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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Marco Estrada

09.30.16 at 9:41 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

The Red Sox open their final series of the regular season Friday by welcoming the Blue Jays to Fenway for a three-game set. Rick Porcelllo will cap off the best regular season of his career with a final start against Marco Estrada.

Porcello is 22-4 with a 3.11 ERA and a 0.991 WHIP in 32 starts. In his last start on Saturday, he threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, eight hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in a 6-4 win over the Rays.

“I feel like I had good stuff. I definitely made a lot of mistakes, especially early on in the game and the inning when they scored those runs,” Porcello said (via MLB.com). “I had to settle back down and start executing my pitches better, but definitely had a better four-seam fastball, and it had some more life on it today than in some previous starts.”

Since June 28, the right-hander has gone more than six innings in every outing, which has contributed to him going 14-2 with a 2.49 ERA in his last 16 starts.

Against the Blue Jays, Porcello is 7-7 with a 5.07 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP in 16 games (15 starts). This season against the Jays, he is 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP in four starts. His last outing against Toronto was on Sept. 9. He threw seven innings, surrendering just two runs, six hits and one walks with seven strikeouts in a 13-3 Sox win.

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Closing Time: Red Sox offense goes cold in David Ortiz’s final game in Yankee Stadium

09.29.16 at 10:26 pm ET
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Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is greeted by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Thursday. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is greeted by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Thursday. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

On the heels of their second AL East crown in four years, the Red Sox called off the dogs.

With Henry Owens making just his fifth start of the year and a host of regulars resting, the Red Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to the Yankees on Thursday that completed New York’s sweep.

One night after the Red Sox clinched the division, Owens allowed four hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out six. It was a serviceable effort, all things considered, from a pitcher who hadn’t made an appearance in three weeks.

It didn’t take long for the Yankees to jump on the 24-year-old, however, as cleanup hitter Starlin Castro doubled to plate Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning. In the fifth, Ellsbury smacked an RBI double of his own to put the Yankees back up 2-1.

The Red Sox offense made C.C. Sabathia look like he was in his mid-2000’s form, managing four hits and a run off the lefty over seven innings while striking out eight times. Xander Bogaerts served as one of the few sources of offense, driving his 21st home run of the season in the fourth inning.

David Ortiz struck out and walked in his final game against the Yankees before being replaced by Brock Holt. Ortiz was honored before the game by former opponent Mariano Rivera, as well as with a book full of testimonials from Yankees greats.

Closing Time note

David Ortiz’s eight strikeouts at Yankee Stadium this season are the most of any ballpark outside of Fenway.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— The bullpen didn’t do its part in the game in the sixth. After Heath Hembree allowed a walk and single, Robby Scott loaded the bases and proceeded to walk in a run and let another in on a passed ball.

— The battery of Owens and Ryan Hanigan had trouble catching baserunners, allowing a pair of stolen bases.

— The Red Sox grounded into a pair of double plays.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Bogaerts tied the game with a solo shot in the fourth inning. The 21st dinger for the 23-year-old keeps him fifth on the team in home runs.

— After allowing a single to start the inning, Junichi Tazawa shut down the rest of the Yankees batters in the seventh, including a strikeout of slugger Gary Sanchez.

Read More: henry owens, Red Sox, xander bogaerts, Yankees

When it comes to preparing for starts, Rick Porcello changed things up this season

09.29.16 at 7:08 pm ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

NEW YORK — John Farrell has called Rick Porcello one of the best prepared pitchers he’s ever been around.

This season, however, the pitcher explained that the preparation took a fairly dramatic turn.

“I stopped watching video of myself,” Porcello said while appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast. (To listen to the podcast, click here.)

“I watched a lot of video of my mechanics and all of my games last year, and it really kind of consumed me when I was on the mound. I wasn’t feeling my adjustments very well. It was almost like I was living the pitches through the video I had just watched. I just didn’t have an acute feel for the situations in the game of what was going on as far as why I’m not executing pitches and those sort of things. I got away from watching myself and I felt like I know what my delivery is and I have my checkpoints. If I get out of whack I’ll be able to feel it out there and be able to correct it. Not just watch a good start that I have and relive that through the video. Each game is different. I just want to try and treat it like that.

