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August 14, 2014
What You Need to Know
August 14, 2014
The Wednesday Takeaway
... and at the seventh-inning stretch, it seemed his splash bomb would be sufficient for the White Sox to earn a sweep on their two-game swing through San Francisco.
Pablo Sandoval flied out to begin the last of the seventh. Then Michael Morse and Adam Duvall followed with singles that put runners on the corners with one away. The Giants had already failed twice to plate a runner from third with fewer than two outs, and they were on the brink of going 0-for-3 in that department.
Joe Panik hit a broken-bat slow bouncer to Jose Abreu and the first baseman fired home well ahead of pinch-runner Gregor Blanco. Catcher Tyler Flowers tagged Blanco out, and the White Sox were still up 1-0. Before 2014, the story would have ended there. Now, though, we’ve got pesky Rule 7.13, and with his squad scuffling, Bruce Bochy had the potential for a run-scoring technicality on his mind.
At this point, the ball is already in Flowers’ glove, and Blanco is about to sink into a long and futile slide. But notice where Flowers’ left leg is: It’s right in line with the plate, obstructing the entire front edge and denying Blanco a lane.
Flowers pivots to make the tag; when he does, his left foot opens up the back portion of the plate for Blanco to touch. He tags Blanco well before the runner can attempt to nick the dish with his left foot or hand and in plain view of the umpire. Common sense dictates that this should be an out.
Rule 7.13 says otherwise.
Robin Ventura came racing out of the first-base dugout to voice his displeasure with the replay verdict to crew chief Fieldin Culbreth. There wasn’t much Culbreth could do to calm the second-year skipper, but that didn’t deter Ventura from kicking dirt on the plate in one of the most animated post-replay arguments we’ve seen to date. A minute or two later, Ventura was on his way.
But he’d be back. Amid all the commotion, the trailing runner, Adam Duvall, advanced to third, giving the Giants a chance to take the lead with another groundball or sacrifice fly. Ventura wasn’t having it. He called for another review, on which the crew in New York correctly decided that Duvall should return to second.
By then, Quintana had been standing around, chucking warmup tosses, and dilly-dallying for about seven minutes. Whether or not the delay played a role, the lefty wasn’t the same after it.
He got Brandon Crawford to fly out, but then punchless pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias left the bat on his shoulder and wound up with a four-pitch walk. That was all for Quintana, which meant that the White Sox bullpen adventure was about to commence with Ronald Belisario at the helm.
Angel Pagan singled. Hunter Pence singled. Buster Posey singled. And speaking of adventures, Adam Dunn turned an inning-ending fly ball into a two-run, three-base error by attempting to call off center fielder Leury Garcia. With that blunder, a team that had nothing but bagels through at least five frames had dropped a seven spot en route to a rout for the second straight day.
Credit Flowers for setting aside his displeasure with the outcome of the play at the plate and speaking candidly with reporters about it after the 7-1 defeat. Dan Hayes, who covers the White Sox for CSN Chicago, transcribed the catcher’s quotes. The money lines come right at the outset:
It sure didn’t, but it’s difficult to come up with an effective new rule, much less to do so in a way that allows field and replay umpires to contextualize its application. As we learned with the catch-rule fiasco early in the season, the advent of replay necessitates the application of rules by the letter of the law. There is little disincentive for a manager to challenge a play on which his runner is ruled out at the plate. There’s a reversal in the cards if the catcher’s foot was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the potential to disrupt the pitcher with a prolonged examination of a complex play offers a fine consolation prize if the out isn’t the third in the inning.
Each disputed application of Rule 7.13 provides another bullet point for Major League Baseball to consider when it revises its wording this offseason. The most burning questions are on whose judgment the matter of context should rest, and—if it’s left to the plate umpire’s discretion—under what circumstances that judgment should be subject to further review.
In the meantime, we can only hope that plays involving Rule 7.13 are few and far between until the end of October. A handful of logic-defying calls in a 162-game season might prove beneficial in the long run. But the specter of a World Series–turning technicality grows more fearsome with each one.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
On Wednesday, Roark got some company in the person of Jason Vargas. The first-year Royal didn’t just finish the eighth with the limited allotment; he finished the game. A three-hit shutout, to be exact, or, if you prefer, a “Maddux.”
Vargas got early run support from second baseman Omar Infante, who launched a two-run blast in the third:
The Royals would tack on one more in the fifth, and the 31-year-old southpaw did the rest.
After needing 23 pitches to notch his first three outs, Vargas did not exceed 13 in any other frame. He retired the side with single-digit offerings in five of the nine innings, and he used only five to slam the door in the ninth.
Vargas took a somewhat unorthodox approach to the A’s offense, pumping fastball after fastball over the inner half of the plate to Oakland’s seven right-handed or switch-hitters. He didn’t have much command of his breaking ball, so the visitors only needed to concern themselves with the high-80s heater and low-80s changeup. And still they couldn’t crack Vargas’s code, as he struck out four and walked none.
