The Boston Red Sox have 13 pitchers on their roster, which is more than half of it, which makes how they lost Sunday’s game to Baltimore even more ironic.
The Red Sox have lost 16 of the 27 games they’ve played this season, so there’s no novelty there. But they lost Sunday 9-6 in 17 innings because they ran out of the one thing they have the most of (in quantity, not quality). Pitchers.
Forty-nine years ago, the Giants and Braves played 16 innings and used two pitchers (they might have played more but the loser presumably tired in the bottom of the 16th. Who could blame Warren Spahn, who was only 42 years old when he threw a home run to Willie Mays to lose 1-0 to Juan Marichal).
Sunday the Red Six and Orioles needed 18 pitchers to play an inning more. They didn’t count pitches in 1963, but I’m going to guess both Spahn and Marichal threw less than the 297 the Red Sox did or the 273 the Orioles did Sunday (and for the record, it took 1:57 less to play 16 innings 49 years ago than the six hours and seven minutes it did to play 17 on Sunday).
Maybe nothing has evolved more in baseball than the use of the pitching staff, and most of it in a good way.
Once normally 10 deep, staffs are expanded now and even moreso in the American League because of the designated hitter; pinch-hitters are rarely necessary and versatility a virtue.
Managers can carry 13 pitchers, like the Red Sox, which include multiple lefties and advantageous matchups.
Today, even Dusty Baker wouldn’t let his starters go 16 innings (15 maybe). But even a squirrel knows you need to save an acorn or reliever just in case.
Sixteen relievers pitched in Sunday’s game, and not one could be taxed to go more than two innings. It used to be the role on a pitching staff — albeit not much admired — for someone to be the long reliever. Now, six outs is an extended appearance.
A lot of the blame can be put on the starting pitchers — the Orioles’ Tommy Hunter couldn’t handle a 5-0 lead; the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz couldn’t handle Robert Andino, who homered Sunday after knocking the Sox out of the playoffs last September (to paraphrase Peter Gammons on the Sox’s broadcast Sunday: Forget about the Curse of the Bambino and worry about the Curse of the Andino).
Neither Buchholz nor Hunter finished five innings, which ignited Sunday’s relay from the bullpen. By the end it was farcical — two position players, Darnell McDonald and Chris Davis, pitching to decide a tie game.
The only thing odder than that sight was the offensive strategy each team used: the Red Sox had a runner thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 16th (really? how many ways are there to score against Chris Davis, even with two out?), and the Orioles’ Wilson Betemit was thrown out trying to steal in the top of the 17th.
First rule of extra-inning baseball: when the opposing pitcher is a position player, you don’t need to take the extra base.
Speaking of the old days:
Jamie Moyer accuses Chipper Jones of stealing signs: This wouldn’t have anything to do with Moyer and the Rockies losing leads of 6-0 and 8-3? We thought so. You can’t blame Moyer — transference was probably a new theory when he was studying psychology in college. Said Jones: “I mean, dude, we don’t need signs, especially for him . . . every pitch is 79 mph.” Jones is right — as far as pitchers go, Moyer is slow-pitch softball (not that Jones needs to worry about getting plunked should they meet again). Even more telling? Moyer’s own teammate, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, backed Jones. This may be Chipper’s last year, but it sounds like he’ll be playing after Moyer is done.
Cole Hamels admits he hit Bryce Harper: I’m not sure what’s worse — Hamels’ honesty or Nats GM Mike Rizzo’s overreaction. Hamels said he was going old school, but I’m not sure which one or which grade. Hitting Harper purposefully was stupid and pointless. Admitting it, nay, boasting about it, was immature bravado. If Hamels is suspended, he shouldn’t ask for a hearing unless he wants an extra game off. But Rizzo’s comments were as off as Hamels’ pitch. If hyperbole could score runs, the Nats wouldn’t need offense. Rizzo: “I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless, chicken-bleep act in my 30 years in baseball.” Really? Never? I’m sorry Rizzo missed the 2003 ALCS, but he should probably watch it on the MLB network. Then check with Karim Garcia, or Harper, and ask them if they’d rather have Hamels throwing at their back or Pedro Martinez throwing at their head. Hamels was wrong — wrong to throw at Harper and wrong to brazenly admit it, as if he did nothing more untoward than miss a sign. But Harper took care of it the best way possible — stealing home on a pickoff throw to first base. Rizzo is the GM, of course, who was so frustrated by the preponderance of Phillies fans at Nats’ home games that his team gave fans in D.C, Maryland and Virginia a head start on buying tickets for those games this year. Rizzo can’t lose by speaking up. He defends his player, endorses a rival’s suspension, and stokes a rivalry at home: three-for-three.