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Closing Time: Astros snap Red Sox’ four-game win streak in extra innings

08.15.14 at 10:58 pm ET
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David Ortiz and the Red Sox saw their four-game win streak come to an end. (Getty Images)

David Ortiz and the Red Sox saw their four-game win streak come to an end. (Getty Images)

Entering Friday night, the Astros had a career record of 0-8 at Fenway Park, while the Red Sox possessed a bizarre mark of 0-14 on actor Ben Affleck‘s birthday dating back to 1997 – the same year that “Good Will Hunting” was released in theaters.

Something had to give.

In the end, the Astros were able to come away with the win, as Houston right fielder  Jake Marisnick drove in two runs on a ground-rule double in the 10th inning to give the Astros a 5-3 victory at Fenway Park. The loss snaps Boston’s brief four-game win streak.

Starter Clay Buchholz put together another encouraging outing, holding Houston to seven hits, two earned runs and two walks over seven innings while striking out nine Astros batters.

‘€œClay was outstanding once again,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game. “He was crisp, he had a very good curveball to put hitters away with, to lead guys off with strikes. A lot of strikes overall. He was very efficient.’€

Houston starter Dallas Keuchel got off to a good start against the Red Sox lineup, striking out four and only surrendering an infield single through the first three innings.

Boston was finally able to get on the board in the fourth inning, as Yoenis Cespedes laced a slider from Keuchel into the Green Monster seats for a two-run homer, giving Boston a 2-0 lead.

Houston left fielder Robbie Grossman almost single-handedly helped the Astros get back into the game, collecting an RBI single off Buchholz in the fifth before jumping on a first-pitch cutter from the Sox starter in the seventh and driving it into the right-field seats for a solo home run, knotting the game at two runs apiece.

Boston would quickly regain the lead in the bottom of the seventh, as Holt singled home Christian Vazquez to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead, but a bizarre defensive breakdown involving Xander Bogaerts, Vazquez and reliever Burke Badenhop in the eighth allowed the Astros to once again tie the score, 3-3. Vazquez, who was attempting to tag out an advancing Gregorio Petit at home, received a throwing error on the play after botching a throw to Badenhop at home, allowing Petit to cross the plate.

The game would remain tied until the top of the 10th. After Craig Breslow allowed the first three Houston batters to reach base with no outs, the Astros capitalized, as Marisnick lofted a 2-0 fastball from Junichi Tazawa into right field that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring two and giving the Astros a lead that they would not renounce.

‘€œYou can’€™t defend a bloop double on the line,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œTazawa comes in, we’€™re trying to stay away from him for the third consecutive day and being forced to use him. ‘€¦ Marisnick dumps a double just inside the line for the difference.’€

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 55-66 on the year.

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Read More: Astros, Clay Buchholz, Red Sox, Yoenis Cespedes

Red Sox pregame notes: Allen Craig to begin rehab assignment soon; David Ross making ‘adequate progress’ with plantar fascia injury

08.15.14 at 9:23 pm ET
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Allen Craig‘€™s eventual return to the Red Sox lineup draws closer and closer.

The right fielder has only played in one game with Boston after being acquired on July 31 in a trade-deadline deal with the Cardinals that send Craig and Joe Kelly to the Red Sox for John Lackey.

In his debut with the Red Sox on Aug. 1, Craig tweaked his ankle in his final at-bat while attempting to run out a grounder at first. Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Friday’s game against the Astros that he expects Craig to begin an assignment down in the minors within the next few days.

“€œWe’€™re hopeful that he goes out on a rehab assignment early this coming week -€“ possibly as early as Monday,” Farrell said. “€œHe came out of yesterday’€™s work of full BP, some running in the outfield, in good fashion. He’€™ll go through three more days of work prior to heading out.”

– Catcher David Ross, sidelined since Aug. 2 with a plantar fascia tear, continues to improve after taking part in a variety of baseball activities over the last few days.

