The Red Sox got another great start from Rick Porcello, who went eight innings and struck out a career-high 13 batters. Unfortunately, the offense could not get much going against Michael Pineda or the Yankees bullpen, so Boston dropped the middle game of the series.
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Alex Rodriguez led off the top of fifth inning with a single to left. After Chase Headley and Greg Bird struck out, any Yankee threat appeared to be minimized. Didi Gregorius then hit a chopper down the first-base line that should have ended the inning, but Travis Shaw misplayed the second hop and the ball scooted under his glove and all the way down the right field line. Rodriguez ended up at third, and Gregorious advanced to second on the error. The misplay proved especially costly as the next batter, Stephen Drew, smacked a double to left-center field scoring both baserunners (WPA: + .258). In the end, the runs were enough to get the Yankees the win.
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Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts singled off of Dellin Betances’ 98 mph fastball offerings. With one out and David Ortiz at the plate things were looking pretty good. Then on a 1-1 pitch, Mookie and Xander took off on an attempted double steal. I don’t know if they went on their own, or if it was called from the bench but it was not a great decision. Betances throws very hard, and with Ortiz at the plate Yankees catcher Brian McCann had a clear shot throwing to third. McCann did throw to third and Betts was called out (WPA: – .123). The play was very close, and it seemed like third base umpire Vic Carapazza called Betts out for coming off the bag while Chase Headley still had a tag applied to him. The Red Sox challenged the call, but while replays appeared to show that Betts did not come off the bag, the video evidence was not irrefutable and the call was upheld. Check out the video below to decide for yourself:
Porcello was cruising through 7.2 innings, only having allowed two runs. Unfortunately, before Porcello could complete the eighth inning Brett Gardner took him deep over the top of Pesky’s Pole for a critical insurance run (WPA: + .135). With Betances already in the game at that point, and Andrew Miller looming, increasing a one-run lead to two runs made things look really favorable for the Yankees.
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With September 1 comes expanded rosters and the Red Sox have called up Allen Craig, Ryan Cook, Noe Ramirez and Sandy Leon. Of these four players I think Craig is the most interesting. We have no idea what he is capable of anymore and it is not clear where he would slot in on next year’s roster. His decline to below replacement level production came quickly, earning him the demotion to Pawtucket. In 400 plate appearances at Triple-A this season he has a triple slash of .274/.368/.350. The on-base percentage is nice, but the slugging is downright ugly, especially when considering he slugged .522 and .457 in consecutive seasons at the major league not too long ago. So the question remains: what, if anything, can Craig provide at the major league level? And if he shows that he can produce like he used to, what do the Red Sox do with him? There is no everyday role in the outfield, at first base or at designated hitter next year, so unless he is considered useful as a bench player there is no clear spot for him. Even the bench role seems like a bit of an awkward fit. He is not exactly versatile or fleet of foot, having him pinch hit for David Ortiz does not present an offensive upgrade and having him pinch hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. raises issues on the defensive side of things. It is not an easy fit. Perhaps the Red Sox are showcasing him for a trade. But it seems unlikely that other teams are going to use a handful of games in September to decide they should give up a decent player in their system to get Craig. Nevertheless I think seeing what Craig can do in the big leagues will be an interesting aspect of the next month.
The series wraps up tomorrow at 4:05pm EST with Henry Owens heading to the hill to take on the Yankees for the second time in his young career. Owens has performed fairly well during his time in the big leagues, but has struggled with high pitch counts and as a result has not worked deep into games. In three of his five starts he has only thrown 5.0 innings. In his most recent outing against the Mets, Owens had difficulty with control, walking four batters. He will need to be sharper against the patient Yankee lineup. The Red Sox offense will be in tough against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka (3.62 ERA, 4.07 FIP), who has already beat them twice this season. However, in those two outings Tanaka was less than sharp, posting a cumulative line of 11.0 innings pitched, nine hits, seven runs, two home runs, four walks and seven strikeouts. The Sox’s offense will look to continue their reasonable success against Tanaka and wrap up a series win.
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