MLB

Red Sox win wild one over Yankees, Giants stun Dodgers late

By Sports Desk July 23, 2021

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have faced each other more than 2,000 times dating back to 1901, but they have never had a game end quite like Thursday's. 

Four wild pitches by New York reliever Brooks Kriske in the 10th inning brought home the tying run and set up the winning run as Boston prevailed 5-4 at Fenway Park. 

The Red Sox had trailed 3-1 with two outs in the ninth inning when Kike Hernandez ripped a two-run double to left-center off Chad Green to tie the game and send it to the 10th.

Thanks to MLB's second-year rule that puts a runner on second base to start each extra inning, New York was able to take a 4-3 lead on a groundout and a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly in the top of the inning, but Boston did them one better. 

Two wild pitches by Kriske brought Rafael Devers home from second to make it 4-4, and after Xander Bogaerts drew a walk, two more wild pitches moved him to third. 

After J.D. Martinez struck out, Hunter Renfroe lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to drive home Bogaerts with the winning run – all without benefit of a hit. 

According to Stats Perform, Kriske is the first pitcher in MLB history to throw at least four wild pitches in one extra ininng. 

"There's a lot of guys battling their butts off and it sucks to be the one to blow it for the team," Kriske told reporters. 

The Yankees sent him to the minor leagues after the game. 

 

Giants stun Dodgers late

The San Francisco Giants scored four runs in the ninth inning for a shock 5-3 victory over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers as they opened up a three-game lead over LA in the National League (NL) West division.

Down 3-1 with two out in the ninth, the Giants loaded the bases and earned a reprieve when video replay overturned a call at second base that would have been the final out of the game. Darin Ruf then walked on a controversial checked-swing call to force in the tying run before LaMonte Wade's two-run single off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen broke it open. 

The Tampa Bay Rays pulled out another late victory, scoring twice in the ninth inning and again in the 10th to defeat the Cleveland Indians 5-4. Entering the ninth trailing 4-2, the Rays got a leadoff homer from Yandy Diaz and a two-out double by Brandon Lowe to tie the game, then brought home the go-ahead run on Austin Meadows' single in the 10th. 

The Detroit Tigers remain undefeated since the All-Star break, getting a three-run first-inning homer from Eric Haase and going on to beat the Texas Rangers 7-5 to complete a four-game sweep and extend their winning streak to seven games. The Tigers were 9-24 on May 7 but are 38-27 since.  

Sean Manaea struck out a career-high 13 for the Oakland Athletics in a 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. 

 

Braves get to Moore

After allowing six earned runs over his last four outings combined, Philadelphia Phillies starter Matt Moore gave up six in the first four innings of a 7-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Dansby Swanson's third-inning grand slam was the big blow for Atlanta. 

 

Another robbery by Bader

St Louis Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader made a maximum-effort play to end the top of the seventh inning, robbing Nico Hoerner of a bloop single to help the Cardinals hang on to a lead and eventually defeat the Chicago Cubs 3-2. 

 

Thursday's results

Detroit Tigers 7-5 Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 Cleveland Indians
Atlanta Braves 7-2 Philadelphia Phillies
Boston Red Sox 5-4 New York Yankees
San Diego Padres 3-2 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 3-2 Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Minnesota Twins
Oakland Athletics 4-1 Seattle Mariners
San Francisco Giants 5-3 Los Angeles Dodgers
 

White Sox at Brewers

The Chicago White Sox (58-38) and Milwaukee Brewers (56-41) both have healthy leads in their divisions heading into a week-end showdown in Milwaukee. 

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    Serie A returns on Saturday, with Milan looking to retain their title after a first Scudetto triumph in 11 years.

    The Rossoneri have brought in Belgium duo Charles De Ketelaere and Divock Origi to bolster Stefano Pioli's squad as they prepare to face another challenge from rivals Inter.

    Simone Inzaghi will have his own Belgium international striker Romelu Lukaku to call on again after he was brought back on loan from Chelsea.

    How will those clubs fare, who is likely to be their closest challengers, and who will be fearing the drop from Italy's top flight?

    Stats Perform AI has predicted the outcome of the campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

    These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and have thrown up some interesting results, with a heavy favourite for top spot.

    INTER TO TAKE THEIR TITLE BACK WITH FAMILIAR FACE ON BOARD

    In the end, there were just two points in it.

    A fascinating battle between Milan and Inter last season saw Pioli's men edge the title with 86 points after a 3-0 win at Sassuolo on the final day.

    Despite the impressive way Milan closed out that title, the data makes Inter 47.97 per cent favourites to regain it in 2022-23.

    The return of Lukaku is likely to be a big reason for that, with the 29-year-old having scored 47 goals in 72 Serie A games prior to joining Chelsea last year, and he played a major part in Inter's Scudetto win in 2020-21.

    Milan's chances are surprisingly not even second best, with the data suggesting there is a 16.43 per cent likelihood of them retaining their title, with Juventus judged to have a slightly better 17.93 per cent chance.

    Napoli are deemed to have a 13.75 per cent chance, with no other team being considered to have any more than a two per cent chance, including Jose Mourinho's Roma at 1.99 per cent.

