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Closing Time: Junichi Tazawa’s troubles continue in Red Sox’ loss to Tigers

08.08.15 at 10:19 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

With all the talk about how the Red Sox need to fix their starting rotation for next season, an equally as daunting task may be rebuilding the team’s bullpen.

The latest example of how far the Red Sox relievers have fallen came with two outs in the seventh inning Saturday night, with Junichi Tazawa facing Detroit’s Victor Martinez while trying to preserve a one-run lead.

As has been the case of late, the outcome was not good for Tazawa or the Red Sox.

The Red Sox reliever hung a split-fingered fastball to Martinez, who launched a go-ahead two-run blast into the right field seats. The hit would be the decisive blow in the Tigers’ 7-6 win over the Sox.

With the home run, Red Sox relievers had allowed opponents a .623 slugging percentage for August. Tazawa continues to exemplify the bullpen’s downturn, coming into the game having allowed a .382 batting average and 1.059 OPS against since the All-Star break.

Heading into Saturday, Red Sox relievers’ batting average against was .308 in August, with the bullpen’s ERA standing at 5.40 for the month.

The loss was made even more frustrating for the Red Sox considering they had come from behind earlier in the seventh, with David Ortiz‘s two-run single giving the visitors a lead. It was Ortiz’s third hit of the night, as he doubled in the first inning and hit his 23rd homer in the sixth.

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Read More: David Ortiz, junichi tazawa, victor martinez, wade miley

David Ortiz triggers contract for 2016

08.08.15 at 9:26 pm ET
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David Ortiz’ first-inning double Saturday night meant more than just a good start for the Red Sox. It meant $11 million for the designated hitter.

With the at-bat Ortiz reached 425 plate appearances for the season, triggering his option for the 2016 season. He is now guaranteed $11 million for ’16, with the opportunity to make more for additional plate appearances.

Ortiz’ ’16 salary will increase by $1 million each time he reaches 475, 500, 525, 575 and 600 plate appearances. At his current pace, the 39-year-old would maximize his deal, guaranteeing him $16 million for next season.

Ortiz didn’t stop with the double, going on to not only launch his 23rd home run of the season — a solo shot in the sixth inning — but gave the Red Sox the lead in the seventh with a two-run single.

“I earned it,” Ortiz told WEEI.com’s John Tomase earlier in the week when asked about the milestone. “That’s why I’m playing next year. Because I earned it.”

The DH added, “That’s the way we pretty much agreed to do things. You know me, I get greedy when it comes down to performance. I want to put up numbers. I agreed to do it that way, because if I don’t put up numbers, what would be the reason to continue playing?”

Following his final hit of the game, Ortiz’ OPS stood at .821

Saturday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Wade Miley vs. Alfredo Simon

08.08.15 at 10:40 am ET
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Wade Miley

Wade Miley

In the second leg of a three-game set at Comerica Park in Detroit, the Red Sox will trot Wade Miley to the mound Saturday to face Alfredo Simon and the Tigers.

Miley enters the contest with a record of 8-9 and a 4.55 ERA. He has a moderate 4.08 FIP to go with a 1.389 WHIP in 22 starts on the season. Opponents are hitting .261 against Miley.

In his lasting outing against the Rays on Sunday, Miley took a no-decision in a game he pitched well enough to win. The left-hander tossed 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out four. Miley, 28, left the game with a 3-2 lead, but reliever Junichi Tazawa lost the game by allowing two Rays runs in the eighth. He threw a career-high 120 pitches, 71 of which were strikes (59 percent).

“You want to be out there. It’s no fun sitting down,” Miley said postgame. “We’ve got five days before we get to go out and compete again. The longer we get to stay out there, the better. It’s never fun to come out of the game.”

Since the All-Star break, Miley has allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of his four starts, including taking a no-hitter into the seventh against the Angels in Anaheim. In the fourth start, however, he allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings to the White Sox. Even including that clunker performance, Miley’s post-break ERA is 3.55 across 25 1/3 innings pitched.

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Saturday Red Sox Farm Report: Nick Longhi HR, Michael Chavis grand slam lead Greenville to doubleheader sweep

08.08.15 at 10:28 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:

Keith Couch

Keith Couch

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (44-69): L, 5-0, vs. Syracuse (Nationals)

— Starter Keith Couch suffered the loss after allowing four earned runs on four hits and three walks in just three innings of work. He also struck out four. The right-hander has started 21 games for Pawtucket this season and has made 23 total appearances and is 4-10 with a 6.42 ERA.