Some questioned Royals general manager Dayton Moore’s decision to tender Vargas a four-year contract, but the former Angel has more than earned his $8 million paycheck with 1.7 WARP to date. Wednesday’s gem was both Vargas’ first complete game of the year and his most impressive showing in Royal blue.
If you’re going to pitch in Great American Ball Park, you’d better bring your best fastball command. Reds veteran Mike Leake should know that by now. Red Sox rookie Anthony Ranaudo, who was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, almost found out the hard way on Wednesday afternoon.
Here’s where Ranaudo threw it:
And here’s where it ended up. Lesson learned? Not quite:
If you can’t spot your fastball at the knees or paint the corners, even Schumaker—the owner of four homers in 881 plate appearances since the end of the 2011 season—and Leake, the opposing pitcher, can take you deep in the cozy Cincinnati yard.
Ranaudo got a reprieve because, in the fifth inning, Leake fell victim to his home park, too. He missed up with a heater and away with a curve. With the count 2-0 on Mike Napoli, a runner on first, and two away, Leake’s 90 mph offering caught too much of the dish:
Napoli’s homer capped a three-spot that gave Ranaudo a 5-3 lead. It did not, however, give him the ability to spot his fastball:
A seventh-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2006 draft, Kris Negron didn’t quite have the thump to carry the ball past the high wall to the left of center field, but he settled for his first career triple at his original employer’s expense. Todd Frazier drove Negron in with a sacrifice fly to bring the Reds to within a run, but that was as close as they’d get in the 5-4 defeat.
It was Cincinnati’s 16th setback in 25 games since the All-Star break and their 10th one-run downer in that span. Bryan Price’s squad is now 17-28 on the year in such tightly contested affairs. No other major-league club has dropped more than 24.
For seven-and-a-half innings in Baltimore last night, the story was the successful return of Michael Pineda from a teres major strain that had left him on the disabled list for more than three months.
Pineda retired the first 12 Orioles he faced. In the meantime, his battery-mate, Francisco Cervelli, got the Yankees on the board with a third-inning bomb. But Chris Tillman kept the visitors at bay from that point on, and Nelson Cruz, the first batter in the bottom of the fifth, spoiled the fun.
As Pineda’s velocity waned, Cruz cranked a leadoff double. Two batters later, Steve Pearce singled him over to third, and the next hitter, Ryan Flaherty, brought Cruz home with a sacrifice fly. It took a fine play by third baseman Chase Headley for Pineda to get out of the fifth.
Most managers likely would’ve chosen a middle reliever or multi-inning arm to bridge the gap to the setup crew. Instead, Joe Girardi opted to bring his most dominant bullpenner, Dellin Betances, into the game in the sixth. Betances gave up a leadoff single to Nick Hundley, then recovered to strike out the side. He got through the seventh without a hitch, too, though Girardi didn’t. The skipper was tossed for arguing an interference call on Stephen Drew. And all the while, the Yankees were stuck on two.
Before getting the thumb, Girardi decided to let Betances, a former starter, begin the eighth inning with Shawn Kelley tossing lightly in case things came unglued. They did.
With nobody on and one out, Jonathan Schoop tied the game with one swing. The second baseman has treated the Yankees the way the mouthwash whose name he shares handles gingivitis. He carried a .385/.407/.808 line against New York into the game. Of his 11 long balls, four have come at the Bombers’ expense.
This one chased Betances and brought Kelley to the bump. Four batters and a slider that didn’t slide later, the Yankees were toast:
Adam Jones’ three-run dinger gave Zach Britton ample cushion to overcome his erratic command. Britton walked Mark Teixeira with one away, ahead of a Carlos Beltran double. But Headley’s RBI groundout only plated one run, and that was all the Yankees would get.
The Orioles have won their last two and eight of their past 10. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have lost three in a row and the Yankees have fallen in four straight. Add it all up and Baltimore now enjoys a season-high 7 1/2-game lead in the American League East.
Yup, that’s a Joe Mauer home run, his first since May 4th, a 50-game span that wraps around a 40-day stint on the shelf with an oblique strain. It’s also his first big fly off a left-handed pitcher since he took Jose Quintana yard on August 16, 2013.
The solo shot opened the scoring in the sixth inning and the Twins scored twice more before the Astros got on the board. Kyle Gibson held Houston to just one run in 7 2/3 innings at Minute Maid Park, walking two and striking out four to trim his ERA to 3.96.
The Tribe ultimately ceded the nightcap, 1-0, in 12 innings. On the bright side, Cleveland won the front end of the twin bill, 3-2, behind eight innings of two-run work from ex-D’back Trevor Bauer.
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