April 30, 2016

G24: Red Sox 8, Yankees 0

Yankees - 000 000 000 - 0  5  1
Red Sox - 020 002 40x - 8 11  1
Dan Iassonga is a horrible major league umpire, a disgrace to the profession. In 2012, NBC Sports called him "one of the game's worst umpires" and he has done nothing to improve his reputation since then. He has blown calls against the Red Sox before, distinguished himself with pointless ejections, and generally made a name for himself as a shitty ump. During last year's postseason, he actually apologized for making a particularly egregious ball-strike call.

For five innings on Saturday, Iassonga called a strike on virtually every low pitch thrown by Yankees starter Michael Pineda (5-5-2-3-3, 106). As long as the ball didn't bounce in front of the plate, there was a good chance Iassonga would be calling it a strike. It got so bad I wondered if Iassonga had money on New York and was trying to help them along. I counted at least 12 pitches that were out of the strike zone and were called strikes for Pineda. Boston's Rick Porcello (7-5-0-1-6, 106) received far fewer gifts.

Fortunately, Iassonga's incompetence - or favouritism - made no difference in the game's outcome. Jackie Bradley led the Red Sox's offense with two triples, a double, two runs scored, and three RBI. He was in the middle of all three Boston rallies, as they pummeled Pineda and a bunch of nobodies with names like Johnny Barbato and Nick Goody. Mookie Betts also drove in three runs and David Ortiz hit his 450th home run as a Red Sock.

Boston put two men on base with two outs in the first inning but that early threat was aborted when Iassonga rung up Hanley Ramirez on a pitch that was well inside. In the second, after the first two batters were retired, Christian Vazquez singled to left. Bradley doubled off the Wall (similar to his game-tying double last night) and Betts followed by poking a double to short right that fell in near the foul line for two runs.

The Red Sox added to their lead against Chasen Shreve in the sixth. Brock Holt walked with one out and scored on Bradley's triple that rolled past Jacoby Ellsbury and into the triangle. Kirby Yates came out of the MFY bullpen and Betts greeted him with a single that scored JBJ, giving Boston a 4-0 lead. Betts stole second and Yates walked Dustin Pedroia, but Xander Bogaerts grounded out to end the inning.

Ortiz led off the seventh against Barbato by golfing a 2-1 pitch over the Red Sox's bullpen for a solo dong. Ramirez walked and Travis Shaw singled to the opposite field, beating the shift. Holt reached base on second baseman Starlin Castro's fielding error, and a run scored. After Vazquez struck out, Nick Goody was next out of the visitors' pen and Bradley ripped the ball into the right field corner. Carlos Beltran was slow to chase after it (or maybe that's as fast as he runs these days) and Bradley had another triple.

The Red Sox tried to pile on more runs in the eighth, but left the bases loaded against Goody.

It was yet another dismal day for the Yankees' weak bats as only two runners advanced past first base. New York stranded two men on in the second inning. They had first-and-third with two outs in the fifth, but Ellsbury grounded out. New York (8-14) has lost four straight games.

After Porcello left, Robbie Ross and Junichi Tazawa finished up.
Example
Michael Pineda / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
Porcello pitched 6.1 shutout innings against Atlanta in his last outing, lowering his ERA to 3.51 and his WHIP to 0.94. Boston has won all four of his starts.

Pineda has a 6.95 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. through four starts. In his last time out, Pineda allowed seven runs on 10 hits to the Rays, including four home runs.
                            AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
Batters Against Porcello   .200  .255  .421   .676
Batters Against Pineda     .316  .356  .674  1.030

Schadenfreude 187 (A Continuing Series)



Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
There are 139 games remaining on David Ortiz's farewell tour, but it's hard to imagine many of them will compare with Friday night.

The Yankee-killer crushed a two-run home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning, snapping a tie score and lifting the Red Sox to a 4-2 comeback win in the first of three weekend tilts at Fenway Park. ...

[The Yankees] continued to struggle at the plate, scoring three-or-fewer runs for the 16th time in 21 games this season and falling to 3-13 in those games. It was the 11th time the Yankees scored no more than two runs, dropping them to 0-11 in those.

The Yankees have now lost three in a row, four out of five and 11 of their last 15, lowering their record to 8-13.

George A. King III, Post:
All aboard the pinstriped bobsled to hell without a brakeman.

With five months remaining in a season that has started miserably, it's possible the Yankees absorbed their toughest defeat Friday night.

They led the Red Sox by two runs going into the seventh with ace Masahiro Tanaka hurling a shutout. ... Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were poised to close it out.

Instead, Tanaka gave up a two-run double to Jackie Bradley, Jr., the ninth hitter, in the seventh inning to tie the score, and Betances watched David Ortiz drive a first-pitch breaking ball on the outer half over the Green Monster in the eighth to lift the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory ...

The loss dropped the 8-13 Yankees a season-high 5½ games back of the AL East-leading Orioles. ...

In the last 16 games, the Yankees have scored 39 runs. That's an average of 2.43 runs per game.

"I believe we are going to bust out of this," Girardi said. "We are having opportunities. You keep getting opportunities, it will turn."

The question is when, because the bobsled is gaining speed.


Wallace Matthews, ESPN:
In the space of five pitches, the Red Sox had two runners on after sharp singles by Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, and two batters later, the game was tied and Tanaka was headed to the clubhouse. ...

What made it even more painful for Yankee fans is that manager Joe Girardi had both his virtually-unhittable setup man, Dellin Betances, and his lefty specialist, Chasen Shreve, up and seemingly ready to go in the bullpen before the left-handed hitting Bradley stepped to the plate. ...

But on this night, Girardi's faith in his starter turned out to be misplaced, and when David Ortiz launched a two-run home run over the Monster off Betances in the eighth, instead of an inspiring 2-0 victory the Yankees faced a dispiriting 4-2 defeat ...

Ken Davidoff, Post:
When does early become late? How low can a baseball team go before ultimately shrugging it off as much ado about nothing?

These 2016 Yankees sure seem interested in tackling those questions, don't they?

With April nearly at its end, the Yankees hit a new low Friday night at Fenway Park. ...

They can go only so low, can dive only so deep, before the worry morphs into something more sinister. Before they're not all as polite about falling on their swords.

When does early become late? Each night like this one gets them closer to the answer they don't want to know.

Guess The Count #5 - With Lance Barksdale

Hello again, everybody, and welcome to Guess The Count!, the umpiring game where we give you the pitches and you make the calls. Test your skills as an arbiter against those of a real Major League Baseball umpire.

Today's man behind the plate is Lance Barksdale and we will be looking at the Red Sox/Yankees game from Friday, April 29, 2016. So make your guesses and then see how you matched up against our big-time ump. One explanation before we start: There are no tricks. All of the pitches were taken by the batter; he did not swing at any of them.

Ready? Let's begin! New York's Masahiro Tanaka rocks and deals ... and it's time for you to ... guess the count!


Now we have Henry Owens of the Red Sox on the hill:


Check the comments for how Barksdale called the pitches. ... How did you do? Do you have what it takes to be a major league umpire? If not, better luck next time!

Finally, we'd like to thank today's sponsor: Acme Robotics!

And that's all for today from ... Guess The Count!

April 29, 2016

G23: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2

Yankees - 010 010 000 - 2  6  1
Red Sox - 000 000 22x - 4  8  0
After Jackie Bradley's clutch two-run double off the Wall tied the game in the seventh, David Ortiz blasted an opposite field two-run homer into the Monster Seats to give the Red Sox a 4-2 victory over the last-place Yankees.

The Boston bats were listless against Masahiro Tanaka (6.2-6-2-0-5, 99), managing only three singles through six innings. Indeed, only one Red Sox runner had advanced past first base, and the Yankees led 2-0. But with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Travis Shaw chopped a single down the left field line and Brock Holt lined a single past the dive of third baseman Chase Headley. Potential tying runs on base, one out. Ryan Hanigan went down on strikes for the third straight time, leaving things in the hands of Bradley. JBJ wasted no time, smacking the first pitch (an outside fastball) off the left field wall. Shaw scored easily and Holt was rounding third by the time Brett Gardner threw the ball back to the infield. Holt scored the tying run without a play.

That was the end of Tanaka's night and manager Joe Girardi brought in Dellin Betances (23 strikeouts in 10 innings of work this season). Mookie Betts flied out to end the inning and Girardi stayed with Betances for the eighth. After Dustin Pedroia grounded to second, Xander Bogaerts singled up the middle. Then it was up to Big Papi (0-for-7, 4 K against Betances). He launched an outside curveball over the Wall to give Boston a 4-2 lead. Craig Kimbrel had an easy inning in the ninth. Boston pitchers retired the last 13 Yankee hitters.

Henry Owens (6-6-2-3-3, 92) was wild at times, but he held the Yankees in check, and was helped out by four double plays. He began the night by walking Jacoby Ellsbury (leading off with a .268 OBP?!) and allowing a hit to Gardner. Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play and Mark Teixeira flied to left.

In the second, Alex Rodriguez crushed a homer into one of the light towers over the Monster Seats. One out later, Starlin Castro hit a sinking liner to center. The ball skipped past Bradley and rolled and rolled and rolled. Because Castro was slow out of the box, thinking the ball would be caught, he had to stop at third with a triple. If he had hustled, he might have had an ITPHR. Headley flied to left and Brock Holt gunned down Castro at the plate by 10-15 feet to end the inning.

After Owens walked Ellsbury with one out in the third, he got out of the inning with a double play of a strikeout of Gardner and caught stealing of Ellsbury. Castro's leadoff single in the fifth was wiped out by a fourth double play. Owens then drilled Didi Gregorius in the back to keep the inning alive. Ellsbury and Gardner followed with singles and New York led 2-0.