— Lefty reliever Edwin Escobar also tossed three innings, giving up no runs, two hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Escobar has an 0-2 record and a 7.54 ERA in 14 games with the PawSox this season.

— The Pawtucket offense combined for just six hits — all singles — off Syracuse starter Richard Bleier, who pitched a complete game. Bleier induced 22 ground ball outs, including all three in the ninth inning, and did not walk a batter.

— Friday’€™s loss marked Pawtucket’€™s International League-leading 17th shutout loss of the year.

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Read More: Danny Rosenbaum, Keith Couch, michael chavis, nick longhi

Closing Time: Pleasure, pain for Red Sox in win over Tigers

08.07.15 at 11:03 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Up until the last out of the Red Sox‘ 7-2 road win over the Tigers on Friday night, everything was going the visitors’ way.

David Ortiz hit another home run, this one coming off Tigers lefty starter Daniel Norris. Both Rusney Castillo and Xander Bogaerts notched three-hit games, helping the Sox offense total 13 hits for the night. And Red Sox starter Joe Kelly turned in one of his best outings in quite a while.

But with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, Ian Kinsler hit a line drive back up the middle that struck Koji Uehara in the right forearm. While the closer managed to pick up the ball and fire it to first for the game’s final out, Uehara looked in excruciating pain while being escorted off the field by trainer Brad Pearson.

Following the game, Uehara confirmed to reporters he hadn’t suffered a break in his injured arm.

“I consider that my whole body is a glove once I release the ball. That happens,” Uehara told reporters through a translator. In regards to managing a throw for the final out, he said, “Once I released the ball, I didn’t have too much strength in my hand. It sort of caught me when I didn’t put too much muscle or too much strength in it. It wasn’t too much of pain.”

Uehara was forced to come into the game after reliever Justin Masterson had loaded the bases, proceeding to strike out Jose Iglesias before the Kinsler at-bat to record his 25th save.

Earning the win was Kelly, who allowed two runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two. The righty’s first six outs all came on strikeouts.

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Read More: David Ortiz, Koji Uehara,

Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli traded to Rangers

08.07.15 at 7:32 pm ET
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As was first reported by WEEI.com, Mike Napoli, one of the heroes of the Red Sox 2013 World Series championship, has been traded to the Rangers.

A source said Napoli agreed to waive his no-trade clause, which included Texas and Seattle, to facilitate the deal.

The Red Sox receive either a player to be named later or cash considerations in the deal. The Rangers will pay approximately $1.5 million of the $5 million left on Napoli‘s deal this year.

“Once Nap cleared trade waivers, we reached back out to a handful of teams that we had been in touch with prior to the deadline and that all happened within the last 48 hours or so and just happened that Texas ended up being a team that seemed like the best fit and an opportunity for him to go back to a place he’€™s familiar with and play in a role that should fit him. And play for a team that’€™s made a nice run and has a chance to do something down the stretch,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington Friday night. “Happy for Nap and obviously want to thank him for what he did for the Red Sox particularly in 2013, a huge part of our success that year and made a real impact and became a real good player on the field for us and obviously a popular player and part of that team’€™s success. So we appreciate what he did us and wish him well.”

The 33-year-old has struggled for much of the season, batting .207 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs. His defense has also taken a step back at first base. He has posted an .896 OPS since the All-Star break, however, and he brings a winning pedigree to a Rangers club that has finally found its stride to work its way back into the wild card race.

With a 4-3 victory over the Astros on Wednesday, the Rangers completed a sweep and moved a game over .500 for the first time since July 3. They began play on Friday just 2 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot.

In Napoli, they reacquire a player who had two of his best seasons in Texas, where he hit a career-high .320 in 2011 before making his only All-Star team in 2012. His most obvious path to playing time in Texas would be as the right-handed half of a first base platoon with slugger Mitch Moreland.

While it may have been time for Napoli to go, that doesn’t change what he meant to the Red Sox in 2013. An originator of the beards that took the region by storm, Napoli hit .259 with 23 homers and a career-high 92 RBIs.

He also blasted two of the most pivotal homers of the postseason — a solo shot off Justin Verlander accounted for the only run in Game 3 of the ALCS, as well as bomb to dead center off of Anibal Sanchez that started the Red Sox on their way to a 4-3 victory in Game 5.

