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Closing Time: Justin Masterson struggles with his control, late rally not enough as Red Sox fall to Rays

05.06.15 at 10:32 pm ET
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Justin Masterson walked six batters in 4 1/3 innings Wednesday night against the Rays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Justin Masterson walked six batters in 4 1/3 innings Wednesday night against the Rays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Justin Masterson didn’t have good numbers against the Rays before the game, and they certainly didn’t get better after the game.

After entering the night 2-7 with a 6.83 ERA against them, Masterson struggled with his control, walking six batters in just 4 1/3 innings, while allowing four runs in the Red Sox‘ 5-3 loss to the Rays Wednesday night. The Rays took 2-of-3 in the three-game series.

The Rays scored single runs in the third and fourth before scoring twice in the fifth leading to his departure. Masterson did allow a solo home run to Evan Longoria in the fourth inning.

The right-hander finished the night going 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with the six walks and striking out one. It was the sixth time in his career he walked six or more batters with his career-high being seven. His outing was the seventh time out of 28 starts where a Red Sox starter has gone less than five innings and allowed more than four runs.

“He contributed with the base on balls in the fourth and then in the fifth inning,” manager John Farrell said. “Still, the final at-bat that he faces, he puts Butler on the ground twice, with the comebacker double play and the groundball to short. He’s the one guy that he’s got the ability to get two outs with one pitch. In the fifth inning, trying to get through that inning and unfortunately those two runs score on the base hit proved to be the difference.

Mookie Betts crushed a solo homer in the eighth inning making it a one-run game, but the Red Sox couldn’t plate the tying run after loading the bases with one out later in the inning. Pinch-hitter Daniel Nava and Brock Holt each grounded out to first to end the threat.

Tampa Bay picked up an insurance run in the top of the ninth on another Longoria home run, which proved huge as the Red Sox threatened in the ninth, with runners on first and second, but couldn’t do anything with it.

“I think we’re doing a great job creating opportunities, but still the finishing through, cashing in, hasn’t been there,” Farrell said.

The Red Sox scored their first two runs in the second inning. Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart led the inning off with back-to-back doubles. Swihart later scored on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly.

Rays starter Alex Colome, in his second start of the season, went five innings and allowed two runs on four hits to pick up the win.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Evan Longoria. Longoria homered in the fourth inning and eighth innings and also walked twice scoring three runs. It was his 14th career multi-homer game. He had gone 90 at-bats without a home run before tonight. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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

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Red Sox pregame notes: Shane Victorino could join team in Oakland Monday

05.06.15 at 5:48 pm ET
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Out with a hamstring injury since April 22, right fielder Shane Victorino might almost be ready to return to the Red Sox lineup.

The plan for Victorino is still to get his rehabbing done in Portland on Friday and Saturday, but what happens after that isn’t so clear. If all goes well for Victorino, manager John Farrell said he could meet up with the team when it heads west for a left-coast road swing.

“He’s going to get Friday and Saturday (in Portland) at minimum and if everything goes accordingly, there’s a chance he could, or the plan would be for him to join us in Oakland,” Farrell said. “We’re projecting two left-handed starters against us in those first two games, that might be a continuation of his progression in terms of number of innings on the field, number of at-bats but Friday and Saturday will tell us a lot.”

Victorino was hitting .143/.302/.171 in the 12 games he played with the Red Sox this season, recording five hits and two RBI in 35 at-bats.

On Tuesday in Pawtucket, centerfielder Rusney Castillo collected his first hits since returning from injury on April 29. Castillo was 2-for-4 with an RBI, walk and strikeout against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate. From Farrell’s perspective, the outfielder is only getting better.

“Looks like he’s starting to get a little bit better timing, just through some at-bats,” he said. “It’s been start and stop for him this year with spring training and then, unfortunately, the dive at Pawtucket, but a couple of hits here recently after the first 10 at-bats or so just trying to get in the flow of things, but there’s no restriction on games played or at-bats to be taken.”

If Castillo is to be in the mix in Boston, Farrell is looking for the same things he does with regards to all players looking to be called up: consistency and production.