However, Gardner would be the last Yankee to reach base. Beltran popped out to end the fifth and the Yankees went in order in the next four innings, hitting only three balls out of the infield: Owens in the sixth, Matt Barnes in the seventh, Koji Uehara in the eighth, and Kimbrel in the ninth.

The Yankees scored three runs or fewer for the 16th time in 21 games; they are 3-13 in those games. It was also the 11th time the Yankees scored two runs or fewer, and they are 0-11 in those games.

The Orioles beat the White Sox, so Boston (13-10) stayed 1.5 GB. New York fell to 8-13, 5.5 GB.
Example
Masahiro Tanaka / Henry Owens
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
Weekend Match-ups
Saturday, 7 PM: Michael Pineda / Rick Porcello
Sunday, 8 PM: Nathan Eovaldi / David Price
             W   L   PCT   GB
Orioles     13   8  .619  ---
Red Sox     12  10  .545  1.5
Rays        10  11  .476  3.0
Blue Jays   10  13  .435  4.0
Yankees      8  12  .400  4.5
AL Team Batting Leaders

Runs Scored
#1 Red Sox, 114
#14, Yankees, 72

Doubles
#1, Red Sox, 63
#15, Yankees, 21

Batting Average
#1, Red Sox, .278
#11, Yankees, .237

On-Base Percentage
#1, Red Sox, .341
#10, Yankees, .309

Slugging Percentage
#2, Red Sox, .443
#14, Yankees, .369

AL Team Pitching Leaders

ERA
#13, Yankees, 4.42
#14, Red Sox, 4.43

WHIP
#6, Yankees, 1.249
#13, Red Sox 1.367


Joel Sherman, Post, April 28:
The biggest concern about the Yankees rotation going into the season was all the physical red flags that existed up and down the group.

So what is scary for the organization now is that the Yankees starters have been mostly awful — and wholly healthy. This is not about injury. Just incompetence.

Pick your early-season poison why the Yankees have struggled: poor starting pitching, terrible hitting. ...

[T]hrough 19 unappetizing games, the Yankees rotation ERA is 5.18. Only the team that beat them in last year's wild-card game, the Astros (5.38), had a worse ERA in the AL. ...

The Yankees have just eight quality starts in 19 games. and one reason is an inability to navigate a lineup capably three times. The third time through a lineup, the Yankees rotation is yielding a major league-worst .963 OPS.
And yet, here is the Daily News: "Masahiro Tanaka Looking Like Ace For Yankees".

We'll see about that tonight.

And Something For The Orsillo Fans ...

Awful Announcing:
[Don] Orsillo is currently calling the team's games along with long-time Padres color commentator Mark Grant. The relationship between Orsillo and Grant has been nothing short of amazing so far.

During Monday's game, Orsillo teased Grant about his tie clip to the point of nearly choking because he was laughing so hard. ...

Somewhere in Boston, a solitary tear runs down the cheek of Jerry Remy.
The Red Sox play the Padres in San Diego on September 5-6-7.

April 28, 2016

G22: Atlanta 5, Red Sox 3

Atlanta - 030 101 000 - 5 12  2
Red Sox - 101 000 001 - 3 10  0
Clay Buchholz (6.1-8-5-4-2, 104) had extreme difficulty with the lower third of Atlanta's order. The 7-8-9 hitters scored all five runs against Buchholz as Atlanta snapped its eight-game losing streak. Boston's four-game winning streak also came to an end.

After Hanley Ramirez's RBI-single gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the first inning (Boston has outscored its opponents 30-5 in the first inning of the last 18 games), Atlanta came storming back. With one out, Buchholz walked Jace Peterson and Erick Aybar was safe on an infield single. Mallex Smith hit a ground-rule double into the right field corner, tying the game at 1-1. Nick Markakis (4-for-5) lined a single to left-center, scoring two more runs.

Boston got one run back in the third when Xander Bogaerts doubled and scored on Ramirez's two-bagger.

In the fourth, Buchholz walked Peterson again. Aybar reached on a force play, moved up on a groundout from Smith, and scored on Markakis's single. Buchholz walked Peterson for the third time to start the sixth and he came around to score on Smith's single.

The Red Sox's best chance to rally came in the seventh against former Boston reliever Alexi Ogando. Christian Vazquez grounded a single to right and Mookie Betts walked. With the potential tying run at the plate, Dustin Pedroia flied to right; Vazquez tagged and went to third. A passed ball put Betts on second. Bogaerts struck out and lefty Hunter Cervenka came out of the bullpen to retire David Ortiz on a grounder to second.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Betts singled and took second on indifference. Pedroia's single off the Wall scored Betts and made it 5-3. Again, Boston had the tying run at the plate. But Bogaerts grounded Arodys Vizcaino's first pitch into the shortstop hole, and Pedroia was forced at second by Aybar to end the game.

Ramirez finished with two singles and a double. ... Betts's ninth-inning single extended his hitting streak to nine games. ... Bogaerts doubled and walked twice.

NESN Note: In the top of the eighth, NESN's Dave O'Brien wondered if the Red Sox's inability to score runs (on a Thursday night) was in any way tied to the team's early morning flight to Atlanta on Monday after Sunday night's late game. (Never mind that the team played and won two games in Atlanta, took another night flight to Boston, and then played yet another kick-ass game in the meantime.) It's one thing to wonder such a thing, it's another to say it out loud over the air. Jerry Remy likely thought O'Brien had momentarily lost his mind, but he was very polite when he responded.
Example
Jhoulys Chacin / Clay Buchholz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C

April 27, 2016

Red Sox Pitchers Striking Out Batters At A Historic Pace

Red Sox pitchers struck out 210 opposing batters through the team's first 20 games. According to Elias, no team since 1900 has recorded as many strikeouts in its first 20 games.

The Red Sox added 10 more Ks in their 21st game on Wednesday night, a 9-4 win over Atlanta, pushing their season total to 220.

The previous record was Cleveland's mark of 198 strikeouts through 20 games of 2015. (The Phillies' staff is right on Boston's heels this season, with 213 strikeouts in 21 games.)

Red Sox pitchers lead the majors with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings: starters (10.4/9IP) and relievers (10.5/9IP).

David Price, who tied a career high with 14 strikeouts on Tuesday night, leads the American League with 46 punchouts.

G21: Red Sox 9, Atlanta 4

Atlanta - 011 000 011 - 4  6  0
Red Sox - 240 200 01x - 9 11  1
The 2016 Red Sox have scored more runs in the first inning (28) than in any other frame, by far. The next most productive innings are the sixth (17 runs) and the third (15 runs).

On Wednesday night, Bud Norris could record only four outs (1.1-7-6-2-0, 48) before he was ordered to the showers, as Boston again struck early and often, winning their fourth consecutive game. David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez drove in runs in the first inning and Dustin Pedroia poked a grand slam off the right field foul pole in the second as the team batted around for the third time in two games. Pedroia added a solo shot in the eighth - which came one pitch after Atlanta catcher A.J. Pierzynski and third baseman Daniel Castro watched a two-out foul pop fall untouched between them - to finish the night with five RBI.

Ortiz doubled in each of his first three at-bats; the third two-bagger missed being a home run by less than one inch, as it hit the top of the center field fence just under the bottom of the yellow line on the Wall. Big Papi scored twice and drove in two runs. He now has 1,119 extra-base hits, which ties him with George Brett for 16th all-time. The next batter in his sights is Manny Ramirez (#15, 1,122). Ortiz also has 595 career doubles, good for 16th place all-time.

Steven Wright (7-3-2-3-8, 116) was solid once again, though the unpredictability of his knuckleball caused no end of grief for Ryan Hanigan behind the plate. Hanigan was charged with four passed balls, including three in the fourth inning. Wright - who has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 15 career starts - lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.37.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on Ortiz's double into the right field corner. Ramirez followed with a bloop single to center to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Ramirez then stole second base, giving the Red Sox 20 steals in 22 attempts this season.

Hanigan began the second inning with a single to left. Jackie Bradley walked and Mookie Betts singled to right, loading the bases. Pedroia then homered on a 1-0 pitch, his third career grand slam. Bogaerts grounded out and Ortiz doubled off the Wall - and that was the end of Norris's night. John Gant, who ended up pitching 4.2 innings of relief, kept things quiet until the fourth, when Bogaerts walked and scored on Ortiz's third double/near-home run to center. After Ramirez fanned, Travis Shaw hit the first triple of his career, which upped the score to 8-2.

NESN Note: Before the game started, NESN showed a graphic illustrating how the top three batters in the Red Sox order - Betts, Pedroia, and Bogaerts - had "set the table" during the five-game road trip. Yet in attempting to show how often those three hitters reached base, NESN did not use on-base percentage, but emphasized their batting averages. Despite the Red Sox's embrace of and reliance upon advanced metrics, NESN remains in the dark ages. Its continued use of fielding percentage to measure the strength of a team's defense is perhaps Exhibit A in that regard. Many baseball observers exposed the flaws in fielding percentage way back in the 1880s. NESN has yet to see the light.
Example
Bud Norris / Steven Wright
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
It would be great to start the series against the Yankees on Friday with the Red Sox (now 0.5 GB) in first place and the MFY in the cellar. There are two weekend series against the Yankees in the next two weeks: April 29, 30, and May 1 at Fenway, and May 6-8 in New York.

