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Buster Olney on MFB: ‘There’s just not that many sellers’ in baseball right now

06.17.15 at 2:12 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox, the AL East and other news around baseball. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

While every other team in the AL East has seemed to have some sort of upswing during the past month, the Red Sox continue to slide. Olney said that the nature of the division this year makes certain runs by teams look more meaningful than they are because every team is so close.

“I think that Joe Girardi actually had a good line about it after the Yankees lost last night, and he was expressing frustration because they got blown out by the Marlins,” he noted. “He said, ‘You know what, that just might be the American League East this year,’ that you have everyone so closely bunched together that if you go on a five- or six-game run you look like you’re a World Series team, and then because the teams aren’t really that good, you’re capable of going on an extended losing streak … But in general, let’s face it, it’s a mediocre division. They’re all packed together.”

John Henry gave his backing of manager John Farrell a couple weeks ago, but after his team’s seven-game skid, there might be some shakiness there. Olney said that that’s not necessarily the case because there is likely another level between Farrell and Henry, and because Farrell’s experience with the team is so lengthy.

“The baseball operations department has essentially made the case on behalf of the people who were in the dugout saying ‘Look, it’s on us, what happens this year is on us and where they are right now, it’s on us,’ ” he said. “And so I do think there probably is a buffer between John Henry and John Farrell, and let’s face it, at some point they may just decided they’re going to ride it out in part because of the history that John has with the team. If he didn’t have the extensive history with the Red Sox, I think they probably would have already done something, but the fact that they won the World Series with him and he had the success under Tito [Terry Francona], I think that helps him get through a situation like this.”

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Brock Holt on MFB: ‘Everyone in our clubhouse feels like we’ve still got a shot’

06.17.15 at 12:52 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Utility man Brock Holt joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox and the experience of hitting for the cycle Tuesday. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

With regard to the season as a whole, Holt expressed some disappointment and frustration with the way the team has played. However, he said Tuesday’s victory over the Braves provided a step in the right direction.

“It’s one of those things, whenever things are going wrong, it feels like everything goes wrong. When it rains, it pours. It’s our job to not think about that and try to stay as positive as we can. If something bad happens, put it past us and keep playing the game,” Holt said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.

“I think yesterday was a good step for us, especially offensively, putting together some good at-bats from pitch one to the last inning. And then obviously Wade [Miley] went out and did what he was supposed to do. I think yesterday was a good day for us overall.”

Holt was definitive in his proclamation that the team is still capable of making a run and qualifying for the playoffs.

“Absolutely. I feel like everyone in our clubhouse feels like we’ve still got a shot. The season’s not over for us. We’re going to continue to play. Like I said, hopefully at the end of the day, we do our job and all those things will kind of take care of themselves.”

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Does Mike Napoli think he’s back after his two hits Tuesday? ‘No’

06.17.15 at 12:28 pm ET
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Like the Red Sox, it would seem Mike Napoli took a turn for the better Tuesday.

The first baseman came away with a pair of hits after having come into the series finale hitting .156 in his 12 games played this month. It was a stretch that saw Napoli strikeout 17 times in 46 plate appearances, walking just once.

So, when he pulled a single into left field on a Julio Teheran slider, that must have made Napoli feel like his swing was getting back to a good place, right?

“No,” he responded after the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Braves.

Well, certainly the sixth-inning double to left offered the solution he had been searching for.

“Nope,” Napoli responded once again.

He then elaborated.

“I’m not the kind of guy who gets a couple of hits and thinks, ‘I’m back.’ Yeah, I felt better, but I have to go a couple of games of executing what I’m trying to do,” Napoli said. “I’ve still got work to do, but I’m going down the right path.”

It is pretty clear what pitchers have been doing to Napoli, living on the outside part of the plate. He knows that.

“I haven’t really shown I can hit the outer corner pitch,” the righty hitter said. “I have to make the adjustment to be able to hit that pitch.”

Then comes a pause. Now Napoli once again identifies what he continues to believe is a big part of the problem: the strike zone.

“Some of them are off, and they’re being called strikes,” he said regarding the dilemma he’s facing on the outside part of the plate. “For me, sometimes with two strikes I have to expand and I have to swing at something. I’m not just going to take something and walk back to the dugout. But, whatever. I’m feeling better. I’m going in the right path.”

