Showing posts with label David Ortiz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Ortiz. Show all posts

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here's why Boston might not beat Cleveland in the ALDS

Rick Porcello
Most of the experts are anticipating a Boston-Texas ALCS this year, so of course, Cleveland and Toronto both won Thursday in their respective ALDS Game 1s.

The Red Sox have become the popular pick to win the AL pennant going into the playoffs. Maybe it's just sentimental -- I think media members root for the story -- they want that Cubs-Red Sox World Series; they want that "David Ortiz retires on a high note" narrative.

But picking Boston is not without merit. The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball. They scored 878 runs this season, the most in MLB. The second-highest run total in the AL belongs to Boston's first-round opponent, Cleveland, which scored 777 runs.

Here's the problem with the Red Sox: Their top two pitchers have a track record of stinking it up in the playoffs.

Rick Porcello is a Cy Young candidate this year. He went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. It was the best year of his career by far. Nobody can take that away from him.

But, he was awful in a 5-4 Game 1 loss to the Tribe on Thursday. He allowed three home runs in the span of nine pitches in the bottom of the third inning. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor all took him deep. Porcello pitched just 4.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits. He put the Red Sox in a hole their powerful offense could not quite escape.

Porcello has no track record of postseason success. He's 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA lifetime in nine playoff games. Granted, only three of those nine appearances are starts, but he's yet to show he can do the job when the bright lights come on.

Boston's No. 2 starter, David Price, is in a similar boat. His regular-season numbers this year were quite respectable, 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA. But in the playoffs, he's 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 14 games. And, oh yeah, both his two wins came in relief. In eight playoff starts, Price is 0-7 with 5.27 ERA.

These two guys have got to come through for the Red Sox if they have hopes of winning their fourth World Series title since 2004, and it needs to start Friday when Price takes the ball for Boston against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber in Game 2.

Also, maybe we should be taking the Blue Jays more seriously. They throttled the Rangers, 10-1, on Thursday, and while Marco Estrada is not a household name, he's starting to build a resume as a clutch pitcher. He tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball for Toronto in Game 1, and he's 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four playoff starts over the past two seasons.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White Sox settle for 3 out of 4 in Boston

Jose Abreu
The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale between the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox did not bode well for Chicago: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello.

After all, Shields had allowed 22 runs in his first 8.2 innings as a member of the Sox, and Porcello entered Thursday's play with an 8-2 record -- including a 6-0 mark at Fenway Park.

The Sox lost, 8-7 in 10 innings, but it had nothing to do with the Shields vs. Porcello matchup. Both men turned in mediocre starts and were gone before the sixth inning was over. Frankly, this Sox loss would have been easier to take if Shields had just gotten knocked around again.

Instead, the Sox squandered two leads and blew two golden chances to score with the bases loaded in the eighth and 10th innings, and it's impossible to feel like they shouldn't have come away with a four-game series sweep.

The Sox led, 4-1, in the sixth when Shields cracked. He departed after walking David Ortiz and Ryan LaMarre consecutively to start the inning. Matt Albers provided no relief, hitting a batter and loading the bases before giving up a pair of singles. One of the singles was of the infield variety, with Brett Lawrie making an errant throw that didn't help matters.

The Sox had to use a second reliever, Dan Jennings, who extricated the team from the mess, but not before Boston had surged in front, 5-4.

Jose Abreu answered for the South Siders, clubbing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Junichi Tazawa to give the Sox a 7-5 lead.

That would be short-lived, as Boston scored one in the seventh off Chris Beck and another in the eighth off Nate Jones to tie it at 7.

But the real issue for the Sox here was the inability to put the game away by taking advantage of prime scoring opportunities. The South Siders loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth inning. But J.B. Shuck popped out to shallow left, Tim Anderson struck out swinging and Adam Eaton grounded out weakly to second base.

The failures kept the Sox lead at a meager one run (7-6), and Boston tied it off Jones in the bottom of the inning.

The same exact situation presented itself in the top of the 10th inning. Lawrie at third, Alex Avila at second, Avisail Garcia at first, bases loaded, no outs. Shuck popped out to shortstop. Anderson struck out swinging. Eaton struck out swinging. Once again, no runs, and a heaping pile of frustration.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Purke lost the game. He walked two hitters and gave up a game-ending single to Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, it felt like Boston was finally putting the Sox out of their misery. They had their chances. They blew them, and Boston finally handed them the loss they deserved.

It's disappointing, because a four-game sweep of the Red Sox could have really built some momentum for the upcoming homestand against Toronto and Minnesota.

