McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

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McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - It was a game, naturally, that seemed to have an endless number of turning points, and, correspondingly, innumerable opportunities to second-guess strategy.

If you could stay awake long enough to watch the Red Sox' maddening 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels Thursday morning, you could pick apart a dozen or so plays or sequences or moves.

We'll keep it to a three.

Twice, Terry Francona lifted middle-of-the-order hitters for pinch-runners.

In the eighth, after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a swinging bunt (which scored the first Boston run) and took second on reliever Fernando Rodney's throwing error, Francona lifted him for pinch-runner Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro got to third when Kevin Youkilis lined a hard single to left, but was stranded there when David Ortiz flied to center.

That left Scutaro, hitting .197 when the game began, hitting in the third spot in the order. His spot would comeup two more times when the Sox would have liked Gonzalez's bat there. But that's the tradeoff made for the short-term gain in speed on the basepaths.

Ironically, Scutaro made the biggest out of the game when he was cut down at the plate in the 12th trying to score from first on a Wall double from Kevin Youkilis with one out.

It took a perfect relay, but left fielder Vernon Wells to shortstop Erick Aybar to catcher Jeff Mathis did the trick.

"We were all on the top step of the dugout, thinking maybe we'd get to go home," said Francona. "It turns out we didn't."

Also, Francona chose to lift Ortiz for Darnell McDonald in the 10th after Ortiz worked a two-out walk.

McDonald would get stranded at home in that inning, then came up in the 12th after Scutaro was thrown out at home. He got an infield single, moving Youkilis to third, but Jed Lowrie grouding out to first for the final out of the inning.

Mike Cameron seemed to be overly aggressive in the ninth, though his manager absolved him of any blame after the game.

Cameron was on first and Jed Lowrie was on second with no outs when Jordan Walden tossed a wild pitch. As catcher Hank Conger scrambled to get the ball, Lowrie took off for third and Cameron for second.

Conger threw to third hoping to get Lowrie, but the ball got past third baseman Alberto Callaspo and struck third-base umpire John Hirchbeck on the foot, with the ball tricking to short.

That was enough for Lowrie to score. But Cameron, motoring from second, was thrown out sliding into the bag for the first out of the inning. And though it's
impossible to think that the inning would have unfolded the exact same way had Cameron eithe been safe or remained in scoring position at second, the out seemed more costly when Carl Crawford followed with a double to left-center.

"I thought their guy shortstop Erick Aybar made a pretty good play,'' said Francona. "He's running, full-speed, barehands it . . . when that ball goes by third, Cam's going. It's unfortunate because if it doesn't hit the umpire, it probably rolls into the corner.

"Again, it's unfortunate, but it's hard to blame Cam for running right there. The result was terrible. I don't second-guess what he was doing. Aybar ended up making a pretty good play.''

In the ninth, Hideki Okajima began his third inning of relief, having come into the game with one out in the seventh.

Appearing to tire, Okajima gave up back-to-back hits, putting runners on the corners.

Francona opted for Tim Wakefield from the bullpen when hard-throwing Daniel Bard might have been the more logical choice.

Wakefield walked Peter Bourjos to fill the bases, then allowed a sacrifice fly to Aybar.

Had Bard came in there, he might have been able to get Aybar on a strtkeout, keeping what was then an insurance run off the board.

Then again, knowing that Bobby Jenks (arm cramp) was unavailable, Francona knew he would have to use his relievers sparingly, holding Bard out until the 11th and, as it turned out, 12th inning, too.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.

 

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.