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Read More: Allen Craig, blake swihart, John Farrell, Rusney Castillo

Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) showing improvement, still day-to-day

05.06.15 at 4:44 pm ET
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The news continues to improve for left fielder Hanley Ramirez.

After spraining his shoulder Monday against the Rays when he ran into the left field wall down the line and missing Tuesday’s game, Ramirez remains day-to-day, but he’s showing signs of improvement.

There’s still no timetable for a return.

“He continues to improve with range of motion,” manager John Farrell said. “Tomorrow (Thursday) is not an unrealistic possibly to begin to swing a bat with some dry swings. We’re not clear yet on when a potential return to full baseball activity level of a game just yet. Improvement, but still day-to-day.”

Farrell added Ramirez will travel with the team to Toronto after the game before the team goes to the West Coast next week.

For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

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Red Sox lineup: Brock Holt starts in right field

05.06.15 at 3:41 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

In trying to build off of Tuesday night’€™s win against the Rays and take the series win, Wednesday’€™s lineup is just about identical to that of the day before.

Brock Holt will get another look at right field and Allen Craig is still slotted in at left field to fill the void that Hanley Ramirez‘€™s injury has left in the lineup. Craig had one of the Sox’€™ five hits yesterday, the other four belonging to Mike Napoli, David Ortiz and Mookie Betts, who had two solo home runs.

Blake Swihart will be behind the plate again opposite Justin Masterson while the Red Sox face Rays pitcher Alex Colome for the first time.

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

1. Mookie Betts CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. David Ortiz DH
4. Mike Napoli 1B
5. Pablo Sandoval 3B
6. Allen Craig LF
7. Brock Holt RF
8. Xander Bogaerts SS
9. Blake Swihart C
Justin Masterson RHP

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia: ‘I was definitely hoping for a reunion’ with Red Sox

05.06.15 at 2:44 pm ET
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As of Wednesday, newly-designated free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia had four teams interested in bringing him aboard. As he said by phone, “I’m blessed to be able to spend this time with the family, and now it’s time to get back to work.”

But that doesn’t mean the sting of how the catcher got to this point still hasn’t worn off.

“No, I honestly didn’t,” said Saltalamacchia when asked if he anticipated the Miami Marlins designating for assignment. “The conversations I’ve had with [Marlins owner] Jeffrey Loria, DJ [GM Dan Jennings] and [team president] Mike Hill, it wasn’t something I saw. I knew about [recently-promoted] J.T. [Realmuto]. I worked with him in spring, he’s a great kid and I enjoyed being around him. I wanted to help him out any way I could. But I didn’t see this. I guess you can’t be surprised by anything in this game.”

Saltalamacchia was in the second year of his three-year, $21 million deal, having played in nine games this season after totaling 114 appearances in ’14. Now, after clearing waivers, the 30 year old finds himself in the open market once again.

And when reality set in, one of the catcher’s first thoughts was a possible return to the Red Sox. Their top catchers [Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan] had already been sidelined, and the Sox were going to have to rely on backup Sandy Leon and rookie Blake Swihart.

But Saltalamacchia was told he would have to look some other place than the team he won a world championship with while turning in a 2013 season that included 40 doubles and an .804 OPS.

“I was definitely hoping to come back,” he said. “Some of my best memories in baseball are there, and family-wise. My kids pretty much grew up there. We had our third child there. It’s definitely a place that means a lot to me. I was definitely hoping for a reunion, but I understand their situation with Swihart. I can completely respect that. As a player you appreciate something like that, when a team has a homegrown, young guy they want to give an opportunity to. That’s what every player hopes for and wants, that opportunity to prove himself.

“Obviously you lose a lot of sleep when this happens. I was obviously ready to get back and ready to go from Day 1. It was really early in the season so it wasn’t like I was worn down or needed a rejuvenation. But it clears your head a little bit, and I’ve had some time to do that. I’m blessed. I’ve got four kids and a wife that deals with all this B.S. and doesn’t give me a hard time about it.”

