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Closing Time: Red Sox offense silenced by Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez in 5-3 loss

04.17.16 at 4:46 pm ET
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Steven Wright was the tough-luck loser on Sunday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright was the tough-luck loser Sunday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

You had a feeling this day would come.

After the Red Sox had scored at least four runs in the first five home games this season, they were shut down by Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez in their 5-3 loss Sunday afternoon.

With the loss, the Red Sox’ three-game win streak is over.

The Red Sox didn’t record a hit until two outs in the fifth, as Sanchez finished the day going seven innings and allowing one run on just two hits with seven strikeouts.

Steven Wright was the tough-luck loser for the Red Sox. The knuckleballer allowed two runs in the first inning but settled in nicely after that. He went six innings and allowed two runs on six hits while striking out six and hitting two batters.

“Outstanding job,” manager John Farrell said. “This is his third time consecutively he’s started against that same lineup. I thought he was pitching to a pretty tight strike zone with [umpire] Lance [Barksdale] back there. After the two out, ball that Encarnarncion hits off the third-base bag [in the first], that kind of built on that two-run inning in the first, he settled in. He threw a lot of strikes. He was able to change speeds effectively. Against that lineup, that as we know is very powerful, was able to slow them down through six innings and clearly keep them in the ball game.”

In relief of Wright, Tommy Layne, Noe Ramirez, Robbie Ross Jr. and Matt Barnes combined to allow three runs.

Trailing 2-0 in the fifth, the Red Sox were able to plate a run on a Mookie Betts single scoring Marco Hernandez. Betts had no hits in his previous nine at-bats before the single. Travis Shaw hit a two-run homer in the ninth to make it 5-3, but that was all the Red Sox could get against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna.

Closing Time note

Red Sox pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts. Going into the contest, the Red Sox pitching staff was averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which led the majors. This is coming off a season last year when they finished 18th in the majors (7.6).

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John Farrell on Hanley Ramirez: We have a completely different player than last year

04.17.16 at 11:58 am ET
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It's a much different season for Hanley Ramirez. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

It’s a much different season for Hanley Ramirez. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

If you thought Hanley Ramirez looks like a completely different player than a year ago, you aren’t the only one.

Manager John Farrell acknowledged Ramirez is much more relaxed this year and it’s carried over to his play both at first base and at the plate.

“Everything we could have hoped. He’s played [first base] I think with ease,” Farrell said prior to Sunday’s game. “He’s put in a lot of work to get familiar with the different positioning and footwork around the bag. I’ll tell you, we have a player I think completely different than a year ago. He’s engaged. He’s having fun playing the game.

“I think being back in the infield has been a big boost to that. He’s doing one heck of a job. What he’s doing on the base paths has been impressive. The other night, the swing-and-miss on the strikeout set up the whole three-run inning in the first so he is hustling. He’s very engaged. He’s doing a very good job.”

Whether the organization admits it or not, the left field experiment was a disaster for Ramirez as not only did he struggle in left field, it carried over to the plate. In 105 games, he hit just .249 with 19 home runs and 53 RBIs. After July 5 he hit just one home run before being shut down for the season with a shoulder injury late in August.

Through 10 games this year, Ramirez has looked comfortable at first base and is off to a good start at the plate. He’s batting .293 with five RBIs and of his 12 hits, four have gone for extra bases.

There’s also been a difference in his personality, as it’s come out much more than it did a year ago.

“I think he’s playing with some freedom and it’s shown up in his personality,” Farrell said. “Heck, we see it how he interacts with fans. To Hanley’s credit, whether it’s a conscious effort to make a change, we have a different player, to his credit. He’s always in the fun and the noise and joking around in the clubhouse, which is a good thing.

“He’s in a good place.”

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Sunday Red Sox Farm Report: Brian Johnson building up in Pawtucket, earns win

04.17.16 at 10:16 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday.

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (5-5): W, 5-2, at Buffalo (Blue Jays)

— LHP Brian Johnson (Boston’s No. 6 prospect at MLB.com) picked up his first win of the season with a final line of: 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO (85 pitches, 55 strikes). Johnson (1-1, 2.89 ERA) was removed in the sixth inning after reaching a pitch count, as he is building back up after his 2015 shutdown due to elbow irritation. In Johnson’s first start on April 11 he threw 76 pitches, giving up one run in four innings of work.

On Saturday the 25-year-old Johnson bounced back after a rocky first inning, as he allowed a single, a two-run homer (a first-pitch fastball turned on and pulled deep to right-center) and an opposite-field double. The next four innings Johnson allowed just a single and two walks before giving up one more double to lead off the sixth.

Selected by Boston in the first round of the 2012 draft (31st overall) out of the University of Florida, the 6-foot-4 Johnson went 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 18 starts last year for Triple-A Pawtucket, getting called up to the majors for one outing in Houston on July 21 (four earned runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings).

— RHP Pat Light (Boston’s No. 15 prospect at MLB.com) pitched a perfect eighth inning of relief, striking out two batters with his split-finger fastball that drops out of the strike zone. Light, 25, retired his other batter by stabbing a hard comebacker to the mound.