April 26, 2016

G20: Red Sox 11, Atlanta 4

Red Sox - 400 010 105 - 11 13  1
Atlanta - 100 100 002 -  4  8  0
David Price (8-6-2-2-14, 115) tied a career high with 14 strikeouts. Atlanta did load the bases against Price twice, in the first and fourth innings, but the Boston lefty finished strong, striking out the last five batters he faced. Eight of Price's last nine outs were by strikeout.

Travis Shaw drove in a career-high five runs, with a three-run home run in the first and a two-run double in the ninth. Xander Bogaerts had three hits, stole two bases and scored twice; Dustin Pedroia and Shaw also scored two runs each.

Nine of Boston's hits were for extra-bases: seven doubles (by seven different players), one triple, and one home run. Everyone in the starting lineup except Price had at least one hit, and Price drew a walk in the fourth. Boston pounded six hits, including five for extra bases, in the ninth inning as they put the game well out of reach.

Pat Light made his major league debut in the ninth, in relief of Price. He was clearly nervous and allowed two singles to his first two hitters. Then he issued a four-pitch walk, loading the bases. Facing the top of Atlanta's order, Light settled down and got three ground ball outs, though two meaningless runs did score.

After the Red Sox batted around and took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, Price recorded two outs on only four pitches before allowing three singles and a walk, and a run. In the bottom of the fourth, Atlanta loaded the bases with one out and because the score was only 4-1, that jam prompted manager John Farrell to call up the bullpen. No one got up to throw, though, and Price wriggled out of trouble, giving up one run on a sacrifice fly.

With Bogaerts's two stolen bases and one from Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have stolen 19 bases in 20 games. They did not reach 19 steals until their 51st game last season.

The Red Sox (11-9) are only 0.5 GB the Orioles in the AL East. Boston and Atlanta now play two games at Fenway Park.
Example
David Price / Matt Wisler
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Shaw, 3B
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Price, P
Among the 52 qualifying American League pitchers, Price's ERA of 7.06 is dead last. And it's 103 out of 105 MLB pitchers.

Announcers Say The Darndest Things

In the bottom of the first inning of last night's game, NESN's Steve Lyons said:
If you get 10 hits, you should win a ball game.
This struck me as very silly, since the object of a team is to get runs, not hits. I understand, of course, that if a team gets 10+ hits in a game, it likely means they have scored at least a handful of runs, possibly (or probably) enough to win the game. But it's still an odd thing to say.

I checked this season's games with Baseball Reference's amazing Play Index. There have been 152 instances in which a team got 10 hits and won, and 47 instances in which a team got 10 hits and lost. That's a .764 winning percentage. In 2015, teams with 10+ hits went 1299-534, .708. So teams with 10+ hits win roughly three out of every four games. Maybe (gulp) Lyons wasn't so silly after all.
Example
I must give thanks to Lyons for noting in the top of the third inning, with Mookie Betts on second base, that "a single most likely would drive in a run". I swear Lyons emphasized the words "most likely", indicating that a run would not be guaranteed to score. I desperately want to believe that Lyons was directing his comment to NESN's Dave O'Brien, who regularly says, with a runner on second, that a hit "will" drive in a run or a hit "means" a run - as though that result is codified in the rule book.

Last night, O'Brien watched as Christian Vazquez had to stay at second even as Rick Porcello bunted for a single. Will that cause him to reflect on (and then correct) his choice of words in the future? I doubt it.
Example
O'Brien also said (as the game begun) that Porcello was off to the "best start of his career". O'Brien likely meant Porcello's 3-0 record, because he (and Lyons) made a big deal later in the game about the possibility of going to 4-0. O'Brien and Lyons should know that W-L records are virtually useless for pitchers. I'll look instead at Porcello's ERA, which was 4.66 (nearly one run above the AL average of 3.71) at the start of last night's game:

Porcello's ERA After Three Starts
2016 - 4.66
2015 - 6.63
2014 - 3.15
2013 - 11.08 (also included one relief appearance)
2012 - 6.32
2011 - 6.19
2010 - 6.46
2009 - 4.50
Porcello has had two seasons in which his ERA was lower after three starts than it was in 2016, though only 2014 is substantially lower. I would say that Porcello was not off to the best start of his career.
Example
During a game on the last homestand, the Red Sox were trailing by a couple of runs and batting in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, O'Brien said the team was "down to their last man". This statement was completely wrong. The Red Sox were, in fact, down to their last out. There is a huge difference. As long as the Red Sox did not make the game's final out, they could keep sending men to the plate. O'Brien should know better.

April 25, 2016

G19: Red Sox 1, Atlanta 0

Red Sox - 000 000 100 - 1  6  0
Atlanta - 000 000 000 - 0  4  2
Jackie Bradley's first home run of the year accounted for the only run of the night. The racist, tomahawk-chopping* fans in Atlanta probably had no idea what the home run was. Atlanta is 4-15, the worst record in MLB, and has hit only three long balls in 19 games this season, and none in the last 14 games.

Rick Porcello (6.1-4-0-2-6, 98) pitched at least six innings for the 12th consecutive start, the longest current streak in the majors right now. Robbie Ross relieved the Mushroom in the seventh, with runners at first and second and one out. A force play put an enemy runner on third, but Ross struck out pinch-hitter Erick Aybar on a called strike three to end the inning.

Atlanta appeared to have a baserunner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when a pitch from Craig Kimbrel hit Freddie Freeman's right (front) foot. Freeman called to the dugout and pointed to his foot, so the home plate umpire's call of "ball 1" was challenged. NESN's two replay angles were not good, but it did look like he was hit. However, the call was not overturned! Four pitches later, Freeman struck out, and the Red Sox were victorious.

After Bradley's one-out homer in the seventh, Boston kept hitting. Christian Vazquez doubled. Porcello bunted for a single, but Vazquez had to stay on the bag. (Note to Dave O'Brien: See? Singles do not always score the man on second!) After Mookie Betts fanned, Dustin Pedroia walked, loading the bases. Xander Bogaerts lined to center for the third out.

The Red Sox had scored in the first inning in five consecutive games, but went in order tonight.

*: The tomahawk chop is far worse than Chief Wahoo. What makes it so offensive is the "warpath" organ music played over the PA by the team. I find it astounding that this shit still goes on. It's also surprising that Wahoo gets so much attention, while the chop is ignored, for the most part.
Example
Rick Porcello / Julio Teheran
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Shaw, 1B
Rutledge, 3B
Holt, LF
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Porcello, P

April 24, 2016

G18: Red Sox 7, Astros 5 (12)

Red Sox - 302 000 000 002 - 7 16  1
Astros  - 012 000 002 000 - 5 11  3
Example
Henry Owens / Scott Feldman
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
Lefty Henry Owens gets the call to fill Joe Kelly's spot in the rotation. Owens, who will turn 24 in July, made 11 starts for the Red Sox last season, with a 4.57 ERA. He has made three starts for Pawtucket this month, allowing only two earned runs in 18 innings (1.00 ERA). A definite concern, however, is Owens's 10 walks in those 18 innings. He also struggled with his command in spring training (nine walks in 13.1 IP).

The Red Sox's starting pitchers have the worst ERA in the AL: 5.38 ERA. (Their team ERA (4.83) is second from last.) Outside of knuckleballer Steven Wright, it's pretty ugly:
                GS    ERA
Steven Wright    3   1.40
Rick Porcello    3   4.66
Clay Buchholz    4   6.33
David Price      4   7.06
Joe Kelly        3   9.35
Boston leads the AL with 83 runs scored, and is second in team OPS, so with some decent outings from the starters, the Red Sox could be much better than their 8-9 record.

Over in Los Angeles, Kenta Maeda is only the third pitcher in major league history to give up one run in his first four starts (25.1 IP, 0.36 ERA). Elias reports: "Fernando Valenzuela allowed just one run over 36 innings in his first four starts for the Dodgers in 1981. George McQuillan is the other to do so in the modern era, having allowed just one run in 33 innings over his first four starts in 1907 for the Phillies."

Also: The Cubs have allowed only 38 runs and 103 hits through 17 games. The 103 hits are the fewest allowed by the team through the first 17 games of a season since 1908 (100), which was also the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

April 23, 2016

G17: Astros 8, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 100 001 01x - 3  9  0
Astros  - 010 040 03x - 8 12  1
Colby Rasmus's grand slam with two outs in the fifth inning off Clay Buchholz (5.2-6-5-1-6, 106) snapped a 1-1 tie. Buchholz had two outs and a runner on first when he allowed a single to George Springer and then hit Carlos Correa. Rasmus then went deep for his sixth home run of the season.

The Red Sox came right back, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with one out in the top of the sixth. But they could score only one run, as Brock Holt hit a sacrifice fly to left. The weak-hitting Chris Young (who would be pinch-hit for in his next at-bat) grounded to third to end the rally.

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each had two hits for Boston.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Mike Fiers
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, SS
Young, LF
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C

April 22, 2016

G16: Red Sox 6, Astros 2

Red Sox - 211 100 001 - 6 15  1
Astros  - 000 000 101 - 2  6  0
Mookie Betts went 4-for-5, with three extra-base hits and three runs scored:
1st inning: triple, scored on Pedroia single
2nd inning: double, drove in Bradley
4th inning: single, scored on Bogaerts double
6th inning: flied to center
9th inning: triple, scored on wild pitch
The last Red Sox batter to hit two triples in one game: Jacoby Ellsbury, on June 23, 2009. And the Boston batter before that? David Ortiz, July 22, 2004!

Betts is the sixth Red Sox batter since 1913 to hit a double and two triples, and score three runs, joining Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Dusty Cooke, Ike Boone, and Babe Ruth.

