Sunday, October 13, 2013
Boston has bigger concerns than umpire
By Buster Olney
Jacoby Ellsbury and the Red Sox expressed some frustration over calls in Game 1.
BOSTON -- Red Sox spent their Saturday aiming eye-rolls and pejoratives at plate umpire Joe West, in a game they would finish with one hit and 17 strikeouts. Most hitters in the lineup, in fact, had something to say at one time or another.
David Ortiz didn’t like how West handled a check swing, Daniel Nava was unhappy with a strike call, Jacoby Ellsbury was taken aback by West’s interpretation on a 3-1 pitch, Dustin Pedroia muttered as he walked away from the box and Shane Victorino barked at West from the on-deck circle, to the point that manager John Farrell felt the need to intercede between innings.
Generally, there is a feeling among players that West -- who doesn’t wear a shirt over the protective gear that he endorses -- likes to be part of the show, and in a Game 1 that lasted almost four hours and saw the Boston batters hit the ball to the outfield four times, the byplay between the Red Sox and the umpire might’ve been the most reliable source of contact.
But after the game, the Red Sox players veered sharply around the topic of West’s work. Ortiz walked out of the clubhouse without commenting and Ellsbury waited a long time before dressing, as the media horde thinned out. Victorino acknowledged the obvious, that yes, there had been some discussion in the heat of the moment, but then Victorino added that he had reviewed on video a couple of calls that he didn’t like and saw that, yes, West was right. When reporters pressed him on the angry dialogue, Victorino grew annoyed. “I’m not a rookie,” he said, and what he meant by that was he was not going to be goaded into saying something beyond what he was willing to say.
Pedroia praised Anibal Sanchez, his deceptive hip turn and his stuff and his ability to throw any pitch in any count, and when asked about the strike zone, Pedroia acknowledged that he had disagreed with a call.
“I thought the ball was off [the plate],” Pedroia said, in a low and even voice. “I didn’t even look at it.”
He looked at the reporter who asked the question, and posed his own question: “Was it?”
“I thought it was close,” the reporter responded.
Pedroia smiled slightly and said, “Close to a strike, or close to a ball, which one?”
“Close to a ball.”
“Well, there you go.”
But Pedroia and the others didn’t complain, perhaps because they understood, with a few minutes to process the loss, that the Tigers’ pitching -- the six innings from Sanchez, the three innings from the Detroit bullpen -- had simply shut them down. Maybe somebody showed them the data from the game that indicated that West’s interpretation of the strike zone, which had also included six walks for the Red Sox, had actually been accurate, and more than fair; most of the borderline calls, in fact, had gone to the Red Sox.
But the Red Sox players may have also talked after the game about the need to turn the page, to focus on the challenges ahead -- presumptive Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Sunday night, Justin Verlander in Game 3 -- and to not fuel a fight with the umpiring crew.
The Detroit pitchers threw 164 pitches Saturday night. The Boston hitters put a dozen in play -- Nava’s single in the ninth inning, four groundouts, two infield pop-ups, a failed bunt attempt and four fly balls, none of them hit hard. The Red Sox have bigger concerns than Joe West, and they are named Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander and Doug Fister.
A.) He was able to overcome falling behind in the count. More hitters saw a first-pitch ball (14) than a first-pitch strike (11), but he held Red Sox hitters to 0-for-9 with six strikeouts (and five walks) after falling behind 1-0. The Red Sox had baseball’s best average (.295) and slugging percentage (.502) after getting ahead in the count 1-0 during the regular season.
B.) He was able to get the Red Sox to expand their strike zone with two strikes. Hitters chased only 17 percent of his pitches before two strikes but upped that to 41 percent in two-strike counts. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.
C.) Took 17 of the 25 hitters he faced to a two-strike count, retiring 15 of those. He used three pitches to put Red Sox hitters away, getting six outs on his slider (all strikeouts), five outs on his fastball (four strikeouts) and four outs on his changeup (two strikeouts). The Red Sox swung at 20 pitches with two strikes and put only three in play.
More from ESPN Stats & Info: Sanchez is the second pitcher in MLB postseason history with four strikeouts in an inning. The other? Orval Overall for the Cubs in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series (Oct. 14, 1908, first inning).
Sanchez's 12 strikeouts are the most by any pitcher against the Red Sox in postseason history. He is the second pitcher in postseason history with at least 12 K and 6 BB in a game (Walter Johnson, in 1924, was the first), and he's the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter. Two others have been removed after at least two no-hit innings.
