The Red Sox sent 10 men to the plate in a six-run ninth to overcome a terrific effort from Felix Hernandez and defeat the Mariners 8-7 on Thursday, completing a three-game sweep at Fenway Park.
According to the win expectancy data at Fangraphs, the Red Sox entered the ninth with exactly a one percent chance of winning. It would have been even less than that if not for Shane Victorino’s solo homer off Charlie Furbush in the eighth, making it a 7-2 game.
The ninth was fueled by walks, three of them in all. Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who lost his job earlier this season because of control problems, issued two of them and allowed two hits without ever retiring a batter. He was pulled from a 7-3 game.
The plan then was to go to Yoervis Medina with Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia due up. However, the umpiring crew said that Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson, who is filling in while Eric Wedge recovers from a mild stroke, signaled with his left hand instead of his right, calling Oliver Perez into the game. Perez has been plenty good against right-handers this season anyway, so it wasn’t necessarily a huge problem. However, he gave up back-to-back hits before striking out David Ortiz for the first out of the frame.
Medina was finally called into what was a 7-6 game at that point. He appeared to have Jonny Gomes struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but David Rackley, who had a terribly inconsistent strike zone all night, called the pitch on the corner a ball. Gomes went on to single in the tying run. After Stephen Drew walked, Daniel Nava hit a ball to the wall in center, ending the game and giving the Red Sox their second walkoff win in about 21 hours.
For Hernandez, it was the fifth time this season in which he’s allowed just one run and ended up with a no-decision. It also happened last time out when he pitched nine innings and struck out 11 against the Twins.
The Red Sox improved to 66-44 with the sweep. Their .600 winning percentage is better by only the Pirates’ .602 mark.
Let’s face it: most of the good news for the Twins this year has come from the minors, as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have emerged as two of the game’s top five prospects. What’s happened with the major league club has been mostly bad.
That’s especially the case with Scott Diamond, the team’s best starter while going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA as a rookie last year, and Aaron Hicks, the team’s former No. 1 prospect who won the center field job this spring. Both were demoted back to the minors on Thursday.
Diamond, whose season didn’t start until mid-April following December surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, was 5-10 with a 5.52 ERA and just 45 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. He had turned in just three quality starts in 2 1/2 months, and he gave up six earned runs in a loss to the Royals on Thursday. The Twins felt it was time to take a look at someone else, probably Andrew Albers, and now that the trade deadline passed without a Mike Pelfrey trade, that opportunity is coming at Diamond’s expense.
The 23-year-old Hicks showed improvement in June and the first half of July, but he had slumped again of late, leaving him at .192/.259/.338 in 281 at-bats for the season. The Twins took quite a risk this spring when they opted to have him skip Triple-A and go right to the majors, and it’s clear now that it didn’t pay off. Still, Hicks is young enough that no one is giving up on him yet. He’ll be back in September, and he’ll probably get another chance to play regularly then. In the meantime, the Twins will go with Clete Thomas in center and give Oswaldo Arcia another chance in a corner. The 21-year-old Arcia was recalled today after hitting .375/.490/.725 with four homers in 13 games for Triple-A Rochester last month.
Carlos Gonzalez is expected to avoid the disabled list, but he will give his sprained finger some time off after exiting Wednesday’s game with the injury, the Denver Post’s Troy Renck reports.
Gonzalez has been dealing with a sprained left middle finger for weeks and opted out of the Home Run Derby because of it. He tried resting it for four days last week, and he went 5-for-5 after returning to Colorado’s lineup on Monday. However, it wasn’t enough to take care of the injury once and for all.
Gonzalez leads the NL with a .965 OPS this year, and he was on top in homers, too, before the finger injury became a bigger factor. He has just one since the All-Star break, and Domonic Brown has overtaken him for the NL lead, 27-26.
When Gonzalez stole two bases on Monday, it gave him his fourth straight 20 HR-20 SB season. The only active players with more career 20-20 seasons are Carlos Beltran (seven), Alex Rodriguez (six) and Hanley Ramirez (five). Jimmy Rollins and Alfonso Soriano also have four apiece.