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Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz remains out as Red Sox open series in Pittsburgh

09.16.14 at 3:36 pm ET
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Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who had to leave Sunday’s game due to a family emergency, remains out of the lineup on Tuesday for the start of a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts will remain atop the order, with Daniel Nava batting third and Yoenis Cespedes cleaning up in front of Mike Napoli.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Daniel Nava, RF

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Mike Napoli, 1B

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Pirates matchups: Anthony Ranaudo vs. Charlie Morton

09.16.14 at 10:54 am ET
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The Red Sox open up an interleague series with the Pirates on Tuesday at PNC Park. Anthony Ranaudo will get the start against Pittsburgh’€™s Charlie Morton.

Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

Ranaudo (3-2, 5.40 ERA), who is one of the many Red Sox pitchers fighting for a rotation spot next season, had one of his poorest outings of the season last Tuesday against the Orioles. He allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings, which included three home runs. Alejandro De Aza hit two home runs and Adam Jones hit one that cleared the Green Monster. Ranaudo has served up eight home runs in five big league starts.

Manager John Farrell said the Orioles did not let Ranaudo get away with anything over the middle of the plate.

“He didn’t get away with many mistakes,” Farrell said after the game. “Where he’s gotten some swing and miss in some previous starts with some mislocated pitches, that wasn’t the case tonight.”

Ranaudo added after the start that hitters have been getting more familiar with his pitches now that he’s had more time in the majors.

“I think this is my fifth start now. Guys have seen film, seen me pitch a couple times,” Ranaudo said. “Those kind of pitches aren’€™t going to fly here, especially late in the season. Fatigue might be setting in. I’€™ve got to be a little bit sharper about some things, make some better adjustments quicker. Obviously they’€™re making adjustments to me now. It’€™s my job to make adjustments to them.”

Prior to his short outing against the Orioles, Ranaudo had a quality start against the Yankees on the road. He threw 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs back on Sept. 3. A Brian McCann two-run homer was Ranaudo’€™s undoing in that contest.

Though it’€™s a small sample size, Ranaudo has pitched a little bit better away from Fenway Park this season. He’€™s made three starts and pitched 17 1/3 innings on the road, posting a 2-1 record with a 5.19 ERA. So far in the early part of his career, the fifth inning has been Ranaudo’€™s most problematic inning. In the frame, the right-hander has a 9.00 ERA. He’€™s also had more trouble against left-handed hitters, who are batting .300 with a .377 on-base percentage against him.

Ranaudo has yet to face the Pirates in his major league career.

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Why you should have cared about Sunday’s Red Sox game: Daniel Nava, Xander Bogaerts leave quite an impression; David Ortiz leaves early

09.14.14 at 11:26 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Daniel Nava rounds the bases after hitting his sixth-inning grand slam Sunday. (Getty Images)

Daniel Nava rounds the bases after hitting his sixth-inning grand slam Sunday. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It is no mystery what these last two weeks will be all about for the Red Sox. It’s the same thing they’ve been about since the end of July.

It’s time for what players that are left on this Red Sox roster to offer the right kind of impressions heading into the next games that will count, the ones starting the 2015 season.

Sunday, in the Red Sox‘ series-ending 8-4 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, it was Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts who continued to make their cases.

Nava gave the visitors the lead for good with a sixth-inning grand slam, coming with the effects of food poisoning still lingering. It was just the outfielder’s second non-Yankee Stadium home run of the season.

“Just the situation of the game,” Nava told reporters regarding his first-pitch homer. “I’ve faced that guy before. He’s got good stuff. It wasn’t necessarily that I was swinging at the first pitch. I was looking for a pitch in the zone to hopefully drive. It didn’t have to be a baseball. I knew he had a slider and a changeup as well. I wasn’t sitting on a particular pitch. It was just in the zone, and fortunately I got that.”

Since returning to the Red Sox for good — when he re-entered the lineup on June 4 in Cleveland — Nava has resembled the same player the organization fell in like with a year ago. During that stretch, the switch-hitter has hit .304 with a .375 on-base percentage.

Nava’s slugging percentage is down from ’13, totaling four homers and 18 doubles. The lack of punch is the reason his OPS has taken a hit from the impressive .831 mark of a year ago.

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Jonathan Papelbon ejected from game for what Joe West thought was an obscene gesture

09.14.14 at 9:17 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon‘s uneasy relationship with Philadelphia fans was amped up Sunday.

The Phillies closer was ejected by umpire Joe West after vigorously adjusting his cup on the way back to the dugout after blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Marlins. Papelbon executed the act while being showered with boos from the Citizens Bank Park crowd.

After being ejected, Papelbon confronted West, going chest-to-chest with the veteran umpire until West ultimately grabbed the closer’s jersey and ushered him away. (Click here for video of the Papelbon/West confrontation.)

“I told him, ‘You’ve got to go,’ ” West said. “And then he charged out of the dugout and his head bumped into my hat. And I grabbed him and said, ‘Get off of me.’

“The whole thing started because the fans booed him and he made an obscene gesture. He had no business doing that. He’s got to be more professional than that. And that’s why he was ejected.”