“Every game is going to be a challenge and you have to find different ways to get out of jams and pitch deep into games and that’s just the reality of it. It’s never going to be the same, so what’s the point of watching something that has happened in the past when it’s not going to be the same the next time I take the ball. I just focused my video work more on my opponents. I looked at more numbers this year and went a little more in-depth as far as off-speed locations and what side of the plate certain pitches were going to work on. That’s sort of a supplemental thing where if I get in a situation where I get a guy who is really fighting me hard or has gotten a couple of hits off of me, is there a different spot I can go to that I don’t do very often but it might work against him.”

Porcello has seen his new approach work in part because of his support system, and a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

“I was looking at video last year every day,” he said. “Now, if I throw a couple of pitches here or there that I want to see what happened I’ll got take a look a those and it takes a matter of 30 seconds and that’s it and I clean that up. But another contributing factor that I’ve been able to eliminate that part is that I’ve been working with Carl, Dana and our bullpen catcher Mani for almost two years and them being able to learn me and kind of see when I get out of whack, they’ve’ been a huge support group. When I play catch with Mani he’ll give me a nod of the head if my arm angle looks right or if it doesn’t he’ll kind of shake his head. That helps me make the adjustment quick and feel it. They’ve been really, really big for me as far as kind of limiting that, taking it out there and physically feeling the adjustments and doing in on my own.”

Porcello is slated to start the first game of the American League Division Series, Thursday.

THE BRADFO SHOW, WITH RICK PORCELLO

Glimpse into how Fenway Park is going to honor David Ortiz this weekend

09.29.16 at 6:03 pm ET
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While David Ortiz was playing his last game at Yankee Stadium, the finishing touches were being put on Fenway Park’s weekend-long tribute to the retiring designated hitter.

(Note that along with the Ortiz items in the outfield and outside the park, the Red Sox have already put up the banner commemorating the 2016 American League East title.)

Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez out; David Ortiz will start

09.29.16 at 3:32 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

NEW YORK — After the Red Sox’ clinching of the American League East, it was predictable that Sox’ lineup in the series finale against the Yankees would see some alterations. That is, indeed, the case.

Both Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez will start Thursday night’s game at Yankee Stadium on the mound, with Aaron Hill hitting leadoff and Andrwe Benintendi right behind in the No. 2 spot.

With this being David Ortiz’ final game in the Bronx, the designated hitter will get at least one more at-bat vs. the Yankees.

The Red Sox still have something to play for, sitting with the second-best record in the American League, 1/2 games behind Texas, who owns the tie-breaker over the Sox. The Red Sox do reside one game (with the advantage in the tie-breaker) in front of Cleveland, which John Farrell’s team would play in the American League Division Series if the season ended Thursday afternoon.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup with Henry Owens pitching for the visitors:

Aaron Hill 3B
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Chris Young RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Ryan Hanigan C
Travis Shaw 1B
Deven Marrero 2B

For all the matchups, click here.

Dave Dombrowski explains what he learned about John Farrell

09.29.16 at 3:13 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski

NEW YORK — Drenched in champagne following the Red Sox clinching of the American League East, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski took a few minutes to reflect on the manager, and staff, he chose to keep around.

Since Dombrowski’s arrival last season, there hasn’t been the kind of turnover many expected. The most notable departure may have been director of pro scouting Jared Porter, who went on to take the same job with the Cubs. In terms of additions, Frank Wren coming aboard as vice-president of baseball operations remains the only major hire.

And, of course, the one move that might have helped define Dombrowski’s approach was keeping Red Sox manager John Farrell. The commitment has paid off, as was evident by the Red Sox getting a chance to celebrate their first postseason berth since 2013.

“It’s great to see,” said Dombrowski of the success of Farrell. “Just the overall group of people when I walked in, I was very impressed. Of course I didn’t get to know John really well until spring training. A very good baseball man. A very good manager. I know he takes a lot of hits at times, but I’ve been very impressed with him and the coaching staff. Just the overall people in the organization, they’re a very impressive group. I think it was very fortunate to walk into a group that’s an organization like this and be part of it. The baseball people were outstanding.”

While there was the two straight last-place finishes, along with a somewhat uneasy first few weeks to this season, Dombrowski said he saw enough to dig in with Farrell.

“I guess you learn a lot,” the Sox president said. “The one thing about John is he’s not afraid to tackle any issue that comes up. He does so sometimes quietly behind the scenes. But even though he has that demeanor on the bench, if there’s an issue that needs to be tackled, he’ll do it.”

