Sunday, July 08, 2012

July 7, 2012: Red Sox 9, Yankees 5; Pedro Ciriaco ignites Boston


My wife's brother was in town for the weekend, so their sister got the four of us Red Sox vs. Yankees bleachers tickets for last nights game, the second of a doubleheader.
Fenway with the wife & in-laws

After an awful week for the Red Sox, a miserable first inning had me in a typically grumpy mood. However, the bats started to turn around, led by middle infielder Pedro Ciriaco. Down 3-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox scored three, gave one back in the top of the seventh, then scored another four to take a commanding lead. At the heart of both rallies was minor league veteran Pedro Ciriaco. 

Originally signed back in 2005, Ciriaco got a couple stints with the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Known for his glove, he was having his best offensive season for Pawtucket, making the International League All-Star game. His contract was purchased by Boston before Friday, and he went 0 for 4 in his Red Sox debut in game one of the doubleheader. 

In game two, though, he had a game to be remembered. Ciriaco went 4 for 5 with two doubles, driving in four of the Red Sox' runs. He also made several very nice plays at shortstop, which is really the reason he's made the major leagues. When he came to bat in the 8th, Ciriaco received a standing ovation from the grateful Fenway crowd, hungry for something that would spark the .500 Dead Sox, losers in seven of their last nine, to life. During the at-bat, chants of Pe-dro harkened back to the Pedro Martinez era.

While it's crazy to think that a shortstop with a .281 OBP at Triple-A will continue to be the team's offensive leader, it was a fantastic game to be present at, with real electricity and excitement, rather than seven and a half innings of dullness and then "Sweet Caroline," followed immediately by a steady stream toward the exits. 


Beyond the Ciriaco-inspired jubilation, some thoughts from the game, and on the Red Sox and Yankees in general:

-Nick Punto, career .247/.324/.326 but not hitting anywhere near that well this year, was batting second. The idea that the #2 hitter needs to be able to "handle the bat" is ridiculous. The #2 hitter needs to be able to hit well, it's one of the most important positions in the lineup, and putting a bad hitter there leads to a lot of unnecessary outs and the middle of the order batters getting too few RBI opportunities.

-Mauro Gomez played third base, despite the fact that he can't really. In fact, he got his fourth consecutive start at the position. On the first batter of the game, he managed to make two errors on a Derek Jeter grounder. Two batters later, a three run home run put the Red Sox in a hole. Gomez had 71 career minor league games at third base, zero since the start of 2010. The guy can hit, but even on a night where he went 3 for 4 with two doubles, he may have only evened out. It happens that someone needs to play out of position in an emergency, but continuing to put someone clearly out of position will end up having consequences. Jeter tried to bunt for a single toward Gomez in the seventh, but a very nice play by Matt Albers getting off the mound quickly and throwing Jeter out prevented that. It was a smart play by Jeter though, as Gomez wouldn't have had a chance to get him.

-Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who now has a .287 OBP) was batting cleanup. I know having a catcher who can hit for power is fun and all, but let's not trick ourselves on Salty. He's an all or nothing hitter who strikes out a ton and makes too many outs, and was used to separate Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the lineup. I know the common strategy is to separate the lefties in the lineup, but against a team who has Boone Logan and Clay Rapada as the lefties in the pen? Valentine needed to split his two best hitters up because he was scared they would have to consecutively face Boone Logan or Clay Rapada? As a result of this strategy, Gonzalez went 0 for 0 with runners on base. 

-Felix Doubront really showed some poise by settling down after a round first inning against a tough lineup. He struck out 6 in 6.1 innings, and he remains fourth in the American League with a K/9 ratio of a tick over 9.0. He'll be one of the players to watch in the second half for Boston. Will he make adjustments as he starts getting repeat appearances against teams, and start to get the home runs down a little bit? Will the adjustments go the other way, and will teams begin to hit Doubront better the more they've seen him? Will he begin to tire under what is already nearing a career-high in terms of innings pitched? He's at 96.0, nearly 30 away from his career high of 129.1 in 2008. Like Saltalamacchia, it's easy to overstate how good he's been because of how poorly others around him have done, but there are positives with Doubront and the Red Sox have to be thrilled with what he's given them.

-On the Yankees side, Russell Martin finally got a hit, ending an 0-for-30 slump. His swing looks terrible, and he's batting only .179. Unless Brian Cashman really believes his low BABIP is a result of bad luck rather than his slow bat, this is a position that the Yankees will likely try to upgrade at the deadline. The question is, how? The catching position is weak around the league, and the Yankees best prospects in the high minors, Banuelos and Betances, have really disappointed this year. In-house replacements Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Gustavo Molina are not upgrades. This may be a position the Yankees will simply have a disadvantage at for the time being.

-Girardi's decision to pinch-hit A-Rod for Martin the ninth inning of a game they were losing by five runs at the time was a rather curious one. It seemed to do little more than give Red Sox fans an extra opportunity to boo the guy.

-In a nice game where he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 18 games, during which time he has hit .377/.400/.481. That sounds nice, until remembering that Gonzalez hit .338/.410/.548 for the entire season in 2011. That's probably too much to expect in the second half, but the Red Sox will need something closer to player to get any chance of getting back into the race.

-Like I said above, it's crazy to think Ciriaco is actually a player who can hit enough to make a difference for the Red Sox, but maybe it's time to think a little crazy? Pe-dro! Pe-dro!

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