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The two defensive plays that won Game 4 for the Red Sox

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Craig Kimbrel has been a cardiac kid  in the postseason so far and he was no different last night. Called upon for a two-inning save, it no doubt would’ve been a two-inning blown save if not for Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, each of whom turned in brilliant defensive plays that saved Kimbrel’s and the Red Sox’ bacon.

Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced in the eighth inning. The only reason he gave up just one run with all of that traffic, though, was became the guy with the leadoff hit, Tony Kemp, was gunned down trying for two. As you’ll see, it was a pretty reasonable try. Nine times out of ten this hit is a double, but Betts was simply not having it:

 

What a hose that guys has.

Taking their two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, Kimbrel again was working in trouble, issuing back-to-back walks to Josh Reddick and Carlos Correa and then, after out number two, walking Kemp to load the bases. That’s when the dangerous Alex Bregman, bumped up to the leadoff position for Game 5, walked to the plate.

Given how often he’s been on base in the postseason I would’ve bet a fair amount that he’d plate at least one run, and when he hit the ball into shallow left field I figured that run was on its way. Andrew Benintendi had different ideas.

And yes, I’m embedding the Spanish language broadcast. It’s way more exciting a call, frankly:

 

“Defense wins championships” is a football saying, but it could have some applicability to baseball given these two plays which played an outsized part in moving them one game away from an American League championship.

 

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.