It’s obviously been an issue on Napoli’s mind, along with evidently at least somebody else in the Red Sox clubhouse. According to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, one of the players asked about the consistency of this season’s strike zone during his pregame meeting with the team.

That person wasn’t Napoli. According to the first baseman, at the time of the get-together he was in the trainer’s room getting treatment.

“No, it wasn’t me,” he said. “But I wish I was in here for that.”

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Curt Schilling on D&C: ‘I lay very little of that blame’ on John Farrell

06.17.15 at 9:56 am ET
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ESPN baseball analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the state of the Red Sox and manager John Farrell. To hear the interview, go the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Dustin Pedroia said this week that the team was attempting to tune out the media because of the negativity over the team’s poor play. Asked if the players could get inspired in an effort to tell those who say they “suck” that they were wrong, Schilling said: “But they do suck. Listen, I’ve been in that position. One game doesn’t I think turn you either way. I think they recognize that. That was a good win [Tuesday]. The win in some ways was kind of one of those things where you’ve got to look at it and go, ‘Hey, this is what we can do.’ But you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to get it done every day. They’re not doing that. They’re struggling to do anything consistently right.

“I think a lot of people are shocked by it. When we went into the season, I can remember everybody talking about a 900-run offense and all this stuff. I was one of the naysayers, and I was crucified for it at the winter meetings. But I wasn’t a huge advocate of either one of their big signings offensively [Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval].

“They haven’t hit the ball consistently well, they haven’t pitched consistently well. If you don’t do one, you might be able to manage for a little while; if you can’t do both consistently, you’re going to have a long year.”

While the Sox are camped in the cellar of the AL East, Schilling said that he doesn’t blame Farrell for the team’s lackluster performance.

“I think he’s as qualified as anybody,” Schilling said. “I can’t help but go back to the fact that, at the end of the day, no matter what you say or how you act as a manager, your players have to play. Your players have to play and these guys aren’t getting it done. I lay very little of that blame ever on a manager’s doorstep.”

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Braves matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Alex Wood

06.17.15 at 8:27 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

As their series with the Braves shifts to Atlanta, the Red Sox will send the fast-improving Joe Kelly to the mound against left-hander Alex Wood.

Kelly may have predicted a Cy Young in 2015, but instead he’s well on his way to the worst season of his young career. The 27-year-old is 2-4 with a 5.45 ERA, the fifth-worst mark among qualified AL starters.

Although he has struggled on the campaign, Kelly has begun to turn his season around of late. Over his last three outings, Kelly owns a modest 3.18 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17 innings. Despite two Red Sox losses in those three games, Kelly is showing promise, as he has overcome an astronomical 34 percent line drive rate to lower his ERA by 0.79 over a two-week stretch.

In his last start Friday against the Blue Jays, Kelly reverted to his old ways, hurling six innings and giving up four runs. However, regardless of his performance, Kelly did enough to win as he left the game with the Red Sox up 8-4. The bullpen proceeded to cough up the lead and the game as the Blue Jays put up a nine-run seventh en route to the 13-10 victory and a no-decision for Kelly.

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Wednesday Red Sox Farm Report: Justin Masterson has quality start; Pat Light perfect in Triple-A; Manuel Margot reaches base four times

06.17.15 at 8:22 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (32-33): L, 2-0, at Charlotte (White Sox)

Justin Masterson made his fourth rehab start (right shoulder inflammation) and produced his second consecutive quality start: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO (89 pitches, 54 strikes). Masterson had a wild pitch to go with his three free passes. The sinkerballer incurred nine ground outs to four in the air. Charlotte strung three singles together to get a run off Masterson in the second inning, and another in the sixth after a walk, two stolen bases and an RBI double.

— The PawSox offense struck out a combined 18 times against three Charlotte pitchers, while also leaving 11 runners on base in the shutout defeat. Jackie Bradley Jr. had Pawtucket’€™s only extra-base hit, a double in the ninth. However, Bradley whiffed three times, as did Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero and Sean Coyle.

— RHP Matt Barnes reported from Boston and pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing a leadoff double but recovering with back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame. Barnes allowed the go-ahead home run on Saturday in Boston to Toronto’€™s Russell Martin, the day after allowing the first three hits in what would become a nine-run Blue Jays inning on Friday night.