    TOP FOUR FIGHT EXPECTED TO BE MORE OF THE SAME

    There was very little drama in the race for the Champions League spots last season, with Napoli and Juventus well out of the title fight but clear of fifth place with multiple games to go.

    Stats Perform AI expects the same four teams to take up those spots again, albeit in a different order, with Juve in second, Milan third and Napoli fourth.

    The positive numbers for the Bianconeri are likely to be a result of Serbia striker Dusan Vlahovic having a full season to lead the line, along with big name additions of Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria.

    Napoli could be the most at risk after losing several key players since the end of last season, including Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, but they are still given a 73.09 per cent chance of Champions League qualification.

    In the chasing pack, Roma are given a 30.18 per cent chance of a top four spot and Stats Perform AI believes Mourinho's men are the likeliest team to finish in one of the two Europa League places, with no team given a greater chance than the Giallorossi's 19.58 per cent.

    Atalanta have a 20.64 per cent chance of getting back into the top four, though are still deemed likely to improve on last season's eighth place as favourites for sixth and qualification for the Europa League (18.56 per cent).

    That leaves Lazio with a 17.09 per cent chance of seventh and a Europa Conference League spot, though Fiorentina (11.10), Hellas Verona (8.45) and Sassuolo (8.34) are not counted out entirely.

    CREMONESE UNLIKELY TO RISE TO THE TOP

    It is not too much of a surprise to see the promoted teams are predicted to be facing a tough task to stay up.

    Cremonese are the favourites for the drop at 63.41 per cent, with Lecce (47.10 per cent) also expected to head back to Serie B at the end of the campaign.

    Second favourites for relegation, though, are last year's 17th place team Salernitana, who avoided relegation by a single point ahead of Cagliari. Davide Nicola's side are handed a 58.10 per cent chance of failing to escape this time.

    Monza came up through the play-offs and have made a number of new signings, including former Inter players Andrea Ranocchia and Stefano Sensi, which could be why they are given just a 27.92 per cent chance of going back down, slightly ahead of Empoli at 25.17 per cent.

    Only four teams are given a zero per cent chance of relegation, which unsurprisingly is last season's top four.

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    LaLiga, home to the European champions, returns on Friday for another season.

    Real Madrid ended the previous campaign by winning the Champions League, the prize they covet most, but it was also a successful year in domestic action.

    Carlo Ancelotti's men eased to a record-extending 35th league title by 13 points – that is the gap Barcelona have sought to bridge in the transfer market during the close season. So, just how successfully have they done that?

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    MADRID MAINTAIN BUFFER TO BARCA

    Given their 35 titles, given their 13-point gap, given their status as European champions, it is surely no surprise Madrid are considered the clear favourites to scoop Spanish football's top prize once again.

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    Barca recovered from a dismal start last season to finish second, and they are forecast for the same result again after investing hugely in Robert Lewandowski and Co.

    But there is only a 17.0 per cent chance of the title heading to Camp Nou, with Atletico Madrid a predictable third in the rankings and rated as a 12.3 per cent shot.

    Those three clubs have accounted for the past 18 championships since Valencia finished top in 2003-04. Now, under Gennaro Gattuso, Valencia have a mere 0.08 per cent chance of returning to the summit, deemed ninth favourites among 11 teams with any hope at all.

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    PRECIOUS FOURTH PLACE UP FOR GRABS

    There realistically remains only one of the four Champions League places on offer after taking into account Madrid (95.68 per cent), Barca (79.31 per cent) and Atletico (71.56 per cent). Last season, that belonged to Sevilla.

    Yet despite Sevilla's high ceiling seeing them fourth favourites for the title, Stats Perform AI expects them to be pushed out of the top four.

    After losing defensive duo Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, Sevilla are given a 47.45 per cent of qualifying for the Champions League, just behind former coach Unai Emery's Villarreal (48.66 per cent), who were seventh last season but reached the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition.

    Real Sociedad (24.79 per cent) and Real Betis (20.39 per cent) are both firmly in the mix, too, although every team in the league have at least a 0.04 per cent hope of contending for Champions League glory.

    Athletic Bilbao are expected to be on the outside looking in from eighth place (7.48 per cent for Champions League, 7.42 per cent for Europa League and 10.51 per cent for Europa Conference League).

    NO ESCAPE THIS TIME FOR MALLORCA

    The fight against the drop went right to the wire last term, with three teams still in the mix on the final day.

    Granada were the surprise victims of a dramatic scrap, relegated just two weeks after winning 6-2 at Mallorca. Mallorca then earned seven points from their next three games to stay up alongside Cadiz at Granada's expense.

    That late recovery may have rescued Mallorca for another year, but Stats Perform AI predicts their LaLiga stay will last no longer than that.

    They are 41.27 per cent favourites to go down, even considered more likely for demotion than Girona (39.95), who were promoted via the play-offs.

    Real Valladolid, another promoted side, are ranked as the third relegated team (32.74 per cent), yet there is very little to choose between a clutch of clubs, with Cadiz (31.8 per cent) again at risk alongside Elche (31.48 per cent), second-tier champions Almeria (28.86 per cent) and Rayo Vallecano (27.46 per cent).

