|08.29.16 at 10:22 pm ET|
Rick Porcello was coming off an outing in which he threw more pitches than in any game of his career. Would he be worn down coming into his start Monday night? It didn’t look like it.
Porcello appeared to be the pitcher Fenway Park fans have been accustomed to witnessing this season, allowing three runs on six hits over seven innings in the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Rays. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter, while throwing 102 pitches.
The Sox starter is now 13-0 at Fenway this season, with the Red Sox having won all of Porcello’s 14 home starts. The righty is just the fifth major league pitcher since 1913 to begin a season 13-0 at home, joining Dallas Keuchel, Dave Ferriss, Tex Hughson, and Larry Benton. He also becomes the major leagues first 18-game winner.
“I think you deal with ups and downs in baseball, and here in Boston, the downs can seem to be a little bit deeper than most places and all the ups are obviously really high, too,” Porcello said. “You learn to ride that wave and keep an even-keel and continue to work hard and keep your head down until you accomplish the goals you want to accomplish.”
With the win, the Red Sox remain two games in back of first-place Toronto, who claimed a 5-1 win over Baltimore at Camden Yards. The Orioles drop to four games back in the American League East.
With his two RBIs, Mookie Betts is now just four shy of 100. Once at the milestone, the outfielder and David Oritz are trending toward becoming just the second set of Red Sox teammates with at least 30 homers, 40 doubles and 100 RBI. Ortiz and Manny Ramirez accomplished the feat in 2004.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Betts launched his 30th homer of the season over the left field wall to kick off the scoring. The solo shot was his seventh since being moved to the cleanup spot on Aug. 10, the second-most of any No. 4 hitter during that span (only behind Chris Davis’ eight homers). Betts added to his RBI total in the fifth inning, driving home Ortiz with a double.
– Despite coming into the night with the second-worst batting average with the bases loaded in the American League (.211), Brock Holt managed to reverse the trend. The second baseman, who was filling in for Dustin Pedroia for a second straight game, rifled a single into left field, scoring Chris Young. The two-out hit couldn’t plate a pair, however, with Sandy Leon getting thrown out at the plate on a throw from left fielder Corey Dickerson to end the inning. (To watch Holt’s single, click here.)
– Young gave the Sox a two-run lead in the fourth inning, lining a two-run double into the left field corner with nobody out. The hit, which scored Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw, was the outfielder’s first RBI against a righty pitcher since June 11. Holt followed in the fourth with his second RBI of game, doubling in Young.
“Each day gets better,” Young said. “When I first came back, it was a process of getting your timing back and things like that. No matter if I’ve felt great, I feel like I’ve been able to go out and battle. And when you first come back, that’s ultimately the goal, to go out there and be competitive and find yourself as fast as possible. And until you find yourself, just try and grind out at-bats and get as good a feel as possible. That’s pretty much where I’m at right now. But I’m feeling more and more comfortable each game.”
– Xander Bogaerts made the defensive play of the game with one out in the fifth inning, ranging into the hole behind second base on Logan Forsythe’s grounder, scooping it up, twisting his body around and finally firing a one-hopper to Ramirez at first. While the play was initially called an infield single, a replay revealed Forsythe was out. Dickerson did score from third on the play for the Rays’ third run.
– Shaw managed just his second multi-hit game for the month, and first since Aug. 4, coming away with three hits.
“It’s nice to go home at night and feel like you’ve contributed to something,” Shaw said. “It’s been a while since that’s happened. It just feels good to actually do something positive for the first time in a while.”
The third baseman also admitted he had been putting too much pressure on himself of late. “I’ve got to try to stop pressing,” he said. “It felt like I was trying to do too much there. You get in a little slump and feel like you’ve got to get a hit every single time you come up to the plate. The last couple days, I’ve felt pretty relaxed and not trying to do too much. I’m just trying to stay there as much as I can.”
– Leon got going after hitting a bit of a dry spell of late, notching two hits, including a two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning. It was the catcher’s first multi-hit game since Aug. 21, having claimed seven games with two hits or more more in the first three weeks of Aug.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The Red Sox had two runners thrown out at the plate in the second inning, with Hanley Ramirez going from third base on contact on Young’s one-out grounder to third base. Leon would end the inning with his failed attempt at reaching home.
– Porcello couldn’t keep the lead for long, with the Rays scoring a pair in the third inning.
