The Thursday Takeaway
This week has been a particularly ugly section of a generally ugly stretch for the Red Sox's bullpen. Thursday did nothing to change that.
But first, Boston enjoyed one of the finest outings of Eduardo Rodriguez’s year, with scoring limited to a solo shot from Austin Romine. Apart from that, E-Rod allowed just two other hits in his seven innings of work, with six strikeouts.
The Red Sox's offense didn’t do much to complement his performance—even with 11 baserunners in Yankees starter Michael Pineda’s six innings, they scored just twice—but they did enough to hold a 2-1 lead as Brad Ziegler came into the eighth inning. Right away, the inning showed it had unpleasantness in store for the Red Sox, in the form of a Gary Sanchez single that also brought a collision with Hanley Ramirez.
Playing with a shallow bench due to a slew of other injuries and roster moves, Boston could ill afford to swap out Ramirez, and he stayed in to finish out the inning. But there would be little positive to take his mind off any lingering pain. After striking out Mark Teixeira, Ziegler gave up two quick singles to load the bases, and Andrew Benintendi then misplayed a Jacoby Ellsbury ball that allowed two to score.
With the Red Sox now down one, Ziegler intentionally walked Chase Headley in order to face Alex Rodriguez for his final Fenway at-bat—a weak ground ball, but one that drove in a run, something A-Rod had not done in three weeks. Ziegler safely made it through the rest of the inning from there, but the damage had been done. (For those keeping track: that makes 12 runs allowed by the Red Sox's bullpen in this three-game series, in 6.2 innings pitched.) The Yankees carried their fresh 4-2 lead into the ninth.
There, the Red Sox briefly grasped at a chance to salvage the night. A double from Sandy Leon–he of the recent hot streak and corresponding .337 TAv–put hope into motion, and a wild pitch and a walk from an uncharacteristically all-over-the-place Dellin Betances pushed it further along. A comeback seemed a real enough possibility to get Craig Kimbrel warming in the pen. And then the possibility was gone, as Betances notched two quick strikeouts to end the inning.
By the standard they’ve set for themselves this season, it’s hard to say the Twins ever really have a bad day—when every day is kind of bad (or, at best, just meaningless) how bad can any one day be? But even with that as the baseline and the Twins’ last-place record as context, Thursday was a bad day.
A two-run first-inning hole, courtesy of a shaky Jose Berrios and an error from Juan Centeno, set the tone. When Berrios was pulled two batters into the third, he’d given up six runs on eight hits and a walk—and this was only the foundation of the bad day. A six-run fifth inning, with a wild Buddy Boshers serving as the victim, put the Astros’ lead at 12-3. By the end of the afternoon, Houston had racked up a season-high 19 hits, including four each from Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez, on their way to a 15-7 win. The only consolation for Minnesota was perhaps the discovery that Eduardo Escobar has a fastball that’s not completely awful for a shortstop.
So, yeah, not a great day. But the Twins have received plenty such beat downs this season. It was the fact that this was only the first game of a doubleheader that made this a bad day—with the second game remixing all the elements that made the first so depressing, an evening that told the same story as the afternoon had with only a slightly different version of the same miserable ending (10-2, Astros).
Heading into the eighth inning, the Orioles held a 9-2 lead against the A's, highlighted by a Mark Trumbo grand slam that had put them ahead 7-0.
But Darren O’Day allowed Oakland to knock him around, and suddenly Baltimore’s edge had shrunk to 9-6. The ninth inning, then, meant a Zach Britton appearance to close out the game. It went much the same way his past 38 appearances had—that is to say, sans earned runs, with this 39th outing setting the MLB record for such a streak.
It didn’t come easily—Britton loaded the bases before maneuvering himself out of the jam with a ground out—but come it did, and the record is now another feather in Britton’s 2.23 DRA cap.
The past week has not been an especially encouraging one for the Mets—perhaps not unexpected when you note that recent starting lineups have prominently featured Rene Rivera, Kelly Johnson, and Alejandro de Aza together. With Noah Syndergaard on the mound Thursday, they looked to avoid a sweep by the Diamondbacks. Instead, they got shut out 9-0.
Syndergaard got a bit roughed up in his five innings, making it the fourth straight start in which he’s allowed three runs or more. Meanwhile, rookie Braden Shipley was locked in for the Diamondbacks, striking out seven for the first time in his young career. The loss dropped the Mets to .500 for the first time since April, and while Terry Collins’ postgame display of emotion demonstrated the team’s mood pretty effectively, the fact that Tuffy Gosewich homered off Jon Niese also captures it rather well.
And finally, extra innings brought some shrimp in Chicago. In the bottom of the 11th, Zach Duke walked Anthony Rizzo with the bases loaded to give the Cubs the 4-3 win over the Cardinals. The call on ball four was not without controversy, but either way, the Cubs’ 10th straight win is in the books.
Defensive Play of the Day
Not just backhanded, not just a full spin, but both. Nolan Arenado looks good in the Rockies’ 12-9 victory over Texas.
What to Watch Friday
With a hit streak of 17 games to kick off his career, David Dahl has exceeded expectations and tied a major-league record in the process. Friday, he’ll try to notch one more hit in order to take sole possession of the title as the Rockies face the Phillies. Going up against fellow rookie Jake Thompson, it might not be so hard—in his first and only major-league start so far, Thompson gave up seven hits and couldn’t make it out of the fifth (7:05 EST).
Both Baltimore and San Francisco have struggled to hold their division leads as of late; the former now sits a half-game back of Toronto in the top spot while the latter is just one game atop Los Angeles. The two face off this weekend, beginning with a Dylan Bundy-Matt Cain matchup. Bundy has improved in each of the five starts he’s made so far this year, including striking out a career-high nine in his last outing, and the visions the 2012 Orioles had for 2016 Bundy don’t look as impossible as they once did. He’ll try to keep the progress going against the Giants’ bats at 10:15 EST.
And Friday, of course, will mark the end of the Alex Rodriguez era (for now, at least). In terms of actual baseball entertainment value, there’s likely little here, either in A-Rod himself or in the Rays-Yankees matchup that will serve as backdrop. But goodbyes—no matter how forced or anti-climactic—are rarely about the actual baseball entertainment value, and while we have an eternity as a baseball culture to parse through the details of A-Rod as icon, as controversy, as disgrace, as legacy, we have just one more night to watch A-Rod as, simply, baseball player (7:05 EST).