This is not something anyone expected to see on June 11:
After all, last year the Red Sox won 108 games, won the World Series and brought the entire team back this season. The Rangers finished 67-95. They were 41 games worse than the Red Sox in the win column and 340 runs worse than the Red Sox in run differential. Their big offseason moves were signing Lance Lynn and trading Jurickson Profar. They signed 36-year-old veteran Hunter Pence to a minor league contract at the outset of spring training. The forecasts for the Rangers weren’t particularly optimistic.
Yet here we are after the Rangers beat the Red Sox 9-5 at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, their second straight win to begin a four-game series. If the season ended today the Rangers would be the second wild card in the American League and the Red Sox would go home as one of the most disappointing teams in recent years. This play is symbolic of the seasons for both clubs:
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) June 12, 2019
Pence lofts a little fly ball down the right-field line. Brock Holt and Mookie Betts don’t perform good baseball. Pence circles the bases with a two-run inside-the-park home run. Pence now has as many or more home runs as Khris Davis, Rhys Hoskins, Kris Bryant, J.D. Martinez or Paul Goldschmidt, to name a few noteworthy sluggers. He’s a potential All-Star. Rangers fans are loving the surprise season from their hometown hero (Pence went to Arlington High School):
Hello I am here to tell you that Hunter Pence hit his 14th home run of the season and no, I will not stop giving you these updates.
— Carmen Kiew (@carmenkiew) June 12, 2019
What has happened to the Red Sox? Obviously, they miss Craig Kimbrel and the rotation got off to that horrible start, but they had appeared to right the ship. Instead, now they’re teetering again like a luxury cruise liner with a bad case of norovirus. Check out their past eight series, working backwards:
0-2 vs. Rangers
1-3 vs. Rays
3-0 vs. Royals
1-2 vs. Yankees
1-2 vs. Indians
1-2 vs. Astros
3-1 vs. Blue Jays
1-2 vs. Astros
They’re 6-1 against the woeful Royals and Blue Jays and 5-13 against the good teams. They’re now 10-20 on the season against teams currently .500 or better. One thing to wonder about, playing more pop psychologist than statistical analyst: last year, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale were so good it just seemed to lift the entire team. You had two superstars to carry the offense and take the pressure off everyone else and, at least until Sale got injured in August, maybe the best starter in the majors to dominate every fifth day.
Well, Sale got off to that horrible start, Martinez has had some back issues cut into his production and Betts has been excellent — just not as excellent. The air of invincibility that those three carried last season hasn’t been there, cutting into some of that “we’re going to find a way to win” attitude that the 2018 Red Sox maintained all season and into the playoffs. Holt and Betts not hustling after the ball on Pence’s home run is representative of how the Red Sox simply haven’t been as locked in as 2018.
Pence — now hitting .284/.345/.585 — isn’t the only surprise on the Rangers. Mike Minor, 5-4 with a 2.52 ERA, has been one of the best starters in the American League. Joey Gallo had taken his game to a new level before the oblique strain sidelined him. They found Danny Santana off the scrap heap and he’s hitting .299/.338/.490. Nonetheless, it’s a team with clear concerns: They’ve run through 12 starting pitchers, Rougned Odor has a .250 OBP, the bullpen hasn’t been particularly stellar, Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara aren’t tearing it up.
Which team is most likely to get there? I’d still bet on the Red Sox. FanGraphs playoff odds still heavily favor Boston as well:
Red Sox: 90-72, 61.3 percent playoff odds
Rangers: 80-82, 3.8 percent playoff odds
One reason for the pessimism for the Rangers is that they’ve outperformed their BaseRuns stats by four wins while the Red Sox have underperformed by three. That’s another way of saying the Rangers have been clutch and the Red Sox haven’t — and you can’t project those trends to continue.
Still, the Rangers have put themselves in position to make a wild-card run. In a league with as many bad teams as the AL has, it makes sense that we’d see a surprise team. Maybe that will be the Rangers.
The Astros have found their DH: Yordan Alvarez homered in his first game in the majors on Sunday and he homered in his second game in Houston’s 10-8 win over Milwaukee:
Yordan Alvarez hits homers in 100% of the games he plays in. pic.twitter.com/WanfistbVH
— MLB (@MLB) June 12, 2019
OK, it was hardly a monster mash, but the 21-year-old Cuban displayed his raw power by hitting it out without even putting a big swing on the ball, making him the first player in Astros history to homer in his first two games. The 21-year-old Cuban had hit .343/.443/.772 at Triple-A with 23 home runs in 56 games. I don’t think he needs to worry returning to Round Rock.
Tuesday night in home runs: Maybe we’ll make this a regular feature. Let’s see …
• Alvarez hit that ball out even though it looked he was merely chipping a ball onto the green at Pebble Beach. The Astros hit four home runs in the game. The Brewers hit three in the loss, including Christian Yelich’s 25th.
• The Braves hit four home runs in the second inning of their 7-5 win over the Pirates — and five in the game, all off Chris Archer. That’s two days in a row we had a pitcher surrender five home runs (and don’t forget the four in a row the Nationals hit off Craig Stammen on Sunday).