– Clay Buchholz, who had limited hitters to just one hit in 22 at-bats while pitching in relief since July 27, gave up a run on two hits and a walk in a 29-pitch eighth inning.
|08.29.16 at 6:30 pm ET|
Jackie Bradley’s take on the matter wasn’t hard to decipher.
Would you say you don’t care where you hit in the lineup?
Do you care?
“I don’t make the lineup. I just play. You obviously get more opportunities in the top and middle of the lineup.”
Does hitting ninth matter?
“I’ve never heard of a spot in the order that swings the bat. I’ve never heard a pitcher talk about certain sequences with a number in the order. They pitch to hitters no matter where they are in the order. For example, I had a 3-2 splitter in the game yesterday. If I’m the No. 9 guy why don’t you throw me a fastball? You don’t pitch to a number in the batting order. You pitch to tendencies. You pitch to each batter individually. If you hit David in the No. 9 spot he’s going to hit one [home run]?”
Judging by his comments before Monday night’s game, it’s pretty clear that Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t running into John Farrell’s asking to be kept in the lineup’s No. 9 spot. But, for the time being, that’s where the center fielder finds himself. Why? Because one he went back to the bottom of the order, Bradley Jr. started getting on base again.
“Seems to be,” said Farrell when asked if there was a correlation to Bradley Jr.’s recent comfort at the plate and the shift in the order. “His at-bats have been better. He walked a couple of times last night. It’s a really interesting conversation to see or suggest there’s a different mindset based on the number in the lineup in which you’re hitting at. But I think there’s something real to that for certain individual. But Jackie’s had good production in a lot of different places in the lineup this year. He’s going through a little bit of a spell where maybe he’s getting a little bit too pull oriented. I know the work continues to be concentrated to stay inside the ball, use the whole field. That’s there in BP. Does it allow him to see the ball deeper, track the ball better? That might be evident in the walks last night. All in all, multiple times on base the last couple of nights, and certainly that’s a positive.”
After going through 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts, Bradley Jr. was moved to the No. 9 spot. Since the switch he has reached base five times in eight plate appearances.
For the season, Bradley Jr. came into Monday night hitting .371 with a 1.044 OPS in his 108 plate appearances hitting ninth this season. The production has helped the Red Sox carry far and away the best OPS of any team in the No. 9 slot (.793), 82 points higher than the second-best club, Kansas City. (They are vying to become just the seventh team in Major League Baseball history to have the ninth spot in its order to carry an OPS of .800 or better.)
But Bradley Jr. isn’t buying there is a tangible difference when it comes to either the pitchers’ approach, or how hitters have to look at things.
“Obviously they know certain times when you’re scuffling a little bit. They want to attack you more. But they’re still not wanting to miss their spots,” he said They’re not going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to throw this pitch down the middle.’ They’re still going to pitch to their scouting report. I’m just trying to hit, no matter where it is. Everybody tries to stereotype a certain number in the order. I think the main goal is to hit, produce. If you’re producing, it don’t matter.
|08.29.16 at 6:19 pm ET|
Reinforcements could be arriving for the beleaguered Red Sox bullpen.
Veteran Koji Uehara, whose season appeared in doubt following a pectoral injury on July 19, threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Monday and could activated as soon as the weekend, according to manager John Farrell.
“He came out of today’s work session in good fashion,” Farrell said. “It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity, both his fastball and his split. He may have mixed in an occasional cutter, but it’s been impressive to see how he’s handled the volume, and now three times on the mound the intensity to his bullpens and the BP.”
The next step for Uehara is another bullpen on Wednesday, followed by one on Saturday in Oakland before the Red Sox face the A’s. He could be activated shortly thereafter, if all goes according to plan, particularly since the minor league seasons end next Monday, depriving him the opportunity for a rehab assignment.
“I don’t know that we would send him to a playoff team in Salem to get any additional work,” Farrell said. “We’ll re-assess where he is after Sunday. I wouldn’t rule out activation after the BP. Again, I think in fairness to Koji, what we’ve done is just review how he feels after each work session and we’ll take it from there.”
Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA. He’s in the midst of a his worst season as a big leaguer, but if healthy, he’d still represent a considerable upgrade for the Red Sox, who have struggled in relief all season, with Sunday’s 10-4 loss to the Royals the latest example.
