Red Sox play spoiler; Yankees, Orioles tied again

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Boston’s two remaining stars did their thing Tuesday, and the AL East is again all knotted at the top.

With the Orioles having already topped the Rays 9-2, the Red Sox got a game-winning single from Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees 4-3.

Ellsbury ended up 4-for-5 on his 29th birthday, and Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI for Boston.

The Yankees managed to work seven walks against Red Sox starter Jon Lester, but they settled for three runs, even though they had two on with none out in the first, third and sixth innings.

The game got freaky in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan Kalish started the frame with an ugly popup bunt single that fell in over the head of the pitcher but in front of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Pedro Ciriaco then tried to sacrifice him along, only to reach first when catcher Russell Martin mishandled the bunt a foot in front of home plate (it almost certainly would have rolled foul given the backspin on the ball).

Mike Aviles then became the third straight Red Sox hitter to attempt a bunt, only to miss on two stabs. He struck out swinging. That was it for Hiroki Kuroda. Boone Logan came in and induced a grounder to the right side from Ellsbury, but he didn’t bother covering first because he thought Cano would play it, not the first baseman. He was wrong, and the Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out. Logan was pulled, but Joba Chamberlain came in from there and retired Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia to preserve a 3-3 tie.

The Yankees were stifled by the Red Sox pen from there. They finished with just six hits on the night, compared to 12 for Boston. David Robertson took his seventh loss when he gave up Ellsbury’s hit in the ninth.

Baltimore’s win was much easier than Boston’s. The Orioles scored off all five Rays pitchers on the night and handed rookie Matt Moore his 10th loss. J.J. Hardy was the star, going 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBI. Still, it may have been a costly loss for Baltimore, as starter Jason Hammel reinjured his knee in the fourth inning, forcing him to leave the game.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.