Despite a subpar season in ’14 — in which he battled a variety of injuries, including a concussion — Saltalamacchia was optimistic heading into his second season the Marlins.

The switch-hitter had worked with Marlins hitting coach Lenny Harris to get back to his ’13 form, and felt the results were right around the corner before he cut loose by Miami.

But with a start that saw Saltalamacchia go 2-for-29 to begin the season, and the Marlins’ desire to commit to Realmuto, he was left continuing his comeback with another team.

“Yeah, without a doubt,” said the catcher when asked if he felt he was still similar to the 2013 version of Saltalamacchia. “Every year I defensively try and get better, obviously I think everybody does, last year was obviously not that, but I don’t walk away from that and say, ‘Oh man, this is who I am now.’ It’s obviously a process and last year I was getting to know a lot of new pitchers, so a lot of times that plays into it. Your defense is a lot different so you tend to overdue it because you’re trying to make it happen with a new team.

“But as far as being the same guy, yeah, 100 percent. I definitely felt a lot healthier this year. I think I was a little tired with the long season, World Series and the short recovery time. This offseason I was able to enjoy it and work out and get in shape and come into spring training where I wanted to be at. I think that played into last year, and it was a small sample size this year. Defenisively, I felt a lot better and I think I’ve done a lot better. Unfortunately in a short period of time I didn’t get to get the at-bats I wanted to get in to get back to where I was.”

Buster Olney on MFB: ‘The whole [AL East] division is a complete mud bog’

05.06.15 at 1:05 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney checked in with Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox‘ recent struggles and other baseball news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Olney said if the Red Sox offense can live up to expectations, the division race could change dramatically.

“You keep waiting for the Red Sox offense to be that predictable element for Boston,” Olney said. “I know that the Yankees had a great weekend against the Red Sox, they’re in first place now, but I think the whole division is a complete mud bog. We still haven’t seen what’s going to define this division.”

Red Sox owner John Henry said he still believes the Red Sox have the best team in the division. Asked if he agrees with that statement, Olney said, “Not right now. I don’t think there’s any question right now that they don’t. And I think they’re going to have to make some changes at some point unless you see guys start to turn it around. Look, I think Rick Porcello clearly is getting better. You watch Joe Kelly’s stuff and you think the tools are definitely there for him to get better. But I know from talking with evaluators with other teams that they believe that the Red Sox are going to have to start thinking about making some changes.”

Olney noted that the Red Sox remain in a prime position to make a deal.

“The one thing that you a lot from other teams is that as they address these issues, they’ve got the best stockpile of resources in prospects and dollars of any team in baseball,” Olney said.

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Curt Schilling on D&C: ‘If losing isn’t physically painful to you, you’re never going to be great’

05.06.15 at 10:31 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Red Sox rotation and other things happening around baseball. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The discussion has been had time and time again, but the Sox’ lack of a clear No. 1 pitcher is hurting them in more ways than one, according to Schilling.

“When you have an ace, you don’t go five days in a row giving up seven runs in five innings,” he said. “Number one, a true [No. 1] stops stuff like that, and number two, when you’re an ace, you end up sitting down and saying, ‘All right, listen, boys, here’s the way this is going to work, you’re going to knock him on his ass,’ and if anything happens, he’ll look at the next guy and say he’ll take care of it the next night or whatever that is, and when you don’t have that, that’s a problem.”

Schilling pointed out that so many of the really good teams, including Boston’s 2004, 2007 and 2013 rosters, all not only had a No. 1, but also a 1A. When that happens, the likelihood of a team doing well increases dramatically. For the Red Sox brass, the thought was, as Schilling said, the rotation would be five guys who were going to be “average good to really good,” and that if alterations needed to be made, they would take place at the deadline.

“They have an enormously deep pool of prospects to deal,” Schilling said. “Problem now for me is not whether they can get a Cole Hamels or not, it’s whether or not they’re going to need him at the deadline or not.”

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Justin Masterson vs. Alex Colome

05.06.15 at 10:24 am ET
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In the final game of the Red Sox‘ disappointing homestand, Justin Masterson will take the mound while Alex Colome will start for the Rays.