While Farrell said that it’€™s looking more and more likely that Ross will not need to take part in a rehab assignment, he added the veteran catcher still has some big milestones to reach before he is able to return behind the dish.

“We’€™ve still got to get some steps accomplished with David,” Farrell said. “He’€™s set to catch a bullpen or two today. He started to do a little bit more running yesterday and came out of it feeling OK, so he’€™s making adequate progress as well.”

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Read More: Allen Craig, David Ross, John Farrell, Red Sox

International arms race for an ace: Anderson Espinoza, Christopher Acosta headline eight international amateur signings

08.15.14 at 7:10 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced their first eight official international amateur signings of the year, headlined by a pair of right-handed pitchers who rank among the most impressive in this year’s class. Both Anderson Espinoza and Christopher Acosta represent pitchers with the arsenals to suggest potential big league starters, with the projectability to suggest the possibility of pitchers capable of making a considerable impact in a rotation.

The Sox regard the pair so highly that they were willing to blow past their allocated pool of approximately $1.9 million to do so. The team has signed Espinoza for $1.8 million and Acosta for $1.5 million. Not only will the team pay a 100 percent tax on its overage beyond the recommended bonus pool, but it will likewise punt on the opportunity to sign any international amateurs to bonuses in excess of $300,000 in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing seasons. That decision underscores the high regard in which the Sox hold Espinoza and Acosta, along with other players who have either signed or whose agreements are expected to become official once approved by Major League Baseball in the coming months.

Anderson Espinoza: RHP, Venezuela

16 years old, 6-foot-1, 165 pounds

Considered perhaps the best 16-year-old international amateur in this year’s class, Espinoza is a strike-thrower who works fast, shows good feel for pitching and was ultra-competitive in games. He features an advanced three-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup.

Christopher Acosta: RHP, Dominican Republic

16 years old, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

Acosta was also viewed as one of the top arms in this year’s international amateur class, with a heavy 88-92 mph that has considerable movement from his low three-quarters arm slot. Like Espinoza, he’s a strike-thrower who shows a feel for how to use his three-pitch mix. His changeup grades as above average, while his slider flashes potential.

Roniel Raudes: RHP, Nicaragua

16 years old, 6-foot-1, 160 pounds

Jhosmer Cortez: RHP, Nicaragua

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 160 pounds

Raudes and Cortez are the Sox’ first signings out of Nicaragua in recent years. Both are 16 with lean, projectable frames and quick arms. Raudes has a mid-80s fastball and a very good breaking ball with formidable mound presence. Cortez has a mid-80s fastball with sink from a three-quarters arm slot; hitters simply couldn’t square up the offering.

Nicolo Clemente: RHP, Italy

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 170 pounds

Clemente is believed to represent the Sox’ first signing in Italy. He’s a six-footer with a quick arm.

Luis Colmenares: LHP, Venezuela

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 175 pounds

Colmenares came on late in the signing season, showing an 87-88 mph fastball and athleticism. While he’ll likely enter the system as a starter, his likeliest long-term projection is as a reliever.

Elwin Tejeda: 3B

16 years old, 6-foot-2, 155 pounds

A lean, athletic third baseman who shows an advanced feel for hitting, squaring the ball up and using the whole field. He has an average arm at third, good hands and solid game makeup.

Read More: anderson espinoza, christopher acosta, elwin tejeda, jhosmer cortez

Kevin Millar on MFB: Roger Clemens should be in Hall of Fame

08.15.14 at 1:00 pm ET
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Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB to discuss Roger Clemens‘ Hall of Fame candidacy and Rob Manfred being elected commissioner. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Red Sox inducted Clemens, Pedro MartinezNomar Garciaparra and Joe Castiglione into the team’s Hall of Fame Thursday. The induction of Clemens sparked debate over whether or not he deserves to be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame despite his link to performance-enhancing drugs.

Millar is one of those who would like to see Clemens inducted in Cooperstown.

“I think the Hall of Fame is a museum,” Millar said. “At the end of the day I want to take my kids to a museum and show them [Barry Bonds] and Clemens and [Sammy Sosa] and [Mark McGwire].