Instead, we're once again talking about an infuriating loss. We're once again talking about a sub-.500 Sox team (36-37), and we're looking at a team that is in fourth place, six games out of first.

On Monday, I think any Sox fan would have been more than happy with three out of four in Boston. From that perspective, it was a good series. But, in the bigger picture, it's still difficult to see a path to the playoffs for this deeply flawed Sox team.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ill-timed walk costly for Carlos Rodon vs. Red Sox

Carlos Rodon
We know how the national media slobbers all over Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. No doubt, the ESPN guys were excited by the game-changing, two-run homer Ortiz hit off Carlos Rodon in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 5-2 Boston win over the White Sox.

The home run turned a 2-1 Chicago advantage into a 3-2 Boston lead. The Red Sox finished the game off from there.

But from a White Sox perspective, I'm not so concerned about the home run Ortiz hit. Rodon served up a fat fastball, and he knows it. But the real sin Rodon committed in that inning was allowing Ortiz to get to the plate in the first place.

Rodon retired the first two hitters easily in that fifth inning, but then he issued a four-pitch, two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts. That's inexcusable with Ortiz on deck. In a one-run game, you go right at Bogaerts. If he hits his way on -- and he might because he's a good hitter -- so be it. But you can't afford to just give him first base and allow Ortiz to hit with a man on. Rodon was asking for it, and Ortiz made him pay.

If Rodon retires Bogaerts, the inning is over. The 2-1 White Sox lead stays intact. Ortiz leads off the next inning, and even if he hits one to the moon, the best he can do is tie the game. That's what you want when you're playing Boston -- you want to keep yourself out of situations where Ortiz can beat you. Rodon failed to do that, and he got beat.

Just overall, Rodon needs to work on limiting his walks. He's averaging 3.8 walks per nine innings through his first six starts this year. He's issued a team-high 14 walks in 33 innings, and his 1.394 WHIP is too high for a pitcher with his talent. The Sox are 2-4 in Rodon's starts. He'll start winning games when he stops giving away so many free bases to the opponent.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shane Victorino stars as Red Sox complete World Series victory

It was pretty clear the St. Louis Cardinals were not going to let Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz beat them in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

Ortiz, who entered Wednesday's play batting .733 for the series, went 0-for-1 with four walks -- three of them intentional -- in Game 6. However, the St. Louis strategy failed, thanks to Boston outfielder Shane Victorino.

Victorino went 2 for 3 with four RBIs as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 6-1 and claimed their third World Series title since 2004.

The decisive moment came in the bottom of the third inning. With Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and one out, Ortiz was intentionally walked for the first time. After Mike Napoli struck out and Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch, the table was set for Victorino. With the bases loaded and two away, the right fielder ripped a 2-1 fastball from St. Louis starter Michael Wacha off the Green Monster in left field for a bases-clearing double. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead with one swing of the bat, and well, that was pretty much your ballgame.

Boston tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, another frame that featured an intentional walk to Ortiz. Napoli and Victorino both foiled the strategy with RBI singles, and Boston had a 6-0 advantage.

I can't fault the Cardinals for going around Ortiz. They were bound and determined to make someone else swing the bat. Other Boston hitters stepped up and got the job done in RBI situations, so give them credit.

St. Louis, meanwhile, failed miserably in the clutch. The Cardinals were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in Game 6 and could not capitalize against Boston starter and winning pitcher John Lackey. The best opportunity for St. Louis came in the seventh inning. Trailing 6-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with two outs for their leading RBI man, Allen Craig. But Boston reliever Junichi Tazawa retired Craig on a routine grounder to first. The Red Sox lead was never threatened again.

The Cardinals hit a major league record .330 with runners in scoring position this season, but their greatest strength failed them at an inopportune time on Wednesday night. They could get runners on. They just couldn't get them in.

When the Red Sox had scoring opportunities, they delivered. And that's why they are partying in Boston right now.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If the Red Sox win the World Series, do you think David Ortiz will win MVP?

Boston slugger David Ortiz is hitting .733 through the first five games of the World Series. In contrast, his Red Sox teammates have combined for a .156 batting average.

Yeah, I think we know who has been the best player on the field so far in this series.

The Red Sox have 33 hits as a team over the five games. Ortiz has 11 of them, in just 15 at-bats. He also has two home runs, six RBIs and four walks. His on-base percentage is .789. That's obscene.

