Yoenis Cespedes stepped into the batter’s box to face Jonathan Broxton in the eighth inning Tuesday night and his Boston Red Sox trailed the Cincinnati Reds by a run.
Broxton’s first pitch nearly decapitated the Red Sox left fielder and Cuban defector, a pitch, as they say, that “buzzed his tower.”
All it did was give Cespedes clearance to launch.
The next pitch traveled far enough to be classified as a space launch, a 433-foot blastoff over the center field wall, a two-run home run that gave the Red Sox a 3-2 victory.
A neutral observer in the press box shook his head and said, “I guess that pitch didn’t intimidate him much.”
Cespedes was a trade deadline acquisition by the Red Sox (from the Oakland A’s), as was the team’s pitcher this night.
Right-hander Joe Kelly was acquired from the St Louis Cardinals and he pitched against the Reds as if he still pitched for the Cardinals — six innings, two runs, five hits. Both Reds runs came in the first inning when Kelly walked Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce, the first two batters.
Both scored on singles by Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco. Then the Reds’ bats climbed between the sheets and went to sleep.
Mat Latos held the Red Sox scoreless until the seventh when he gave up a leadoff double to Daniel Nava and a run-scoring single to Xander Bogaerts.
But the Reds still led, 2-1, when Latos left after seven — one run, five hits, one walk, five strikeouts.
Broxton replaced him and gave up a leadoff single to Brock Holt. Broxton retired the next two but couldn’t intimidate Cespedes and he pole-axed the game-winner as a large portion of the crowd exploded in appreciation — the stands were heavily populated with Red Sox fans.
Reds manager Bryan Price was asked about Cespedes before the game and he said, “He is a really nice player who hits for power and runs well. He is a nice run-producer. He is a nice piece for them, no doubt about it.”
How prophetic was that — a run-producer with power?
There were reports that during the trade deadline the Reds might have been involved in talks with the Athletics for Cespedes, but Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said after Tuesday’s game, “I didn’t think they’d trade him and I was shocked when they did.”
The Cespedes home run was The Big Bang Theory of defeat, but mostly it was because once again the Reds were in a pacifist mode with their bats. It was the 37th time this year (one-fourth of their games) that the Reds scored two or fewer runs, and their record in one-run games is 17-27.
They’ve lost three straight to the last-place Red Sox, all by one run — 4-3 and 4-3 in 12 innings in a two-game series in Boston in early May.
“Regardless of their record, they are still the Boston Red Sox and they have quite a few good hitters on their team,” said Latos.
Latos had to face David Ortiz and Cespedes with two on in the third inning and escaped. He got Ortiz on a pop-up and Cespedes on a liner to left.
“The scouting report on Cespedes tells you to stay away from him and keep the ball down,” said Latos, something Broxton learned the hard way later in the game. “He has a big, long swing and he can go down and get it. So we tried to jam him up and in.”
Latos was a tad miffed in that inning because pitcher Kelly singled to start the inning, was sacrificed to second and then, of all things, stole third.
“That ticked me off that he did that (stole third),” said Latos. “It ticked me off and made me make sure I hit my spots and kicked it up a notch.”
Broxton was 4-0 with six saves before Tuesday and had given up two home runs in 40 innings.
“The guy came into the game with his earned-run average of one (1.07),” said Price. “He hasn’t been good lately, he’s been good ever since he came of the disabled list in April. He hasn’t been good, he has been outstanding.”
When it was mentioned that Cespedes wasn’t intimidated by Broxton’s first pitch, high and tight around his chin, Price said. “Some guys it may affect in a negative way and some guys it might give them a little more incentive to hit.”
Mark Cespedes down as a guy to whom it gives incentive.
“We jammed him a couple of times his first two at-bats,” said Price “He can be dangerous. Don’t get the pitch away from him and that’s what he does. That’s what good hitters do. They don’t miss mistakes. They don’t foul them off. They hit ‘em.”
And they hit ‘em a long, long way.