Throughout the season, Charlie will be looking into five of the biggest stories of the week. This week, a summary of the Puerto Rico Series, Sean Manaea making history, The Red Sox being the best team in baseball, a manager getting fired and Ryan Braun achieving a milestone.
1. The Puerto Rico Series
In the collective bargaining agreement that was signed between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Union, it was announced that two games in the 2018 season would take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In week one I highlighted the impact that some of the best Latin players have had in MLB. Puerto Ricans have been a huge part of that, Puerto Rican members in the MLB hall of fame include the likes of Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar and Iván Rodríguez. Current well known major leaguers are Javier Baez, Jose Berrios, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Yadier Molina and Eddie Rosario.
Puerto Rico has been through a tough time recently, with the country hit hard with economic problems, even before the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in late 2017.
Against this backdrop it was announced that the Indians and Twins would play a two game series. This meant a lot to the Puerto Ricans on the Indians, Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez as well as Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios of the Twins.
The Hiram Bithorn stadium was packed to capacity in both games. The atmosphere was electric throughout both games and the excitement palpable.
In game one, home town player, Francisco Lindor opened the scoring with a home run in the fifth inning that saw the stadium erupt in a cauldron of noise. Lindor’s big hit would also bring home Bradley Zimmer to put the tribe up 2-0. The Indians would then increase their advantage to 5-0 on solo home runs by Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley (sixth inning) as well as a run scoring single from Brantley (seventh inning). Brian Dozier would drive in a consolation run for the Twins in the seventh before a Yonder Alonso home run in the ninth completed the scoring and a 6-1 victory for the Indians. Corey Kluber (2-1) would get the win pitching six and two-thirds solid innings giving up one run on five hits and two walks against six strikeouts. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen would combine for two and a third scoreless innings. Jake Odorizzi would absorb the loss, going five innings,with four earned runs on six hits and a walk against six strikeouts on his ledger.
In game two, Jose Berrios would get the chance to pitch in his homeland. In order for this to happen, the Twins showed great class by allowing Lance Lynn to skip his turn in the rotation so Berrios could pitch. He would be facing Indians ace Carlos Carrasco.
In contrast to game one, game two was very much the epitome of a pitcher’s duel. Both pitchers went seven innings and both pitchers allowed zero runs.
The first run would not be put on the board until the fourteenth inning. Edwin Encarnacion opened the scoring with a solo home run, before Miguel Sano replied for the Twins with a round tripper of his own tying the game at 1-1. Ryan LaMarre would be Minnesota’s hero in the sixteenth inning, with a single that would score Eddie Rosario to put the Twins into a 2-1 lead. Matt Belisle would receive a blown save, with the loss going to Josh Tomlin. Alan Busenitz of the Twins would take the win with a solid two inning effort.
Baseball can be a great healer. The World Series after 9/11 helped to ease the pain of a country, a city galvanised by a tragic terrorist attack in 2013 gave the Red Sox the extra edge and motivation they needed to go and win a World Series for their city, and most recently Houston devastated by hurricane Harvey, gave a great young team the extra drive to go all the way and bring home their first World Series in franchise history
Baseball won’t heal all the suffering, but to give people something to smile about for even just three hours a day, to forget the pain they are going through, I would say that is huge and significant.
2. Sean Manaea No Hits The Boston Red Sox
On Saturday 21st April Sean Manaea made history by throwing the 297th MLB no-hitter in Baseball history. It was the twelfth no-hitter in Athletics franchise history, the last being a perfect game by Dallas Braden on May 9th 2010.
I won’t go into how good the Red Sox are this season just yet but they had been winners of eight games in a row, with the best record in baseball, a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut.
Combining a fastball that sits in the low 90’s with a low 80’s change up and low 80’s slider, all three are the very essence of “plus” pitches. Every no-hitter features some luck or a piece of great defense that you may not usually see. Manaea came close to losing it twice.
The first instance was the fifth inning, where Sandy Leon reached base after Marcus Semien whiffed on a popup. The official scorer ruled it an error, whereas it seemed that on another day, the play could have been ruled a hit. In the sixth inning, Andrew Benintendi hit an infield single, that was initially ruled a hit by the umpiring crew. After collaborating and discussing the play, it was ruled that Benintendi had run out of the baseline, therefore rendering him out and keeping Manaea’s no hit effort intact.
Other than those two situations, Manaea only issued two walks on his way to completing his 108 pitch masterpiece. The Oakland offense ably supported their starter with run scoring doubles by Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty, as well as a home run by Marcus Semien being enough to secure a 3-0 victory. Chris Sale took the loss despite a solid effort pitching seven innings, giving up all three runs on six hits and a walk.
For Manaea he was so focused, he did not realise he still had a no hitter going until the eighth inning, MLB.com quoted him as saying “I looked and saw that there was still a zero and I was like, whoa, weird,” Manaea said. “Coming out for the ninth, my heart was beating out of my chest and I was trying to do everything I could to stay calm and not overdo things.”
3. The Red Hot Boston Red Sox
As previously mentioned, the Boston Red Sox had won eight in a row before the loss to Oakland. They had not just been hot, but they were and still are the best team in Baseball with a 17-3 record.
