Every Thursday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the three competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Monday night’s Boston Red Sox game. #PropHate
While the Boston Red Sox of 2012 have continued an underachieving trend that began approximately September first of last year, the Kansas City Royals scoff at such pretensions of futility, already with an 11-game losing streak on the books this year, and coming off 16 sub-.500 seasons in the last seventeen. But that’s not what tonight was about. Tonight was about punishment– a war of attrition among my brain cells as a pair of guys who can’t stop giving away free passes– Boston’s Felix Doubront and KC’s Jonathan Sanchez– set themselves to try to bore their opponents into submission.
The notoriously slow-working Sox provided one element of what looked to– and indeed did– make this contest colossally tiresome, but the real star was Sanchez. Acquired from San Francisco for Melky Cabrera this winter, Sanchez was a kind of upside play for the Royals– a guy who might be alright if he could ever fine tune his command– y’know, despite the fact that he doesn’t throw particularly hard (averaging 89.7 on fastballs in 2011, per FanGraphs), has long exited his prospect years (he’ll turn 30 in November), and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with an electromagnetic barn broad side hitting machine (he walked 14.9% of batters faced in 2011). But… shit, it’s Kansas City– they’ve been running Luis Mendoza out there every fifth day. How bad could Sanchez really be?
Pretty bad, actually.
Boston got a much-needed win, ending a five-game losing streak that culminated in a gut-punch of a 17-inning loss on Sunday at home to the pitching skills of Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles. Taking advantage of the struggling Jonathan Sanchez and a career night from one of their system’s top prospects, Will Middlebrooks– who has barely played about Double-A and is only on the roster as a fill-in for the injured Kevin Youkilis– the Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, and stayed in command the rest of the way, despite the Royals cutting the lead to 5-4 in the third, and watching a potentially crucial rally fizzle in the seventh.
While I realize that the BB/9 rate stat has fallen out of fashion, I bring it here to note just how astonishingly impressive it is for a pitcher to come into a start sporting one of 7.66 and have it actually go up, but that’s precisely what Jonathan Sanchez did tonight, walking three while labouring through just three innings (plus one batter). It would make sense to assume that it was the walks that killed him, but in reality only a first inning free pass to Dustin Pedroia came in to score.
No, what killed the Royals was good, old-fashioned hard hit balls. Middlebrooks hit a three run shot in the first, after Adrian Gonzalez had already singled in a run. David Ortiz homered in the third, and Sanchez was knocked out of the game one batter into the fourth after Kelly Shoppach hit a stand-up triple.
Let me write that again, because I’m pretty sure I could live to be fourteen-billion and never get the chance to do so again: Kelly Shoppach hit a stand-up triple.
Granted, Alex Gordon seemed to have a bead on it, until he Shariffed it at the wall, and by the time he retrieved his misplay Shoppach was inexplicably on third. Sanchez left at that point, having thrown 73 pitches– a whole 35 of them for strikes– but the hit parade didn’t stop. His replacement, grandson of the inventor of the thing they play badminton with, Nathan Adcock, surrendered a home run from Dustin Pedroia that cashed Shoppach as well, and later on Middlebrooks added a second of Tiny Tim Collins.
By no means does should this suggest that Boston was on cruise control after jumping out to a lead in the first. I mean… if he’s into damning with faint praise you could assure Red Sox starter Felix Doubront that he was better than Sanchez, but he wasn’t very good either. Doubront went six and a third, walking three, giving up seven hits, five runs (four earned), with two strikeouts. (Sanchez, for the record, struck out three, and gave up six hits and six earned runs for his three-plus innings of work.)
The Aggravating Thing the Manager Did
Like, I understand that lineup construction doesn’t mean all that much, and that 45 plate appearances is hardly enough time to write-off Jarrod Dyson’s on-base skills, and that he did post a .373 OBP last year at Triple-A Omaha, and that while they do play in the Pacific Coast League, playing there is hardly as number-inflating as playing at Colorado Springs or Vegas, but… how the hell does hitting him leadoff make sense, Ned Yost?
Or Chris Getz? Or Jason Bourgeois? Or Yuniesky clusterfucking Betancourt?
Or any of the obvious examples of lower-third chum that the Royals have been giving extra opportunities to since they got all ridiculously superstitious about the magical powers hitting in the two-hole have on Opening Day leadoff man Alex Gordon, just because by some staggeringly obvious fluke his bat coming around in a big way coincided with his being moved down in the order??!?!?
The Most Important Play of the Game
Rather frustratingly– as someone who was ready to turn this dog of a game off as early as humanly possible– the Royals managed to keep themselves in it, getting within a run in the bottom of the third after a lead-off Jeff Francoeur walk (!?!) was followed up by a Mike Moustakas double, allowing Brayan Pena and Chris Getz to cash a pair in the process of getting out.
An even more crucial play came in the seventh. Doubront’s 6.1 innings is slightly deceiving, as he faced five batters in the seventh, before walking in a run and being bailed out by Vicente Padilla. The veteran entered the game up 7-5, with one out, the bases loaded, number three hitter Billy Butler at the plate, with Eric Hosmer on deck. Four pitches– and a game-high -.265 WPA later– and Butler had grounded into a double-play, ending the threat.
Boston scored four the next inning, and that was pretty much it.
The Shamsky Award
Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.
Alex Gordon increased his team’s WPA by 0.29 in a losing effort by going 2 for 4 with a walk and collecting an RBI, but… I can’t in good conscience award him anything after his bungling of the indefensible Shoppach triple– especially when his teammate Mike Moustakas made a spectacular play at third base, diving to his right and throwing out the hopelessly slow Shoppach (I mean, a triple? Seriously???), and contributing a pair of hits himself.
The Obligatory Thing that the Athlete Said
Sanchez said he didn’t feel like he pitched poorly tonight. Seriously. He said that. #Royals
— David Skretta (@APdaveskretta) May 8, 2012
Vicente Padilla kinda caught a break in the eighth, when he picked up a Mike Moustakas squibber that was undoubtedly heading foul, and was unable to make a play. Moustakas was safe at first, and Jeff Francoeur at second with one out. Of course, the game was pretty much out of reach at that point– and Padilla’s inducement of a Brayan Pena double play essentially sealed the deal.
As much as I’ve been ragging on Kelly Shoppach, holy ball, Brayan Pena is slow too. Pedroia had trouble with that double play ball, dropping it at first, but was still able to feed it to Aviles in plenty of time for the shortstop to comfortably nail the Royals catcher.
This game really wasn’t so bad. Writing up much of it while listening to Vin Scully calling the Dodgers blowout of the Giants, talking about the Dave Matthews Band and his own long-ago race with Jackie Robinson on ice skates? Way better.
Meh. That’s all I got.