Selected by Boston in the first round of the 2012 draft (37th overall), the 6-foot-5 Light now has back-to-back scoreless outings since allowing two runs on a hit and two walks in his 2016 debut. Light has battled control issues in several of his Triple-A outings since dominating Double-A in 2015, as eight of his 29 appearances with Pawtucket dating back to last season have featured multiple walks.

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Read More: Andrew Benintendi, brian johnson, heath hembree, mauricio dubon

Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt out against Blue Jays

04.17.16 at 10:12 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

Two of the Red Sox’ main players will rest on Sunday against the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the four-game series.

Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt are out of the lineup on Sunday with Chris Young getting the start in left field and and Marco Hernandez, who was recalled on Friday, getting the start at second base.

It is Hernandez’s major league debut. He came to the Red Sox as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront trade in 2014.

With Pedroia out, Xander Bogaerts with hit second, David Ortiz third and Hanley Ramirez fourth against Blue Jays stater Aaron Sanchez.

Ryan Hanigan will catch Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Mookie Betts, RF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Chris Young, LF
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Ryan Hanigan, C
Marco Hernandez, 2B
Steven Wright, RHP

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Steven Wright vs. Aaron Sanchez

04.17.16 at 8:26 am ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

The Red Sox will send knuckleballer Steven Wright to the hill Sunday afternoon opposite Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez in the third game of the teams’ four-game series at Fenway Park.

Wright faced the same potent Blue Jays lineup in his first start of the season on April 1. It also was his first career start against Toronto. Despite a solid outing, he came away with the loss. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (only one earned) on six hits, while walking three and striking out five. He kept the Red Sox in the game as long as he could, but the team could not get the bats going and went on to lose 3-0.

“Outstanding job on his part,” manager John Farrell said of Wright’s performance. “Kept us in the game into the seventh inning. He minimized the damage as much as possible in the first, but after that first inning, he settled in and controlled and commanded the knuckleball very well. He used his fastball at times to get ahead in the count, to get back into counts. But we ran into an outstanding pitching performance by [Marco] Estrada today.”

Sanchez will try to be the next Blue Jays pitcher to outduel Wright. He has been very effective in his two starts this season, posting an ERA of 1.38 and a WHIP of 0.846, but has yet to factor into a decision. In his last start on April 12 against the Yankees, Sanchez went six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits. He struck out five and walked three in a game the Blue Jays would go on to lose, 3-2. He was solid for most of the game but struggled with his command at times, which resulted in a high pitch count.

“You don’t expect to be good in the major leagues going ball, ball, ball, then strike, strike, strike,” Sanchez said after the game. “Maybe I wasn’t getting calls, but at this level, you can’t let things like that get to you. I’ll learn from that for the next time.”

In 10 career appearances covering 19 2/3 innings against the Red Sox (including two starts), Sanchez is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.271 WHIP, recording 12 strikeouts and 18 walks.

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Read More: Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays, Red Sox, steven wright

Craig Kimbrel offers another example of him being really good

04.16.16 at 8:46 pm ET
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Craig Kimbrel struck out the side of the 60th time in his career, Saturday. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel struck out the side Saturday for the 60th time in his career. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel has struck out the side 60 times. That’s 14 more than Yankees flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman and 31 more than Jonathan Papelbon.

Of those, it’s hard to imagine that few were more impressive than what we witnessed Saturday afternoon.

Kimbrel came on in the ninth inning of what would be a 4-2 Red Sox win over the Blue Jays and fanned Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki. It was a group that has 10 top-15 MVP finishes between them.

There were 14 fastballs ranging from 97-99 mph, and a smattering of high-80s curveballs.

“He’s got some of the nastiest [stuff] in the major leagues, no question,” said Red Sox DH David Ortiz. “He don’t care who is up. His stuff is like, ‘Good luck, try to hit this.’ ”

Asked if Kimbrel possessed the best stuff of any pitcher he has caught, Christian Vazquez responded, “Yeah, it’s coming in hard, man.”

Kimbrel has claimed at least one strikeout in 26 straight appearances, the longest active streak for any reliever.

The righty has fanned 12 in his six appearances (six innings) with the Red Sox, having allowed a run in just one of them (coming on Chris Davis’ three-run homer).

“I don’t know that there are many guys in the league that can do it against those three guys,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “That’s two consecutive days in which he’s come out and he generates that high-powered velocity without … he’s so smooth. You’ve got a curveball that’s nearly 90 mph along with a fastball that’s approaching 100. He’s a unique animal, and glad he’s in our uniform.”

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Closing Time: David Price does his ace thing against old team

04.16.16 at 6:49 pm ET
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David Price struck out eight more batters in his win Saturday afternoon. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

David Price struck out eight more batters in his win Saturday afternoon. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

This was more in line with what the Red Sox were counting on.

After a disappointing home opener, David Price came back to give an ace-like performance against his old team. The Sox lefty allowed just two runs over seven innings, leading his team to a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Price stumbled out of the gate, giving up an RBI double to Jose Bautista in the first. After that, however, the Jays couldn’t muster much at all, with their only other run coming on Edwin Encarnacion’s RBI double in the fourth.

