Mike Minor tossed 8 2/3 innings in the Texas Rangers’ 7-5 win over the Boston Red Sox Thursday, and the left-hander managed to claim his 200th strikeout along the way. But the milestone may need to be accompanied by an asterisk.
Texas left Minor in for the ninth inning, as the 31-year-old was one punch-out shy of the 200 mark. With one out, Chris Owings sent a routine pop up into foul territory. As first baseman Ronald Guzman pursued the ball, Minor and catcher Jose Trevino yelled for him to let it drop. He followed their direction, and Minor struck out Owings looking on a borderline changeup for No. 200 one pitch later.
After the game, manager Alex Cora remained atop the dugout steps for an extended period, glaring toward the Rangers handshake line on the field. It was clear he didn’t like the move to intentionally let the ball drop, but Cora took the high road when asked about the move following the game.
“I don’t know, I’m just happy our guys are playing the game the right way,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “We’re playing hard until the end. You saw the effort and that’s what it’s all about. … It’s been 2 weeks since we’ve been eliminated, but we’ve been going at it the right way. That’s all I ask. I don’t manage the Rangers. That’s a question for (Rangers manager Chris Woodward) over there, and he probably has the right answer.”
Woodward acknowledged that Guzman could have easily caught the ball, but fired some shots back toward the Red Sox clubhouse regarding their aggressiveness at the plate.
“I didn’t love the idea that we dropped the pop up at the end,” Woodward said. “But, on the other side of that, they swung at three pitches in a row in the eighth inning down by two. So if they have any beef with that, I’m pretty sure Cora did, they chose to not try to win the game as well. They were trying to keep him from striking a guy out, which worked in our favor to winning the game eventually.”
Woodward’s argument centered around the Red Sox’s aggressiveness is rather hollow, if you ask us. Yes, Boston put the first pitch in play three times in the eighth inning, but to say that was targeted at killing Minor’s milestone would be misleading. Boston used the same strategy in the seventh inning, and it resulted in two home runs from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chris Owings.
We’ll let you be the judge on this one.
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Red Sox-Rangers game:
— So, what did Mike Minor have to say about all of this?
Well, the southpaw noted Boston’s aggressiveness just like his manager, but didn’t seem to think there were any issues with the dropped ball. He discussed the move in his postgame interview with Fox Sports Southwest’s Emily Jones.
“I think Cora was over there telling guys to just swing first pitch,” Minor said. “We had that fly ball here, I know the fans didn’t understand, but we were yelling telling (Guzman) to drop it because it was going to be two strikes (if it dropped).
“I started yelling at him,” Minor added. “I think (Trevino) did too. He didn’t even look at us, so I thought it was going to fall (into his glove), and then he dropped it. He looked at me like, ‘What, why?’ and then everybody started booing or whatever. … But we ended up getting it. CB (Bucknor) rang him up on probably a borderline pitch there and then we got the 200th.”
— Sandy Leon made his first career appearance at first base Thursday, and Cora was happy with how he performed.
“A lot of people banged up right now. Tough conditions.” Cora said. “He made a nice play. He’s OK. Him and (Juan) Centeno — they have good hands, good footwork. They’re just a little bit slower than our infielders, but when they take ground balls, they’re good. They have good instincts, so I didn’t hesitate (to put Leon at first).”
— The Red Sox head home for their final series of the season beginning Friday night at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.