Steven Wright (6.2-4-1-5-6, 116) allowed no earned runs and lowered his ERA to 1.40, tops on the Red Sox staff. (Ryan Hanigan was behind the plate and was charged with three passed balls.)

Four other Red Sox had two hits: Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, and Travis Shaw.
Example
Steven Wright / Collin McHugh
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
Reliever Carson Smith could start a minor league rehab assignment next week. Smith's return will be welcomed by everyone, but Koji Uehara, who pitched in eight of the team's first 12 games, may be especially glad to have him back in the bullpen.

Also: Jake Arrieta pitched his second career no-hitter on Thursday, as the Cubs beat the Reds 16-0. Arrieta is now 15-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his past 17 starts.

Oakland Pitcher Graveman Bats Fourth In Game

SB Nation:
Oakland Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman made history on Wednesday night, and it had nothing to do with his work on the mound. Graveman is the first starting pitcher to bat cleanup in a game since a fellow named Babe Ruth on June 1, 1920 with the Yankees.
An injury to Oakland third baseman Danny Valencia forced some shuffling of players, including putting DH Jed Lowrie at second base. That meant the A's pitcher was now in Valencia's fourth spot in the order. Graveman - the first A's starting pitcher dating back to at least 1913 to bat cleanup in a game - struck out in the top of the fifth. (Box)

April 21, 2016

G15: Rays 12, Red Sox 8

Rays    - 101 600 013 - 12 15  3
Red Sox - 500 002 100 -  8 15  1
The Rays' offense (2.86 runs per game, worst in the AL) had scored three or fewer runs in 11 of their first 14 games. Tampa Bay exploded for a dozen runs this afternoon, eight against David Price (3.2-8-8-2-5, 87), who saw his ERA jump to 7.06.

Boston (7-8) hits the road, playing three games in Houston before playing a four-game, home-away series against Atlanta.
Example
Jake Odorizzi / David Price
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF

Schadenfreude 186 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
To say the Yankees stunk Wednesday night would be a disservice to a fresh pile of horse manure on Broadway.

They ran the bases foolishly, pitched poorly in situations, failed to catch the ball that cost them while attempting to turn a critical double play and hit the ball as if they were using wet newspapers instead of bats. ...

Bad doesn't begin to describe the 5-8 Yankees recently. They have lost six of seven and during that stretch are 4-for-58 (.069) with runners in scoring position. ...

The lack of clutch hitting is lethal. The starting pitching is pedestrian at best. The fielding is shoddy and that doesn't account for balls not gotten to because of a severe lack of range. And the manager admitted he doesn't have an answer for the hitting woes.

All of that adds up to an odor that makes horse manure smell like Paris in the spring.
Kevin Kernan, Post:
After Wednesday's [sic] night's horrible 5-2 loss to the light-hitting A's at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees once again were hitless (0-for-4) with runners in scoring position and for the season own a grand total of six hits with two outs with runners in scoring position.

That is off-the-charts ugly and dead last in the majors.

Their Baseball IQ is terrible too. ...

A-Rod is a major problem, batting .163 with five RBIs. But he is not alone.

Teixeira is hitting .182, the same as Headley. Hicks is hitting .050.

This is beyond bad and can't go on.
John Harper, Daily News:
Inevitably the frustration in a Joe Girardi press conference is felt on the outside looking in, as the manager normally protects his players at all costs on nights like this — nights when the media wants honest answers and the fans want a high-priced pound of flesh.

But not this time. In fact, Joe Girardi was mad as hell and it showed. How much so? When he was asked about his frustration level he said simply: "Look at my face."
Daniel Popper, Daily News:
Joe Girardi believes in the law of averages.

The Yankees manager hammered that point home Wednesday afternoon. "That will change," Girardi said of his floundering offense. "Those things change."

The point being: Eventually, his team will snap out of its offensive funk and start driving home runners when they're in scoring position. It's math. ...

The Yankees (5-8) are now 2-for-their-last-46 with RISP.


Kevin Kernan, Post:
Jacoby Ellsbury was a $153 million pinch-runner Tuesday night. He was thrown out at second trying to steal in the ninth inning.

Ellsbury was benched in the wild-card playoff game last October and again found himself on the pine in the disappointment-filled 3-2 loss to the Athletics in 11 innings at Yankee Stadium. ...

Ellsbury's April numbers are not pretty. He is batting .213 with zero home runs and five RBIs. He has scored four runs. His on-base percentage is .260. His slugging percentage is .298. He has struggled in the outfield.

The Yankees need Ellsbury to pick it up. They need a lot of help.
From December 2013:

ESPN Fires Curt Schilling For "Unacceptable" Conduct

ESPN issued a short statement Wednesday:
ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.
ESPN's actions against Schilling, who has a long history of racist Facebook posts, was overdue, but very welcome.

Kevin Draper, Deadspin:
Schilling publicly and proudly proclaimed bigoted views on a regular basis. He posted repulsive things to Facebook nearly every day, frequently going from the repulsive to the despicable and continuously dehumanizing others. ESPN repeatedly and severely punished employees for far milder violations of its various policies, and yet Schilling just kept on spending his days degrading people who aren't like him.

Finally, ESPN decided they'd had enough. Why is an interesting question.
Cyd Zeigler, OutSports:
To be clear, Schilling's offense was not having a political opinion, it was expressing himself with a Facebook share and a comment that was demeaning to an entire class of people under attack in our culture today. He could have offered a thoughtful perspective and, like his family has suggested, admitted a lack of understanding of issues. Instead, he used a disgusting display, followed up by blaming everyone who was offended and refusing to back down. ...

Schilling couldn't have been more of a jerk about it. And frankly, I'm thrilled for people like [Christina] Kahrl, a trans baseball editor at ESPN, who knows she'll never have to work with Schilling ever again.
Naturally, Schilling, who initially denied posting what he posted, defended himself on his blog ("The Hunt To Be Offended..."), calling the matter "some sort of faux cause":
Let's make one thing clear right up front. If you get offended by ANYTHING in this post, that's your fault, all yours.
I'm not a religious man, but I pray that Schilling's children and nieces and nephews and grandchildren all live the most bland, white bread lives. Because if any of them is "different" in any way, I would imagine living with Schilling's ignorant judgment would be hell. ... And if Schilling somehow reads this post and is in ANY WAY offended by my comment, that's his fault, all his.

NESN 2016: Another Listen To Dave O'Brien

As I posted last night, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jerry Remy last night. I've been able to watch Red Sox games on NESN for more than a decade thanks to the MLBTV package, and I don't think I have heard Remy have a better game than last night. Infield placement, pitch selection and reliance, a baserunner's mindset, the variations in a relief pitcher's leg kick, he was offering solid insights about everything.

However, all was not perfect in my NESN listening experience. While I praised play-by-play man Dave O'Brien when I wrote about the first two games of the season, he has been annoying for several reasons since then.

O'Brien has the bad habit of saying, when there is a runner on second base, that a hit will result in a run. He says it definitively, as though the concept is in the rule book. Of course, as any fan can tell you, there are many scenarios where a single will not result in a run; in fact, an infield single could actually result in the runner on second having to remain on the bag. And in Fenway Park, with its smaller left field, it is often the case that a runner from second will have to stop at third base. (This is one of the problems with the stupid and inaccurate phrase "scoring position". If you think about it, a runner on any base is in scoring position. The batter is in scoring position - he can score on a home run (or a hit and a fielding error(s)).)

O'Brien should know better. As a long-time broadcast who has called many national games, he should understand that part of his role is explaining aspects of the game to newer or less knowledgeable fans. Insisting that a run will score from second on a hit does everyone a disservice. Because when the hit comes and the run does not score, as happened in the third inning of Tuesday's 3-0 loss, the less educated fan naturally will be confused. The announcer said the run would score, so why did it not happen?

In the bottom of the fifth, Christian Vazquez batted with runners at second and third:
Two down as Eveland fires, and it's going to be a strike over the inside corner. David Ortiz, who had doubled in a run, now at third base, Brock Holt at first base. He runs, and it's going to be a strike. No throw. [Remy talks about Holt's great jump.] Sox are now 10-for-11 for the season in thefts, and now a base hit would mean two and make it 8-0.
He did it again in the next inning, with Dustin Pedroia at the plate with Mookie Betts on first:
The runner goes and the pitch is going to go all the way to the backstop. Mookie takes a big turn but it rebounded back to Conger, so give him a stolen base because he was running. [Remy talks about Webb's leg kick and Betts's jump.] So a base hit by Pedroia would make it 7-2 and put the Sox in front by five again.
After Pedroia struck out and Webb threw a wild pitch on his first offering to Chris Young, allowing Betts to go to third, Remy offered a much-needed correction:
Always better to be at third base with two outs at Fenway, because there is no guarantee on a ball to left field that you're going to score on a base hit because it's so shallow out there. So if you can get to third base with two outs, you get there.
O'Brien also makes too much of a pitcher's win-loss record, putting forth the statement that you knew Porcello was having a good season because of his record:
That's a great pitch, I mean, that's where he needs to live to be successful. ... We have been seeing the Rick Porcello that we saw at the end of last season after he came back from the DL. ... And if he wins tonight, he goes to 3-0.
He also emphasized David Price's 2-0 record this month and said that Archer could fall to 0-4 with a loss. Citing a pitcher's W-L is useless, and even more useless when we haven't even played three weeks of season.

O'Brien also noted that if Jackie Bradley can maintain a good batting average, that will help him win a Gold Glove.
So Jackie hitting .268. And if he finishes the season at .268, that means he's going to hit 600 times, and that means you like his chances to battle for the Gold Glove in center field.
I have heard this from other commentators, so it's not only O'Brien. but think about that statement for a minute. Doing well at the plate will help a player win a Gold Glove. Perhaps this says more about the stupidity of the players and coaches who vote on GGs than it does about O'Brien, but he should have pointed out the illogic of the statement.