— RHP Pat Light has retired all nine batters he has faced in Triple-A, pitching a scoreless eighth and adding a strikeout to his season-long coffers of now 36 in 32 2/3 innings. Light’€™s K came on a 3-2 offspeed pitch after a steady dose of fastballs, and he finished out the inning by inducing two weak grounders. Light has produced scoreless outings in 18 of his last 20 appearances. His season WHIP is 0.89, with an opposing batting average of .155.

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Red Sox offense gets jolt from Brock Holt as utility man hits for cycle in win

06.16.15 at 8:32 pm ET
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Wheaties is normally the Breakfast of Champions, but Tuesday for Brock Holt it was Frosted Mini Wheats.

Going against the norm, Holt had Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast and it paid off as the utility man hit for the first Red Sox cycle in almost 20 years, as the Red Sox beat the Braves, 9-4, at Fenway Park, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

For Holt it was his first career cycle at any level and the first Red Sox cycle since John Valentin on June 6, 1996. It was the 20th in Red Sox history.

Holt came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, with the Sox leading 8-2, needing a triple for the cycle. The lefty drove a Sugar Ray Marimon offering over center fielder Cameron Maybin’s head and kept on running before he stopped standing on third base with the entire Red Sox dugout on the top step pumped for what their teammate just did.

“Obviously I knew that I needed a triple,” Holt said. “Didn’t expect to hit one, but as soon as barrel hit ball, I was, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my god,’ cause once it gets in the triangle anything is possible. Just running, on my horses and it worked out.”

With the Red Sox leading 9-2, Holt was able to soak in the moment with third base coach Brian Butterfield.

“I was like, ‘This is pretty cool,’ ” Holt said. “[Butterfield] kind of came up to me and said, ‘This is pretty cool.’ I tried to soak it all in. Looked in my dugout and my teammates were all pretty pumped at the top step. Like I said, pretty special to do this and to get the win is the biggest thing. Something I’ll remember for awhile.”

“That was a goosebump moment for me,” Butterfield added. “He’€™s so humble and he kept his poise. I just looked up and said, ‘€˜That was really cool.’€™ He looked over and said, ‘€˜That was cool.’ €™”

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Dustin Pedroia: ‘I’ll be in there in the next couple of days’

06.16.15 at 7:54 pm ET
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Following his team’s 9-4 win over the Braves Tuesday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell passed along that tests revealed no structural damage to his left knee and that he should be back in the lineup shortly.

Pedroia, who injured the knee when attempting to execute a double play in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays Sunday afternoon, didn’t do much to elaborate on his timetable after Tuesday’s win.

“I’ll be in there in the next couple of days,” he noted.

Farrell also suggested Ramirez, who sat out of Tuesday’s game with a sore mid-back, would be available for the opening game of the Sox’ two-game set in Atlanta.

“Both are day to day,” the manager said. “I would expect that Hanley would be available for sure tomorrow after going through a full day of treatment for his back. Nothing structurally was defined with the images that Pedey underwent before the game. He’€™s dealing with some inflammation. He’€™s dealing with a little bit of fluid and hopefully in a day or two he’€™s back in the lineup.”

Without the pair, the Red Sox still managed 18 hits against the Braves. Coming into the series finale, Pedroia had been one of the Red Sox’ hottest hitters, hitting .397 with a 1.005 OPS in 14 games this month.

Closing Time: Brock Holt hits for cycle in Red Sox win over Braves to snap 7-game losing streak

06.16.15 at 6:43 pm ET
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Brock Holt scored two runs and recorded three hits to lead the Red Sox over the Braves, snapping their seven-game losing skid. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brock Holt hit for the cycle to lead the Red Sox over the Braves, snapping their seven-game losing skid. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

So, that’s what winning feels like.

After losing seven straight games with their last win coming nine days ago, the Red Sox finally were able to get back in the win column with a 9-4 win over the Braves at Fenway Park Tuesday afternoon.

The offense was led by Brock Holt who hit for the cycle, the first Red Sox cycle since John Valentin on June 6, 1996.

“Yeah, big day at the plate,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s been in a good run here of late in the two-hole and today obviously in the leadoff spot where he’s getting on-base multiple times. Really squared up some balls today. It goes without saying, anytime a guy hits for the cycle he’s had a stellar day, and that was a day for Brock.”

The Red Sox have now won six of their last seven games against the Braves. Their 18 hits were by far a season high (nine-inning game). The 18 hits tied what they totaled in the 18-inning win over the Yankees.