Following the game, Papelbon said he wasn’t doing what West said he was doing.

“This is baseball,” he said. “I had to make an adjustment and I did it and by no means am I directing anything at any fans. When I’m out there and in the moment, the fans are irrelevant to me. I don’t see them. I don’t hear them. To me, this is pretty stupid, to be totally honest with you.

“They pay money, they want to see a good game and they have the right to boo and do whatever they want to do, but when an umpire gets caught up in that and starts trying to look for extra things he may think are going on — just umpire the game.”

Either way, the moment didn’t help the reliever’s relationship with his home fans. Remember, earlier this season Papelbon invited Phillies fans to boo him.

Sunday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Jason Vargas

09.14.14 at 11:14 am ET
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The Red Sox will conclude their three-game series with the Royals on Sunday afternoon. Joe Kelly gets the start against the left-handed Jason Vargas.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

After winning his first game in a Red Sox uniform on Sept. 2 at Yankee Stadium, Kelly (3-4, 4.14 ERA) pitched well against the Orioles last Monday at Fenway Park. Despite taking the loss, Kelly struck out six and allowed three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was just better, silencing the Boston bats.

“I made some good pitches today when I had to,” Kelly said after the game. “I didn’t make terrible pitches. The other guy threw a hell of a ball game. He’s been pitching like that all year. When you face a guy like that, letting up one run would have beat us today.”

Since joining the Red Sox rotation at the non-waiver trade deadline, Kelly has just one start in which he did not get past the fourth inning, which was almost a month ago against the Astros. Sunday’s game could pose some problems for the right-hander, however.

Kelly has struggled pitching in both day games and on the road in 2014. On the road, his ERA is 4.53 — over one run higher than it is at home. In four starts during the day this season, opposing batters are hitting at a .286 clip, which has led to a 5.96 ERA.

It also will be key for Kelly to make it through the first two innings unscathed. He’s been charged with 21 runs combined between the first two frames of the game. The second inning has been particularly unkind to Kelly, as he has an ERA over eight in the inning. But by the third time hitters face the right-hander in a game, their batting average is just .176.

Kelly has not pitched against the Royals this season, but he has faced them three times throughout his career. He threw one inning in relief last year against them and made two starts against Kansas City in 2012. On June 22, 2012, Kelly threw six innings and allowed three runs at Kauffman Stadium, earning his first career major league win.

Nori Aoki, who played a majority of his career with the Brewers, has the most at-bats and best of any Royals player against Kelly, as his .538 average is tops on the team.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: When winning matters

09.14.14 at 10:22 am ET
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Typically, player development is individual. Ordinarily, the significance of wins and losses in the minor leagues are secondary to what happens to individual prospects as they work to move closer to the big leagues. In contrast to what happens at the highest level, a 4-for-4 is a bigger deal than a defeat.

But there are exceptions. There are times when the idea of winning becomes primary, even for players for whom a Triple-A postseason run represented a two-week delay of a potential September call-up.

On Saturday night, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox followed their nail-chomping, 13-inning, 4-2 win over Durham in an elimination game with another victory, this one a wire-to-wire 4-1 win over Durham in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals. The victory marked Pawtucket’s second International League championship in three years, an accomplishment that offered a reminder that the greatest achievements on the field are experienced collectively rather than individually, a notion made clear in the rush to the middle of the infield after right-hander Miguel Celestino’s 95 mph fastball was popped up to center, where it settled into the glove of Rusney Castillo.

This is what it is to care about winning in the minor leagues:

Some player notes from the game: Read the rest of this entry »

Why you should have cared about Saturday’s Red Sox game: Steven Wright’s situation is starting to get interesting

09.13.14 at 11:02 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

KANSAS CITY — Just about everything Red Sox-related Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium proved to be uninspiring for the visitors in their 7-1 defeat to the Royals.

Starter Rubby De La Rosa struggled. The offense was shut down by KC hurler Jeremy Guthrie. And even Matt Barnes, the rookie who had left such a positive impression in his major league debut hit a bump in the road while pitching the eighth inning (2 runs, 3 hits).

But then there was Steven Wright.

The knuckleballer did what he has done since joining the Red Sox, turn in a stellar performance. This time the outing included Wright throwing three shutout innings in which he allowed three hits while not walking a batter.

In three big league outings this season, Wright has allowed just one run over 12 innings (all in relief), striking out 12 and walking just one. This follows 100 innings in the minor leagues (between both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket), where he totaled a 3.42 ERA, striking out 72 and walking 23.

Suddenly, the 30-year-old has become an interesting option for a hardly-defined 2015 pitching staff.

“It’s definitely a little mechanical, the adjustments I’ve done over the course of the year,” Wright said. “But a lot of it is mental. Last year I was pitching away from contact, more swings and misses. This year I want …  every time I throw it, I want them to put in play, minus a couple times. Maybe 0-2 I’ll try to get a swing and miss but for the most part every time I throw a pitch I want it to be right down the middle and maybe they’ll mishit it.

“I definitely feel more comfortable than I was last year. I still have a lot to learn with the pitch but what I’ve done this year compared to what I’ve done last year I think I’m definitely going in the right direction.”

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