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Closing Time: John Lackey sticks around for eight innings in leading Red Sox past Yankees

04.23.14 at 10:23 pm ET
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John Lackey came into Wednesday looking for a bounce back start after two straight shaky outings where the righty gave up six runs in less than five innings pitched. Sans the help of pine tar, Lackey delivered a dynamite eight inning, one-run performance, helping lift the Red Sox to a 5-1 win over the Yankees.

Through his eight innings, Lackey dominated the Yankees to the tune of a season-high eleven strikeouts on seven hits. Lackey consistently pounded the outside part of the plate with all of his pitches, throwing 76 percent (111 pitches, 84 strikes) of his pitches for strikes on the evening.

The stickiest situation all night for the hurler came in the fifth inning, when Yankees right fielder Brett Gardner started the inning off with a single and was moved to third base by Kelly Johnson‘s ground rule double. Lackey quickly responded to the hits by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury and forcing Derek Jeter to ground out to Dustin Pedroia.

The Yankees‘ lone run came in the sixth inning when Alfonso Soriano drove in Carlos Beltran on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees‘ one run is tied the lowest run total a Red Sox opponent has scored this year (The Texas Rangers also scored one run in a 5-1 win on April 7).

Lackey’s eight inning performance was incredibly important for the Red Sox bullpen, which has thrown 14.2 innings in the three games prior to tonight’s contest.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

  • Grady Sizemore started the home half of the first inning with a standup triple into the right field corner, breaking his 0-for-13 streak on the homestand. Sizemore was 1-for-26 before the three bagger. The triple was Sizemore’€™s first since June of 2011. Sizemore scored on a Dustin Pedroia single up the middle.
  • The Red Sox scored two runs in the first inning for the first time this season.
  • This time, the Red Sox got him. Michael Pineda was ejected in the middle of second inning forusing pine tar. Home plate umpire Gerry Davis ejected the tall righty after touching a shiny area on Pineda’s neck. Major League Baseball will review the incident on Thursday and former Yankees manager and current MLB Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre will determine the length of Pineda’s suspension.
  • Mike Napoli continued his strong week with an RBI double in the third inning that bounced fair down the right field line and disappeared into the stands. During the ensuing confusion, Napoli ran home because Gardner and the umpires could not find the ball. The play was subsequently ruled a ground rule double. Since April 13, Napoli is hitting .342 with a .385 on-base percentage with four doubles, three home runs and six RBI.
  • Dustin Pedroia continued his recent hot streak with two singles, two runs scored and one RBI. Since receiving a cortisone shot in his left wrist on April 15, Pedroia has hit .352 (34 at-bats) with a .450 on-base percentage with six doubles and three RBI.
  • Brock Holt turned in another strong performance with an RBI single and two walks. Since being recalled from Pawtucket on April 18, Holt is hitting .400 with four RBI with a .458 on-base percentage.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

  • Catcher A.J. Pierzynski swung through a hit-and-run that resulted in Mike Napoli being thrown out at second base.

Michael Pineda ejected from game in second inning for apparently using pine tar

04.23.14 at 8:00 pm ET
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Yankees starter Michael Pineda was ejected from his start against the Red Sox Wednesday night after home plate umpire Gerry Davis determined the pitcher had what appeared to be a significant amount of pine tar on the right side of his neck.

Davis was alerted to the substance by Red Sox manager John Farrell  with two outs and Grady Sizemore at bat, with the righty having already thrown 40 pitches and given up two first-inning runs. The umpire proceeded to come out to the mound, checking Pineda’s glove and hand before identifying the pine tar on his neck.

Cameras showed Pineda did not have the substance on his neck in the first inning.

Rule 8.02 of in the Major League Rulebook states: ‘€œThe pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.’€ (Click here for the rule.)

Pineda had come under scrutiny in his previous start against the Red Sox (April 10), possessing what appeared to be a significant amount of pine tar on his wrist. (For a recap of that incident, click here.)

Farrell had said after the previous appearance that the Red Sox didn’t notice the discoloration until it was too late, with Pineda having cleaned off the substance when coming on for the fifth inning.

Michael Phelps replaced Pineda, striking out Sizemore to end the second.

Red Sox notebook: John Farrell explains Daniel Nava’s demotion; Shane Victorino just about ready

04.23.14 at 7:32 pm ET
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Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava

While his demotion to Pawtucket was not unforeseen, Daniel Nava was still disappointed to hear after last night’€™s 9-2 loss to the Yankees that he would be taking the bus back to Triple-A.

Nava started the season off struggling, hitting .149 with two home runs and three RBI while posting a .240 on-base percentage. Nava’€™s weak performance combined with the team’€™s need to carry an extra reliever in the bullpen led to 31-year-old’€™s trip back down to the minors.

‘€œGiven the number of innings by our last five days, we needed to add another arm, some help out there,’€ Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ‘€œI felt like we needed to get Daniel Nava going again. His struggles at the plate are evident. We’re just trying to get him back to the player of confidence that we’ve seen in the past.’€

Farrell believes that Nava needed to find his approach back at the plate after the outfielder struggled to find his typically patient approach at the plate out of the gate this season.

