Justin Maxwell hits walk-off grand slam as Royals defeat Rangers, clinch AL West for Athletics

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“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” was the theme today as Royals outfielder Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning against the Rangers, clinching the AL West for the Athletics in the process. The Athletics entered the afternoon with a magic number of one, meaning that either a Rangers loss or an Athletics win today would have sealed up the division for the A’s.

The Rangers and Royals entered the bottom of the 10th deadlocked at 0-0 following outstanding pitching performances from starters Alexi Ogando and James Shields. Ogando went seven strong innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out five. Shields went eight, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out two. For the Royals, Greg Holland and Tim Collins each pitched a scoreless inning in support of Shields.

Rangers reliever Neal Cotts started the 10th inning because of the platoon match-up against Eric Hosmer, but Hosmer doubled to left to put the Royals in good starting position to stage a walk-off. Manager Ron Washington walked to the mound and called for Joakim Soria, the former closer for the Royals from 2007-11. Soria intentionally walked Billy Butler to set up the double play, but was then victimized by an infield single by Salvador Perez to load the bases with no outs. The Royals, though, seemed to squander their opportunities with the winning run just 90 feet away. Mike Moustakas popped out, and George Kottaras grounded out, leaving the Royals’ hopes in the inning to Justin Maxwell. Maxwell worked the count to 3-2 against Soria, then turned on a 92 MPH cutter and sent it well beyond the fence in left field for a walk-off grand slam.

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With their AL West hopes officially dashed, the 84-71 Rangers now turn their attention to the Wild Card. As the Indians won 9-2 over the Astros this afternoon, the Rangers are now 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Rangers are now 5-15 in the month of September.

Meanwhile, the Royals keep a faint glimmer of hope alive as they are 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. They have also clinched their first winning season since 2003.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.