Curt Schilling on K&C: Red Sox-Indians could be an ‘enormous mismatch’

09.29.16 at 10:05 am ET
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Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Making his weekly appearance on Kirk & Callahan on Thursday morning, Curt Schilling said he believes the Red Sox matchup well against their likely opponent in the ALDS in the Indians. To hear the interview, go to the Kirk & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox in all likelihood will be the No. 2 seed in the American League and have homefield advantage against the Indians in the ALDS. Schilling believes given the Indians’ question marks with their rotation, the Red Sox will have an “enormous mismatch.”

“I think right now that is a potentially enormous mismatch,” Schilling said. “Given the amount of injuries Cleveland has suffered. You’re looking at [Zach] McAllister then [Josh] Tomlin. If you don’t have a pitcher on the mound who can make a hitter swing and miss, the Red Sox I think are going to bury you. I don’t think this is an offense — you cannot be a contact guy. This is very much like ’04 from the standpoint of offensively. That is why Cleveland initially was going to be a tough matchup because of the amount of the power arms at the top of the rotation with [Danny] Salazar and some of the other guys. Tomlin has had a good year, but look at the numbers. If you’re going to put a guy on the mound that relies on contact to beat you, I think the Red Sox are going to destroy any staff that does that.”

Schilling is already starting to look ahead to a potential Red Sox-Cubs World Series, but notes just how good the Cubs’ pitching is.

“If you look at the numbers, it’s a no-brainer: it’s the Cubs and the Red Sox,” Schilling said. “Both of them can mash like no one else in the playoffs. Offensively they are both the best in the league, but the similarities end there. You look at what the Cubs are going to run out there — [Jon] Lester, [Kyle] Hendricks, [Jake] Arrieta and [John] Lackey. I was looking across the American League. Is there a team in the American League you don’t want to see?”

One of the question marks for the Red Sox is how will some of their players perform in the postseason given their history, like David Price who has never won a playoff game as a starter. Schilling said he never looked at the postseason as having extra pressure like some players do now.

“I don’t know what the pressure thing is,” he said. “What I remember about October was right after Sunday’s game, it’s like the All-Star break. The clock resets and it’s kind of like a gigantic kind of exhale moment where OK, now it gets fun. Now it gets exciting. I never looked at that as pressure. I mean, I’ll tell you this, the first two rounds of the postseason are like a million tons of pressure compared to the World Series. The World Series is always fun, I thought. The playoffs, until you get there, it’s pressure.”

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Henry Owens vs. CC Sabathia

09.29.16 at 8:18 am ET
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Henry Owens

Henry Owens

The Red Sox and Yankees will face each other for the final time in the regular season on Thursday night. The Sox will send Henry Owens to the mound, while the Yankees will counter with veteran left-hander CC Sabathia.

Owens is 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 24 starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. With the Sox this year, the southpaw is 0-1 with a 7.79 ERA and a 2.13 WHIP in four starts. Owens will be making the start in place of Drew Pomeranz, who will not make any more starts this season because of forearm soreness.

Owens’ last start in the majors was on Aug. 21. In that outing, the 24-year-old threw five innings, allowing eight runs, six hits (two home runs) and five walks with six strikeouts in a 10-5 loss to the Tigers.

“I worked tirelessly trying to command the fastball and I’ve been better lately, so I’m not going to be negative here, I’m going to continue to be positive and work hard and try to find that consistency,” Owens said after that game (via MLB.com).

Against the Yankees, Owens is 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA and a 1.816 WHIP in three starts. He last saw New York on April 29, pitching six innings and giving up eight runs, six runs, five walks and six strikeouts in a 4-2 Sox win.

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Read More: C.C. Sabathia, henry owens,

Even Yankees’ walk-off grand slam wasn’t going to stop Red Sox’ party

09.29.16 at 12:43 am ET
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David Ortiz looked right at home during the Red Sox' celebration Wednesday night. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz looked right at home during the Red Sox’ celebration Wednesday night. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — The corks were popping. The champagne was flowing. The goggles were distributed. And the hugs were found in all corners of the visitors clubhouse.

All of this after one of the most devastating losses of the season

The Red Sox had just allowed what normally would be classified as one of the biggest punch-in-the-gut defeats of the year, blowing a three-run lead in the ninth to eventually suffer a 5-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Yankees.

And at that moment Mark Teixeira’s game-winning grand slam cleared the Yankee Stadium center field fence, the red Sox looked the part, trudging off the field. And the pitcher who surrendered the blast, Joe Kelly, certainly felt the sting. That was until he got into the clubhouse and saw plastic hanging everywhere.