The offense leads multiple team categories such as hits (201), runs (123), slugging percentage (.478) and they lead every other team in Baseball by 40 points by .OPS (.828). They have also struckout the least (136 strike outs) and also lead all of MLB in extra base hits with (85).
Mookie Betts is the standout offensive performer thus far, with six home runs, 14 RBIs, 23 runs scored, and a slashline of .366/.459/.732 which has led him to a league leading 1.191 OPS and an outstanding 218 OPS+. He has been helped by J.D. Martinez (.942 OPS, 151 OPS+) and Mitch Moreland (1.015 OPS and 171 OPS+).
On the pitching side, Red Sox starters rank third in MLB with a 2.68 ERA, they have only allowed the third least earned runs (55), they possess the fourth best batting average against at .202, .OPS against Boston’s starting rotation is a league least .596.
Boston’s big three of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello have been absolutely lights out. Sale has an ERA of 1.86, FIP of 1.84 and ERA+ of 236, Price has accrued an ERA of 2.25, FiP of 3.45 and ERA+ of 196. Porcello’s put together an ERA of 1.40, FiP of 1.70 and ERA+ of 313. Of extra note, Porcello has an amazing 23:1 strikeout to walk ratio having struckout 23 batters and only walked one hitter thus far.
For the relief corps Craig Kimbrel has yet to give up a run, (0.00 ERA, 2.15 FiP). Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes can all point to some bad luck as they all have superior, FiP’s to their ERA’s, i.e. Hembree (3.75 ERA, 2.57 FIP), Kelly (4.15 ERA, 2.80 FIP) and Barnes (3.38 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Out of the Red Sox core bullpen pitchers only Carson Smith (5.40 ERA and 5.40 FIP) has struggled.
With the offense, starting pitching and bullpen on top form right now, the Red Sox are without doubt the best team in Baseball. Every team does go through a slump at some point, it will be interesting to see how Boston, can deal with that, when it happens.
4. Brian Price Fired By The Cincinnati Reds
Brian Price became the first managerial casualty of this week. Although most analysts had minimal expectations coming into the season for the Reds, it seems their ownership and front office were of the opinion that they would at least move, more towards contention. Also having the worst record in MLB at the time of his removal as manager probably didn’t help Price either.
Price took over the Reds in 2014, just after the Reds last made the playoffs in 2013. It was always going to be a tough job with an ageing roster. The best record Price put together in any season was in 2014 with 86-76. In the season’s following they then won only 64, 68 and 68 games while slowly rebuilding.
“I think we’re going to hit the ground running tomorrow with Jim in place and a couple new members of the staff, and we’re very focused on creating a sense of urgency for these guys to perform now,” Williams said. “We talk about rebuilding and there are things going on away from the field and in the farm system and investments in the franchise that are part of that rebuilding process. But when guys show up for work every day, they need to have a sense of urgency to win that day. They need to take care of the details on the field.
“They need to play hard. They need to play the game smart. They need to play it right. That, we can control. And we need to get this team playing that way because we know they have the ability to do it. So that is the short-term immediate focus.”
Other than the currently DL’d Eugenio Suarez, no other Reds hitter had an OPS over .800. Only Tucker Barnhart (120 OPS+), Suarez (189 OPS+) and Jesse Winker (114 OPS+), are better than average hitters.
Of the starting pitchers only Homer Bailey (3.68) possesses and ERA of less than 4.00. Nobody in the rotation has a FiP of less than 4.52.
The lone positives for the Reds lay in the bullpen. Raisel Iglesias has pitched a 1.08 ERA with 383 ERA+ albeit with a 3.99 FiP. Wandy Peralta is yet to be scored upon in 10 games. Jared Hughes has a 3.00 ERA with a 137 ERA+
Expectations may have unfairly got the better of Price, but I still can’t see exactly why he had to go. The Reds do have the eighth best minor league system in Baseball as ranked by mlbpipeline.com, but realistically, they are still two-three years away from competing.
5. Ryan Braun Drives In His 1000th RBI
Earlier this week, Ryan Braun became the 284th hitter in MLB history to drive in 1000 or more RBIs.
He is only the second Brewer to achieve the feat after Robin Yount who amassed 1,406 RBIs in total.
Only eight active players (not including free agents) , Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, Edwin Encarnacion, Chase Utley have more RBIs than Braun.
Braun made his debut in 2007, since then he has collected 1714 hits as well as hammering 307 home runs. For a few years he was also one of the most feared sluggers in the game.
He won the rookie of the year award in 2007, won the MVP award in 2011 and came second in MVP voting in 2012. He is also a six time all-star and a five time silver slugger winner.
The hit itself was a three run pinch hit home run against the Miami Marlins.
Braun commented on his achievement: “I think you’re able to enjoy it a little bit more than a broken bat groundout or something like that,” Braun said. “It was definitely a cool way to accomplish a pretty special number.”
Extra Story: Danny Farquhar Brain Aneurysm
On Friday night Danny Farquhar, a reliever for the Chicago White Sox, collapsed during a game against the Houston Astros. He was rushed to hospital after being diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.
After undergoing a complex procedure on Saturday to relieve swelling around the brain, Farquhar remains in a critical but stable condition. He is expected to remain in hospital for at least three weeks under close watch, and we we hope he makes a full recovery.