Ortiz finished 3 for 4 in Boston's 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday in Game 5. His RBI double in the first inning opened the scoring. The Red Sox also got an go-ahead RBI double from journeyman catcher David Ross in the top of the seventh, and Jacoby Ellsbury chipped in with an RBI single.

The Red Sox now own a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts back to Fenway Park for Game 6 on Wednesday night.

If it weren't for Ortiz's otherworldly performance, we would be talking about left-hander Jon Lester as a possible MVP winner. The Boston ace was masterful for the second time in this series in Game 5. He went 7.2 innings and allowed just four hits. He struck out seven, walked none and surrendered just one run on a solo home run by Matt Holliday. Lester is now 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two World Series starts. He also was the winning pitcher in Game 1.

The odds are stacked in Boston's favor now as it has two chances to win one game at home. Can St. Louis go into Fenway and win two straight? I doubt it, but you never say never.

The Cardinals have to feel good about their Game 6 starter, Michael Wacha, who has been every bit as brilliant as Lester in the postseason. The St. Louis rookie is 4-0 with 1.00 ERA in four playoff starts. He'll need to make it 5-0 for the Cardinals to stay alive. His mound opponent will once again be Boston veteran John Lackey.

Here's why the Cardinals still have a chance: If it goes to Game 7, who is Boston going to pitch? Lester and Lackey are their only two reliable starters. Jake Peavy has been inconsistent to say the least. Clay Buchholz is gutting it out, pitching through injuries. Neither of the two is a real attractive option to start a Game 7, but one of them will get the ball -- if the Cardinals can find a way to pull out Game 6.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rookies pitch Cardinals to Game 2 victory

One thing we learned from Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night: If you're really good, a lack of experience doesn't matter.

The St. Louis Cardinals used three rookie pitchers, starter Michael Wacha and relievers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, to beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 and even the series at a game each.

None of those three pitchers is older than age 23, but you never would have known it by the poise they showed in the hostile environment at Fenway Park.

We've come to expect excellence from Wacha, who is 4-0 in four postseason starts now. But, in a way, this effort was more impressive than his previous ones because he did not have his good stuff Thursday night. His command was off. He walked four people and needed 114 pitches to get through six innings. Still, he surrendered just two runs, both on a home run by David Ortiz in the sixth inning. I didn't think Wacha had his real good fastball in this game. There was a lot of 91 and 92 on the radar gun, whereas he had been hitting 94 and 95 in previous starts. Still, he persevered against a strong lineup and gave his team a chance to win.

Martinez, who features a 98 mph fastball, worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, moments after the Cardinals had score three runs in the top of the inning to take the lead for good. The 23-year-old also worked the eighth inning and pitched his way out of two-on, two-out jam.

Rosenthal had the ninth, and well, he was pretty damn good. He struck out the side while consistently hitting 98 and 99 on the gun.

It helps to have power arms in the bullpen, and that's one of the reasons I picked the Cardinals to win the World Series before the playoffs started. Sure, they are inexperienced, but those high-90s fastballs allow them to get away with some mistakes location-wise.

A lot of people have talked about how good Boston's bullpen has been this year, and rightfully so. We saw last night the guys at the back end of the St. Louis bullpen are no slouches either. Coming right at guys with heat; that's how you close out a game.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Since we left off, the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals have each clinched the pennant in their respective leagues. They will open the World Series on Wednesday night in Boston.

To get ready, let's take a look at three players from each team whose performance could swing the outcome of the series one way or the other.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Michael Wacha - The rookie right-hander is 3-0 in three starts this postseason, and he's allowed just one run in 21 innings pitched, with 22 strikeouts and just 12 baserunners (8 hits, 4 walks) allowed. He has the element of surprise in his favor. Nobody in Boston's lineup has ever faced him. Can he continue to pitch like a budding ace? If so, the Cardinals have the advantage in starting pitching in this series. Ace Adam Wainwright will start Games 1 and 5, while Wacha will get Games 2 and 6.

2. Allen Craig - The first baseman hasn't played since Sept. 4. He's been out with a foot injury, but he is slated to DH in Games 1 and 2 in Boston. If Craig can chip off the rust quickly, his bat is a huge asset in the middle of the St. Louis lineup. In 134 games this year, he posted a .315/.373/.457 slash line and had 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. We'll see if Craig is healthy enough to play first base when the series shifts to St. Louis, but even if he can only DH and pinch hit, his return to the active roster could be pivotal.