• The Yankees hit three home runs in a 12-5 win over the Mets, including Gary Sanchez’s 20th. Sanchez was the DH and in eight games as a DH he’s hit .333 with seven home runs.
• The Mets responded with three home runs to win the second game of the doubleheader 10-4. Pete Alonso hit a three-run blast in the first inning off James Paxton, his 22nd in 66 career games. Most home runs through 70 career games:
• Eloy Jimenez hit his first home run at home in his young career. It only went 462 feet:
Eloy Jiménez absolutely CRUSHED this baseball.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 12, 2019
Catch of the day: Victor Robles with the sensational grab…
— MLB (@MLB) June 12, 2019
Until tomorrow … enjoy your baseball.
Inside the numbers of the wacky Padres-Rockies series
Baseball has never seen a series quite like the four-game set between the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies this weekend at Coors Field. A record number of runs, two epic comebacks, 15 hits — by one guy.
In case you missed it, the series went like this:
Thursday: A relatively pedestrian 9-6 win for the Rockies.
Here’s a closer look at some of the wackiness:
— The 92 total runs were the most ever in a four-game series in the modern era (since 1900), surpassing the 88 scored by the Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers in May 1929, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The final tally for the series split: Rockies 48, Padres 44.
— While the 44 runs was the most ever by the Padres in a four-game series, the Rockies’ total of 48 ranked only fourth on their gaudy list.
Charlie Blackmon becomes the first player in the modern era with 15 hits in a 4-game set and just the third player since World War II to do so in any single series.
— The teams combined for 131 hits, the most in a four-game series since 1922, with 15 — yes, 15 — coming from Blackmon alone. That’s the most by a player in a four-game series in the modern era. Blackmon entered the series hitting .305; by the end of the series, his average was up to .336. As a team, the Rockies gained 10 points on their batting average.
— After hitting three home runs Friday, Renfroe added two more Sunday. He bumped his OPS from .877 to .952.
— Sunday’s game was 9-8 Rockies after 2½ innings, and Colorado led 13-8 after six and 13-10 going into the ninth. But Greg Garcia tied it for the Padres with a two-out, two-run triple. The Rockies then chose to intentionally walk the next two hitters, setting up a matchup between Gray and pinch hitter (and pitcher) Matt Strahm. Gray walked Strahm on six pitches to plate the go-ahead run.
This season, teams that have trailed by at least five runs after the sixth inning are 3-251. Two of the three wins were by San Diego in this series, with the other coming Friday night when …
— The Padres trailed 11-5 in the ninth inning, but tied it with a six-run outburst that included Renfroe’s third homer of the game and a two-out, two-run single by Fernando Tatis Jr. to tie it. San Diego scored five more in the 12th inning for the first win in franchise history when trailing by six or more runs entering the ninth inning. The Padres had been 0-766 in such situations, according to Elias research. They also were the first road team to win when entering the ninth trailing by six or more runs since May 2005. Road teams had been 0-3,805 over that span, according to Elias.
— The Padres were the first team to overcome deficits of three or more runs in the ninth inning or later in multiple games of the same series since the Astros did it to the Padres in 1989, according to Elias research.
What might these teams do for an encore? While the Rockies will make a couple of visits to Petco Park, that’s not nearly the hitters’ paradise that Coors is. We’ll have to wait until Sept. 13-15 for the Padres’ return trip to Colorado.
Look out, world — The Yankees’ big guns are ready to swing into action
CHICAGO — A new day is dawning on the New York Yankees‘ season.
Compared to every other day in an injury-ravaged spring that was dominated by a bevy of little-known backups, this new day will look and feel vastly different. With two of the biggest tests the Yankees will face this year looming on their schedule, the revamped look and feel is timely and necessary.
Remember the B-teamers? Well, this was their team. But now their reign is over. They’ve served their purpose. But it’s time for them to step aside. Why?
Because “Big Boy Season” is about to commence.
It will unofficially kick off Monday night in the Bronx when the Yankees, before taking on key division foe Tampa Bay, introduce a pinstripes-wearing Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankee Stadium crowd. That introduction will mark the moment the organization moves into the latest — and perhaps last — phase of its season, when power becomes a truly potent and viable weapon.
As the Rays and Astros report to the Bronx this week, the Yankees are about to let their big boys play.
“We’ve got a lot of talented guys in the room, and a lot of talented guys heading back, which will do nothing but make our team stronger,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said Sunday following the Yankees’ 10-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. “Anytime you can add somebody as good as Edwin, he’s a guy who’s going to make us better.”
In addition to the arrival of Encarnacion, the American League’s home run leader with 21, the Yankees will be welcoming back Giancarlo Stanton, who has been limited to eight at-bats this season but led the big leagues in homers two seasons ago. Stanton is expected to be activated from the injured list Tuesday. Another once-injured big bopper who has paced his league in long balls, Aaron Judge, ought to be back in the lineup in the coming days as well.
The arrival of all three sluggers has Yankees manager Aaron Boone eager to see where his club may soon go.
“Encarnacion, Stanton and Judge, that’s three elite power hitters plugged into our lineup,” he said. “Hopefully it’s something that over time creates a big-time advantage for us.”