“Who knows is the ultimate question. We can assume, but at the end of the day nobody knows and it’s one of those places where we’re trying to say, ‘Who morally did right?’ There’s guys in there that drank alcohol, that did other things that are in the Hall of Fame. I don’t know.”

He added: “In my opinion, I just want to take my kids and show them the best players of our generation. That was an era that we lived in and there’s questions. If you want to put an asterisk, fine. But my goodness gracious, there’s some great players there, whether there’s questions or not, it’s a museum and I want to take my kids there to show them.”

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was hesitant to say whether or not he believes former Sox slugger Manny Ramirez deserves to make the team’s Hall of Fame when asked about it on Dennis & Callahan Friday morning. Millar, on the other hand, thinks Ramirez is deserves to be in both the team Hall of Fame and Cooperstown despite the sour end to his tenure in Boston. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Millar, Roger Clemens,

Red Sox minor league roundup: Manuel Margot checks all boxes on way to Salem promotion; Matt Barnes’ landmark; Simon Mercedes stays grounded

08.15.14 at 10:17 am ET
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Right-hander Matt Barnes threw a career-high eight innings on Thursday for the PawSox. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes threw a career-high eight innings on Thursday for the PawSox. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Matt Barnes tossed a career-high eight innings, scattering seven singles, walking none and striking out three. After entering the All-Star break with a 5.06 ERA in 15 outings, the 24-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts since the season resumed, lowering his ERA for the year to 4.12. His strikeout totals have remained relatively modest throughout the run, sitting at 7.0 per nine innings (up a tick from 6.9 per nine prior to the break), but his walk totals have been trimmed from 3.7 per nine innings to 2.8 per nine and hitters are managing just a .161 average against him, down from .297 before the All-Star break.

PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, in this episode of Minor Details, explained that Barnes has been working to remain compact in his delivery, rather than “getting really long and tilting his back,” in an effort to keep his arm in a higher slot with better direction to the plate. Those efforts have been paying off in recent outings for the 2011 first-rounder, with the results to show the improvement.

– Feats of Mookie: Streaking (again). Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He has three multi-hit games in his last four contests to improve his line in 42 games in Pawtucket this year to .339 with a .423 OBP and .509 slugging mark.

– First baseman Travis Shaw was 2-for-4 with his first homer since July 28, his 10th in 69 games since his promotion to Pawtucket. He now has a career-high 21 homers along with 50 extra-base hits through 116 games in Portland and Pawtucket this year, forging a .286/.358/.497 line.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 LOSS, 1-0 LOSS VS. AKRON (INDIANS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz continued his strong August run, going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk in the double header. In 12 games this month, he’s hitting .333/.408/.524 with six walks in 12 games. The walk total is double the number of free passes (3) the 22-year-old had negotiated in 43 games in June and July. He’s now hitting .289/.315/.408 for the year.

– Right-hander Justin Haley, 23, tossed six shutout innings before permitting a solo homer in the seventh for the lone run he allowed. He delivered 6 1/3 innings allowing the one run on six hits and five walks (his second straight five-walk outing after he hadn’t permitted more than three in any of his first 20 starts) while punching out three. Though Haley has walked more (12) than he’s struck out (11) in his three starts since moving up to Portland, and is winless in Double-A, he has a 0.98 ERA at the higher level, with three straight outings of at least six innings and one or no runs.

– Right-hander Luis Diaz had his third straight outing of four or more runs allowed, permitting that number in 5 2/3 innings. He has now given up 13 runs in his last three starts spanning 16 innings, a run in which he’s had nine and seven days off between starts, at a time when he’s blown past previous career innings highs. He is up to 128 1/3 innings this year after not ever throwing more than 101 innings in a season.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN, 3-1 WIN AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Right-hander Simon Mercedes tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits (all singles), walking two, punching out three and recording eight groundball outs. The six innings matched a season-high for the 22-year-old, who has been a groundball machine this year, with 52.2 percent of balls put in play against him having been on the ground (according to MLBfarm.com). The combination of that groundball rate with his 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and mix of mid-90s velocity with a changeup and curveball suggest that Mercedes has prospect status that exceeds his 3-9 record and 4.64 ERA.