“It makes no sense to rush at this point in time so I’ll try to be ready when I’m ready,” Uehara said through a translator, adding, “I think the biggest hurdle is getting over the hurdle mentally. I think I’m pretty good where I am physically.”
|08.29.16 at 12:10 pm ET|
Listening to Dave Dombrowski Monday morning, it sure sounds like Yoan Moncada might not be spending his September in the majors. Christian Vazquez? That’s another story.
Speaking with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Dombrowski explained that part of the decision regarding whether or not to promote Moncada when rosters expand on Sept. 1 will have to do the opportunity for playing time. And right now, that would seem to be hard to come by for the infielder.
“First of all, if you’re going to bring a guy like that up, you want to make sure he has a chance to play some,” said Dombrowski of Moncada, who has been primarily working out at third base, of late. “It doesn’t do you much good if you’re going to bring him up and he just sits and doesn’t play. That doesn’t do you much good. For example, when [Andrew] Benintendi came up he played. We put him right out there in left field. That’s one thing with Moncada. The second thing is that you do have some roster situations, how you work with that with the 40-man roster (which currently has 39 players on it). I wouldn’t let that stop him from being brought up if he was going to play. But those are the conversations that we still need to have over the next day. We’ve talked a lot of generalities.”
The one opening Moncada might fit on the big league roster would be as a pinch-runner. But Dombrowski warned of jumping to the conclusion that just because of the infielder’s minor-league success stealing bases (44-for-56 this season, but just 8-for-12 with Double-A Portland), that doesn’t mean he will become a viable base-stealing threat in the majors during the Red Sox’ pennant race.
And while Dombrowski is on the lookout for potential base-stealing options to add to the big league club, finding the right player, he explained, might not be an option.
“The unfortunate part is that clubs have gotten pretty smart on that so there’s not a lot of those guys available like they used to be at the end,” he said. “It’s a situation where it’s difficult to find those speed guys. For us, a lot of times too you want to get guy who can steal a base. If you can’t find that you want to have a guy who can score from first on a double. We have a lot of those type of guys, so we’re in pretty good shape in that regard.
“Even if you look at Moncada, who, in my estimation, is going to be a great player. He’s going to be an exciting player. He’s going to steal a lot of bases at the big league level. But he’s learning that art at the upper-levels. He hasn’t stole as many bases at Double-A as he did in A-ball. In A-ball his speed just took over. You’re working with him, but he hasn’t stolen quite as many bases yet at the Double-A level. And I do think he will do that at the big league level, eventually.”
|08.29.16 at 11:25 am ET|
But with Papelbon still not choosing to sign with a team since his release from the Nationals Aug. 13, time is becoming a major factor when it comes to the idea of the reliever joining the Red Sox. It’s a point Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski reiterated when appearing with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. (To donate, click here.)
“We had interest in him, and we expressed that to him,” Dombrowski said Monday morning. “John Farrell spoke with Jonathan Papelbon, and I think a couple of our players spoke to him, too. For his own personal reasons, he’s just decided so far not to sign. I’m not sure if he’s going to sign or not. I know he has a lot of strong feelings about Boston if he decides to sign. It’s just more of a situation where his agent says he’s not ready to make a decision.
“And now it becomes complicated because he hasn’t thrown in a game since Aug. 6. So you’re in a position where you just can’t thrust him out there. I don’t know what he’s been doing as far as throwing is concerned. I would doubt that he’s been throwing a lot. So you would have to go back out there and build up his arm strength and be in a position to face some hitters. It’s not just inserting him like it would be if you signed him right off the bat.”
Another fly in the ointment is the deadline for Papelbon to be added to an organization in time for postseason eligibility. The pitcher would have to be signed by the Red Sox before Sept. 1 for such a qualification.
“I’m sure he and his representatives know that. But I think it’s more of his own personal situation that he’s decided,” Dombrowski said. “It has nothing to do with a club interest. It’s just more, for whatever reason, his own decisions are like that.”
|08.29.16 at 10:27 am ET|
Clay Buchholz HAD to go back to the starting rotation. This outing by Eduardo Rodriguez simply wasn’t going to do.
But what the loss to the Royals actually should have reminded was how important Buchholz has become as the next eighth inning option. Remember when Matt Barnes was considered that guy? Well, after giving up three runs on five hits without recording an out, he has now allowed 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last eight outings.