  • Real Madrid: Ancelotti tempting fate by not signing a Benzema backup as he eyes elusive third season Real Madrid: Ancelotti tempting fate by not signing a Benzema backup as he eyes elusive third season

    Carlo Ancelotti's return to Real Madrid last year came as something of a surprise to most.

    While the job he'd done at Everton was generally seen as fine, there was nothing about his time at Goodison Park that suggested the Italian would be back at the top of the game in his next job.

    His appointment at the Santiago Bernabeu could've almost been interpreted as a pointed dig at Clasico rivals Barcelona, where managerial hirings tend to be based around 'philosophy' – few could say that about Ancelotti, a coach arguably regarded more for his motivational skills, tactical flexibility and winning than for sticking to one defined brand of football.

    Regardless of how surprising Ancelotti's return was, he certainly got the job done. Madrid looked certainties for the title virtually all season and pulled off great escape after great escape to eventually win the Champions League, traversing one of the toughest routes to European Cup glory ever seen.

    But let's not forget, Ancelotti's won the Champions League with Madrid before. Last time, in 2014, he lasted only another year and a day before he was discarded.

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    Perhaps it shouldn't be a shock, given many of the clubs he's coached have been among the biggest – and that usually means impatient by extension – teams in Europe, but Ancelotti hasn't been in charge of a single club for more than two consecutive full seasons since leaving Milan in May 2009.

    Granted, his spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Everton ended essentially because Madrid came calling, so who's to say how long he'd have been in charge. But clearly there has been a pattern in his working life since Milan.

    Ancelotti will be acutely aware of the expectations upon him at Madrid as he's lived through them before and paid the price for failing to achieve his targets.

    But you have to wonder if anything will be different this time around.

    Ancelotti's dismissal in 2015 came down to the fact Madrid didn't win a (major) trophy in the 2014-15 season. Florentino Perez's decision at the time wasn't universally popular, though no one would've been surprised.

    In the culture created by Perez at the club, a lack of success simply equates to failure, and clearly even the good will attained by winning La Decima – Madrid's 10th European crown – only lasts you so long.

    Perez's statement to the media even seemed to admit there being a degree of not knowing what else to do, as he said: "It was a very difficult decision to make; the demands at this club are the utmost because Madrid always wants to win silverware.

    "The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him. What did Ancelotti do wrong? I don't know. The demands here at Real Madrid are very high."

    Essentially, since his Milan days, Ancelotti has been brought in by teams to achieve success quickly and, for the most part, he's done that almost everywhere he's been – but long-term success in one place has eluded him.

    Presumably then, Ancelotti will have to again win at least one of LaLiga or the Champions League to stick around for a third season. That stands to reason at Real Madrid, and there's no reason they would be considered incapable on either front, but expecting everything to fall into place like last season is asking for trouble.

    Tempting fate?

    Who's to say Madrid won't cruise to the title again with Karim Benzema conquering every team in his path? It's entirely possible.

    The key differences this time around are the fact Madrid are heading into the season without a defined back-up striker for Benzema, and Barcelona have strengthened significantly.

    Firstly on Barca, if we assume they are able to register all of their new signings in time for the season's start, they'll have bolstered a team that finished the 2021-22 season very well. In fact, since the start of 2022, their 45 points was more than any other LaLiga team.

    Granted, Madrid played one game less (19), but if they had contested a 20th match and won it, they'd still have been two points shy of Barca.

    The change inspired by Xavi cannot be overstated and, as much of a mess as the club is off the pitch, there's every reason to expect them to be a force on it this season.

    For Madrid and Ancelotti, again their hopes will be pinned on Benzema. Of course, on the face of it that's not an issue. He's scored at least 21 league goals in each of the past four seasons and never made fewer than 27 top-flight appearances for Los Blancos.

    As a difference-maker and consistent presence, he's their Mr Reliable. But what if he does pick up a major injury: who will Madrid rely on to fill the Benzema void?

    Vinicius Junior enjoyed a remarkable season but wouldn't be suited to the Benzema role, stylistically or as a leader. Again, when Eden Hazard is fit, he is not a central striker, while Mariano Diaz has started just 11 league games in four seasons.

    Madrid's decision to get rid of Luka Jovic was probably the right one given how underwhelming the Serbian had been, and there's no guarantee anyone else brought in as a backup would've been more effective.

    But it does seem an unnecessary risk for a club like Madrid to go into a season without a second striker – or without a second striker who's got a better track record than Diaz. That's the decision Florentino Perez has reportedly made.

    Even if they were granted special dispensation to sign another LaLiga-based striker out of the transfer window, mid-season integration for that player would be tough in every way.

    Yes, yes, yes, it's all hypothetical and no one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but surely it's better to plan for that possibility than to leave it to chance? Perhaps Ancelotti has a master backup plan hidden up his sleeve in the event of losing Benzema for a while – we'll only find out if it happens.

    But if it does and his answer is to rely on Diaz, there's little hope of Ancelotti reaching that elusive third season.

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