Jacoby Ellsbury saves Boston’s bacon with 14th-inning homer

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source: APThis story could have been about Terry Francona dropping the ball.  Fortunately for the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury was there to bail out his manager, with plenty of help from Boston’s bullpen.

Ellsbury, who hit his 29th and 30th homers in a 6-2 loss in the first game Sunday, delivered a three-run bomb off Scott Proctor in the 14th inning of the nightcap, giving Boston a 7-4 win over the Yankees and a one-game lead in the wild card with three games left to play.

It’s going to be a tough sell with Justin Verlander getting so much hype, but Ellsbury’ superb late-season run has made him a serious MVP candidate.  He’s hitting .368 with seven homers, 10 doubles, 20 runs scored and 19 RBI in 106 at-bats this month.  He has 20 homers, 55 runs scored and 54 RBI in 66 games during the second half.

The bullpen also stepped up big for the Red Sox.  With the score tied at 4, Jonathan Papelbon got Daniel Bard out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Austin Romine to end the ninth and then stayed in to pitch scoreless 10th and 11th innings.  It’s just the second time he’s pitched two innings this year and the second time in five years that he’s gotten as many as seven outs.

Relieving Papelbon in the 12th was Franklin Morales, who turned in two scoreless innings of his own.  Felix Doubront worked the 14th for a save.

The Red Sox may well have won this one in regulation if Francona hadn’t dropped the ball.  John Lackey bounced back from a three-run first to give the Red Sox a very solid outing, but for some reason, Francona sent him back out for the seventh with a 4-3 lead, even though Alfredo Aceves had already started warming up in the sixth.  Lackey gave up a leadoff single to Eric Chavez and was immeditely pulled.  The Yankees went on to tie the game after pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sac fly.

Four months ago, the shoe was on the other foot.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Bartolo Colon back out for the seventh in a 2-2 game against the Red Sox, only to pull him after Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to start the inning.  The Red Sox ended up with three runs in the inning and won 5-4.

As I wrote then, if a starting pitcher is just one mistake away from getting pulled, you don’t send him back out to make the mistake.  It’s a foolish way to manage, and while it didn’t cost the Red Sox a win tonight, it may very well cost them Monday after the team had to extend Papelbon, Morales and Bard in this one.

But the Red Sox will carry some momentum with them into the series against the Orioles.  It would have a morose flight to Baltimore had the Red Sox lost this one in extras.  Now they don’t have to depend on the Yankees beating the Rays this week; they can just go ahead and take care of business themselves.

Japanese outfielder Yoshida to negotiate with MLB teams

Masataka Yoshida
Yukihito Taguchi/USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Outfielder Masataka Yoshida will be able to negotiate with Major League Baseball teams starting Wednesday under the posting system with the Japanese big leagues.

A member of Japan’s Olympic team last year, Yoshida will be posted at 8 a.m. EST on Wednesday and MLB teams have until 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 20 to reach an agreement, the commissioner’s office said Tuesday.

The 29-year-old hit .335 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs in 119 games this year for the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League. A left-handed batter, he has a .327 average with 133 homers and 467 RBIs over seven seasons in the Japanese majors.

Yoshida hit .350 with two RBIs as Japan won last year’s Olympic gold medal.

Under 2017 changes to the posting system, the posting fee will be 20% of the first $25 million of a major league contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any amount over $50 million. There would be a supplemental fee of 15% of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.

Hard-throwing right-hander Kodai Senga, another member of the Olympic team, is a free agent and does not have to go through the posting system because he has 11 seasons of service time in the Japanese major leagues.

Senga, who turns 30 in January, was 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA in 22 starts for the Pacific League’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. He pitched three scoreless innings in two outings against the U.S. in the Olympics, allowing one hit and striking out six with two walks.