Finally, one of the more bizarre things I have ever heard. After Mookie Betts's two-run homer in the second inning increased Boston's lead to 5-0, O'Brien made the bizarre implication that Chris Archer's poor start this year might be due to having taken a couple of extra plane flights (related to charity work) during the winter.

All Extra-Inning Games In Which Red Sox Were Held To 1 Hit

There have been only two extra-inning games in Red Sox history in which the team was held to 1 or 0 hits. One win and one loss:

September 18, 1934
Red Sox - 010 000 000 1 - 2  1  2
Browns  - 000 001 000 0 - 1 10  3
April 19, 2016
Rays    - 000 000 000 3 - 3  6  0
Red Sox - 000 000 000 0 - 0  1  1

April 20, 2016

G14: Red Sox 7, Rays 3

Rays    - 000 002 100 - 3  7  0
Red Sox - 320 011 00x - 7 12  0
After three straight losses, five runs in the first two innings off Tampa starter Chris Archer (4.1-8-6-3-6, 84) was extremely welcome. So was an excellent outing from Rick Porcello (7-6-3-1-9, 111), who became only the sixth Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to strikeout 7+ batters in each of his first three starts of a season.

David Ortiz doubled twice and drove in three runs. Mookie Betts reached base four times, scored three runs, and drilled a two-run line-drive home run to left. Jackie Bradley was on base three times and Travis Shaw had two hits. Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-3 and scored twice before leaving the game after five innings with left quad tightness. (On the negative side, Christian Vazquez struck out swinging four times.)

Archer - his ERA rose from 5.87 to 7.32 tonight - was tagged as soon as the Red Sox stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first. Betts walked and Pedroia singled to center. Boagerts grounded a run-scoring single to left and Ortiz smoked a double off the Wall for two more runs. In the second, Bradley doubled with one out and jogged home when Betts hit his third "rally killer" of the season.

Ortiz doubled in Bogaerts in the fifth, with X limping slightly as he crossed the plate. Brock Holt moved from left field to shortstop to start the sixth and Chris Young took over in the outfield. Young had an RBI single in the sixth, after Betts singled, stole second, and moved to third on a wild pitch.

Porcello retired the first six Rays (striking out four of them) and 11 of the first 12. He stranded two men on base in the fourth and faltered in the sixth, giving up a triple to Logan Forsythe and a home run to Corey Dickerson. Porcello allowed two more hits and a run after retiring the first two hitters in the seventh.

But the most shocking event of the night was the on-point analysis provided throughout the entire game by NESN's Jerry Remy. He was, quite simply, a revelation, offering keen insights into baserunning, the positioning of infielders, and thinking along with the pitcher as a hitter. He talked far more than usual, and was quite animated, and almost everything he said was useful to the viewer. (Dave O'Brien, on the other hand, was not so much fun to hear. I hope to post about that tomorrow.)
Example
Chris Archer / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
Joe Kelly, who was removed from last night's start after four batters, was placed on the disabled list with an impingement in his right shoulder. Boston now has two starters (with Kelly joining Eduardo Rodriguez) on the DL.

Curt Schilling Is Still An Ignorant, Close-Minded Bigot - And A Coward

ESPN baseball analyst and close-minded bigot Curt Schilling is refusing to apologize (or back down at all) after posting anti-transgender images and comments on Facebook on Monday.

And in a gutless, cowardly move, Schilling deleted the offensive posts and then lied about them, saying they were "something that never actually happened". (You can view the offensive posts here.) If the former Red Sox pitcher believed he had nothing to apologize for, he would have kept the post visible. So much for standing up for what you believe in.

There is no word whether ESPN - which OutSports says has been "very out-front on LGBT issues" - will suspend or fire Schilling, who was suspended by the network last year after comparing Muslims to Nazis.

April 19, 2016

G13: Rays 3, Red Sox 0 (10)

Rays    - 000 000 000 3 - 3  6  0
Red Sox - 000 000 000 0 - 0  1  1
After a demoralizing bullpen failure for the second consecutive day and a complete absence of batting by the Red Sox, it's probably healthy to focus first on the night's silver lining: Once Joe Kelly (.2-0-0-2-1, 23) walked off the mound after only four batters with a "right shoulder impingement", the Boston bullpen threw 8.1 shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk, while striking out 11.

Heath Hembree (3.1-2-0-0-4, 45) was the first man out of the pen, followed by Robbie Ross (3-1-0-0-4, 39), Junichi Tazawa (1-0-0-1-3, 20) and Craig Kimbrel (1-0-0-0-0, 12). Unfortunately, with Koji Uehara getting a much-needed day of rest, that left only Matt Barnes and Tommy Layne as possible arms once the scoreless game went into extra innings.

Barnes's first batter in the top of the tenth, Kevin Kiermaier, lined a 2-2 pitch down the right field line for a home run, snapping the 0-0 tie. After Curt Casali struck out, Logan Forsythe doubled off the Wall. Logan Morrison flied to center for the second out. After Evan Longoria got ahead 2-0, the Sox elected to put him on. Then the lefty Layne came in to face Tampa DH Corey Dickerson, but Rays manager Kevin Cash sent up Brandon Guyer instead. Guyer hit a hot shot right at Travis Shaw, but the ball caromed off the third baseman's left wrist for an error, and the bases were loaded. Desmond Jennings sealed the Red Sox's fate by slicing an opposite-field ground rule double to right, scoring two more runs. After a walk to Brad Miller reloaded the bases, Layne finally recorded the inning's final third out, as Steven Souza flied to center.

Drew Smyly (8-1-0-2-11, 105) was superb, tying a career high in strikeouts. The Red Sox were retired in order in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth innings. And the one inning in which they managed to get someone on base was a squanderific disaster: they loaded the bases with no outs and did not score.

Smyly walked both Chris Young and Ryan Hanigan to start the home third and Bradley, celebrating his 26th birthday, grounded a clean single to center. With the bases full, Mookie Betts grounded to Longoria at third, who throw home to force Young. Dustin Pedroia then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 14 Boston batters, while the Red Sox pitchers struck out 13 Rays. Smyly fanned David Ortiz three times, and got Betts and Shaw twice each.
Example
Drew Smyly / Joe Kelly
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
Noe Ramirez has been sent to Pawtucket with Heath Hembree called up to take his place.

Craig Kimbrel's bases-loaded walk of Troy Tulowitzki yesterday afternoon was the first bases-loaded walk Kimbrel had issued in seven major league seasons (32 batters).

David Ortiz had an opportunity to win yesterday's game in the bottom of the ninth. However, walk-off hits from Big Papi have been few and far between. His last two: July 31, 2010 and and June 6, 2013.

April 18, 2016

Hating MFY President Randy Levine Has Never Been Easier

Craig Calcaterra, Hardball Talk:
[In an interview with the New York Times,] Levine actually tries to argue that Yankee Stadium is like some mom and pop shop, built with the elbow grease of businessmen like himself as opposed to the dollars of taxpayers ...

Levine goes on to argue that other public assistance to the Yankees — the building of a train station, the granting them public parkland to build Yankee Stadium and the subsequent construction of another park to replace it — are all things that are good for the public. ...

Which is pretty typical of the class of people who hang with Levine. Welfare? The use of tax dollars to assist others? Public works? Bah! That’s socialism! Unless of course they need it, then tax dollars freely given are just part of the genius of capitalism.
These delusional assholes like Levine, with their hands so deep into taxpayers' pockets, trying to convince us they are grabbing money they inherently deserve, make it so easy to hate them.

G12: Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3

Blue Jays - 000 000 040 - 4  8  0
Red Sox   - 010 000 002 - 3  7  1
Clay Buchholz (6.2-6-0-2-2, 97) was stellar, a superb outing that should not be forgotten amid the game's wild narrative after he left. Although Buchholz allowed at least one baserunner in each of his seven innings, he was helped out by four of five double plays turned by the Red Sox. Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel were both ineffective in a nightmarish eighth inning that saw only two Toronto singles; the Jays took advantage of a throwing error, three walks, a passed ball, and a HBP. The two relievers, usually so reliable, needed 48 pitches as the Jays sent nine men to the plate.

Still, the Red Sox nearly pulled the game out of the fire. In the bottom of the ninth, they battled back enough to bring David Ortiz out of the dugout as a pinch-hitter with a chance to tie or win the game. Boston was down by one and had a man on first with two outs. Big Papi fouled off a couple of pitches, and worked a 2-2 count, before being called out on a nasty letter-high pitch that was clearly in the strike zone. And so Boston fell to 6-6.

The Red Sox took an early lead when Hanley Ramirez sliced a ground-rule double into the right field corner. One out later, he scored on Josh Rutledge's double to right-center.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays kept putting men on against Buchholz, but he worked out of trouble. Boston turned double plays in the first, second, fourth, and sixth innings while Buchholz was on the hill. (A fifth DP came in the ninth.) Joese Bautista grounded into three of the five double plays.

Uehara began the eighth with a slim 1-0 lead. He was in trouble right away. Kevin Pillar (3-for-3) grounded a ball down the third base line. Rutledge fielded the ball and tossed a high, arching throw towards first. Ramirez leapt for it in foul territory, but it glanced off his glove and went into the camera pit. Uehara then walked pinch-hitter Justin Smoak and the runners moved up on a passed ball charged to Christian Vazquez. Michael Saunders grounded out to shortstop and Pillar scored the tying run. Koji had trouble keeping his split-fingered fastball low in the zone; in fact, he threw one that plunked Josh Donaldson in the left shoulder. Uehara ended up relying more on his fastball, and was ineffective.

