News

Print

Big Train Players Bring Banner Years to the Big Leagues

By:Bill Hickman

The year 2021 saw four out of five Big Train alumni in the major leagues making significant contributions to their teams’ chases for playoff positions.  The fifth alum enjoyed his peak year thus far and led his team in one of the pitching categories.  Let’s begin with the latter player.

Joe Mantiply (BT 2010) is a relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He led their staff with 11 holds and pitched to a 3.40 ERA in 57 appearances.  Given that the ERA for the Arizona team as a whole in 2021 was 5.13, his record was impressive.

The Seattle Mariners were in contention for a playoff spot until the final days of the season.   Former Big Train players Ty France (BT 2013) and Logan Gilbert (BT 2016) were two of the Mariners who were providing big-time help.  France led the regulars on his team in batting average with a .291 mark and was second in hits with 166.   He blasted 18 homers and drove in 73 runs.  Enjoying a fine rookie year, Gilbert pitched to a 6-5 record with a 4.68 ERA in 24 games, almost exclusively as a starter.   More importantly, in his final seven starts, while his team was making their stretch run, he posted a 1-0 record with a 3.62 ERA.   He had become the more dependable and experienced pitcher they needed.

The Boston Red Sox had a dramatic season, to say the least.  They held first place in their division for a while.  They lost a number of players to Covid for a period.  They fell into slumps.  And they finally came back at the end of the season with a three-game sweep over the Nationals to qualify for a wild card playoff game against the Yankees.   All the while, Hunter Renfroe (BT 2011-12) was a steady presence in their lineup, banging out homers and driving in runs, and showing his arm strength from right field.  He hit .259 with 31 home runs and 96 RBI.  He was second on the team in home runs and third in RBI.  He tied for third on the team in total bases (261).  He played in the most games (144), got the most hits (135), slugged the most doubles (33), tallied the most total bases,  and drove in the most runs in his major league career.

The Tampa Bay Rays, reigning American League Champions from 2020, ran away with the AL East Division Championship in 2021.  Brandon Lowe (BT 2014; at right) was one of the offensive leaders of the team.  He led the Rays in home runs and total bases.  He was second on the team in hits, RBI, and slugging percentage.  In 149 games, he had 39 homers and 99 RBI.  He scored 97 runs.  He had 280 total bases.  It was a career year for him in almost every offensive category.  On October 2, he blasted 3 home runs and drove in 7 runs in a single game.  Other Big Train players have hit 3 home runs or have driven in 7 runs in a single major league game, but none has done both in the same game.  After that day’s performance, Lowe's manager, Kevin Cash was quoted as saying: “What a season he’s put together.”

As the 2021 playoff season got underway, the first contest was the Wild Card game between the Yankees and the Red Sox on October 5.  The Red Sox ran away with the game, 6-2. Renfroe’s play did not make a big impact on the outcome, but he was a positive force for the Red Sox.  He went one for three at the plate and coaxed a walk as well.

Next came the Division Championship Series.  Of particular interest to Big Train fans was the series between the Red Sox and the Rays.  In Game One, Renfroe singled and Lowe began a hitless streak for the four-game series as the Rays won, 5-0.   The Red Sox came roaring back in Game Two with a 14-6 victory that saw another Renfroe single.   Game Three was a thriller with the Red Sox coming out on top in the 13th inning, 6-4.  Technically, Renfroe scored the winning run, but what will be remembered is that Christian Vazquez hit a walk-off homer driving in both Renfroe and himself.  Renfroe was prominent in another play in the top of the 13th.  The Rays’ Kevin Kiermeier had slammed a hit to the outfield that appeared to drive in the go-ahead run.  The ball hit the Fenway fence, then careened off Renfroe’s body and bounced over the structure into the bullpen.  After a lengthy conference between the umpires and MLB officials in New York, the hit was ruled a ground rule double and the lead runner was returned to third base.  Since the next batter struck out, no runs scored for the Rays.  In the game, Renfroe had two singles and two walks.  The Red Sox captured the series with a 6-5 win in Game Four, including a Renfroe double.

Then the Red Sox moved on to play the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.  In Game One, Renfroe went one for three with a double and an RBI as the Astros edged the Red Sox, 5-4.   The Red Sox won Game Two, 9-5, but Renfroe was hitless.  In Game Three, Renfroe scored twice by taking two walks and advancing around the bases.  The BoSox dominated, 12-3.  Renfroe closed out the game with a spectacular diving catch in right field off a liner by Carlos Correa.   The Red Sox seemed to have Game Four in hand with a 2-1 lead going into the 8th.  The Astros tied it up in that inning, and broke it wide open in the 9th, winning 9-2.  Renfroe benefited from two walks.  Game Five was one that Renfroe would probably like to forget.  His team was trounced 9-1, and he went oh for three.  Renfroe's lack of hitting was shared by his teammates as Houston’s Luis Garcia tossed a no-hitter for five and two-thirds innings in Game Six before the Sox finally made some noise.  Renfroe went oh for two before being removed in the 8th for a pinch hitter, which ended his season.  An inning later, the Red Sox season was also over as they went down, 5-0.  In the end, they had achieved only two hits in their final game.

Brandon Lowe photo credit to All-Pro Reels, Wikimedia Commons. 

Share This Article




Past News

Search Archive »

Browse by Year »

2022
2021
2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011

Browse by Month »

June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
March 2020
February 2020
October 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
November 2016
September 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
September 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
November 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
December 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
December 2011

facebook
twitter
You Tube
Instagram
Phone
Number 11
Number 21
Number 40
Number 42
Number 5
Number 7