With the game knotted at two in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox scored three times to break the game open and snap the losing skid.

Mookie Betts started the inning off with a triple to left-center. After David Ortiz lined out sharply to second, Xander Bogaerts’ chopper over the mound was barely enough to get Betts home, although he was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw home. They scored two more in the inning, as Pablo Sandoval lined a single off the Monster and Mike Napoli doubled, setting up second and third with two outs for Alejandro De Aza, who lined an opposite field double to give the Red Sox two insurance runs.

Following his blowup in the dugout during his last start in Baltimore, Wade Miley responded with a quality start, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out a season-high eight batters.

Miley has now won four straight starts at Fenway Park and evened up his record at 6-6.

The left-hander was removed from the game after 111 pitches and with runners on first and second in the seventh inning. Junichi Tazawa entered and retired the next two batters in order to get out of the jam.

“Like I said, I put it behind me,” Miley said of the dugout incident. “So not necessarily going to motivate me or anything like that. My goal going into today is to just give the team a chance to win and every start that’s what I try to do. I try to go out there and keep them from scoring more runs than we do. So that was the goal.”

Koji Uehara allowed two runs on the ninth inning. He’s allowed runs in four of his 24 outings this year.

The Red Sox wasted no time scoring, as they scored their first run of the game on the fifth pitch they saw from Braves starter Julio Teheran, as Holt and Betts hit back-to-back doubles. They scored their second run with the bases loaded and no outs when Pablo Sandoval hit into a double play, scoring Betts.

Teheran finished allowing six runs on 13 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Holt also homered in the seventh inning, which extended the Red Sox’ streak of hitting a home run in seven straight games. De Aza added another RBI with a triple in the eighth, scoring Sandoval. Rusney Castillo snapped an 0-for-11 skid with an RBI single later in the inning and Holt then ripped a triple to finish off the cycle scoring another.

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Commissioner Rob Manfred discusses Red Sox strike zone issues, fan safety, DraftKings

06.16.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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Commissioner Rob Manfred addresses the media at Fenway Park on Tuesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media at Fenway Park on Tuesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Commissioner Rob Manfred had a message for Red Sox hitters Tuesday: The league isn’t out to get them.

Making a regularly scheduled stop in Boston as part of a tour of big league cities, Manfred addressed Red Sox players and was asked about the widening strike zone.

“This issue came up in the Red Sox clubhouse today,” Manfred said. “I’ll tell you what I told them. There has been absolutely no direction to umpires to expand the strike zone, or to expand in conjunction with the pace of game effort. Our sole and exclusive focus with respect to the strike zone has been to make sure we’re calling the rulebook strike as closely as possible and as on uniform a basis as possible across umpires.”

Manfred touched on a number of other topics as well.

On the increased use of netting to protect fans in the wake of the horrifying injury suffered at Fenway Park recently by Tonya Carpenter: “We have been focused on a variety of remedies that could be used to address this problem. They include things like additional bat regulations, wrapping of bats, increased netting. I think it’s important as we move forward with this that we keep all the available options on the table and make the best decision to make sure that our fans are as safe as possible.”

On the importance of daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings to grow the interest of the sport: “I think some great man once said people have voted with their feet on this one. I think fantasy sports, daily games, are a really important part of fan engagement. It’s one of the reasons we were so interested in expanding our relationship with DraftKings. It’s another way for fans to be interested in the game on a daily basis, and I think it’s an important issue for us going forward.

“Look, the federal government defined what’s fantasy and what’s gambling. We spent, believe me, a lot of time and effort analyzing the games on the DraftKings site with our own internal staff and outside experts, and we were comfortable with the idea that they were fantasy games within the definition of federal law.”

On the story that broke Tuesday alleging the Cardinals hacked the computers of the Astros: “What has been reported, and we knew about it well in advance of the report is there is an ongoing investigation with respect to an unauthorized entry into Houston’s system. To use, to assume that investigation is going to produce a particular result with respect to the Cardinals, let alone to jump to a word like cyber attack, we don’t know that those are the facts yet. There is an ongoing investigation. We’ve been fully cooperative. Obviously any allegation like this, no matter how serious it turns out to be, is of great concern to us but it’s just too early to speculate on what the facts are going to turn out to be and what action, if any, is necessary.”

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