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The Monday Takeaway

For seven innings of their annual Patriots’ Day matinee, all was going well for the Red Sox. They had a 1-0 lead, Clay Buchholz was throwing well, and the Blue Jays had only gotten one runner to second base—and needed a passed ball to even do that. All of that, though, was mostly because Jose Bautista kept grounding into double plays.

Twin killings aren’t anything new for Bautista—he hit into 19 of them last year—but he’s not an easy opponent to roll a pair against. The 35-year-old hits most everything in the air, having entered play yesterday with just six groundballs off his bat in 13 games. Buchholz had Bautista’s number from the get-go Monday, though, coaxing not one, not two, but three double-play grounders off his bat in the first six innings. Russell Martin grounded into another, back in the second inning, so Buchholz became the first Red Sox starter to roll it up four times in a game since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008.

Then the eighth inning came, Buchholz departed, and the Blue Jays stopped grounding into double plays—in part because the Red Sox forgot how to play defense. For instance, Josh Rutledge took Kevin Pillar’s leadoff infield single and turned it into a two-bagger:

via GIPHY

Then, after Koji Uehara walked Justin Smoak to set up another double-play situation, Christian Vazquez coughed up a passed ball that put two men in scoring position.

The next batter, Michael Saunders, hit one sharply to shortstop Xander Bogaerts on the right side of second, and Bogaerts… casually threw to first, as though Pillar weren’t heading home to score the tying run:

via GIPHY

The double play was back in order, but Uehara hit the next batter, something he’d done just twice before:

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And then Uehara walked Bautista to load the bases. A double play became unnecessary to preserve the tie when Craig Kimbrel entered and fanned Edwin Encarnacion, but an out was still very much needed. A nervous John Farrell could take solace in the fact that Kimbrel had never issued a bases-loaded walk in the majors, but there’s a first time for everything, and his first run-scoring free pass came at the perfect time for Troy Tulowitzki and the Jays. Martin followed with a two-run single, which became crucial when Drew Storen permitted a pair in the ninth, enabling the Jays to hang on, 4-3.

According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, this marks the first time the Red Sox have lost a game in which they induced five double-play balls since May 6th, 2012, when they and the Orioles played 17 frames. To find the last such nine-inning Boston loss, you’d have to rewind all the way to August 31st, 1993, when Roger Clemens rolled four. As it turns out, though, the last four major-league teams to turn five double plays in a game, and seven of the last eight, have ultimately gone down in defeat.

Quick Hits from Monday

It wasn’t a good day for the other Sox, either, and a very bad one indeed for their starting pitcher. Carlos Rodon threw well in his first two starts of the season, holding foes to just two runs in 13 innings, but little went the left-hander’s way Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

All those 1s half a foot or more outside the strike zone were Rodon’s futile attempts to get ahead of hitters. He threw a first-pitch strike to just one of the nine Angels he faced in the series opener, and while only two of them ended up walking, six others notched hits, most of them on mistakes up in the zone. Rodon wound up chucking 41 pitches while retiring only one batter, the shortest outing by that measure for a White Sox starter since Neal Cotts got lit up by the Yankees on August 28th, 2003.

Meanwhile, Rodon’s opposite number and former South Sider Hector Santiago was fantastic. Spotted a five-run lead, the southpaw worked around two first-inning baserunners and then began mowing ‘em down. striking out a pair in the second, fourth, and fifth. When Adam Eaton led off the sixth with a ground-rule double, Santiago countered with two more Ks to preserve the shutout.

Santiago ended up with 10 strikeouts in total, over seven frames of two-hit, three-walk ball. Starters who do that generally have a dynamite breaking ball or changeup at their disposal. Not so, here:

A whopping 81 of the 106 deliveries from Santiago to the White Sox on Monday were sinkers, and 18 of the South Siders’ 20 whiffs came on the mid-90s cheese:

Andrelton Simmons and C.J. Cron had three hits apiece to lead the way at the plate in the 7-0 romp.

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The White Sox got no sympathy from the Phillies on Monday. While they were busy flailing at 95s and 96s, Pete Mackanin’s crew had to contend with 100s and the occasional 102 from Noah Syndergaard. Oh, and also this thing:

via GIPHY

That breaking ball assured Odubel Herrera of a place on the list of the ugliest strikeouts of the season. Syndergaard had eight Ks in all Monday, over seven innings of five-hit, one-run work.

Thor took the mound with the lead thanks to this first-inning blast from David Wright:

The Phillies drew even in the third, but the Mets went back ahead in the sixth and stayed up 2-1 until the Philly bullpen began serving up gopherballs. Lucas Duda and Neil Walker each go a hold of one in the eighth, and Wright launched his second long fly of the night in the ninth

to cap off the 5-2 win.

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While Wright’s ninth-inning yardwork was superfluous, Jake Lamb’s most certainly was not:

His solo shot off Giants closer Santiago Casilla came with nobody on, two down, and the Diamondbacks trailing by one in the top of the ninth. And if it weren’t for that homer, the Snakes might’ve had a long night trying to swallow a dismal one-run loss. The Giants had seven runs to their name by the ninth inning of Monday’s contest, but they needed plenty of help from the visitors’ pitching staff to plate them.