After the Red Sox won it all, a jubilant Napoli was photographed roaming the streets of Boston shirtless in one of the enduring images of the celebration.

Cherington noted that the absence of Napoli will free up playing time for rookie Travis Shaw, although the GM suggested that neither Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval would likely see time at first base. He also introduced the possibility of another chance at the major league level for Allen Craig.

Red Sox trying to fix all-or-nothing approach of slumping left fielder Hanley Ramirez

08.07.15 at 4:51 pm ET
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On Thursday in New York, Red Sox manager John Farrell intimated that a day off could be coming for slumping left fielder Hanley Ramirez.

That day is not Friday, because Ramirez is in the starting lineup against Tigers lefty Daniel Norris in Detroit. But frankly, what ails Ramirez will probably require more than a down day to fix.

In 19 games since the All-Star break, Ramirez is hitting just .203 with two doubles, no homers, and a .451 OPS. If he’s not the worst hitter in the American League at the moment, he’s close.

The problem is simple, from the Red Sox point of view — Ramirez has abandoned the line-drive approach that made him a batting champ early in his career in favor of an all-or-nothing swing that has been filling up the “nothing” side of the ledger.

“I think there have been times his swing has gotten big,” Farrell said on Thursday. “This is something a number of us have spoken to Hanley about, trying to get some sense of the approach at the plate. He’€™s typically been such a good line drive hitter and a high number of doubles, almost 2-to-1 doubles to home runs. And yet right now that’€™s reversed.

“Whether that’€™s a mindset and approach to think about more power rather than being a contact hitter of hard line drive ability, we’€™re still trying to work at the root of that, and if that mindset has created some habits where there’€™s an attempt to loft the ball more and not be the pure hitter he’€™s been known for, that’€™s what we’€™re repeatedly working with him and trying to get back to.”

As Farrell alluded, the greatest indictment of Ramirez’s season is the fact that he has only eight doubles, 26 fewer than his average of 34, and a full 40 below his career high, which he set in 2007.

Ramirez’s second-half slump has taken its toll on his overall numbers, with his on-base percentage slipping to .300, 68 points below his lifetime average.

In retrospect, it appears that hitting 10 home runs in April did Ramirez no favors, creating a dynamic of shooting for the moon on each swing. Both Farrell and hitting coach Chili Davis have implored Ramirez to shorten his swing and regain the line-drive stroke that made him an All-Star. According to WEEI play-by-play man Joe Castiglione, who tracks such things, Ramirez has only hit the left field wall twice all season, and that’s horrific.

Fixing it won’t be easy.

“Hitters so many times are going to work on feel, they’€™re not going to necessarily take a look at the numbers and say well, the number of doubles versus number of home runs being hit are going to tell me that I’€™m doing something [wrong],” Farrell said. “They’€™re working on feel. And that’€™s what he’€™s still trying to recapture right now.”

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Red Sox lineup: Hanley Ramirez still in

08.07.15 at 4:25 pm ET
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With lefty pitcher Daniel Norris — the centerpiece of the trade which sent David Price to Toronto — going for the Tigers, the Red Sox will keep Hanley Ramirez in their lineup for the series opener in Detroit.

Ramirez has been struggling mightily since the All-Star break, hitting .203 with a .451 OPS and no home runs.

Pablo Sandoval had originally been starting the game on the bench, but after the Red Sox trade of Mike Napoli to the Rangers, he starts at third with Travis Shaw moving to first.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Joe Kelly on the mound for the visitors:

Brock Holt 2B
Rusney Castillo RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Ryan Hanigan C
Jackie Bradley CF

For all the matchups, click here.

Red Sox-Tigers series preview

08.07.15 at 9:21 am ET
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Ian Kinsler has been hot at the plate, including this walkoff home run Thursday night against the Royals. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Ian Kinsler has been hot at the plate, including launching this walkoff home run Thursday night against the Royals. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

It was another series loss for the Red Sox on Thursday night when they dropped their second of three to their rival Yankees in New York. Despite Eduardo Rodriguez managing to hold his opponents to two runs, Boston couldn’t get more than one runner in, which was pretty much the story of the series.

But with Friday comes a new series for the Sox as they head to Detroit to face the Tigers, who are sort of floating in limbo right now. Though they’re 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Royals for the division, they’re four games out of a wild card spot. They’re closer to a slot than the Sox, but it’s not entirely clear just how close.