• From Elias: This was the first day in MLB postseason history with two 1-0 games on the same day.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Trevor Rosenthal threw 14 pitches in the ninth inning. All 14 were fastballs and they averaged 98.6 mph. The Dodgers swung at eight of them, missing on six, including the last five they swung at.
• This was the third 1-0 win in Cardinals postseason history. Others are the 2011 NLDS Game 5 versus the Phillies and the 1987 NLCS Game 6 versus the Giants.
• Clayton Kershaw is the first starting pitcher in postseason history to lose a game allowing zero earned runs and two or fewer hits.
• From Elias: This is the third time the Cardinals have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. They are 1-1 in those series. This is the ninth time the Dodgers have trailed 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. They are 3-5 in those series.
• Michael Wacha has been almost unhittable in his past three starts, allowing just 12 baserunners and one run in almost 23 innings, striking out more than five times as many hitters as he's walked.
How he beat the Dodgers:
A.) His fastball averaged 94.8 mph (tied for the third fastest of his career)
B.) That helped his off-speed stuff: Dodgers went 2-for-11 versus his changeup and curveball with five strikeouts (opponents are 2-for-30 with 14 K against his off-speed pitches in his past three starts)
Wacha is the second Cardinals pitcher with back-to-back postseason starts of at least eight strikeouts and one run or fewer allowed. The other was Bob Gibson in the 1968 World Series.
By the numbers
1: This was the first day in MLB postseason history with two 1-0 games on the same day, according to Elias.
2: The Tigers’ no-hit bid was the second no-hitter broken up in the ninth in postseason history, according to Elias.
17: Strikeouts by Tigers pitching, tying the record for most strikeouts by a pitching staff in a nine-inning game in postseason history.
.134: The Cardinals’ batting average in the NLCS, the lowest for a team that won the first two games of a postseason series in major league history, according to Elias.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. A really smart person thinks that Trent Jewett, the team’s third-base coach, has an excellent shot to be the Nationals’ next manager.
2. There are a lot of reasons the Yankees want Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury is making himself look like he’s worth an offseason splurge, writes Jim Donaldson.
4. The Rays are going to have to think about a lot before trading David Price, writes Marc Topkin. The Rays don't share, nor even set, an official payroll figure for each season, but based on what top team officials said after finishing last in attendance, assume at best it will be around the same $60 million they had in 2013.
Figure about $23.6 million is already committed to five players, with 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Matt Moore signed and 2B Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar's options to be picked up.
If they keep Price, he looks to make at least $13 million, assuming another one-year arbitration-framed deal. (And exploring dealing him will be a very complicated and time-consuming process.)
They have 10 other players potentially eligible for arbitration who made close to $11 million last season and most of whom will get nice raises, including first-timers RHP Jeremy Hellickson (headed to $2.5 million to $3 million) and LHP Jake McGee (around $1.3 million), so some might have to be nontendered or dealt.
And they have nine free agents, including 1B James Loney, closer Fernando Rodney, primary C Jose Molina and DH Delmon Young. Plus a tough decision on a $6.5 million option on OF David DeJesus.
It will be particularly interesting, since the Rays don't typically preempt the market, to see what offers surface for Rodney, who blew eight saves, and Loney, who had a good year but might be viewed as similar to Casey Kotchman coming off 2011, when he got a one-year, $3 million deal. Also, whether the Rays would commit to Young as the primary DH with two other right-handers (Longoria and Wil Myers) in the middle of the lineup.
Trading Price for young, low-salaried prime talent obviously makes for an easier fit. But the Rays have to weigh that versus knowing they are better with him and have the chance to be a strong contender in 2014. Also, it's fair to wonder if their efforts to get a new stadium aren't better served by keeping Price and fielding a competitive team.
It should be all quite interesting.
5. There is nothing new on the Cincinnati managerial front, writes John Fay.
6. It sounds like the Indians have been told that Ubaldo Jimenez is going to void his contract, writes Paul Hoynes.
7. The Rockies should trade for David Price, writes Mark Kiszla. I’d bet there’s very little to no chance of that happening, because any team that would give up a huge package of prospects to get Price will want to sign him to a long-term deal -- and it would be a surprise if Price (or any elite pitcher) would want to play in Coors Field for years.