‘€œThere needs to be more of a consistent two strike approach,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œThere were times where he tried to hit with a little bit too much power instead of that hitter of average that had occasional home runs. He also needs to hit from the right side of the plate as well.’€

Part of the reason the team sent down Nava was a result of the outfielder’€™s dip in confidence.

‘€œPlayers’ confidence ebbs and flows,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œWe’ve got to get a guy that was pivotal to our success a year ago right at the plate and it’s going to take some time to get some at-bats to do just that.’€

Farrell says that Nava was still disappointed with the demotion to Pawtucket, although the outfielder’s recent performance suggested a potential demotion.

‘€œI can’t say that it was disbelief but it was a disappointing message to deliver considering his contributions last year in combination with the need for another reliever,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œMaybe deep down, he agreed with it and knew that it was a necessity.’€

Wilson ready to step up and contribute

In response to the a thin bullpen that pitched 14.1 innings over the last three games, the Red Sox called up reliever Alex Wilson. Wilson pitched in 26 games in 2013, posting a 4.88 ERA with 22 strikeouts, 1.735 WHIP and a 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Wilson is excited for the opportunity to contribute to the major league squad.

‘€œI’m throwing the ball pretty well,’€ Wilson said. ‘€œI’m pretty comfortable. I’m in a good spot right now. It’s always great to come back and be the first guy called up this year, it feels good.’€

Farrell said the reason that team brought up Wilson stemmed from the abundance of innings the relievers have pitched over the last couple of games.

‘€œHopefully we get through tonight in good shape and our bullpen gets back to normal rest,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œWe typically don’t like to carry an eight-man bullpen so we’d like to get back to thirteen position players if we can.’€

Farrell also added that the team brought Wilson over starting pitcher Allen Webster due to the team’€™s desire not to mess with Webster’€™s starting routing in Pawtucket.

‘€œWe felt like that a two inning reliever is what we needed and that’s what Wilson’s done,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œFamiliarity of role. That’s why Alex is here.’€

While his current stint with the Red Sox is expected to be short, Wilson is just glad to have an opportunity with the team.

‘€œJust keep working every day,’€ Wilson said. ‘€œIn the long haul, I’m still playing baseball as my job so I’m glad to be doing and I’m glad to be here.’€

Victorino in Boston during scheduled off day

Outfielder Shane Victorino is inching closer every day to making his regular season debut with the Red Sox after suffering a right hamstring injury at the end of Spring Training. After going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts for Pawtucket last night against the Rochester Red Wings, Victorino was spotted in the clubhouse before the game. Farrell said that today is a scheduled off day for the 33-year-old.

‘€œPart of the plan was to have today be an off day and we weren’t going to adjust if he wasn’t active here,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œHe’ll go through the pre-game work today with us.’€

Farrell would not hint whether or not the team will activate Victorino for tomorrow’€™s game.

Red Sox lineup: Grady Sizemore leads off, Mike Carp in left field

04.23.14 at 3:57 pm ET
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With Daniel Nava having been sent down by the Red Sox on Wednesday, Mike Carp will get a start in left field against Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda. Grady Sizemore will hit leadoff — a responsibility that he is likely to part with starting Thursday, with the anticipated return of Shane Victorino from the disabled list.

Nava went 1-for-3 with a homer against Pineda earlier this year; Carp has yet to face him, while Sizemore is 0-for-3 against the hulking righty. Pineda will face off against John Lackey, who will be looking to improve upon his prior start against the Yankees in which he allowed a career-high four homers.

For complete batter vs. pitcher matchup histories, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Grady Sizemore, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Mike Carp, LF

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Brock Holt, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

John Lackey, RHP

John Farrell on Dale & Holley: Red Sox’ search for lineup stability may subside with return of Shane Victorino

04.23.14 at 3:25 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell , in his weekly interview on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, confirmed that the Sox informed Nava last night that he was being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. To listen to the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

After hitting .303 with a .385 OBP last year, Nava has struggled to a .149 average and .240 OBP.

“That’s never a fun conversation. I think he was certainly disappointed by the news he was going to be optioned back. He was a big part of this offense last year, particularly as a left-handed hitter. But we’ve got to get him back on track. The at-bats and the consistency of at-bats is not there right now as it was a year ago. There’s a need for a little bit more of a consistent two-strike approach, and he needs to go back and continue to get reps as a right-handed hitter,” said Farrell. “We feel like he’s going to contribute to this offense before the year is out. We’ve just got to get him back hitting with confidence and just the overall game played with more confidence.”

Nava will be replaced on the roster by right-hander Alex Wilson on Wednesday, but Shane Victorino is expected to return as soon as Thursday. While the 33-year-old has struggled during his minor league rehab assignment (1-for-11, an infield hit), Farrell believes that Victorino will immediately change the team’s dynamic.

