Red Sox rout Rays to take 1-0 lead in ALDS

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After falling behind 2-0 after four innings, the Red Sox scored 12 unanswered runs in support of Jon Lester to emerge victorious in Game 1 of the ALDS. Lester had surrendered two solo home runs, one in the second inning to Sean Rodriguez and one in the fourth inning to Ben Zobrist. But the Red Sox, who led the American League in on-base and slugging percentage, would quickly get to Rays starter Matt Moore.

In the bottom half of the fourth, the Sox pushed across five runs on six hits. The big blows included a two-run double by Jonny Gomes and a two-run double by Will Middlebrooks. It turned out Lester wouldn’t need any additional run support, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from piling on.

Moore took the hill to start the fifth, which turned out to be a mistake. Jarrod Saltalamacchia pushed across two runs with a one-out double. Finally, manager Joe Maddon took Moore out for reliever Wesley Wright, but Saltalamacchia eventually came around to score on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, the run charged to Moore. Moore finished the day having allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in four and one-third innings.

The Rays bullpen held the Red Sox at eight runs, giving their offense a slim chance of staging a comeback, but when Jamey Wright came in for the eighth inning, the game was put out of reach. Wright allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base on three consecutive singles followed by two walks, pushing across two runs in the process. Two more would score on a Jonny Gomes 6-4-3 double play and Saltalamacchia’s RBI single, putting the Red Sox up 12-2.

Aside from the two solo shots, Lester was solid, holding the Rays to just the two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. Junichi Tazawa relieved him in the eighth, recording the final out before giving way to Ryan Dempster, who struck out two in the final frame.

Now leading the series 1-0, the Red Sox will look to extend their lead tomorrow at 5:30 PM EDT as John Lackey opposes David Price, who helped pitch the Rays into the Wild Card playoff game by defeating the Rangers in Game 163 of the regular season.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.