After Uehara hit Donaldson, manager John Farrell probably should have gone to Craig Kimbrel. But he allowed Uehara to face Jose Bautista, who battled for eight pitches and walked, loading the bases. Now it was Kimbrel's chance. He had recorded 12 strikeouts in six innings this season - and he needed a punchout now. He looked fantastic, fanning Edwin Encarnacion on three pitches, the final one at 99. Two outs. Then Kimbrel's control deserted him. He was missing both high and inside and he walked Troy Tulowitzki on a full-count pitch to force in the go-ahead run. Russell Martin saw nine pitches and went to the opposite field with the last one, dropping it into short right-center for a two-run single, giving the Jays a 4-1 lead. Kimbrel rebounded to strike out Ryan Goins.

Chris Young (1-for-14 this season) opened the home half of the eighth with a double off the Wall. Brett Cecil relieved J.A. Happ and showed impeccable control, pinpointing his pitches and giving the bottom of the Red Sox order no chance to bring Young around. Rutledge looked at four pitches, the last three being called strikes. Vazquez grounded to shortstop and Jackie Bradley flied out to center, with Pillar making a diving catch in right-center.

Facing Drew Storen in the bottom of the ninth, Mookie Betts lined to center. Dustin Pedroia grounded a single to right, but Xander Bogaerts popped to center for the second out. Travis Shaw drilled a double off the Wall in left-center, scoring Pedroia. Hanley Ramirez followed with a single up the middle that brought in Shaw. Now it was 4-3, and the potential winning run was walking to the plate. Ortiz.

He took a ball, then tried and failed to check his swing on a pitch down and away. He fouled the 1-1 pitch at the plate. He took a ball in the dirt and sliced another foul. Storen's 2-2 pitch was at the letters, but was also at the top of the zone. Ortiz took the pitch and was run up, ending the game.

Pedroia's ninth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 10 games. It was also the 27th straight game in which he has reached base against Toronto and the 47th consecutive game in which he has reached against an AL East team. ... Today was the first time the Red Sox had faced a left-handed starter this season. ... It was only the Red Sox fifth loss in their last 16 Patriots Day games.
Example
J.A. Happ / Clay Buchholz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Shaw, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Young, LF
Rutledge, 3B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
It's Patriots Day in David Ortiz's fuckin' city!

Clay Buchholz has been disappointing in his two starts this season, giving up five runs in both outings.

April 17, 2016

G11: Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 3

Blue Jays - 200 000 201 - 5 14  1
Red Sox   - 000 010 002 - 3  4  0
Marco Hernandez collected his first major league hit, a single in the fifth inning. He stole second base, went to third on a throwing error, and scored on Mookie Betts's single. (Those were the team's only hits until the ninth inning.) Hernandez's run cut Toronto's lead to 2-1, but the Red Sox could do no more.

Steven Wright (6-6-2-0-6, 107) recorded the first two outs in the top of the first, but allowed a solo home run to Jose Bautista. Three straight singles followed, giving the Blue Jays a second run. Wright allowed only two hits (and no walks) over the next five innings.

Facing Blue Jays closer Robert Osuna in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox finally made some noise. Hanley Ramirez singled and Travis Shaw homered. (Free money!) But it was too little, too late. Chris Young struck out looking. Jackie Bradley struck out swinging. Ryan Hanigan lined out to third.

Note: Tomorrow's game is at 11 AM.
Example
Aaron Sanchez / Steven Wright
Betts, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Bradley, CF
Hanigan, C
Hernandez, 2B
Marco Hernandez, 23 years old, is making his major league debut. He was acquired as the player to be named later in the 2014 trade of Felix Doubront.

April 16, 2016

G10: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 2

Blue Jays - 100 100 000 - 2  7  0
Red Sox   - 004 000 00x - 4  9  0
Xander Bogaerts hit his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the third inning that wiped out an early Toronto lead. Travis Shaw added two singles and an RBI.

David Price: 7-6-2-0-9, 107.
Example
Marco Estrada / David Price
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
David Ortiz is 10-for-30 (.333/.444/.800) with five doubles and three home runs this season. According to Elias, Ortiz's eight extra-base hits are a career-high for his first 30 at-bats of a season. His .800 slugging percentage is tied for first in the American League. His 1.244 OPS is 2nd in the AL and 4th in MLB.

Panda Problems

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said there is "a great deal going on" in Pablo Sandoval's left shoulder. Sandoval agreed: "I don't want to tell you what's going on, but it's pretty bad so I want to get a second opinion." Sandoval will be examined by Dr. James Andrews on Monday.

Meanwhile, in the Panda Rumour Dept., Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that Sandoval has told the Red Sox that if he isn't playing regularly, he wants out. Sandoval, who denied the report, is in the second year of a five-year contract.

Ethan Banning, owner of Triple Threat Performance in Phoenix and a former personal trainer for Sandoval, said the third baseman needs "a babysitter" to keep him from overeating. "He needs to be smart enough to say there's a problem. It's like the alcoholic that won't admit he's an alcoholic: well, you can't address that you're an alcoholic if you don't ever admit there's a problem."

In three games this season, Sandoval is 0-for-6, with four strikeouts. His replacement at third, Travis Shaw, has a .438 on-base average and is third on the team with a .899 OPS.

April 15, 2016

G9: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Blue Jays - 010 000 200 - 3  3  1
Red Sox   - 310 001 00x - 5  9  0
Eight of the nine batters in the Blue Jays' starting lineup found Rick Porcello (6.1-2-3-1-8, 100) absolutely unhittable on Friday night. Edwin Encarnacion was the outlier, cranking two home runs and driving in three runs off the Red Sox starter. EE also singled in the ninth inning, giving him all three of Toronto's hits.

Boston got all the runs it would need in the first two innings off an inconsistent R.A. Dickey (4.2-6-4-4-3, 106). With two outs in the first, Xander Bogaerts grounded a single into left field. David Ortiz crushed a full-count pitch off the wall in deep center for an RBI-double. After Hanley Ramirez reached first base on a strikeout-passed ball, Travis Shaw ripped a first-pitch double off the center field wall. The two baserunners scored before Shaw was trapped in a rundown and was tagged out 8-4-3-5-6-2.

Christian Vazquez, in his season debut, made his presence felt in the second inning. Encarnacion had gone deep to open the frame and Porcello hit Troy Tulowitzki with a pitch. Justin Smoak had been called out on strikes. When Michael Saunders struck out swinging, Vazquez whipped a throw behind the batter to first. Ramirez was quick with the tag for the inning-ending pickoff. Vazquez then cracked a one-out double high off the Wall and scored on Mookie Betts's two-out single.

Vazquez also singled in the sixth and scored on Dustin Pedroia's infield single. Pedroia also walked in the second, which extended his on-base streak against AL East teams to 46 games. According to a NESN factoid, it is the second best mark in Red Sox history, behind Wade Boggs's mark of 61 games. (Of course, the AL East did not exist before 1969.)

After Porcello plunked Tulowitzki in the second, he set down the next 13 batters before drilling Kevin Pillar with a pitch in the sixth. Toronto closed the gap in the seventh when Jose Bautista walked and Encarnacion went deep again. Junichi Tazawa finished the seventh and Koji Uehara pitched a perfect eighth.

Craig Kimbrel made fans a little nervous in the ninth when Encarnacion blooped a two-out single to right and Kimbrel issued a five-pitch walk to Tulowitzki. The dirty water flowed, however, when Kimbrel struck out Smoak to end the game.

Boston pitchers struck out 12 and walked only two. The Red Sox drew six walks.

The Mariners beat the Yankees 7-1, scoring runs in each of the final six innings, allowing Boston (5-4) to sit alone in second place.
Example
R.A. Dickey / Rick Porcello
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
This week: Pablo Sandoval was placed on the disabled list (the team says it's a strained left shoulder but they didn't even do an MRI before putting him on the DL). ... Rusney Castillo was sent to Pawtucket. ... Catcher Christian Vazquez will be activated before tonight's game.

April 13, 2016

G8: Red Sox 4, Orioles 2

Orioles - 002 000 000 - 2  9  0
Red Sox - 002 200 00x - 4  8  0
Ubaldo Jimenez / Joe Kelly
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
Example

April 12, 2016

G7: Orioles 9, Red Sox 5

Orioles - 000 203 400 - 9 11  0
Red Sox - 200 020 010 - 5 10  0
Mike Wright / Clay Buchholz
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Swihart, C
Bradley, CF
Example

Road Trip

Off for the next three days. Back on Thursday evening.

April 11, 2016

G6: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

Orioles - 005 001 003 - 9  9  2
Red Sox - 300 201 001 - 7 11  0
Chris Davis crushed a three-run, ninth-inning homer off closer Craig Kimbrel, who had put two other Orioles on base via walks. The win was Baltimore's sixth in a row, a new team record to start a season.

Boston jumped out in front in the opening inning, helped out by singles from the first four batters in the lineup. The Orioles came back with a five-spot off David Price (5-5-5-2-8, 103), highlighted by a three-run dong from Mark Trumbo. Jackie Bradley's double and a force from Mookie Betts (3-for-5) tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth.