As mediocre an outing as Rodriguez turned out in his return from a hamstring injury, he — and all of the starting rotation — remains less of a concern than the bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel.
That’s where Buchholz comes in.
“The fact that he’s on the mound in the eighth inning, he’s lived it with all of us what that eighth inning has been of late,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell regarding Buchholz. “I’m sure he looked upon that as, hey, this is an opportunity to fill that role.”
The previous two nights were the warm-ups. Buchholz didn’t even get in the game on Friday, simply getting ready just in case. And pitched a semi-meaningless eighth Saturday night. But both began to set the stage for commitment the Red Sox are about to extend.
“[Friday night] if tied the game I was going in, so that was a different role. Before if we tied a game late in the game it was going to be Barnes, Craig or Ziegler. The opposite of going in,” Buchholz said. Talking to John, this is going to a little bit more of a defined type of role.”
The Red Sox’ pitchers OPS-against in the eighth is the highest of any inning other than the first. Brad Ziegler is best when he can be matched up against righties, with left-handed hitters batting just about 50 points higher against the side-winder since he joined the Red Sox. And while Koji Uehara’s progress toward returning has been encouraging, there can’t be any assumptions regarding his effectiveness.
That leaves the Red Sox with Buchholz.
“It’s still the eighth inning. There’s one guy behind you. We haven’t pitched all that well out there,” said Red Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. “They all want to protect each other. There’s responsibility out there, we just have figure it out and put everything in line. It got a little bit loose when Koji left and we had some moving parts.
“Those guys dictate when they pitch out there. When they pitch well with consistency, they get moved back to later innings. We’re going to get it. It’s just putting everybody in comfortable spots to pitch in. And when we get everything back everybody will exhale and say, ‘We’ve got what we want'”
But there is no time left for dancing around the need for the righty to fill this role, a notion Farrell cemented when talking with Buchholz prior to his return to the bullpen. And the manager’s actions in how he called down for Buchholz over the weekend only reinforced the mindset.
“Having a role, it’s a little bit easier to prepare for that rather than going out there and sitting for the first three innings and maybe one of our starters getting hit around a little bit and having to go in and mop up,” Buchholz said. “When the game is on the line you tend to think about what you’re doing. It allows you to prepare.
“I’m not anybody who is going to run around and stretch out. Phone rings, they call my name, I’ll get ready.”
It has taken a month or so, but Buchholz has figured out how to live the relieving life. LeVangie points out that the pitcher only needs about 15 tosses to get ready, and has shown the ability to figure out how to get ready for some of the games’ most important moments.
“He studies beforehand. He knows what he wants to do,” LeVangie said. “He asks questions. It’s more about the mental preparation than anything else.”
Now there’s no turning back. Unless an injury occurs to one of the starting pitchers, or one of them suffers a complete collapse, Buchholz has found his stretch-drive role. And it promises to be one of the most important roles in the season’s final 32 games.
“That feels better going into a game knowing I can watch the game unfold and I can sort of understand when I’m going to pitch rather than just flipping a coin,” he said. “In games that mean something, it feels better knowing that.”
|08.29.16 at 9:40 am ET|
Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (70-64): W, 6-0, at Syracuse (Nationals)
— Roenis Elias helped the PawSox record their 16th shutout of the season, a new team record. The southpaw tossed six scoreless innings for his team-leading 10th victory. He let up just three hits and struck out six while walking three. Elias, 28, has won three of his last four starts, and now is 10-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 20 appearances with Pawtucket.
— Rusney Castillo led the way at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a triple, a double, an RBI and two runs. He now has three multi-hit performances in his last four games. The 29-year-old outfielder is having a great August, batting .365 with five triples in 22 games this month.
— William Cuevas came in to pitch two scoreless innings after Elias left, letting up no hits and striking out one. It was the first scoreless outing for Cuevas since May 7. He is 6-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 24 appearances.
— Chris Marrero went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. He now has back-to-back multi-hit games, but he has not homered since Aug. 15. He is slashing .285/.344/.501 with 23 home runs in 123 games.
|08.29.16 at 8:35 am ET|
Rick Porcello will take the mound for the Red Sox on Monday in the opening game of a three-game series with the Rays. Porcello will start opposite second-year righty Matt Andriese for the second time in six days.
