The Red Sox topped the Rays 6-3 on Saturday. Chris Sale got the win and is now 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA. The game started pretty quietly when neither team got a hit in the 1st. But Chris Sale gave up his first hit in the second to Logan Morrison. It wasn’t just any hit though, it was a big home run for the Rays and they were on top 1-0.
However, after Sale was a machine in the 3rd, striking out the side, the Red Sox bit back when Mookie Betts nailed a 2-run homer over the monster.
The Red Sox weren’t going to put up with losing to a team like that though. Sandy Leon walked again, just as he had before Betts’ dinger. Then Jackie Bradley Jr., who hadn’t hit a double in 8 months, nailed one off the green monster to put two runners in scoring position. Then Deven Marrero hit the first double of his career, and it went so high up that it was almost a home run! Bradley and Leon scored, and the Red Sox were back on top.
That hit was followed up by Mookie Betts crushing a double, which knocked in Marrero! The Red Sox now led 5-3 and they weren’t done! Mookie Betts scored on Xander Bogaerts’ groundout. The Red Sox now had a secure 3-run lead through 5 innings.
Sale finished up the next two innings, then our bullpen took care of the rest. The Sox won 6-3. Sale finished with 12 strikeouts, and Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel each struck out 2 of the batters in the innings they pitched.
Chris Sale is getting close to breaking a record for most games in a row with double digit strikeout totals. He’s done it in 7 straight games, and the only other pitchers to do that are Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan. Those are Hall of Famers. If Sale breaks the record, do you think he’ll be inducted later? I think it’s possible. Sale has been playing at a better level then Greg Maddux did when he switched teams, so far at least. Will he burn out later this season, or will his stellar season continue?
Welcome to my April MLB Power Rankings. Weekly power rankings just became too time consuming but I still wanted to give my say on the current state of baseball every once in a while with my ranks. Let’s get started.
Note: Records are as of May 2 after all games for that day ended.
Orioles: Up By 16
Twins: Up By 16
Rangers: Down By 17
That’s all for April’s ranks. Stay tuned for more Red Sox news, MLB analysis and Baseball Bits.
The Red Sox lost their streak and their momentum with a 3-0 loss last night. Rick Porcello actually pitched really well, with 0 earned runs. It was errors that allowed the Blue Jays to score.
Pablo Sandoval had an error again. Even Gold Glove winner Mitch Moreland had an error in addition to going 0-4 after hitting really well during the winning streak. The 2nd inning was when the Jays scored all their runs. The two errors happened back to back at the start of the 2nd inning and all of the sudden it was 2nd and 3rd. After Justin Smoak struck out, Darwin Barney got a base hit that knocked both of them in. 2-0 Jays. Kevin Pillar singled to make it first and second. Then Ezequiel Carrera hit a single down the line for a third run. It was 3-0 Jays, but Porcello didn’t have a single earned run.
It was pretty quiet after that, and pitching was pretty good. But the Red Sox also blew several scoring opportunities. In the 5th, Sandy Leon grounded into a double play with 1st and 2nd. Hanley Ramirez did the same thing in the 6th! Instead of 2 innings in a row where they successfully scored, there were 2 innings in a row of blown opportunities.
Both starting pitchers, Rick Porcello and Francisco Liriano had amazing games. Neither gave up any earned runs, Liriano gave up just 4 hits in 5.1 innings, and Porcello gave up just 6 hits in 7 innings.
I was expecting the defense to back up Porcello but Porcello did fine. The defense was the problem. Hopefully, Porcello’s good pitching will combine with good defense for a win the next time he starts.
The Red Sox came through again. They topped the Blue Jays 8-7 in a high scoring showdown.
Brian Johnson really got rattled early. In the first inning, Kevin Pillar led off with a double, followed by an RBI single by Kendrys Morales. 1-0 Jays already. But Toronto wasn’t done. Tulowitzki got a base hit to make it first and second and a Justin Smoak double scored a second run. The Jays were up 2-0 in one inning. Johnson was able to get out of the inning after that. But in the 2nd, after a walk, Pillar doubled again, and after intentionally walking Jose Bautista, Johnson was stuck with the bases loaded. Thankfully, the Red Sox defense helped him get out of the inning without a run. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for Rick Porcello tonight.
The Red Sox struck back in the third though. Bogaerts and Benintendi started he rally with back to back singles. Then Betts made that three singles in a row and a run scored. 2-1 Toronto. After a strikeout, Mitch Moreland hit another RBI single to score two more runs!
The Red Sox had a 3-2 lead, but not for long. Justin Smoak smoked a leadoff solo shot to left to begin the bottom of the 3rd. It was a tie game, 3-3.
The Red Sox took the lead back in the 5th though. Betts got another base hit, and Hanley Ramirez knocked him in with a long double over Jose Bautista’s head. It was 4-3 Sox. But the next at bat, Moreland hit his 10th double of the year to knock in Hanley Ramirez. That was Moreland’s 3rd RBI, and it was 5-3 Red Sox. After that, Stroman was done. Aaron Loup came in, but Sandoval just got another RBI hit to knock in Moreland! 6-3 Sox. The Blue Jays went to their bullpen again, and Dominic Leone finished the inning.
But in the top of the 7th Mookie Betts answered. He nailed a solo shot to left, and made it 7-4 Red Sox. The 3 run lead was back. Betts also had his first homer. The one week I don’t start him in my Home Run Derby pool, he hits a homer! But it’s good for the Sox.
