We'll start today in the NY Penn League, because if you headed down to Centennial Field in Burlington last night to catch the Vermont Lake Monsters take on the Hudson Valley Renegades, and stayed for the whole contest, you saw a Single A baseball game that was very likely more entertaining and dramatic than any played at the major league level on Sunday.
The Lake Monsters pulled out a walk-off, come from behind 5-4 victory of Hudson Valley with a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, but in the top of that inning, the Monsters also pulled off that most beautiful of rarities in baseball: the triple play. With the score 4-1 Renegades, Hudson Valley hit back to back singles to put runners on first and second with no one out.
But the next batter hit a line drive that was snagged by second baseman Ryan Gridley. The Renegade runner at second got caught off the bag and couldn't get back before Gridley got the ball to short stop Kevin Merrell, who was covering at second to double off that runner, and apparently the runner at first also thought the initial line drive would get through Ridley because he was also caught wandering and the flip to first baseman Aaron Arruda finished off the triple play, keeping the deficit at 4-1.
Gridley and Merrell were also key in the 9th inning winning rally, which Ridley got started with a walk. A hit batsman and a single loaded the bases, and then Merrell made it 4-2 drawing an RBI walk. After a pitching change the Renegades got the next two outs but another bases loaded walk made it 4-3 and then Will Toffey sent the Vermont crowd into a frenzy with a two-out single that scored Anthony Churlin from third and Merrell from second for the amazing 5-4 victory.
In the NECBL, the Winnipesaukee Muskrats scored five runs in the sixth to build up a lead against the Upper Valley Nighthawks they wouldn't give back, winning 7-5 in New Hampshire last night, and a three-run fifth helped the Valley Blue Sox to a 6-2 win over the Vermont Mountaineers. Williston's David Mikell suffered just his first loss of the season, giving up five runs, although only two were earned, on seven hits over five innings of work.
To the majors, and as good as the Boston Red Sox bullpen has been the first half of this season, they better hope yesterday's performance is not a harbinger of how they'll perform after the all-star break.
The Red Sox trailed the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh, unable to get anything going against Chris Archer, until Dustin Pedroia hit a clutch two-out, two-run home run to the opposite field, putting the Red Sox up 3-2 and knocking Archer out of the game. Pedroia was as pumped up as you will ever see him rounding the bases for that go-ahead homer,and starter David Price was set up for a much-deserved win, having given given up just two runs on five hits over six innings.
But you could see trouble brewing right away in the bottom of the frame when Matt Barnes walked the first batter he faced, and left after recording just one out with the tying run on third. Flame thrower Joe Kelly was then brought in, and you can make a good argument that manager John Farrell waited too long to do that. One sacrifice fly later the game was tied at three. The air was finally let all the way out of the balloon in the eighth when Kelly gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Brad Miller, and the Red Sox were tagged with a 5-3 loss.
The Rays ended up taking three out of four from the Red Sox and lo and behold are now tied with the NY Yankees for second place in the division, both teams just three and a half games behind the first place Sox. The good news for Boston is that after the break, they'll play the lion's share of their games at Fenway Park, including a whopping eighteen of their first 24 out of the gate, so hopefully they can use that home field to their advantage, but they'll need to avoid the kind of no-relief relief that happened yesterday.
The NY Yankees are not charging into the all star break, either, losing 5-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday at the Stadium. Travis Shaw, who the Red Sox felt was expendable as an every day third baseman, is thriving for Milwaukee, and hit a three run blast in the first inning yesterday off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Brew Crew a lead they would not relinquish. Steven Vogt added a solo shot in the second and the Yankees heard a lot of quacking with the number of ducks they left on the pond, going 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The Brewers, meanwhile, are the surprise story of the first half, in first place in the NL central, and winners of 9 of their last 11, while the Yankees are searching for answers, having not won a series outright since the second week of June.
Whatever problems the Red Sox and Yankees may have heading into the break pale in comparison to the woes of the NY Mets, who probably can't believe they have to play a whole second half of baseball. Their latest loss was a 6-0 shut out at the hands of the St. Louios Cardinals, who got home runs yesterday from Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong and Luke Voit to hand Steven Matz the loss. On the other side Lance Lynn held the Mets to just three hits over seven innings as he improves to 7-6.
Cry me a river to any and all of the above, say the Toronto Blue Jays. None of you guys went into the all-star break getting beaten by the Houston Astros 19-1. It was Houston's mist lopsided win in franchise history. Carlos Correa homered twice and drove in a career high five runs, and hockey season can't come fast enough for folks in Toronto.
At Wimbledon a lot of big names in action today including Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic on the men's side and at 8am eastern time Venus Williams faces Ana Konjuh in round four.