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Closing Time: Jon Lester’s excellence doesn’t go to waste thanks to Red Sox ninth-inning rally

04.17.14 at 11:04 pm ET
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The Red Sox once again didn’t come away with a bunch of hits Thursday night, but David Ross made sure the one he claimed counted.

With one out in the ninth, Ross ripped a double to right field, scoring Mike Napoli and paving the way for a Red Sox a 3-1 win over the White Sox.

The Red Sox had entered the ninth with just one hit before Mike Napoli claimed an infield single against Ronald Belisario. Mike Carp followed with a pinch-hit single, with the Red Sox catcher then coming through with the go-ahead RBI.

After an intentional walk to Daniel Nava, Jonathan Herrera greeted Scott Downs with a perfectly executed bunt single, handing the visitors an insurance run.

Both Red Sox starter Jon Lester and his White Sox counterpart, Chris Sale, saw no-hitters broken up with one out in their respective half of the sixth inning. For Lester, the Tyler Flowers single — just out of the reach of shortstop Xander Bogaerts — ended a perfect game.

In the visitors half of the sixth, Bogaerts broke up Sale’s no-hit bid, rocketing a solo home run over the left field wall. The homer was the first surrendered by the lefty this season, and the rookie’s first of his 2014 campaign. Prior to giving up the long ball on his 95th pitch, Sale had struck out nine batters through 5 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox’ lead was short-lived, however. Leury Garcia followed Flowers with a ground-rule double over the head of Nava. Adam Eaton proceeded to knot things up with an infield hit, beating Lester to the bag on a grounder to Napoli.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- The Red Sox cut down the potential go-ahead run in the seventh inning thanks to a stellar relay from right fielder Daniel Nava to second baseman Dustin Pedroia to catcher David Ross. The play came as a result of a Alejandro De Aza liner into the right field corner, with Adam Dunn coming all the way around from first base. Dunn would be tagged out by Ross on a close play at the plate, ending the seventh.

- The Red Sox continued to pick up their pace when it comes to drawing walks, following a 15-walk night with four more. Prior to Wednesday night, the Sox had gone five straight contests without notching more than three free passes. The patience helped force Sale to throw a career-high 127 pitches through his seven innings.

- Carp helped also alter the issues facing Red Sox pinch-hitters this season, coming away with the team’s second pinch-hit of the season. The Sox are now 2-for-10 with a walk in such situations.

- Koji Uehara looked like the same old Koji Uehara in making his return to the mound, allowing just one ninth-inning hit in picking up the save.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Since the Red Sox left Fenway just more than a week ago, their offense has been the worst in baseball. They came into the series finale tied with Houston for fewest hits (36) over the previous six games, and Thursday night’s production didn’t do much to push their way up the list.

- It looked as though the Red Sox would get to Sale in the first inning when David Ortiz launched a deep fly ball to center field. But Eaton raced back, leaped up and grabbed the blast just before it went over the wall. It would be the closest the Red Sox would come to claiming a hit off Sale until Bogaerts’ homer.

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Red Sox notes: As Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara return, Shane Victorino closes on joining them

04.17.14 at 10:09 pm ET
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Koji Uehara is available to pitch on Thursday night. (AP)

Koji Uehara is available to pitch on Thursday night. (AP)

The initial weeks of the Red Sox season have been characterized mostly for the players whom the team has lost or come close to losing. Already, the team has endured disabled list stints by Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks, while enduring scares with Dustin Pedroia, Koji Uehara and Mike Napoli.

But for the first time, the Red Sox have enjoyed a stretch of what appears to be steady improvement in their outlook. Pedroia missed just two games with his left wrist inflammation before returning on Wednesday night. Napoli, after missing one game following the dislocation of a finger on his left hand, showed enough improvement and diminished swelling to return to the lineup for Thursday night’s game against the White Sox. Koji Uehara, after missing six games with stiffness in his shoulder, likewise was expected to be available to pitch in Thursday night’s game should the need arise.

 Meanwhile, Shane Victorino is expected to start his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday, likely in Pawtucket, manager John Farrell told reporters. Victorino is currently slated to play on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday in the minors, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated with the possibility of activation during the Sox’ series at home against the Yankees next Tuesday through Thursday.

