Over the last couple of days we’ve gotten our annual reminder of just how historically significant it was for Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier in 1947. What is often overlooked at these times is just how significant the breaking of the color barrier — or, in the case of some teams, the decision to cling to segregationist policies — was for competitive purposes.
Today Jay Jaffe has a good article about that over at Fangraphs. The big takeaway: the Dodgers, Giants and Braves, all of whom integrated swiftly, came to dominate the National League over the next two decades. In turn, the National League came to dominate all of baseball.
Jaffe goes into pretty good detail on all of this. We all know about Hall of Famers like Robinson and, eventually, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, who were later signed from the Negro Leagues, but Jaffe talks about more minor black stars who helped sustain these clubs in the 1950s and into the 1960s lesser black players who, while perhaps not making a mark in the bigs, made their organizations deeper and more competitive. The story illustrates that it was the commitment to integration, not just the act of integrating, that mattered when it game to the nuts and bolts of baseball.
The Red Sox plated five runs in the top of the eighth inning to put Game 3 of the ALCS out of the reach, taking an 8-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night in Houston. Four of those eighth-inning runs came on a grand slam to right field by Jackie Bradley, Jr. off of reliever Roberto Osuna, turning their two-run deficit into a back-breaking six-run deficit.
Both teams traded blows in the first inning, with the Red Sox plating two runs on a J.D. Martinez double and a Xander Bogaerts ground out against starter Dallas Keuchel. The Astros got a run back in the bottom half against starter Nathan Eovaldi when Marwin González brought home Jose Altuvé with a single.
Keuchel settled down from there. He ultimately gave up the two runs on four hits with a pair of walks and no strikeouts across five innings. Eovaldi wouldn’t give up another run until the fifth, when Alex Bregman doubled home Altuve. Eovaldi yielded the two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in six innings.
Steve Pearce, added to the lineup because of the left-handed Keuchel, smashed a solo home run down the left field line in the sixth against right-handed reliever Joe Smith, breaking the 2-2 tie. Two innings later, all hell broke loose against Osuna. Osuna got Martinez to fly out for the first out, allowed a single to Bogaerts, then got the second out when Pearce gorunded out to third base. Rafael Devers kept the inning alive with a single. Osuna loaded the bases by hitting Brock Holt with an 89 MPH slider, then forced in a run when he hit Mitch Moreland with a 96 MPH fastball. Bradley came up and worked a 1-1 count before depositing a 94 MPH fastball into the right field seats to drastically create space between the Red Sox and Astros.
In the bottom of the eighth, with a healthy five-run cushion, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly combined to keep the Astros off the board. Eduardo Rodríguez got the ball to start the ninth with a pair of lefties slated to bat. Tyler White pinch-hit for Brian McCann but struck out. Evan Gattis then pinch-hit for Tony Kemp and grounded out. Rodríguez cleaned out the inning by striking out George Springer, ending the game in an 8-2 victory for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will take their 2-1 series lead into Houston on Wednesday night. Rick Porcello will oppose Charlie Morton for an 8:39 PM ET start. A Red Sox win tomorrow would bring them one win away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 2013 and it would leave the defending champion Astros one loss away from elimination.