3. Yadier Molina - One of the things I like about the Red Sox offense is their speed at the top of the order. Boston was third in the American League in stolen bases with 123, with Jacoby Ellsbury (52 steals), Shane Victorino (21 steals) and Dustin Pedroia (17 stolen bases) accounting for most of them. However, few catchers in baseball can neutralize an opponent's running game as well as Molina. He threw out 43 percent of runners who tried to steal against him this year, and has caught 45 percent for his career. Will Boston be able to run against Molina? We shall see.

Boston Red Sox

1. John Lackey - This guy is back from the dead this year. Lackey posted a 6.41 ERA in 2011 and missed all of 2012 after elbow surgery. But this year, he's rebounded to post a 3.52 ERA and has pitched much better than his 10-13 regular season record indicates. He beat Detroit ace Justin Verlander 1-0 in Game 3 of the ALCS, which in hindsight might have been the most pivotal game of that series. Lackey will be matched up with Wacha in Game 2. Does he have another big effort in him? We know the veteran isn't afraid of the big stage. He won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie with the Anaheim Angels.

2. David Ortiz - It's been a slow postseason for the Boston designated hitter. He's batting just .200 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the playoffs. All of his damage was done in two games. He had a two-homer game in Game 2 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, and a game-changing grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit. The Red Sox need Ortiz to get some things done on occasions other than Game 2 of this series. When the series shifts to St. Louis, Boston skipper John Farrell will have to choose between Ortiz and Mike Napoli at first base. You figure Ortiz gets the nod, since St. Louis has all right-handed starting pitchers. But, Napoli is 6-for-16 with two home runs in his last four games. The decision becomes harder if Napoli stays hot and Ortiz stays cold.

3. Koji Uehara - Most championship teams have a few guys who come out of nowhere to have career seasons. No question Uehara is one of those guys for the Red Sox. The 38-year-old reliever went 4-1 with 21 saves, a 1.09 ERA and a 0.565 WHIP in the regular season. Those are all career bests. Uehara has continued his excellence in postseason play. He's allowed just one run in nine innings, and he has posted five saves. In three of his five saves, he has pitched more than one inning. That's huge, because Boston's starting staff doesn't get deep into games. Knowing Uehara can come on in the eighth inning and get the job done allows Farrell to shorten the game a little bit.

I'm not real good at making predictions, but before the playoffs I said St. Louis had the most balanced team in the field of eight. So, I should probably forecast them as the winner. I think the Red Sox have a real shot at this thing, but I'll stick with my original thought and say Cardinals in six. You can all laugh at me if I get proven wrong.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Detroit's dumbest move: Throwing David Ortiz a first pitch changeup

The Detroit Tigers pitching staff continues to do things that have never been done before.

Starter Max Scherzer went 5 2/3 innings without giving up a hit in Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday night. The Tigers became the first team in postseason history to have a starting pitcher carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning in three consecutive games.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, on Sunday they also became the first team in postseason history to have four different pitchers give up a single run in the same inning. When David Ortiz hit a first-pitch changeup from closer Joaquin Benoit out of the park for a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and Benoit were all charged with one run.

Ortiz's blast erased a 5-1 Boston deficit, and the Red Sox went on to win 6-5 and even the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Predictably, motownsports.com exploded with criticism of Detroit manager Jim Leyland. Scherzer had thrown 108 pitches threw seven, but he wasn't allowed to start the eighth inning. Did he have another inning in him? Maybe, but Scherzer said he was done at that point after the game. Did Leyland overmanage by using those four relief pitchers to try to get through the eighth inning? Perhaps. I'm not a big proponent of the lefty-righty, batter-by-batter stuff. I always figure if you use enough relief pitchers, eventually you'll land on a guy who doesn't have his best stuff that day.

All that said, Leyland had his best reliever on the mound to face Ortiz. The odds were still in the Tigers' favor. They were up four, there were two outs, and the pressure was on Ortiz to do something to get his team back in the game.

Ortiz did just that, but I think he was helped by the worst decision any Tigers player or manager made all evening: They threw something offspeed on the first pitch of the sequence. I'm pretty sure the veteran Ortiz has seen that trick before. The pitcher assumes the hitter is looking first-pitch fastball with the bases loaded, so he tries to flip a sloppy offspeed offering up there in hopes of grabbing a first-pitch strike and getting ahead in the count. That kind of crap works against younger hitters. It didn't work against Ortiz, who ripped the ball into the right-field bullpen, a hit that definitely turned the game around and possibly the entire series.

Bad thought process, bad pitch. Throwing a changeup in that situation was worse than any of the questionable decisions Leyland made throughout the game. Next time, throw Ortiz a well-located fastball on the first pitch.