The southpaw struck out nine more batters, now totaling 27 K’s and just four walks in his first 18 innings with the Red Sox. He punctuated Saturday’s 107-pitch outing by striking out the side in the seventh.

“To me, strikeouts are fantastic, especially with a runner on third and less than two outs or a situation like that. I’d much rather them hit that first pitch and get out,” Price said. “Strikeouts are just, that’s something that happens. For me, earlier in my career, I wanted to strike guys out on that first pitch, and you can’t do that. For me, I’d like them on or out in three pitches or less. If it gets to that two strikes, then you can go for it.”

Said Red Sox manager John Farrell: “It’s almost like he gave you the feeling there was that closer mentality in that final inning of work. He finished his game today with a strong exclamation point to a solid outing for him. But anytime you go through that lineup three times you’ve got very consistent location and multiple looks to get through a really strong lineup.”

As it turned out, all the offense Price would need was Xander Bogaerts’ three-run homer off Toronto starter Marco Estrada in the third inning. The Sox added an insurance run in the same frame thanks to Travis Shaw’s RBI single, narrowly scoring Hanley Ramirez.

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It appears Carson Smith is getting closer to joining Red Sox

04.16.16 at 4:44 pm ET
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Carson Smith

Carson Smith

Carson Smith doesn’t appear to be that far off from finally linking up with his new team.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, the righty reliever, who has been shelved with a right flexor mass strain in his elbow, is facing a pivotal week in terms of convincing the team he is ready for major league action.

“He threw 35 pitches of live BP [Saturday] and came through that fine,” Farrell said. “His next step would be live BP in a sim game on Tuesday. Tentative plan would be Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday next week of two sim and then potentially a game by next weekend in extended [spring training]. So this coming weekend will be a good test for him.”

While the Red Sox bullpen has held its own despite pitching eighth-most innings in the American League (32), totaling a .178 batting average against, adding Smith would certainly take some pressure off the late-inning arms.

Both Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have pitched in six of the Red Sox’ first nine games, with Noe Ramirez having to pick up the slack as the specialist against righties.

If all goes as planned, there may be the possibility of Smith joining the Red Sox as early as the final homestand in April.

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Saturday Red Sox Farm Report: Teddy Stankiewicz dominates, but Sea Dogs fall in 17 innings

04.16.16 at 11:13 am ET
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Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:

William Cuevas

William Cuevas

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (4-5): W, 6-5, at Lehigh Valley (Phillies)

— The PawSox held on for a 6-5 win against Lehigh Valley to complete a two-game sweep. Pawtucket led 6-2 in the seventh, but was able to hang on for the win.

— William Cuevas gave the PawSox a very good start going 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, while walking a batter and striking out four. He was able to earn his first win of the season, which was a good sign after a poor first outing last week.

— Rusney Castillo played his first game in Triple-A after being sent down following Wednesday’s game. He played left field and went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

— After a tough start to the season, Deven Marrero is trying to break out of a slump. The middle infielder went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. He is still hitting just .176 on the season.

— Marrero’s cousin Chris is off to a great start to the year and it continued Friday night, as he went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. He’s batting .375 for the year.

— Anthony Varvaro was once again solid in relief, going 1 1/3 perfect innings. He has allowed just one hit in 5 1/3 innings this season.

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Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Farm Report, Teddy Stankiewciz, yoan moncada

Saturday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: David Price vs. Marco Estrada

04.16.16 at 8:17 am ET
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David Price

David Price

Red Sox ace David Price will take the hill Saturday to face off against his former team, looking to pick up his second win of the season while opposing Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada.

Price came away with a no-decision in his last start against the Orioles. In the home opener at Fenway Park, he struggled to find a groove, lasting just five innings. He allowed five runs on five hits, walking two and striking out eight. The Sox would go on to lose the game when Craig Kimbrel allowed a three-run home run to Chris Davis in the ninth inning.

For the second straight start, Price had one inning in which he ran into trouble. In this case, it was the third inning when he allowed five runs, including a three-run home run to Mark Trumbo.

“It’s kind of been my Achilles’ heel — having that one bad inning,” Price said after the game. “That’s all it takes in this game. It can be one pitch, and today it was just that one bad inning.”

Price, who appeared in 11 games for the Blue Jays last season after being traded from the Tigers, has faced Toronto 21 times in his career, recording a 16-2 record, 2.41 ERA and 1.064 WHIP.

Estrada had no trouble in his last start against the Red Sox last Sunday. He shut out Boston through seven innings of work while allowing five hits, walking two and striking out eight in his season debut. The Blue Jays went on to win the game 3-0. Despite the dominant performance, Estrada said there still is room to grow.

“I feel pretty good,” Estrada said after the game. “Still a little off. Things are going to get better. Just not quite 100 percent with the feel for things but it’s really close.”

Said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia: “The three times I faced him, he didn’t give me one good pitch to hit. He was on the corners, his changeup was great.”

In four career starts against the Red Sox, the 32-year-old Estrada is 3-2 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.444 WHIP.

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Read More: Blue Jays, David Price, Marco Estrada, Red Sox
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