Masterson (2-0) last got the ball on Friday when the Red Sox fell to the Yankees, 3-2, on an eighth-inning home run from Alex Rodriguez, his 660th, tying Willie Mays for the fourth most in MLB history. Masterson was not responsible for the go-ahead run, as the right-hander tossed six innings, giving up two runs on six hits with a pair of strikeouts. Masterson also walked three in the outing, but the result lowered his ERA to 4.71 on the year.

That campaign marked the third in a row in which he did not allow more than three runs. In those three starts, Masterson has an ERA of 3.00 and allowed 16 hits with 11 strikeouts and seven walks. Batters also hit .235/.321/.412 against him in that time as he gave up a home run, seven doubles and a triple in 68 at-bats.

Now, through five starts and 28 2/3 innings, Masterson has a WHIP of 1.36 and is holding batters to a .245/.339/.364 slash line. With 22 strikeouts on the year, he is averaging 6.9 K’s per nine innings and has a 1.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Masterson has a career 6.83 ERA vs. the Rays, his worst mark against any American League team. In 10 career starts vs. Tampa Bay, Masterson is 2-6 with a 7.07 ERA.

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Why Red Sox’ first win with Blake Swihart behind plate meant so much to rookie

05.05.15 at 11:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox picked up their first win with Blake Swihart behind the plate Tuesday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Red Sox picked up their first win with Blake Swihart behind the plate Tuesday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Catchers don’t get win and loss check marks next to their names after games, but Blake Swihart felt like he started his major league career with two L’s.

One of the Red Sox‘ top prospects, Swihart made his major league debut Saturday afternoon against the Yankees after Ryan Hanigan fractured his finger Friday night and the switch-hitter was summonsed to the big leagues.

The Red Sox fell to the Yankees 4-2 Saturday afternoon, and then fell 8-5 Sunday night in his second start, and the 23-year-old took those losses hard.

“First one, after the game I was stressed out just because I wanted it so bad, and that is what it’s all about here is winning,” Swihart said. “I almost took it like it was my fault because I was back there catching because I want to do everything we can to win.”

After resting on Monday, Swihart went out and caught Rick Porcello Tuesday. Despite it being the first time the two had ever thrown to one another — spring training game, bullpen session, etc. — the two worked extremely well and Porcello tossed seven shutout innings, as the Red Sox snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Rays.

“Getting that first one out of the way is very special,” Swihart said.

Porcello went seven shutout innings, while scattering eight hits, not issuing a walk and striking out six.

“It went great,” Swihart said. “The tempo of the game was awesome. The last few days we talked about a game plan that we wanted to do and we went out and executed and like I said, I am still learning these guys, so just trying to do everything I can to help them out.”

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Mookie Betts’ 2 solo home runs lift Red Sox past Rays

05.05.15 at 11:12 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

In a pitching duel between Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly on Tuesday, Mookie Betts was responsible for the only two runs of the game.

He hit a pair of solo home runs over the Green Monster, one off of Smyly in the sixth inning and the other off of Ernesto Frieri in the eighth.

Smyly had a no-hitter going and had allowed just two base runners up until Betts first home run.

“I think it was a curveball or cutter or something that he threw, left it a little up and I put a pretty good swing on it,” Betts said, adding: “He had been blowing fastballs by me all night, so I was just kind of ready for a fastball and he left another cutter up there and I was able to swing at it.”

The second homer came on Frieri’s first pitch of his outing.

“I was just first pitch, ready to go,” Betts said. “I figured, you know, he’d try to get strike one, and I was going to be ready for that.”

The two home runs were the third and fourth of the season for Betts. The 22-year-old became the the youngest Red Sox player to hit two home runs in a game since Jim Rice did it twice in 1975.

Betts’ 2-for-4 game raised his season average to .234. He is currently riding a four-game hit streak and has hits in seven of his last eight games.

“I’ve had a couple balls that didn’t fall for me [earlier in the season] and then I’ve mixed in some bad at bats as well,” Betts said. “But I feel like I’m close and I’m right where I want to be.”

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