The Toronto Blue Jays rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees (they had won 101 games in a row when leading by six or more runs), Alex Bregman hit his first major league home run (alas, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Houston Astros), the Los Angeles Angels snapped their losing skid, Danny Duffy continues to make his late run for Cy Young consideration, and the Chicago Cubs allowed one run in sweeping a doubleheader. Our top five:
1. Yes, this really happened. No, I’m serious. A major league manager did this. The situation: The Oakland Athletics had taken a 4-2 lead over the Texas Rangers in the top of the 10th, but the Rangers had rallied to tie the game on three walks and Carlos Beltran‘s two-run single with one out. With runners now on first and second and Adrian Beltre up, A’s manager Bob Melvin brought in Marc Rzepczynski, intentionally walked Beltre to load the bases, and pitched to Rougned Odor. Hit by pitch. Game over. Now consider:
There had been eight intentional walks all season with runners on first and second, but seven of those came with two outs (five of those issued by Joe Maddon, so it’s apparently a pet move of his). The only one that came with two outs came when J.J. Hoover walked Anthony Rizzo in the 15th inning when the Cincinnati Reds were already trailing 3-2 and the pitcher was due up next, with the Cubs’ bench emptied.
I went back year by year, checking the Baseball-Reference Play Index. There are usually about three to five intentional walks a season with runners on first and second, all with two outs. The last one I found resembling this one was in 2006, when Elizardo Ramirez of the Reds walked Ryan Howard of the Phillies with nobody out in the bottom of the 14th inning. In that case, the pitcher was also on deck, so I guess the hope would have been a strikeout and then a double play (it didn’t work, as Aaron Fultz lined out but Aaron Rowand singled).
I went back to 2000. The only other IW with runners on first and second and fewer than two outs came in 2002. Not surprisingly, it involved Barry Bonds. The Giants were already ahead 6-2 when the Expos’ Matt Herges walked Bonds to pitch to Benito Santiago.
My point: I went back 16 years and didn’t find any situation where a manager tried to do what Bob Melvin tried to do on Tuesday. Because it was a dumb move, that’s why.
You can point out that Beltre is hitting .371/.450/.743 against the A’s this year. You can point out that Rzepczynski versus Odor set up a lefty-lefty matchup. You can point out that you don’t want Rzepczynski pitching to Beltre (true). You can point out that Odor is more likely to strike out. But then think of all the ways a run can score from third base with one out: wild pitch, passed ball, walk, sacrifice fly, non-double play grounder without a force at home, base hit … and, of course, a hit by pitch. Not to mention that the slower Beltre would have been slightly more likely to hit into a double play. There’s a reason no other manager has intentionally put the winning run on third base with fewer than two outs.
Anyway, the Rangers win another one-run game. They’re 27-8 in one-run games.
Sometimes I wonder if the Mariners let go of Bob Melvin too soon. Tonight was not one of those nights.
— Christopher Crawford (@CVCrawfordBP) August 17, 2016
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) August 17, 2016
2. Mookie Betts is awesome. But we knew this! He hit two more home runs as the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, giving him seven home runs … just in Baltimore. Since the All-Star break he’s hitting .351/.392/.782 with 30 RBIs in 28 games and has certainly entered the MVP race alongside Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, and Josh Donaldson.
Do not pitch this man inside: pic.twitter.com/caYbHSdQdR
— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) August 17, 2016
3. Braves to call up Dansby Swanson. The Atlanta Braves traded Erick Aybar to the Detroit Tigers, who were looking for a temporary shortstop with Jose Iglesias on the DL, so the Braves called up their top prospect. Don’t expect immediate success here as Swanson was hitting .261/.342/.402 in Double-A with 71 strikeouts in 84 games. Some questioned the call-up — service time! — but I like the idea of letting him get 40 games under his belt and prepare to be the team’s Opening Day shortstop next year.
4. Welcome back, Chase. Philadelphia Phillies fans gave Chase Utley a long standing ovation. The Phillies even played his walk-up song (you don’t do that for a visiting player!). And then Utley did this as the Los Angeles Dodgers won, 15-5:
— MLB (@MLB) August 17, 2016
Chase Utley confessed that tonight was “something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” a stunning admission, as far as Utley goes.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 17, 2016
5. Jose Altuve continues to hit. With three hits, he reached career hit No. 1,000. Only Ichiro Suzuki got to 1,000 in fewer games among active players. Given his age — just 26 — he’s clearly a strong candidate to get 3,000 hits. It’s never a sure thing. Edgar Renteria, for example, had 1,255 hits through his age-26 season. Ruben Sierra had 1,160. Heck, even Elvis Andrus had 1,113. But none of those guys were hitting .365.