After stranding the bases loaded in the first, the home offense mounted another threat against Archie Bradley, fresh up from the minors, in the second. But with an 0-2 count on Denard Span, batting with two on and one away, Bradley was one strike away from breathing easier again. Then, he unfurled a vicious curveball that skipped far enough away from catcher Welington Castillo to allow Jake Peavy to score from third and advance Angel Pagan into scoring position:

via GIPHY

Span singled Pagan home to make it 2-1 Giants, but Castillo helped his batterymate with a game-tying solo homer in the fourth.

Joe Panik untied the game with a long ball of his own, but the real trouble for Bradley and the D’backs came later that same frame. Randall Delgado relieved Bradley with two men on and one down in the fifth, then walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases. After punching out Kelby Tomlinson, all Delgado had to do was retire Peavy. What he could not do was walk him,

via GIPHY

because that run-scoring free pass not only made it 4-2, but it also extended the inning for Pagan, who singled to make it 6-2.

The Diamondbacks would rally again, halving the deficit in the sixth and drawing even again in the eighth. And yet, moments later, they had another gift waiting for the Giants:

via GIPHY

Fortunately, Lamb came to their rescue in the top of the ninth, and again in the 11th, when his RBI double gave closer Brad Ziegler a 9-7 lead to protect. Ziegler allowed a pair of baserunners before rolling a pair to end the four-hour-and-35-minute series opener.

The Defensive Play of the Day

Jackie Bradley Jr. took a hit away from Troy Tulowitzki,

so Kevin Pillar said, “Fine, but turnabout is fair play”:

What to Watch on Tuesday

On the Mets side of today’s matchup with the Phillies, the story is the presence of right-hander Logan Verrett, who was afforded another starting opportunity while Jacob deGrom tends to a medical issue concerning his newborn son. On the Phillies side, it’s all about Vincent Velasquez, the 23-year-old coming off a historic 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres, which gave him 25 strikeouts against just nine baserunners allowed through 15 innings this year. Sam Miller documented Velasquez’s gem in detail last Friday, so we’ll just note here that right-handed batters are only 1-for-25 against the righty with 14 strikeouts. Best of luck to Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, and Co. this evening (7:05 p.m. ET).

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Khris Davis is 6-for-37 with 15 strikeouts, which probably isn’t what the A’s had in mind when they traded for him in the later stages of the offseason. So, manager Bob Melvin gave the outfielder the day off on Sunday, which, with the green and gold idle Monday, means Davis his now had some time to shake off his funk. He’ll return to action tonight in the Bronx, where Eric Surkamp and the A’s are set to take on Michael Pineda and the Yankees.

Besides whiffing aplenty, Davis has also been behind just about everything thrown his way to this point in the young season:

The right-handed-hitting former Brewer has hit 42 percent of his career batted balls to the pull side. This year? He hasn’t lofted a single flyball or line drive to left, a crucial reason why he has zero homers through 40 trips to the plate. There’s nothing wrong with attacking the middle or thinking opposite field, but if the 28-year-old is to get back to being the player the A’s thought they were acquiring, he’ll have to launch one over the left-field wall every now and again. Tune in for the series opener at Yankee Stadium to see if the 48 hours off gets Davis back on track (7:05 p.m. ET).

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The White Sox aren’t paying Mat Latos much, so they’ve got to be ecstatic about the early returns on their $3 million investment. Latos has held the opposition to just one combined run in his first two outings with the South Siders, striking out six and walking two in a dozen innings, all while permitting only four hits. The question is just how sustainable this newfound success is.

Latos was better last year than his 4.95 ERA might’ve indicated, as it was accompanied by a 4.53 DRA and 101 cFIP, both suggesting performance closer to league average than replacement level. Moreover, at just 28 years old, there was reason to hope that Latos might yet recover some of the velocity he’d lost in recent seasons. That’s not what’s going on here, though:

In fact, Latos is throwing softer than ever; his fastball and sinker are barely flirting with 90 mph on average, and everything else in his arsenal is down a tick or two, as well. What has changed is his pitch mix, particularly his choice of hard stuff:

More sinkers and fewer fastballs is the story here, but the result of that tradeoff, at least in the small sample we have so far, hasn’t been what you’d expect, either. Latos’ ground-ball rate has tumbled from 43.9 percent last year to 37.1 percent in 2016 to date. The corresponding uptick in flyballs, none of which has left the yard, has helped Latos to hold foes to a .114 BABIP.

That BABIP fortune, however, is most certainly unsustainable, so even with the improved control he’s shown so far this season, the right-hander will need to miss more bats to continue performing at a high level. Whether he can do so with diminished velocity—or whether he’ll gain back a mile per hour or two as the weather warms up—remains to be seen. Latos gets the Angels next, dueling Matt Shoemaker in game two of four at U.S. Cellular Field (8:10 p.m. ET).