“He will have an impact I think the day he walks onto the field for us. One, physically, he feels good. That’s the biggest question that we had to answer, just the ability to go back-to-back days. The durability, that is there,” said Farrell. “His defense impacts every game he plays in right field. So, first and foremost, where we’ve had some balls that have come back to bite us a little bit in right field, that will be the impact on the defensive side.

“Timing-wise at the plate, we know that will continue as he gets at-bats here at the big league level,” he added. “Saying that he’s going to step back in and he’ll be a .400 on-base guy, that’s not the expectation. But I think we miss the defense. We miss the energy that he brings, and the overall attitude he adds to the edge of this club once we take the field.”

Victorino’s return could help bring the Sox a measure of lineup stability that has been absent. The loss of Victorino — the primary occupant of the second spot in the Red Sox batting order last year — and the departure of leadoff constant Jacoby Ellsbury in free agency has left the Sox in a state of some lineup disorientation, with five different leadoff hitters and 19 different lineups — none of which has been featured more than twice.  (The lineup featured by Farrell on Wednesday will be the Sox’ 20th of the year.) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, daniel nava, Dustin Pedroia, John Farrell

Red Sox to call up right-hander Alex Wilson, option Daniel Nava

04.23.14 at 12:48 pm ET
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An industry source confirmed a report by WEEI’s Lou Merloni that, with the Red Sox pitching staff taxed by a combined 11 innings of work on Monday and Tuesday, the team will call up right-hander Alex Wilson from Triple-A Pawtucket for Wednesday night’s game. In order to make room on the roster for Wilson, Daniel Nava will be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Shane Victorino will thus wait until at least Thursday for his activation from the disabled list.

Nava, a key contributor to the Red Sox’ title run in 2013 when he hit .303 with a .385 OBP and .445 slugging mark while playing four positions, never enjoyed consistent production in the season’s first three-plus weeks this year. He hit .149 with a .240 OBP and .269 slugging mark.

‘€œWe’€™re trying to get him going offensively,’€ Sox manager John Farrell said on Tuesday. ‘€œHe’€™s probably swung the bat a little bit more earlier in counts than we’€™ve seen in the past and that might be maybe some reflection of the current level of confidence. When he’€™s squared up some balls, he hasn’€™t seen the fruits of that too much. Like all players, they go through a little bit of a peak and valley and we’€™re trying to get him out of that right now. Fundamentally I can’€™t say it’€™s any one thing that he’€™s breaking down from a swing mechanic standpoint.’€

Wilson, who made his big league debut last year, has made eight scoreless appearances in Pawtucket this year, most recently when he recorded a season-high four outs on Monday. He’s struck out nine and walked five while showing an ability to get a considerable number of outs on the ground, effectively employing the two-seamer he developed last year while favoring his injured thumb that denied him his typical power on his four-seam fastball.

Victorino completed his third rehab game on Tuesday in Triple-A Pawtucket, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He has gone 1-for-11 with an infield single during his rehab assignment.

Read More: alex wilson, daniel nava, Shane Victorino,

Red Sox minor league roundup: Rubby De La Rosa overpowering, Mookie Betts unstoppable, Manuel Margot mashes, Aaron Kurcz returns

04.23.14 at 10:55 am ET
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Rubby De La Rosa made his fourth straight dominant start in Pawtucket on Tuesday. (AP)

Rubby De La Rosa made his fourth straight dominant start in Pawtucket on Tuesday. (AP)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-5 LOSS VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– Dominance remained routine for Rubby De La Rosa. The right-hander fired another six dazzling innings, allowing one run on just three hits (all singles) while punching out seven and walking one. His control wasn’t as precise as it had been — just 53 of his 89 pitches (60 percent) found the strike zone — but he still managed to overmatch Buffalo, which couldn’t make any decent contact against him. He recorded eight outs on the ground, with a pair of double plays in the mix, and through his first four starts of the year, his performance has been the most impressive of any pitcher in the Red Sox system this year.

De La Rosa has logged at least five innings in each of his starts and has yielded no more than one run in an outing. He has walked two or fewer in all four of his starts, and now has 21 strikeouts (8.3 per nine innings) and just four walks (1.6 per nine innings) in 22 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .151 against him, with left-handed hitters experiencing only slightly less misery (.194/.256/.250) than their right-handed compatriots (.108/.150/.135). He has yet to give up a homer. Indeed, he’s given up only three extra-base hits — all doubles. He’s now recorded 56 of his 68 outs this year (82.4 percent) by strikeout or groundball.

He hasn’t just been beating his opponents. He hasn’t given them a chance. He’s shown a tremendous three-pitch mix (fastball, change, slider) that he can use to throw strikes. His pace, sometimes lethargic last year in a fashion so extreme that it raised questions about his focus, has picked up considerably this year, a sign of his growing confidence.

And so, at 25, he has made the most compelling case imaginable that he deserves a shot to start in the big leagues. He only needs to wait for the opportunity to present itself.

Shane Victorino, in the third and perhaps last game of his rehab assignment, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and he’s 1-for-11 with an infield single in Pawtucket. However, he got tested by a number of plays in right field on Tuesday. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron kurcz, manuel margot, mookie betts, rubby de la rosa
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