However, the Sox did receive imperfect medical news on one front, as Middlebrooks had to be sent back to Boston from Chicago after coming down with the flu. That, in turn, has delayed the progress of his rehab from his calf strain. His timetable for a rehab assignment has yet to be established.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox lineup: Mike Napoli returns against White Sox left-hander Chris Sale

04.17.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is back in the lineup after missing a day following a dislocated finger. (AP)

Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is back in the lineup after missing a day following a dislocated finger. (AP)

The Red Sox will be going up against one of the top young pitchers in the game in White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, and so it was likely with a mixture of relief and excitement that Red Sox manager John Farrell was able to write Mike Napoli‘s name back into the cleanup spot in his lineup. After he suffered a gruesome dislocation of the ring finger on his left hand in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, Napoli missed Wednesday’s 14-inning marathon. But the one day was all that he required to be ready for a return to action.

Dustin Pedroia will remain in the leadoff spot, while Ryan Roberts gets the start at third base against the left-handed Sale. Grady Sizemore is sitting out of the contest, with Jackie Bradley Jr. remaining in what appears increasingly like his everyday spot in center field, flanked by Jonny Gomes in left and Daniel Nava in right. David Ross gets the start at catcher for Jon Lester.

For complete batter vs. starting pitcher matchup histories, click here. For comprehesnive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Jonny Gomes, LF

David Ross, C

Daniel Nava, RF

Ryan Roberts, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Jon Lester, SP

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman builds back; Drake Britton dominates; Kevin Heller going Howdy Groskloss on the Carolina League

04.17.14 at 11:51 am ET
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Drake Britton recorded a save for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

Drake Britton recorded a save for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-6 WIN AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX)

– In his first start in Triple-A after being optioned to Pawtucket last week, right-hander Brandon Workman dominated early (three shutout innings in which he allowed a single, walked no one and punched out two) before hitting a bit of a wall in his fourth inning of work, in which he permitted a groundball single, a double and a walk before being lifted after 3 1/3 innings. All three of the runners whom he put on base scored, resulting in a line of three runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings. Still, overall, the outing represented an exercise in building arm strength with the late struggles not unexpected given that it had been more than three weeks since Workman had pitched into a fourth frame.

– Given that the Sox want to avoid shuttling Workman back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, the early-season dominance of left-hander Drake Britton is noteworthy, as the 24-year-old could emerge as the first line of bullpen depth from Triple-A. Britton recorded a two-inning save on Wedneday, allowing one hit and punching out four. He worked around a pair of ninth-inning walks by recording all three outs by strikeout in a one-run win. It was Britton’s second save of the year. While his control (five walks in 8 1/3 innings) has been spotty, he has a 1.08 ERA, with opponents hitting .226 against him so far.

– Outfielder Alex Hassan went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Since going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the season, the 26-year-old is hitting at a .351 clip (13-for-37) with a .442 OBP and six doubles in his last nine games.

– In a striking reversal from a year ago, Brock Holt remains among the hottest hitters in the International League. He went 3-for-5 with a double to improve his line (in 10 games) to .415/.489/.610 with five doubles and a homer among his 17 hits. Last April, in twice the number of games, he hit .149/.234/.149 with no extra-base hits among his 10 knocks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy on D&C: ‘We all need a little bit of patience’ as team struggles through April

04.17.14 at 9:44 am ET
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Sam Kennedy

Sam Kennedy

Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and said owner John Henry called manager John Farrell on Wednesday to offer his support during the team’s early season struggles. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox, bringing up the rear in the American League East, improved to 6-9 with Wednesday’s 6-4, 14-inning victory over the White Sox.

“I think repeating [as champions] is probably one of the hardest things to do in professional sports, and we are off to an awful start. While there have been some positives, it’s been really bad,” Kennedy said. “April, you really like to get off to a good start, so it’s been disappointing. People say, ‘Is there a hangover, is there a letdown?’ Whatever it is, you can really point to the basics. We’re not hitting. I think we’re hitting about a buck-fifty with runners in scoring position. We were 1-4 going into last night’s game in one-run games. That’s not going to last. [Dustin] Pedroia, [Will] Middlebrooks, now [Mike] Napoli, [Shane] Victorino missing time, Koji [Uehara]. It’s a lot of factors to point to. I think we need to have some perspective.

“I know for a fact that John Henry reached out to John Farrell and Ben Cherington yesterday just to say, ‘Hey, guys, it’s early, hang in there, things are going to be OK.’ Because you could tell how frustrated those guys are. And we all are. But we do have to have a little bit of perspective. This is our 13th year here together in Boston. Things will get better. Guys will start to hit. Again, the pitching’s been there. So, we all need a little bit of patience. And I know that’s hard for most of us.”