Down by three and facing Zach Britton in the bottom of the ninth, Betts homered to left. Dustin Pedroia singled to left and a wild pitch moved him to second. Xander Bogaerts walked, bringing David Ortiz to the plate as the potential winning run. Big Papi took a couple of hacks, but grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Manager John Farrell challenged the relay throw to first, but the out call was upheld. Pedroia was at third base as Hanley Ramirez stepped in as the potential tying run. Hopes were still high, but Britton struck out Ramirez swinging to end the game.
Example
Yovani Gallardo / David Price
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Swihart, C
Bradley, CF
The Orioles are 5-0, which ties Baltimore's franchise record for best start to a season. The 1970 club also won their first five games.

April 10, 2016

G5: Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  7  1
Blue Jays - 200 000 01x - 3  7  0
The Red Sox could not solve Marcus Stroman (7-5-0-2-8, 91) and two Toronto relievers. Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-4, with two singles and a double.

The Blue Jays put Steven Wright (6.2-6-2-3-5, 118) into a quick 2-0 hole in the first inning. Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson both singled and a passed ball moved them to second and third. Jose Bautista walked, loading the bases with no outs. Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a force out, which scored one run; Dustin Pedroia's throwing error brought the second run in. Wright wriggled out of any further trouble, and although he dealt with numerous baserunners all day, he kept Toronto from adding to its lead.

In the Boston third, Dustin Pedroia was on first with two outs when Xander Bogaerts doubled to right. Pedroia tried to score, but was thrown out 9-4-2. That was the Red Sox's best chance to get a run against Stroman.

The Red Sox (3-2) play their home opener at 2 PM tomorrow against Baltimore.
Example
Steven Wright / Marco Estrada
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Swihart, C
Bradley, CF
Most Games Scoring 6+ Runs To Start A Red Sox Season

1985: 5 games -   9  14   6   7   6
1950: 4 games -  10   6   7   8
1995: 4 games -   9  10   8  11
2016: 4 games -   6   6   8   8
1919: 3 games -  10   8   6
1936: 3 games -   9  10   8
Example
One year ago:
Red Sox - 100 002 000 000 000 101 1 - 6 18  1
Yankees - 000 002 001 000 000 101 0 - 5 14  1
Winning pitcher: Steven Wright.

April 9, 2016

G4: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 4

Red Sox   - 003 131 000 - 8 11  1
Blue Jays - 202 000 000 - 4  7  1
Another rough beginning for a Boston starter - and another come-from-behind victory. On Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox wiped out two Toronto leads, improving their record to 3-1 and making roughly 45,000 Blue Jays fans sad.

More than half of Boston's 11 hits were for extra bases: five doubles and one triple. Dustin Pedroia led the way with three hits and two RBI. Rusney Castillo saw his first action of the season and responded with a single, double, and a run scored. Xander Bogaerts scored twice and Hanley Ramirez drove in two runs.

Rick Porcello (6-7-4-1-7, 105) allowed a pair of two-run home runs to Jose Bautista, but otherwise kept the home team off the board. Koji Uehara (7th) and Robbie Ross (8th/9th) pitched three perfect innings of relief.

Down 2-0, the bottom of the Red Sox order got things going in the third. Castillo singled to left and Blake Swihart walked. An errant pickoff attempt by R.A. Dickey moved the runners to second and third. Mookie Betts struck out, but Pedroia's groundout scored a run. Bogaerts sliced an opposite field ground rule double to right to bring Swihart in and then X scored (giving Boston a 3-2 lead) when Shaw sliced an opposite field ground rule double to left.

After Bautista's second shot gave the Jays a 4-3 edge, the bottom of the order again got to work. With one out, Brock Holt reached on a strikeout-passed ball. Castillo doubled him to third and Swihart's sacrifice fly to left brought Holt home, tying the game.

In the fifth, Pedroia singled and Bogaerts walked. Ramirez's line drive to right bounced over Bautista's head and rolled to the wall for a two-run triple. Hanley then scored on a passed ball. Boston scored its final run when Betts singled and came home on Pedroia's sixth-inning double.
Example
Rick Porcello / R.A. Dickey
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Shaw, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Sandoval, 3B
Holt, LF
Castillo, CF
Swihart, C
Who does David Ortiz think should replace him as Boston's 2017 DH? Edwin Encarnacion.

Joe Kelly, on the comeback:
That was pretty fun to watch. [Holt] thought it was going to be a double, he told me, and it ended up going out of the ballpark. To see a team win like that, and obviously I didn't pitch like I'm capable of, to come together and pick me up when I wasn't at my best was pretty fun to watch. And easily a game like that last year we would have lost.
David Price will get an extra day of rest and start the home opener against Baltimore next Monday.

Also (thanks to Elias):

Colorado rookie Trevor Story has hit six home runs in his first four games. Story is the first player in history to hit home runs in each of his first four major-league games, the first to hit as many as six homers over his first four big-league games, and the first major-leaguer to hit six home runs over the first four games of a particular season.

Ross Stripling, in his major-league debut for the Dodgers, pitched 7.1 no-hit innings last night before being removed after 100 pitches. Los Angeles ended up losing the game. It was the first time in major-league history that a starting pitcher was taken out with a lead and a no-hitter intact in the eighth inning or later. (Cincinnati's Bumpus Jones remains the only pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in his major-league debut, against Pittsburgh on October 15, 1892, when pitchers threw from a box, with the front of the box 50 feet from home plate and the back 55 feet, 6 inches.)

We Need Robots, Part 683

Date: April 8, 2016
G3: Red Sox at Blue Jays
Inning: 6th
Batter: Jackie Bradley
Pitcher: Jesse Chavez
Umpire: Clint Fagan

Five pitches, all out of the strike zone, three of them called strikes.

Cut4 Ranks Top 100 Minor League Player Names

MLB's Cut4:
Thursday marked the start of the 2016 season for all 10 full-season Minor Leagues, with hundreds of talented prospects embarking on another year of progress toward their big league dreams. ... When it comes to identifying the next generation of aesthetically amusing alliterations, creative alternative spellings and commonplace words artfully arranged, we have you covered right here. ... Without further ado, the Top 100 Minor League Names of 2016 ...

1. Sicnarf Loopstok - Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland, Class A Advanced)
4. Mister Luciano - GCL Pirates (Pirates, Rookie League)
6. Jose Jose - New Orleans Zephyrs (Marlins, Triple-A)
9. Earl Burl III - Vancouver Canadiens (Blue Jays, Class A Short Season)
38. Icezack Flemming - Tampa Yankees (Yankees, Class A Advanced)
43. Darling Cuesto - DSL Twins (Twins, Rookie League)
54. Leisxonyer Rivero - DSL Orioles (Orioles, Rookie League)
55. Damien Magnifico - Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers, Triple-A)
70. Brooks Pounders - Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals, Triple-A)
78. Joan Baez - Hagerstown Suns (Nationals, Class A)
84. Yeyson Yrizarri - Round Rock Express (Rangers, Triple-A)
94. Taylor Ostrich - AZL Royals (Royals, Rookie League)
98. Scooter Hightower - Bristol Pirates (Pirates, Rookie League)
There are five Red Sox on the list:
31. Jagger Rusconi - GCL Red Sox (Rookie League)
37. Ritzi Mendoza - DSL Red Sox (Rookie League)
57. Danny Mars - Salem Red Sox (Class A Advanced)
65. Forrestt Allday - Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A)
96. Tyler Spoon - Lowell Spinners (Class A Short Season)
One of my all-time favourite names: Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher, who played in the minors in 2009-10.

April 8, 2016

G3: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 7

Red Sox   - 011 004 200 - 8 11  0
Blue Jays - 100 600 000 - 7  9  1
When Joe Kelly (3-7-7-3-4, 80) allowed four straight singles to start the bottom of the fourth, then conked Kevin Pillar in the helmet with an errant fastball, and surrendered a first-pitch grand slam to Josh Donaldson, the night looked dark for the Red Sox.

But the visitors battled back, with Brock Holt hitting a grand slam in the sixth to bring Boston to within one. In the next inning, RBI-singles from David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez gave the Red Sox the lead. From there, the bullpen trio of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel shut down the Jays bats. In fact, Toronto did not get a base hit over the final five innings.

Kelly's evening was pretty much a disaster. He allowed a leadoff triple to Pillar in the first and issued two walks. He allowed a baserunner in both the second and third before imploding in the fourth.

Toronto starter Marcus Stroman's (5.1-6-5-3-4, 92) innings ran hot and cold. He threw three perfect innings, but allowed runs in his other three frames. With one out in the second, Ramirez singled and was thrown out trying for a double (despite his lost weight, he is not as fast as he thinks he is). Travis Shaw and Holt followed with doubles and the game was tied at 1-1. Boston took a 2-1 lead with two down in the third when Xander Bogaerts (3-for-5) singled and Ortiz doubled him home.

After Kelly put his teammates in a 7-2 hole, Noe Ramirez came in and allowed two hits, but struck out three to end the 11-batter fourth inning. As noted, those singles were the last Jays hits of the night. Meanwhile, Bogaerts began the top of the fifth with a double to left. Ortiz walked on four pitches and after a groundout moved the runners up, Shaw worked an eight-pitch walk. Stroman left the game and Jesse Chavez took over. His first pitch to Holt was lined over the right-field fence for a grand slam.

Boston grabbed the lead back in the seventh. With one out, facing Drew Storen, Dustin Pedroia and Boagerts both singled. Lefty Brett Cecil came in to face Ortiz - who singled home FY to knot the score. Ramirez grounded a hit into left field and Boagerts scored the go-ahead run. Holt reached on an infield error with two outs, but the Sox left the bases loaded. It didn't matter, though, because the top arms in the bullpen were as solid as they were on Opening Day.

Holt finished with a career-high five RBI. (His previous high was three, done three times last season.)

