Same play, same result for disappointed Red Sox

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Same play, same result for disappointed Red Sox

SEATTLE -- The Red Sox had seen this all before: the potential winning run in scoring position, a ball hit to right fielder Cody Ross and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia waiting to simultaneously block the plate and handle the throw.

This one didn't turn out any better than it did Thursday night.

Two nights after suffering a walkoff loss in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox experienced much the same situation in the bottom of the 11th inning Saturday night, and suffered the same result: a loss.

With Dustin Ackley on third, Chone Figgins drove a line drive to right field. Ross caught the ball and, with some momentum from charging the ball, uncorked an on-target throw to the plate.

But the ball short-hopped Saltalamacchia, skipping away as Ackley slid in with the winning run.

"It was a little tougher, I think,'' said Saltalamacchia in comparing the two plays, "just because the ball had a little top-spin, so Cody had to run in on it and catch it a little lower than usual. It short-hopped me a little bit. It was one of those plays where it was do-or-die on both sides of it. But it was a lot different than the night before (when John Jaso singled home Casper Wells from second).''

"It's a do-or-die,'' said Ross of the play. "Chone made a good job making some good contact. It's a tough play. There was some topspin on it and you have to worry about catching it first, and then make an accurate throw.

"I thought it was going to get there the whole way (on the fly) and it ended up short-hopping Salty. That's a tough play for him to make. That's two tough ones in the last few days. That's baseball.''

The Sox had brought the infield in with one out, and were hopeful that they could get Figgins to hit a ground ball.

"You want him to roll over and get a double play so we can get out of the inning,'' said Saltalamacchia. "We tried a pitch-out first, maybe thinking they were trying to squeeze. Then we tried to go hard in, maybe trying to get him jammed up and roll him over.''

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.