Tonight has been a pretty interesting night in that we have seen some excellent performances from pitchers who were written off a long time ago.
Let’s start with Dontrelle Willis. Even though he took the loss tonight against the Rockies, he allowed three runs over eight innings while striking out 10 and walking just one. This was the first time he had went at least eight innings or reached double-digits in strikeouts since the 2007 season. Always handy with the bat, he also hit an RBI triple.
Chien-Ming Wang was just pulled after tossing six shutout innings against the Cubs. Relying primarily on his sinker, he didn’t give up his first hit until Tony Campana beat out an infield single to begin the top of the sixth. Wang struck out just one and walked two, but induced 11 ground balls. This was his first scoreless start since he infamously tore a ligament in his right foot while running the bases against the Astros on June 15, 2008. UPDATE: The Nats topped the Cubs 3-1, so Wang has earned his first win since June 29, 2009.
And we shouldn’t forget about Rich Harden, either. He just spun seven innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays, striking out eight and walking a pair. Though the Red Sox were understandably turned off by his medical records before the trade deadline, the oft-injured right-hander has a 4.07 ERA and 45/15 K/BB ratio over 42 innings this season.
Yes, for one night at least, we have all been transported back to 2005.
The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.
AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.
With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.