|10.01.14 at 2:08 am ET|
Instead what transpired in an Wild Card play-in game was a pair of forgettable performances from the starters, but an unforgettable 9-8 win for the Royals in 12 innings.
The world of baseball was treated to an unbelievable showdown, with Kansas City manager Ned Yost making controversial moves throughout (tying a MLB postseason record with seven steals), the Royals coming back from a four runs down in the eighth inning, and, ultimately, KC scoring a pair of runs in final frame to claim a walk-off on Salvador Perez’s RBI single.
But what most followers of the Red Sox were concerned about was that starting pitching matchup, particularly the fate of Lester.
Lester’s 7 1/3-inning outing was a roller coaster. The lefty allowed KC to claim an 3-2 lead after three innings, only throwing his much-improved curveball four times while trying to get in the groove with catcher Geovany Soto (whom had never caught Lester).
Perhaps the lefty’s biggest early mistake was pitching to Lorenzo Cain with a runner on second in the third inning. Cain jumped on a first-pitch fastball and rifled it into left to tie the game. He would promptly be driven in by Eric Hosmer’s bloop single.
But, with his regular catcher, Derek Norris, in the game due to a Soto thumb injury, Lester found his stride all the way up until the eighth inning. The A’s starter retired 12 of 13 batters before being taken out with one out in the eighth.
Lester was driven from the game after surrendering another RBI single to Cain, leading to a Hosmer walk on the lefty’s 111th (and final) pitch.
It is no secret that when the Oakland season ended, so would Lester’s stay with the A’s.
“I came out here knowing what I am. I’m a two-month rental and hopefully I can somehow help win a World Series for the Oakland A’s,” he told WEEI.com Friday. “It eases a lot of the questioning of the ‘What are you going to do?’ Everybody knows it’s two months and then probably not sign a contract with the Oakland A’s. We’re going to go our separate ways and go into free agency.”
As for Shields, his night was cut short in the sixth inning when Yost decided 88 pitches was enough for his ace, pulling him with the Royals leading by one, runners on first and second, and Brandon Moss (who had hit a two-run homer in the first) at-bat.
While Shields didn’t have nearly the postseason pedigree of Lester — coming into the game with a 4.98 in six playoff appearances — he was perceived as the Royals’ workhorse. But instead of letting the righty fight through the jam, Yost brought in rookie fireballer Yordano Ventura, who had thrown 73 pitches two days prior, while having relieved just once all season.
The result was another Moss home run, closing out Shield’s line and paving the way for plenty of criticism for the Royals’ manager (with TBS analyst Pedro Martinez leading the charge):
I think Ned Yost was trying to give away this game, in any way possible. I dont agree with the situation of putting Ventura into the 6th
I think Ned Yost had a panic move and almost gave the game again. If they would have lost, he would have been the ugly goat.
‘ Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 1, 2014
Sometimes you have to question and second guess some of the movements managers make. What was Yost thinking when he brought Ventura in?
‘ Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 1, 2014
What Ned Yost it’s saying about bringing in Ventura, it’s horrible. How much gas do you want? Why don’t you just go and get a gas station?
‘ Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 1, 2014
Ventura, don’t feel bad about this move; it’s not your fault, it’s Yost fault. You should’ve never come out in a situation like this.
‘ Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 1, 2014
|09.30.14 at 3:13 pm ET|
Marlins president David Samson told the Miami Herald that the team plans to discuss a long-term extension with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton — who hit .288 with a .395 OBP and .555 slugging mark while leading the National League with 37 homers despite missing the final weeks of the season after getting beaned by a pitch — this coming offseason. That said, Samson also said that the team would not consider trading Stanton even in the absence of a long-term deal.
“He’s on this team [in 2015] either way,” Samson told the Herald. “I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years.
“We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come.”
Stanton, 24, is under Marlins team control for two more years before he’s eligible for free agency following the 2016 campaign. He made $6.5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2014.
|09.30.14 at 2:12 pm ET|
While the folks at Kauffman Stadium might have skipped an entire generation when it comes to viewing postseason baseball — finally being reintroduced to the playoffs Tuesday night in the Royals’ one-game showdown with Oakland — for Jon Lester it’s old hat.
The Wild Card play-in game will be Lester’s 14th playoff appearance, and 12th start. The lefty’s postseason ERA stands at 2.11. Last year he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 34 2/3 innings during the Sox’ world championship run.
But of all the postseasons Lester has stormed into, he explained during a Friday phone conversation that this one will be executed as a better all-around pitcher compared to any of the other Octobers.
“I think so,” Lester told WEEI.com when asked if this was the best he’s ever pitched. “I’m just in a better place (performance-wise). I think everybody goes back to 2010 and that’s kind of supposed to be my career year. I think by far this is, in my opinion, my best year. Mentally, physically, stats-wise, all that stuff. I feel good where I’m at. I learned a lot over the years and have become more of a pitcher and not just a thrower. I feel better where everything is at. Whether that leads to a win or a loss or leads to a good or bad start, I feel like I’m in a better place mentally every time i take the mound.”
It’s hard to argue.
Lester finished his combined stints with the Red Sox and A’s pitching a career-high 219 2/3 innings, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA, also the best of his nine-year career.
The statistical kudos have continued to pile up: Lester is tied with Felix Hernandez for most quality starts (27), and is one of just four starters this season with a sub-2.50 ERA and 15 wins. The southpaw also possesses the second-lowest ERA in the majors since June 12 (1.80), trailing only Clayton Kershaw.
Now comes a potentially wild few months for Lester — the playoffs and free agency.