– Outfielder Kendrick Perkins rebounded from a three-strikeout game in the first contest of the double header by launching his first homer in High-A in the nightcap. In 10 games with Salem, the 22-year-old is hitting .194/.242/.323 after posting a strong .296/.353/.473 line in 51 games in Greenville.

– Right-hander Heri Quevedo, in his first start of 2014 in High-A (the level where he spent nearly all of 2013), tossed five scoreless innings with seven punchouts and two walks while allowing five hits. The seven strikeouts matched his highest total in High-A, and fell one short of the career high he had four weeks ago in Lowell.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)

(BOX)

– Outfielder Manuel Margot extended his hitting streak to 13 games this month by going 1-for-4. He’s hitting .446/.492/.696 in August to boost his season line to .286/.355/.449 with 10 homers and 39 steals. According to multiple industry sources, Margot will be promoted to High-A Salem for the duration of the season.

The promotion underscores what has been an impressive developmental year. Margot has shown a fairly complete skill set, with strong center field defense (including a strong arm), a good approach that has netted a 9.0 percent walk rate and a modest 11.9 percent strikeout rate, the ability to impact the baseball for average with some power (35 extra-base hits, including eight in 13 games in August), and the ability to influence the game on the bases (his 39 steals rank 17th in the minors).

His speed/power combination as a teenager is rare. He is one of seven players in all of minor league baseball who has at least 10 homers and 30 steals. No other player in that group is younger than 21. Indeed, the Red Sox have two of the three players who are 21 or younger in all of minor league baseball (Margot and Mookie Betts) to have the 10/30 double (the other is Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez).

Margot will be the third youngest position player in the Carolina League, with his promotion underscoring the notion that he is one of the top handful of position prospects in the Red Sox system.

– Right-hander Ty Buttrey had his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings in which he allowed two hits, walked three and punched out six. In four outings since his return from the DL, the 21-year-old has a 3.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 19 2/3 innings. Prior to his hand injury, he had an 11.91 ERA with eight strikeouts and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-1 LOSS AT BROOKLYN (METS)

(BOX)

– Shortstop Mauricio Dubon had his third multi-hit game of the week, going 2-for-4 to boost his average to .297, eighth in the New York-Penn League. The 20-year-old has a .297/.322/.380 line that suggests the ability to make contact with a line drive stroke that, in tandem with his solid shortstop defense, makes him an intriguing position prospect.

– Center fielder Joseph Monge went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game since July 28. The 19-year-old is hitting .280/.345/.320 in 15 games with the Spinners since his promotion from the GCL.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: SUSPENDED (RAIN) AT GCL ORIOLES

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 13-7 WIN AT DSL REDS

(BOX)

Luis Alejandro Basabe, who entered the game with one extra-base hit in 24 games, went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and walk. He now has 23 walks and 20 strikeouts on the year, giving the 17-year-old a .421 OBP despite a .244 average.

– Catcher/third baseman Roldani Baldwin went 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk, boosting his line to .281/.362/.406.

Read More: manuel margot, matt barnes, simon mercedes,

Larry Lucchino on D&C: Tom Werner introduced idea of implementing pitch clock in commissioner presentation

08.15.14 at 10:07 am ET
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Red Sox president Larry Lucchino joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss the commissioner election results, Roger Clemens and the state of the team. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Major League Baseball owners elected Rob Manfred to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner of the sport, beating out Red Sox chairman Tom Werner by a final 30-0 vote on the sixth ballot.

“I absolutely thought there was a possibility that Tom could win it,” Lucchino said. “He was not some kind of protest candidate. He was a guy that was there full of ideas. He made, in my opinion, the best presentation of the group and had some real passionate support so I think there was indeed a possibility of him being elected.