Toronto has lost its last five home openers, the longest opener losing streak in franchise history.
Example
Joe Kelly / Marcus Stroman
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Holt, LF
Hanigan, C
Bradley, CF
The Blue Jays lost to the Rays on Tuesday because Jose Bautista was called out on an illegal slide. Toronto manager John Gibbons expressed his frustration by making a sexist comment: "Maybe we'll come out and wear dresses tomorrow. Maybe that's what everybody's looking for." Blue Jays TV analyst Gregg Zaun added that baseball was turning into a "sissy game".

The following day, the Orioles announcers repeated and then chuckled at Gibbons's offensive statement. Stacey May Fowles, writing in The Globe and Mail, looks beyond recent instances of sexism, racism, and homophobia in MLB and says there is evidence of enlightenment.

April 7, 2016

NESN 2016: Two Games With Dave O'Brien And Jerry Remy

When Boston opened its 2016 season in Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon, Red Sox fans heard a different TV broadcast team for the first time in fifteen years.

Last summer, the bosses at NESN decided not to renew Don Orsillo's contract as the team's play-by-play man. NESN bungled that decision, as well as its very public aftermath, about as badly as it was possible to bungle anything. Orsillo's ousting was tremendously unpopular with most Red Sox fans. He had been the TV play-by-play man since 2001 and for many fans, he was the only Red Sox TV announcer they had ever known. Even now, it's still a bit of a mystery why Orsillo, who is now broadcasting for the San Diego Padres, was dumped. NESN filled his empty chair with Dave O'Brien, who moved over from the WEEI radio booth. Jerry Remy, working in his 29th season, remained in the booth as O'Brien's partner.

My complaints about NESN's baseball coverage are myriad and well-known. Two disappointing Red Sox campaigns in 2014 and 2015 meant that I stopped watching the team midway through the season. But even early in both seasons, when I was tuning in every night, I did not listen to Orsillo/Remy. I always chose the "ballpark sound" option, available with the home team's feed. Sometimes, I listened to the radio broadcast with the TV on mute.

Opening Day 2016 was the first time I had listened to a NESN baseball broadcast since 2013. I did not watch any spring training games, so the games in Cleveland were my first opportunity to hear O'Brien/Remy. I am familiar with O'Brien, because of his work in the Red Sox radio booth and his national work with ESPN. I had also read at SoSH that Remy was much more engaged last season than in previous years, offering actual analysis as opposed to simply echoing Orsillo's play-by-play. I was very curious how the two men would work together.

Game 1 - Tuesday

O'Brien is a welcome improvement over Orsillo (which, having heard O'Brien on the radio, I knew would be the case). After Monday's game was postponed, he opened Tuesday's broadcast by introducing himself and addressing Red Sox fans directly and personally (a move made necessary by the poorly-received decision to replace Orsillo):
Hi everybody, welcome here to Cleveland for Opening Day. I'm Dave O'Brien, brand new to the NESN TV booth this year, not brand new to Red Sox baseball. I have been next door on radio for the last nine years, certainly not new to Red Sox Nation. As a Quincy boy, I was born into that. I've had a long career in major league announcing. This is my 26th year at the microphone and I've had a chance to do some incredible things. I've called the World Series nine times, called eight no-hitters and called the last three Red Sox World Championships.

But the greatest honor of my career is to be able to sit in this booth as the voice of the Red Sox for the days, weeks, months and hopefully years to come. I hope you will invite me in as a friend and I hope I can earn your trust as well, just as you gave to Don Orsillo. And before Don, Sean McDonough. And before Sean, Ned Martin and all the way back to the days of Curt Gowdy, an amazing list of all the talented Red Sox broadcasters. I'm going to come to the booth every day and work hard. I'm certainly not going to be perfect, but I'm going to be candid and honest and I'm going to call them like I see them.

And I love to laugh. I think baseball can be a very, very funny game. I'm very passionate about it. I love to have a good time in the booth. So, by way of introduction, that's me.


I found it interesting that O'Brien noted that he likes to have fun in the booth and that baseball can be a funny game. It was the off-topic banter and gigglefests between Orsillo and Remy that many fans loved.

O'Brien is a solid play-by-play man, and he has not changed his descriptive approach even though he is on TV. Where Orsillo recited (often irrelevant) statistical factoids about each player, reciting them more or less verbatim from the daily press notes, O'Brien offers more informative background on the players. Where Orsillo was regimented - with his catchphrases and set-in-stone ways of describing events - O'Brien's style is far more casual, more conversational.

In the fourth inning, O'Brien recounted a story about Travis Shaw, who started at third base over Pablo Sandoval. Shaw's father, Jeff, played major league baseball and Joe Bick was his agent. In April 1990, the day after Travis was born, Bick told Jeff that his newborn son would be his client in 2008. And guess what - that's exactly what happened! (In verifying this improbable story, I found that Alex Speier recounted the tale for Baseball America in 2012.)

Remy was more animated and engaged than I recall him being in years past. He expressed surprise that the Cleveland infield did not employ an extreme shift on Shaw in the second inning. Most teams do, and Shaw exploited that non-shift for a hit.

Remy was impressed with how hard Hanley Ramirez worked at learning how to play first base during the spring. Remy also broke down Ramirez's swing in the third inning, calling attention to how pull-happy Hanley had become in 2015, trying to hit the ball 900 feet in batting practice. This year, Ramirez has eliminated the "violent" legkick from last season, in which he lifted his front leg high as he strode into the pitch. Remy said a more subtle stride had calmed his swing down and would likely result in more solid contact.

The afternoon was cold, the temperature never rising above 35 degrees, and Remy told viewers that many players, such as Dustin Pedroia, often will wear two pairs of batting gloves to keep their hands warm. Remy said that Mookie Betts will sometimes wear three pairs: "small, medium, and large".

O'Brien and Remy did make some errors, however. Because of the cold weather, which they said would favour the pitchers, and because both starters (David Price and Corey Kluber) were former Cy Young Award winners, they believed both teams might try bunting and playing small ball, hoping to eke out a run here or there, which might be the difference in the game. They noted that even someone like Betts might be called upon to lay down a bunt. When Jackie Bradley singled to start the Red Sox third, and Betts came up, they again pointed out that Betts might sacrifice. Betts did not show bunt on either of the first two pitches. On Kluber's 1-1 offering, Betts crushed a home run to left field, giving Boston its first runs of the season. So much for bunting.

The two broadcasters' comments on home plate umpire John Hirschbeck's expanded strike zone were inadequate. In the fifth inning, O'Brien described the veteran Hirschbeck as "a pitcher's umpire" and someone who "wants to move the game along". He meant that Hirschbeck is prone to call strikes on pitches that are out of the strike zone. O'Brien should have pointed out that in doing so, Hirschbeck was altering the rules to make the game move at his preferred pace. Hirschbeck's blown calls annoyed players on both teams and late in the game, Remy made it clear that some of the strikes being called were in no way strikes. That was good to hear, but it would have been nice to hear either man explain how important it is that balls and strikes are called correctly, that it is far more important than allowing managers to challenge calls and tags on the bases. As a former player, Remy should know how a batter's options and team strategy change as the count changes - and for an umpire to base his ball and strike calls on his personal whims is a travesty.

Game 2 - Wednesday

O'Brien and Remy turned in another solid broadcast and there were no noticeable screw-ups the production. As far as I could tell, NESN did not miss broadcasting any pitches.

However, Remy botched his analysis on two replays, insisting both times that something had happened that was not supported by the video replay.

With one out in the top of the fifth, Mookie Betts grounded a 2-2 pitch to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who ranged to his right, fielded the ball behind the bag, and threw Betts out. It was a very good play by - and Remy (a former second baseman) pointed out that Kipnis had been able to see the catcher's sign to the pitcher, saw that it was a breaking ball, and thus was able to cheat a couple of steps to his right, towards the bag, before the ball was hit. Remy said this twice before NESN showed the replay from the high home camera. It was clear that Kipnis actually did not move at all until after Betts hit the ball. Despite this clear visual evidence to the contrary, Remy again repeated how Kipnis had been able to move while the pitch was being thrown, before Betts put the ball into play.

A second instance occurred in the following inning, when Hanley Ramirez batted in the top of the sixth. In this at-bat, Ramirez followed David Ortiz's solo home run with one of his own, going to the opposite field, hitting the ball over the right-center field fence. Remy repeated his point from the previous game, that Ramirez had altered his batting stance from last season and was no longer using "a violent leg kick", raising his left leg high as he strode into the pitch. NESN showed a split screen with the extreme leg kick of 2015 and the much more subtle step into the pitch of 2016. Again, Remy repeated himself, saying that sometimes Ramirez's leg kick in spring training and the first two games - and especially this at-bat - was so small as to be barely noticeable.



Then NESN showed the HR swing again - and fans saw that Ramirez had actually used the big leg kick he supposedly had abandoned. (He also used it on the pitch before the HR.)


You might think that after Remy saw this, he would change his analysis, explaining that, at least in this case, Ramirez was still using the big leg kick. Nope. Once again, despite video evidence showing he was wrong, Remy insisted that what we had seen was Ramirez's employing a small stride.

Remy is certainly not the only broadcaster who has refused to change his explanation in the face of contrary video evidence. Both Joe Morgan and Tim McCraver was infamous for insisting that viewers were seeing X when it was clear to everyone (including their broadcasting partners) that Y had happened. That stubbornness is odd in Remy's case, because viewers do not get the sense that he believes he's infallible. Remy freely admits when he is wrong on certain matters, and can certainly be self-deprecating. Why he refused to acknowledge what every NESN viewer could see on the two replays is a mystery.