The Red Sox scored just six runs total over the three games with New York, and while the Yankees also had a pair of games with three total runs, they began the set with a 13-3 rout over Boston. They are tied for seventh in the league for the month of August in runs scored with 30 in five games compared to the Sox’ 20 in five as well.

“Yeah, six runs in the series is difficult,” manager John Farrell said following Thursday’s loss. “We had opportunities — fifth, eighth, ninth with runners in scoring position. CC [Sabathia] threw the ball well for them, but we had plenty of opportunities to cash in there. We’ve got to find a way to generate some more runs. You’d think that would be the case with the guys in our lineup.”

Detroit isn’t necessarily doing a whole lot better, scoring 19 runs so far this month with a team batting average of .231 while the Sox bat .246, but the Tigers are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Red Sox are 4-6, and while it’s not a stark difference, Detroit enters the series coming off a walkoff win against the Royals. The Tigers aren’t currently in a playoff position and were sellers at the deadline, dealing David Price and Yoenis Cespedes to the Blue Jays and Mets respectively, but they haven’t throw in the towel yet. The possibility to make a run is still there.

“We’re still looking for that elusive roll we haven’t had since the first two weeks of the season,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Thursday’s win. “And if you can get on a roll, you just don’t know what can happen, with the way the wild card is set up, so many teams bunched together.”

The Tigers hadn’t won a series since the week prior to the All-Star break, dropping or tying each of their six sets since then, including a slate with the Red Sox from July 24-26. From returning to the break onward, Detroit has posted a bottom-third team batting average of .249 with a middle-of-the-pack 83 runs scored. The Red Sox are batting .251 with 76 runs in that same time, to put things in perspective. With seven triples in the second half, tied for fourth in the majors, and 23 home runs, which is ninth, the Tigers also have an 11th-best 61 extra-base hits.

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Read More: Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Rusney Castillo

Friday Red Sox Farm Report: William Cuevas solid in Triple-A debut; Sea Dogs’ Sam Travis has 13-game hit streak

08.07.15 at 8:27 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

William Cuevas

William Cuevas

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (44-68): L, 4-0, vs. Syracuse (Nationals)

— RHP William Cuevas made his Triple-A debut, starting and taking the loss despite a solid final line of: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO (102 pitches, 67 strikes). The 24-year-old Cuevas allowed two solo home runs in the game, in the first and sixth innings, retiring 13 of 14 in a stretch in-between before allowing back-to-back walks to batters in the fifth. Cuevas recovered to strand both runners with a strikeout to end the fifth on his signature changeup.

The 6-foot Cuevas was an Eastern League All-Star for Double-A Portland this season, posting an 8-5 record with a 3.40 ERA in 19 starts while holding opponents to a .233 average with only four home runs allowed. Cuevas struck out 91 batters and walked 41 over 95 1/3 innings.

— The PawSox offense was shut out for an International League-leading 16th time in 2015, as eight hits (including three doubles) were not enough to plate a run on a 1-for-8 night with runners in scoring position.

Left fielder Garin Cecchini (Boston’s No. 14 prospect at MLB.com) went 2-for-4 with a double from the cleanup spot of the order, giving him hits in 10 of his last 12 games as he’s raised his average from .216 to .228 over that span. The 24-year-old Cecchini was slashing just .193/.270/.294 through June, but hit .293/.366/.354 through 23 games in July and is hitting .348 (8-for-23) through six games so far in August. Selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cecchini spent the majority of 2014 with Pawtucket hitting .263 with seven home runs and 57 RBIs in 114 games before making his major league debut in an 11-game stint late last season.

— First baseman Jeff Bianchi also reached base twice Thursday, going 2-for-4, and Pawtucket got doubles from second baseman Deven Marrero (Boston’s No. 10 prospect at MLB.com) and DH Matt Spring, although Bianchi and Spring failed to capitalize on a seventh-inning situation when the PawSox had runners on second and third with no outs, popping out and grounding into a double play, respectively.

— RHP Dayan Diaz pitched two innings of relief and allowed two insurance runs to score for Syracuse in the ninth after walking two and allowing two singles. Diaz, 26, has made 21 relief appearances for the PawSox since his promotion from Portland on May 11, going 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA over 46 1/3 innings, striking out 39 and walking 23. The 5-foot-10 Colombia native has allowed runs in two of his last three outings after a span of 11 straight scoreless appearances.

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Read More: garin cecchini, kevin mcavoy, mauricio dubon, sam travis
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