“The plastic was already up, so I knew,” Kelly said.

But, unlike most of his teammates the relief pitcher didn’t realize that the Red Sox had actually clinched the American League East just as the bottom of the ninth was beginning thanks to Baltimore’s win over the Blue Jays.

“I was the first one through the dugout and the first one in the clubhouse, upset obviously, and I came in and realized all the stuff was up, the shirts were out, alcohol was everywhere,” Kelly said. “That instant I knew that we clinched. I still wasn’t very happy about what happened. A minute later, I was the first one to take my jersey off, take my cleats off, take my belt off. A couple guys came in: [David] Price, [Rick] Porcello, [Clay] Buchholz. They came in and say, ‘Hey, man, we clinched. Forget about it. It’s one pitch. You’ve pitched big innings for us the last month and been a big help.’ It’s one of those things, there aren’t many times you give up a walk off grand slam and be happy about it a minute later.”

According to party’s participants, seemingly from the minute the Red Sox got back into their plastic-covered clubhouse, the loss had been forgotten.

“One inning should not take away from the fact that they’re AL East champions,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We are AL East champions. It’s been a hard fought bottle, they should be proud of the work that they put in but by no means is this the end. This is just the beginning of our postseason.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox lose to Yankees, but clinch American League East anyway when Blue Jays lose

09.28.16 at 10:49 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez is doused with champagne by Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday after the Red Sox clinched the AL East. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez is doused with champagne by Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday after the Red Sox clinched the AL East. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox filed into the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday unsure of how to act.

They had just blown a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Yankees, getting walked off on Mark Teixeira’s grand slam. At the same time, they had just clinched the American League East with Toronto’s loss to Baltimore.

Manager John Farrell faced his team in a scene captured by NESN’s cameras and told them “not to let one inning” ruin the accomplishment of outlasting maybe the toughest division in baseball.

The pressure valve released, the wary clubhouse exploded.

The champagne celebration that followed officially completed another worst-to-first transformation. The Red Sox may have dropped a 5-3 decision to the Yankees, but they still punched their ticket to the division series on Wednesday night in about the strangest way imaginable.

“Honestly the journey’s incomplete,” Farrell told reporters. “We continue on. I couldn’t be more proud, and I told them after the game: don’t let one inning take away from that they’ve done for seven full months. They’re AL East champions, we’re AL East champions and we’ve got a lot of work left ahead of us. But one inning should not take away from the fact that we’re champions.”

The Red Sox return to the postseason as division champs for the first time since 2013, when they also went worst-to-first before winning the World Series.

They could afford to lose in shocking fashion, because the Blue Jays blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Orioles.

While that game went final, closer Craig Kimbrel took the mound in the ninth. He allowed a single before walking three and throwing a wild pitch. Joe Kelly relieved him and retired two batters before Teixeira drilled a 99 mph fastball over the center field fence for the strangest clincher maybe ever.

The hero on Wednesday should’ve been MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who chopped a two-run double into left field to break a scoreless tie in the eighth.

“I think we can be really dangerous,” Betts said. “I think we showed today how we grind through games — yesterday, even, too. We’re not going to be easy to beat.”

Before Betts’ heroics, the star was right-hander Clay Buchholz, who made a strong bid for the third spot in the postseason rotation by tossing six dominant one-hit innings. He did not allow a run, keeping the ball down and spending the night on the corners. He struck out six, walked two, and allowed just one hit — an infield single to Brett Gardner leading off the fourth.

The problem for the Red Sox was that Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell matched him with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Mitchell did walk five — including the bases loaded in the fifth — but the Red Sox didn’t break through until the eighth, against the Yankees bullpen.

Catcher Sandy Leon reached on an error by second baseman Starlin Castro leading off and pinch runner Marco Hernandez took third on Dustin Pedroia’s ground-rule double. After Xander Bogaerts lined out to third and David Ortiz was intentionally walked, Betts chopped one in front of home plate that bounded high over third baseman Chase Headley and into left field for a two-run double.

Ortiz then scored aggressively on a wild pitch to give the Red Sox breathing room. He’ll get one final shot at October in his farewell season.

“It was crazy,” Ortiz said. “I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad. But it is what it is – at the end, being the first place team in the American League East, we’re going to celebrate anyway.”

Closing Time note

The Red Sox won the division for the fourth time in 22 years. Their last two division titles (2007, 2013) resulted in World Series titles.

(Rob Bradford contributed to this report.)

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