“Having said that, it went several ballots. I think the selection that we made, as Tom said very graciously afterwards yesterday, was a very good one. [Manfred] is a very experienced person and I think he benefitted, as the league did, from the process because a lot of the issues and threats to the game, challenges facing us in the future that were articulated by Tom, I think that dialogue will lead to a better game of baseball going forward.”

Manfred has been MLB’s chief operating officer since the end of the 2013 season and has worked in the game full-time since 1998. He becomes the 10th commissioner in the history of the sport.

“Certainly he’s a different person than Bud Selig,” Lucchino said. “As a person with a different temperament, different background, it’s hard to predict specifically what will be different. But his management style will be different, the league office and commissioner’s office will be anchored in New York City. As a witness to the general notion of the debate yesterday, I think Rob will feel a mandate to bring about some change in the way baseball governs itself.

“Tom articulated five challenges facing the game and I think there was general agreement with Rob in several of them. I think you’re going to see a change in the product coming forth; I think you’re going to see a serious drive for a younger and more diverse fan base; I think you’re going to see a more modern approach to technology and a general effort to grow the game.”

One of the biggest ideas Lucchino said Werner presented in his display was the implementation of a pitch clock to help quicken the pace of play, something Manfred told USA Today after his election that he would be open to. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Larry Lucchino,

Jon Lester explains not going to highest bidder, John Henry hug

08.15.14 at 10:02 am ET
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Appearing Friday morning on “The Hill-Man Morning Show” on WAAF, former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester explained the thought process behind his recent comments to the Boston Herald regarding not necessarily taking the highest offer as a free agent in the upcoming offseason.

“The whole point behind that was ‘€¦ The question behind it was, ‘€˜Hey, are you going to be basically wooed by the highest bidder?’€™ My point behind that is that I don’€™t need to go to the highest bidder if that isn’€™t going to make me happy,” he said. “I’€™m not going to just take the highest bid, the money, the most years just because it’€™s in front of you. To me, that’€™s not how I make decisions. I make decisions based on me and my family and is this place ‘€“whether it’€™s Boston or one of the other 29 teams ‘€“ is this place going to be good for me and my family? If that’€™s the case, you leave money on the table for that decision. That being said, it may be the highest bidder you end up going to. But for me you make the informed decision of, ‘€˜Hey, is this place going to make me happy? Is this the right situation for me?’€™ And then you just go from there. If it’€™s the most years and the most money than that’€™s what it is.”

Some other topics discussed by Lester …

Any hard feelings with Red Sox?

“I understood where the starting point was. It wasn’€™t like they offered that and things stopped. The offer was closer to end of spring training so we had a little bit of time to negotiate, we used that time to the best of our ability and just couldn’€™t come up with a deal from there. No, there’€™s no animosity. There’€™s no hatred or anything like that. Those guys didn’€™t get to own the Boston Red Sox by being stupid and just starting at a point where you kind of laugh at them as far as too high or too low. They know what they’€™re doing and that’€™s how they wanted to start negotiations. But there are no hard feelings behind that.”

On comments made by Red Sox that they were going to make aggressive offer

“You can only hope at this point what they say is true, and that they want to be competitive and they want to make an offer and they want me back.”

On the hug with Red Sox principal owner John Henry upon leaving Fenway Park

“A little awkward. It was a weird gig. I was pulling out of the lot, had the truck in drive, went to move and he was just standing next to my car. I didn’€™t know where he came from, didn’€™t see him walk up. He kind of surprised me. So I get out of the truck and I thought he was just coming to shake my hand, and give me a hug and say goodbye. I kind of went in for the hug before he wanted the hug. He pulled me aside. He wanted to talk to me, which I thought was very nice. I appreciate everything he told me. Behind close doors, where there were no photographs or bystanders, we actually shook hands and had kind of a normal hug. But at that time, yeah, it was a little awkward.”

Is his cable still active in his Boston home?

“That is accurate. We’€™re still paying bills at the house”

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