One would think these additions would lead to enormously advantageous situations for the Yankees. After all, with three of the league’s best power hitters in the same lineup, no lead ought to be considered safe.
Not to mention the likes of Gary Sanchez (who ranks second in the AL in homers), the similarly powerful Luke Voit, the ever-dangerous Didi Gregorius, the strong Gleyber Torres, the steady DJ LeMahieu and Gardner, the patient Aaron Hicks and clutch Gio Urshela. Put it all together, and there are really no spots for a pitcher to catch a breather.
Remember the days when the Yankees’ offense hinged on the largely inexperienced Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada? Certainly, the Yankees won games with those guys in the lineup, as evidenced by the 32-10 run through April and May, when all three contributed at one time or another. But still, with all due respect, who would you rather have hitting in a spot when an extra-base hit could end a game? Them, or the big boys?
Against this week’s challenging opponents, the Rays and Astros, Stanton has 13 homers and a .237 batting average in 76 games. Judge has a .263 average and 11 homers in 56 regular season games against them.
As for Encarnacion, the 36-year-old designated hitter has 43 homers in 178 regular season games against the two teams. He’s been particularly prolific against them the last two seasons, enjoying the highest home run rates against them in his career during those years.
Encarnacion homered in 9.3 percent of his plate appearances against the Rays and Astros in 2017. In 2018, he homered 8.2 percent of the time. Overall in his career, he homers 5.7 percent of the time he steps in the batter’s box.
With Big Boy Season beginning to take effect, the Yankees are already seeing the byproducts of a roster crunch. Viable options like Estrada and the burgeoning RBI machine Clint Frazier have already been sent down as the Yankees get healthier. In the coming days, Tauchman seems likely to go back to the minor leagues too.
“This is the reality of things,” Frazier said Sunday. “So guess I’m facing reality right now.”
Reality also is that Frazier himself possesses a big-boy bat, but as the odd man out of a changing outfield rotation, he was expendable in this round of roster moves.
Of course, the real roster moves the Yankees will need to make in the coming weeks will be ones that aid their starting rotation. Although they finally got quality work from opener Chad Green and his long-man reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. on Saturday, and a similarly strong outing from James Paxton on Sunday, the Yankees haven’t gotten the consistency they’d like from their rotation in recent weeks.
Currently, Yankees starting pitchers have a 4.13 ERA. Prior to June, however, they had a more palatable 3.76 ERA.
Expect the starters’ failings to be addressed by the trade deadline, but in the meantime, don’t be afraid to gawk at the power the Yankees’ new-look offense is about to showcase. This week gives them a prime opportunity to put it on display.
Padres, Rockies break 4-game series runs record
DENVER — The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies set a modern-era record by combining for 92 runs in a four-game series, when San Diego pitcher Matt Strahm drawing a pinch-hit, bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning to rally past Colorado 14-13 Sunday. The all-time record is 112 runs between the Cleveland Blues and St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1887.
It was just another wacky day at Coors Field, especially in this split series in which the Rockies outscored the Padres 48-44 while the teams combined for 131 hits. Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon became the first player since at 1900 with 15 hits in a four-game series.
Adding to the zaniness: The finale was delayed once to clean up a big puddle in foul territory despite sunny skies, and again later because of weather.
With the Padres trailing 13-10 in the ninth, Wil Myers had an RBI single and Greg Garcia promptly tied it with a two-out, two-run triple off closer Wade Davis (1-2). The Rockies brought in starter Jon Gray, who intentionally walked two batters to face Strahm. Gray fell behind 3-1 before throwing a strike. Taking all the way, Strahm watched a fastball narrowly miss for ball four.
Gerardo Reyes (3-0) earned the win by striking out three in the eighth. Kirby Yates threw a perfect ninth for his 24th save. Hunter Renfroe homered twice for San Diego, while Fernando Tatis Jr. had three hits, including a double and a triple.
The Padres raced out to a 3-0 lead before a giant puddle suddenly formed along the right-field line due to an issue with the irrigation line. The grounds crew rolled the water away as the teams waited in the dugout during the 15-minute holdup.
In the bottom of the inning, Colorado responded with six runs. Blackmon led the way with two hits in the inning, including a solo homer to lead off.
The game was again halted in the sixth as weather moved into the area. The delay lasted 48 minutes.
Once the tarp was lifted, the Rockies quickly went to work by scoring three runs to make it 13-8. Ian Desmond, Ryan McMahon and Raimel Tapia had three consecutive doubles to start the frame. The trio went a combined 9-for-15 with six RBIs.
Blackmon remained red hot with three more hits. He has reached base safely in all 26 of his home games this season.
Padres lefty Nick Margevicius surrendered nine runs and 11 hits over 1⅓ innings as his ERA rose from 5.02 to 6.41. He also threw one pitch all the way to the backstop.
Rockies righty Peter Lambert gave up eight runs and nine hits over three innings as his ERA soared from 1.50 to 6.00. He threw two pitches to the backstop. Lambert chipped in on offense with a pair of RBI singles.
Inside the numbers of the wacky Padres-Rockies series
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