After Brian Johnson was done, the Red Sox bullpen actually did a somewhat good job quieting down the Jays. They got in a couple of jams, but managed to hold the Blue Jays without a run for a few innings. Kevin Pillar actually hit a third double, but Fernando Abad and Matt Barnes (after Abad was done) got them out of the inning. The Blue Jays also had 1st and 2nd in two other innings, but the Sox managed to shut them down.
In the top of the 8th the Sox scored again. Pablo Sandoval started it with another base hit! He was 3 for 4 on the day, with one RBI. The Jays almost got him out on a pickoff but after a review, he was ruled safe. After Marco Hernandez walked, Benintendi drove in the run with a ground rule double. It was 8-4 Red Sox going into the bottom of the 8th.
After a quiet 9th inning for the Sox, Barnes stayed in the game for the bottom of the 9th. But he almost blew the game. After 2 outs, Russell Martin walked, and Steve Pearce hit an RBI single to knock him in. Then Ezequiel Carrera pinch hit, and he nailed a two-run homer to make it 8-7. It was a close game now. The Blue Jays almost came back. But Matt Barnes put them away before any more scoring occurred. This was all with two outs, so all that was needed to end the inning was one line drive. That was it.
The Red Sox just barely saved the game, a game they would’ve lost without an explosive lineup. Brian Johnson actually got his first major league win. The Sox cannot do this every game, but they’ve somehow won 4 in a row since Porcello’s horrid start on Friday.
Rick Porcello did not look good in his start on Friday. He did not even make it out the 5th inning, pitching only 4.1 innings and giving up 8 earned runs. This is disappointing because Porcello just won the Cy Young and we were expecting a good year. Is it the pressure on him that’s causing him to struggle? There was a lot of pressure on him in 2015 as a new member of the Red Sox and he struggled. That might be the problem with all the first-year Red Sox pitchers. On the Sox, the expectations are high and the pressure is on because the team spent has spent a lot of money on this roster. I thought the pressure was all on Sale this year but Porcello is under pressure as well.
Porcello looked spotless last year though when the pressure was not on him as much. He won the Cy Young. But is it typical of a first time Cy Young winner to thrive the next year? That gave me an idea for more research. The question is, how many of the first-time Cy Young winners improved their ERA the next year? I also researched how many had an ERA under 3.25 the next year: here are the results dating back to 1956, when the award was founded.
- Only 18 players (13 AL, 3 NL, 2 when only one MLB pitcher won) of the 75 first time winners had an ERA over 4.00 the next year (just 24%!).
- Only 2 (Mark Davis and Bartolo Colon) had an ERA over 5.00 the following year
- Only 6 players (1 AL, 2 NL, 3 when only one MLB pitcher won) of 75 first time winners have ever improved their ERA after winning their first Cy Young (just 8%!). They were:
- Tim Lincecum (2008, improved from 2.62 to 2.48)
- C.C. Sabathia (2007, improved from 3.21 to 2.70)
- Brandon Webb (2006, improved from 3.10 to 3.01)
- Sandy Koufax (1963, improved from 1.88 to 1.74)
- Don Drysdale (1962, improved from 2.83 to 2.63)
- Whitey Ford (1961, improved from 3.21 to 2.90)
- 38 players (12 AL, 21 NL, 5 when only one MLB pitcher won) have held their ERA under 3.25 the next year. That’s 54.3% of the 70 players who were first-time winners that won with an ERA under 3.25
- The last pitcher to have an ERA under 3.25 after their first Cy Young was Jake Arrieta in 2015
- Not including Porcello, 2 of the first time Cy Young winners were on the Red Sox (Jim Lonborg and Roger Clemens). Lonborg was one of the 18 over 4.00, with an ERA of 4.29. But Clemens had an ERA of 2.97 the next year, which was not an improvement but was under 3.25.
- No player has improved their ERA after their first time Cy Young year since 2008 when Tim Lincecum did it. The last time it happened in the AL was in 2007 when C.C. Sabathia did it.
- The Cy Young was won 30 times by a multiple time winner. However, only 13 people have ever won the Cy Young multiple times. That means that some of the 13 have won more than twice
- No pitcher with an ERA over 3.25 when they won improved their ERA after their first Cy Young
- If Rick Porcello turns it around and improves his ERA from last year, he would be the first first-time Cy Young winner on the Red Sox to do it. Right now that seems unlikely based on how he pitched on Friday.
Based on this research I would not expect Porcello to improve his ERA from last year, especially after his horrid Friday night performance. But it is possible that his ERA will stay under 3.25. That will be hard to do. He put up an ERA of 3.15 last year when he won the Cy Young. But it is possible. Is Porcello at the level of those 38 pitchers who did keep their ERA under 3.25? Maybe not when he’s under pressure because he has stunk under pressure.
Trading for Chris Sale helped strengthen the Red Sox rotation and you would think that would get the pressure off Porcello. Maybe by winning the Cy Young Porcello has put more pressure on himself, especially now that David Price is injured. With Chris Sale and David Price (who will be back in June) also in the rotation and Pomeranz doing well, the Red Sox should be able to allow Porcello time to adjust. I think there’s a chance that we can see the kind of numbers we saw from him in 2016. I don’t think his 22 wins will be repeated but I think his numbers can be at least respectable if he makes the adjustments necessary.
The research shows that most Cy Young first-time winners keep an ERA under 4.00 (76%). I believe that Porcello can be part of this 76% because the Sox are one of the best defensive teams in the league and they should help steal a few hits and runs.
Stay tuned for my next Baseball Bits, where I will look at how top home run hitters impact their teams. Thanks for reading.