The Boston Red Sox have had the Devil Rays’ own time trying to hit the ball lately.
They have gotten exactly three base hits in three consecutive games, all against the rival Tampa Bay Rays, though they managed to win the first of them since one of the hits was a three-run home-run courtesy of Jacoby Ellsbury. (He also homered in the second game of the series, and is having a helluva year overall.)
You’ll notice my ugly mug all over the comments there – not much else to do when you’re home sick – and one thing I mentioned was that the Sox were playing in Kansas City tonight, getting to face Luke Hochevar, who is not exactly the immovable object. This led me to suggest that Boston would probably surpass three hits on their first trip through the batting order. (Hochevar’s career: 9.7 hits per 9 IP, .274 average against. He also allows steals at an 83.1% rate for his career, so the Sox will be active on the basepaths.)
This was not really a stretch to predict, but lo, it hath come to pass. The eighth and ninth hitters, Jason Varitek and Mike Aviles, hit singles to give Boston four base hits on their first trip through the order. Through five innings, they have four runs on eight hits (20 AB) and two walks. They should have even more, but the Royals have shown better arms than their pitcher tonight – KC has ended three of the five innings by throwing out Red Sox runners.
When you’re a Mets fan, this is about all you have to think about is cool stuff like this.
For example, another thing I noticed from the Jacoby Ellsbury thread above: Bobby Bonds appears three times on the list at that post, the only man on the list more than once. (It’s leadoff hitters who’ve met certain HR/run/RBI levels with an OPS 30% above league average.) Bobby did it twice with the Giants, and the only year he was a Yankee. The Yanks (most likely at Billy Martin’s insistence) traded Bonds to the Angels, and got back Mickey Rivers and Ed Figeroa. Rivers actually finished third in the MVP vote his first year there, and Figeroa fourth in the Cy Young vote. And they played effectively for the Yanks for a few years after, meaning that they actually came out ahead on the deal. The Angels, however, didn’t do badly for themselves, trading Bonds for Brian Downing, an underrated player in his own right – and one who would wind up making the very list Bonds is on.
I love little patterns and coincidences like that. It’s also interesting to see how Billy Martin’s dissatisfaction led to the Yankees improving their team, almost by accident. For one thing, there was no real indication that Rivers or Figeroa were capable of what they did their first year in New York. For another, part of the Yankees problem in 1975 was an injury to CF Elliott Maddox, who was playing very well before wrecking his knee. (He was arguably never the same player afterward.)
Rivers replaced Maddox in centerfield, but there was another difficutly: the Yankees had nobody to bat second behind him. It had been Sandy Alomar, who was, to be honest, brutal. The Yankees solved that problem by moving Roy White to that spot. But who was going to replace Alomar in the field? Well, the Yankees were already trading for extra pitching besides Figeroa. Pittsburgh was giving up Ken Brett (and giving up on Dock Ellis). They had young John Candelaria, and Jerry Reuss and Bruce Kison… they could afford to part with some pitching. They could also afford to part with one of their two second basemen.
They kept the established Rennie Stennett, and threw in the young, unproven Willie Randolph.