The 27-year-old Porcello leads the American League in wins with 17. He has a 3.23 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. The right-hander has lost just once in his last 18 starts, totaling 11 victories in that span. He did not get a decision in his last start, Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Rays on Wednesday. Porcello let up three runs on nine hits through 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none.
Porcello was in line to pick up his 18th win of the season, until he let up an eighth-inning home run to Evan Longoria that tied the game at 3.
“Obviously, I wish I had thrown that curveball in a different spot than I did to Longoria,” Porcello said. “Other than that, we played hard, top to bottom. We came up just short.”
In 15 career starts against the Rays, Porcello is 8-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA in four starts vs. Tampa this season.
|08.29.16 at 12:43 am ET|
The Red Sox were looking good after coming back from a 2-1 deficit to take a 4-2 lead after the fifth Sunday night against the Royals, but then things all came crashing down in a hurry in the top of the sixth.
The Royals turned a 4-2 deficit into a 10-4 lead with an eight-run top of the sixth, taking away all the momentum the Red Sox had created in the half inning before in their 10-4 rout.
“Obviously, always the biggest inning is the shutdown inning after we take the lead,” manager John Farrell said.
The “biggest inning” was anything but big.
Things didn’t start right as starter Eduardo Rodriguez walked the lead off man, Eric Hosmer. Then he allowed a double to Kendrys Morales, followed by a walk to Salvador Perez to set up bases loaded with nobody out where hardly ever good things happen for the defense.
“I think going through the at-bat against Hosmer in pretty good shape,” Farrell said. “He’s not getting to his fastball. He throws a 3-2 slider for the walk. Morales is a darn good hitter, particularly from the right side of the plate, so the walk kind of set the tone for the inning.”
After getting a fly out to shallow left, Rodriguez departed after 98 pitches, but didn’t leave reliever Matt Barnes in the best shape as the bases were still loaded with one out and unfortunately for Barnes, he couldn’t get out of the jam — actually, he made it worse.
The first batter Barnes faced — Alcides Escobar — hit a high chopper in front of the plate that Barnes had no play on to plate the first Royals run in the inning and then came the big blow when No. 9 batter Raul Mondesi cleared the bases with a three-run triple to right-center.
And the Royals didn’t stop there.
Paulo Orlando was then hit by a pitch to set up first and third with one out. Cheslor Cuthbert followed with another high chopper that left the Red Sox with no play and saw another Royals run cross the plate. Then, Lorenzo Cain ended Barnes’ night with a single to center.
|08.28.16 at 11:34 pm ET|
Shutdown innings are something to which the Red Sox play close attention. Unfortunately for the Sox and starter Eduardo Rodriguez, the sixth inning Sunday night wasn’t a good example of one.
After scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Red Sox took a 4-2 lead. However, that lead lasted all of half an inning as they allowed eight runs in the top of the sixth and the Royals ended up routing the Red Sox, 10-4.
Kansas City took two of three in the weekend series.
Rodriguez started the sixth inning by walking Eric Hosmer. Following a double and a walk, the Royals had bases loaded with no outs and the left-hander clearly was laboring. After getting a fly out, Rodriguez left the game with the bases still loaded. Unfortunately for him, reliever Matt Barnes couldn’t bail him out.
In fact, he did even worse.
Barnes pitched to five batters and didn’t record an out. He finished by allowing five runs on three hits with a hit batsman. The big blow was a bases-clearing triple from No. 9 batter Raul Mondesi. Robbie Ross Jr. eventually got out of the inning, but not before the Royals plated a season-high eight runs in the frame.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way I would have hoped,” Barnes said. “I thought I made a good pitch to [Alcides] Escobar. He hit the 30-foot chopper and didn’t have a plan on anybody. Next hitter Mondesi, he jumped a first-pitch heater, and I went back and looked and I thought the pitch was to him maybe not a good pitch, but in the grand scheme I thought it was on the outer corner of the plate. Jumped a first-pitch heater. Let a couple of balls go. Didn’t think I threw terrible pitches, maybe a combination of bad luck and obviously they squared some balls up. That one is on me. I have to do a better job of securing that lead and getting out of that inning.”
In his first time back after being skipped due to hamstring tightness, Rodriguez finished the night going 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on four hits while walking four and striking out one. The four walks tied a season high.
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