“Absolutely,” he said regarding feeling an excitement heading into the coming days. “Right now it’s more the excitement of the playoffs and once the season is done then we can start worry about free agency stuff. I’ve tried, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job this year, to put that on the back-burner and making sure that’s the last thing that’s a worry point for me and my family. So right now I’m taking that same approach. I have to worry about my next start. That’s what I have to focus on, and then once everything is said and done I can sit down with [agent] Seth [Levinson] and my family and we can evaluate. Then we can start getting into the excitement of free agency and all the possibilities and what-ifs and wondering what’s going to happen. That stuff will come when it’s time and when we get there, yeah, I’m sure it will be an exciting time. But right now we’re focused on trying to win and hopefully carrying that over into the postseason.”
|09.30.14 at 12:35 pm ET|
According to a major league source, the Red Sox won’t be one of the teams to conduct a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas.
The Red Sox did attend Tomas’ showcase in the Dominican Republic April 21.
According to the source, the team is intrigued by the 23-year-old’s power potential, which current Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo compared to that of White Sox slugger Jose Abreu talking about Tomas with WEEI.com. (Click here to read all of Castillo’s comments regarding Tomas.)
But due to the excess of outfielders, along with some concern over Tomas’ strikeout rate while playing in/for Cuba, the Red Sox don’t appear to motivated to engage in an aggressive bid for the free agent corner outfielder.
The Red Sox did hold a private workout for Castillo prior to signing the outfielder to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.
For a complete scouting report on Tomas from MLB Trade Rumors, click here.
|09.29.14 at 3:52 pm ET|
On the one hand, Ben Cherington is the architect of a World Series winner. On the other hand, he’s steered the team to a pair of last-place finishes that have bookended that triumph.
Good luck reconciling those drastically different conclusions to the three years of Cherington’s GM tenure. Of course, Cherington is not interested in reconciling those finishes. He’s interested in avoiding further repetitions of seasons like 2012 and 2014. The fact that he has not represents a failure of sorts.
“It’s hard. It’s been hard on us, the extreme outcomes. Obviously I like the upside, but the downside is hard to deal with, painful for everyone, and it’s not at all what we want to be. It’s not at all what I’ve said we want to be in the past,” said Cherington. “We want to build something that’s got a chance to sustain and be good every year. I don’t think — you can’t plan on a World Series every year, but we ought to be planning on winning teams and contending teams and teams that are playing meaningful games in September and getting into October more often than not, so obviously, based on the results of the last three years, we haven’t accomplished that yet.
“We need to figure that out and find a way to do that. I still believe that we will,” he continued. “I believe that there are too many strengths in the organization not to do that, but we have to sort of, we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves honestly what we can do to make sure that happens. That will be a big part of the offseason and moving forward. It’s a very competitive landscape, I think, in baseball. I think the talent is more evenly distributed than it was 15, 20 years ago. So we’re always going to need talent. We’re going to need good players. We’re going to need to construct the roster well. And then we also need to look for every other possible area of competitive advantage. If we do well enough in all of those areas, it will lead to what we want. We haven’t gotten there yet.”
The struggles of the team’s young position players — most notably, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr. — played a meaningful role in contributing to that volatility (though it would be a mistake to point solely to that group, given the lackluster production that came from elsewhere).
Did the Sox rely too heavily on prospects? Cherington answered that question by offering context for how the team ended up with three young position players. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.29.14 at 2:03 pm ET|
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington announced that right-hander Clay Buchholz was expected to undergo a minor right knee procedure to repair his meniscus by head team orthopedist Dr. Peter Asnis. Cherington said that Buchholz had been dealing with the issue on and off for some time, though the discomfort hadn’t always been present and it was not significant enough to prevent him from pitching. Cherington described the meniscus injury as “not a debilitating issue,” and was not at the root of the player’s struggles (8-11, 5.34 ER) in 2014.
“Given where we are in the calendar, it’s a fairly quick recovery. Let’s just knock it out and he should have a normal offseason,” said Cherington. “It’s something that we managed. I think he would tell you it did not affect him. We’re just trying to be proactive so it doesn’t turn into something bigger.”
— Brock Holt will see Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh on Oct. 9 to get clearance that he’s recovered fully from his concussion. He won’t play in games (that visit will come too late to clear him for fall instructional league), but given that Holt took batting practice and grounders in the final homestand of the season, all parties appear comfortable that he will enter the offseason healthy. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.29.14 at 1:47 pm ET|
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who missed the final homestand of the season with soreness in his right hand/wrist (an area that had been injured when hit by a pitch in May), is expected to return to complete health with rest. That said, the 26-year-old has decided against the team’s recommended course of going to winter ball.
GM Ben Cherington said that Middlebrooks gave the matter consideration, and while the team did want him to play in more games after missing roughly half of this season due to injuries, the decision about whether or not to play this winter would not impact whether the team views him as major league-ready in the spring.
“He’s made a decision that he’s going to focus on other things this winter. He feels he can address what he needs to address without playing winter ball. That’s a decision that he’s made,” said Cherington. “I don’t think whether or not he plays winter ball should be a determining factor on where he is next March or April. We talked to him about it. We felt there was some merit. But players have to make some decisions that they think is in their best interests.
“We’re going to present information and what we feel like might be helpful, but ultimately offseasons belong to players, and they need to do what they think is in their best interests,” added Cherington. “He gave it consideration. He thought about it. I think he understood where we were coming from. I think he just feels like it’s in his best interests to focus on an offseason without playing, to get strong, get ready for spring training.”
Cherington said that the 26-year-old is expected to be healthy after resting for the next month. Middlebrooks hit .191 with a .256 OBP and .265 slugging mark in 63 big league games this year, his season compressed by a pair of stints on the DL for a calf strain and broken right index finger.
Middlebrooks discussed his view of the 2014 season, and his reluctance to go to winter ball, here.
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