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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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Red Sox lineup: Mookie Betts makes his debut at second base

09.13.14 at 3:07 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

KANSAS CITY — With Dustin Pedroia out for the season after undergoing hand surgery, and Brock Holt still recovering from a concussion, Mookie Betts will begin his stint at second baseman for the Red Sox Saturday night.

Betts, who came up through the minor leagues as a second baseman before transitioning to outfield just before his call-up earlier this season, will leadoff against Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rubby De La Rosa taking the hill for the visitors:

Mookie Betts 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Yoenis Cespedes LF

Daniel Nava RF

Mike Napoli 1B

Jackie Bradley CF

Will Middlebrooks 3B

Christian Vazquez C

Red Sox minor league roundup: Rusney Castillo makes his mark; Eduardo Rodriguez, trade deadline steal

09.13.14 at 12:24 pm ET
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Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Evidently, Rusney Castillo is not afraid.

With Triple-A Pawtucket’s season down to its final strike, Castillo lined a 1-2 fastball up and away to right-center for a game-tying run in the top of the ninth inning, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie that ultimately translated to a 4-2, 13-inning victory for the PawSox that forced a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals against Durham (box).

Though Castillo went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts, he did not allow a previously poor game to snowball to the point where his pulse quickened in his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, instead going with a heater and lining it to a part of the field that he’s shown a penchant for using in his earliest days playing baseball. The Red Sox will hope that the contest offered the first demonstration of Castillo’s ability to contribute in meaningful situations, to be a winning player who can turn a crowd in an opponent’s park from frenzy to despondency.

As Castillo (who played all 13 innings on Friday) works to get physically ready to join the Red Sox in the big leagues, he is now 3-for-14 in his three games against Durham. Certainly, he made his third hit of the series count, giving the PawSox an opportunity in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Saturday.

Here is a look at Castillo’s crowd-silencing hit:

— One evaluator on Eduardo Rodriguez, the 21-year-old left-hander whom the Red Sox acquired at the trade deadline for left-hander Andrew Miller: “Steal of the trade deadline…I know Miller is doing great in Baltimore, but this kid will make that trade look real bad.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: eduardo rodriguez, ivan de jesus, Rusney Castillo,

Saturday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Jeremy Guthrie

09.13.14 at 8:43 am ET
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The Red Sox will play the third game of their four-game set with the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. Rubby De La Rosa will get the ball and pitch against Kansas City’€™s Jeremy Guthrie.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

De La Rosa (4-6, 4.01 ERA) had trouble last Sunday commanding his pitches against the Blue Jays. As the Red Sox attempted to earn a home sweep over their division rivals, De La Rosa weaved in and out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

In the fifth inning, however, De La Rosa couldn’€™t escape trouble, as Toronto slugger Jose Bautista crushed a three-run home run over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. De La Rosa’€™s day was finished after he gave up the three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.

De La Rosa said after the game that the 2-0 pitch to Bautista that landed near the MassPike was part of his command problems.

“Yeah, I missed that pitch,” De La Rosa said of the home run. “I tried to throw it away.”

Prior to his start against Toronto, the right-hander threw 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball on the road against the Rays, but he did not factor in the decision. De La Rosa’€™s month of August was an improvement after an abysmal July when he had an ERA close to six. Though he had a higher 1.76 WHIP, his ERA for August was 4.13.

He’€™s pitched well at Fenway Park this season, but De La Rosa has not had as much success on the road in 2014. His ERA is more than a run higher — 4.57 on the road compared to 3.47 at home — and his batting average against is .294 away from the confines of Fenway.

One of De La Rosa’€™ best starts this season came against Kansas City in late July. In seven innings, he allowed one run and five hits over seven solid innings. He walked four batters, but he worked around the major jams.

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Why you should have cared about Friday’s Red Sox game: Allen Webster turns a corner; Rusney Castillo makes his travel plans; Koji Uehara returns

09.13.14 at 12:07 am 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.)

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

KANSAS CITY — This undoubtedly was Allen Webster’s shining moment as a major league pitcher.

Not only did the Red Sox starter get out of a significant three-start rut — allowing just two runs over six innings in the Sox’s 4-2 win over the Royals Friday night — but he did so with something significant on the line. Webster, the pitcher who has had uneven results throughout his eight previous starts (6.47 ERA), was in control throughout almost all of his 83 pitches.

The difference this time around, besides the simple fact there were better results, was Webster’s command. For the first time this season, he walked just one batter, staying ahead of the struggling KC lineup throughout the night.

“A higher percentage of strikes tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his pitcher. “I thought he was ahead in the count a little bit more frequently, and he had a very good changeup against some left-handers to slow them down. With the exception of the one changeup that stayed up to [Eric] Hosmer (a two-run homer), he was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone.”

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME:

— Rusney Castillo finally has his ticket to the big leagues.

The Cuban outfielder actually postponed his arrival with the Red Sox thanks to a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth inning of the Pawtucket Red SoxInternational League championship series against Durham. The hit sent the teams into extra innings, where the PawSox ultimately claimed a 14-inning, 4-2 win.

The victory forced a fifth and decisive game, while also pushing Castillo’s arrival time with the Red Sox to Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

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