead of $550,000, or about free agent who wants a nine-figure contract, they wonder why he had the nerve to ask for so much money in the first place. We praise players, like Cliff Lee, who “leave money on the table.” Both the player and that fan, by virtue of existing and participating in this system, are locked in an eternal battle with those who cut their paychecks. Regardless of salary differences, the player deserves to benefit from the fruits of his labor as much as the office worker. Part of being a baseball fan should also include rooting for the players’ financial success and not just the owners’.

Praising the Astros for being smart and savvy will only create more incentive for other front offices to mimic these unethical behaviors. The whole theme of the World Series shouldn’t be about smart, analytically-inclined teams reaching the summit; it should in part be about teams getting ahead with a multitude of exploitative practices against their players.