The other big Red Sox news over the last week relates to the negotiations for a new contract with left-hander Jon Lester. A recent report indicated the Red Sox made a lowball offer of about $70 million for four years.

“You have to remember, we’re starting from a place where the Red Sox, from John Henry on down to Jon Lester, want to make a deal. That’s the starting place. I think everybody feels good about that,” Kennedy said. “The problem with negotiations and details from baseball negotiations getting into the public domain when you have a leak like we did this past week related to this deal is one data point gets into the media, gets out there, gets dissected. I can tell you there are lots of other data points related to this negotiation that are not in the public spotlight, in the media. All I’ll say is that Ben Cherington, Jon Lester, Larry Lucchino, our ownership group will continue to work on this. And it’s clearly best when baseball discussions are kept private, and then baseball decisions are made public. That’s been our philosophy.

“Do we want to see Jon Lester in a Red Sox uniform for a long, long time? Absolutely, yes. As a fan, I hope that he is with us for a long, long time. We’ll see where things go over the coming weeks and months. But I’m hopeful that we do end up getting something done there.”

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Thursday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Sale

04.17.14 at 8:40 am ET
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The Red Sox will end their three-game road trip in Chicago on Thursday night when they send southpaw Jon Lester to the mound against White Sox lefty Chris Sale.

While the Red Sox are struggling, Lester is off to a good start. The 30-year-old has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP in three starts. In his first two starts, Lester gave up two earned runs in both games while the Red Sox offense mustered up one total run.

Lester’€™s only win came on April 11, a 4-2 victory over the Yankees. That day he went 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a home run while walking two and striking out seven.

“I don’€™t feel like I threw the ball as well as the first two [games], but sometimes you need games like this to make you appreciate the ones where you glide through it,” Lester said after that game. “I’ll take a win any way I can. This was just a little bit of a grinder.”

Lester has appeared in and started 10 games against the White Sox, going 4-5. His first start against Chicago came in 2006, where he recorded a win after pitching six innings and giving up two runs.

Since then, his results have been mixed against the White Sox. In 2009, Lester had a 1.98 ERA and a 0.878 WHIP in two starts, striking out 14 batters in 13 2/3 innings. 2010 was a lot tougher for the lefty as he lasted only four innings, giving up eight runs and walking five in his only start against the team. His most recent game was in 2013, when he went six innings and gave up six runs (five earned) and picked up the loss.

Sale has been lights out for the White Sox, owning a perfect 3-0 record in his first three starts with a 2.66 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP. The 25-year-old has yet to give up a home run and has walked four and struck out 19. He only last five innings in his last start, a 9-6 victory over Cleveland on April 11, giving up three runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two.

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Closing Time: Punchless Red Sox scrape together unlikely extra-inning win over White Sox

04.17.14 at 1:28 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 14th inning double propelled the Red Sox to victory. (AP)

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 14th inning double propelled the Red Sox to victory. (AP)

Just win, baby.

The Red Sox could not have concocted a much uglier formula for victory. After the first three batters of the game collected hits, the Red Sox went just 3-for-40 over the duration of the game (with the first two of those hits being of the infield variety). They blew a save in the 11th inning. They spoiled another rally by grounding into a double play.

Yet the White Sox kept handing Boston opportunities, issuing 15 free passes, and while it wasn’t pretty, the Sox managed a slow-motion rally that featured sacrifice flies in the eighth, ninth and 11th innings before Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s two-out, two-run double in the top of the 14th finally against White Sox position player Leury Garcia — making his first pro pitching appearance on the mound — propelled the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory.

The star of the victory was the Red Sox bullpen, which allowed one run over the final eight innings. The win permitted the Sox to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2012.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– The bullpen had an outstanding night. Craig Breslow struck out a pair in 1 1/3 scoreless innings, throwing 11 of 13 pitches for strikes and showing good action on his complete pitch mix. Junichi Tazawa retired both batters he faced. And Andrew Miller was dominant, throwing two innings and allowing just one hit while punching out three. That group had the Sox positioned to win before Edward Mujica uncharacteristically issued a leadoff walk in the 11th that burned him, coming around to score with two outs for a blown save. But Chris Capuano followed Mujica’s inning with 2 2/3 innings in which he permitted just one single while striking out three to earn the victory. Burke Badenhop came on to retire the last batter of the game for the save. Read the rest of this entry »

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