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Closing Time: Xander Bogaerts’ clutch bases-clearing single leads Red Sox over Marlins

07.07.15 at 9:55 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts' clutch two-out single in the seventh inning led the Red Sox over the Marlins. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts’ clutch two-out single in the seventh inning led the Red Sox over the Marlins. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Facing arguably the five biggest games of the season leading into the All-Star break, the Red Sox kicked those games off in style.

Trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Red Sox scored three times to take a 4-3 lead and held on for the win over the Marlins in the first game of a two-game series. It was their third straight win and they now have won eight of their last 11.

Stepping to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh against odd-throwing reliever Carter Capps, Xander Bogaerts fouled off multiple pitches and worked a full count before lining a single to right center field, which scored all three runners who were off with the pitch for what proved to be the game-winning hit. Per Elias Sports, it was the first three-run single by a Red Sox hitter since Gary Allenson in 1982.

Bogaerts came into the at-bat the Red Sox‘ best hitter with runners in scoring position, hitting .379, the fourth-best mark in the American League. The runs were unearned as Mookie Betts was able to reach on an error earlier in the frame.

“Right man, right spot,” manager John Farrell said afterward. “Against a power arm with a very unorthodox delivery, who has been dominant in his time in the big leagues here with them. But, to put up an eight-pitch at-bat like he did, fought off a number of fastballs. The key to me in that spot was we get to a 3-2 count and Mookie has a chance to be on the move. That’s why we’re able to score three runs on a base hit. Like I said, right man, right spot for Xander.”

Junichi Tazawa threw 1 1/3 perfect innings and Koji Uehara came on for a perfect ninth to earn the save.

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Xander Bogaerts hopes Red Sox fans get out the vote for final All-Star spot

07.07.15 at 8:23 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts would love to be an All-Star, but now it’s in the hands of the fans.

Bogaerts is a candidate for the final vote after Royals manager Ned Yost made utilityman Brock Holt the team’s lone All-Star.

“It’s been an honor to be mentioned in that category in the Final Vote,” Bogaerts said on Tuesday. “I’m definitely happy for Brock, good teammate, good friend of mine. We’ll see what happens. The main focus right now is just helping the team win. We’ve got a huge homestand right now with [the Marlins], especially the Yankees coming in. Just trying to keep focused right there.

“At least I have another chance. It’s not that I’m completely out. I have a chance with the Final Vote. Hopefully me and Brock can see each other over there. It would be fun.”

Bogaerts has had an All-Star-caliber season, entering Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins hitting .302 with three homers and 37 RBIs, while also playing an excellent defensive shortstop.

If he’s going to win the Final Vote, it’s going to take a lot of online voting from Red Sox fans, because he’s facing stiff competition: Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.

“Great guys,” Bogaerts said. “Guys that play pretty good baseball and have been having a great season also this year. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure.”

Slumping Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli: ‘I wake up every day thinking today is the day’

07.07.15 at 7:37 pm ET
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Mike Napoli isn’t giving up, but the clock is ticking on his Red Sox career.

The slumping first baseman was once again benched on Tuesday night, this time in favor of Triple A call-up Travis Shaw. Napoli is hitting just .192 and hasn’t started since Saturday (he finished Sunday’s win over the Astros as a defensive replacement).

He spent time before Tuesday’s game in the cage with hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez. He’s confident he’ll find a way to regain his form.

“I wake up every day thinking, ‘Today is the day,'” Napoli said. “I’m a confident person. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know I’m one swing away from feeling what I need to feel. I’m confident.”

Slumps are nothing new to Napoli, a notoriously streaky hitter who was hitting just .221 at the start of July in 2011 before finishing the season at .320, thanks to a .378 second half.

“I’ve been here before,” Napoli said. “It’s been a tough first half, but I still have confidence that I’m a good baseball player and I’ll come out of it. I’m going to put in the work to get out of this thing.”

Napoli can’t figure out where things have gone wrong. He underwent offseason surgery to cure him of his sleep apnea, and able to sleep for the first time in his career, he put together a monster spring training. But it hasn’t carried over into the season.

“I think that’€™s the frustrating part, where I feel so good,” Napoli said. “I’m healthy, I’m sleeping well. That’€™s the frustrating part. I’m putting in work. I’ve probably put in more work this year than I ever have in my career because I’m not tired. I don’t know. I’m going to just keep grinding. When I get my opportunity, I’ll try to make the best out of it.”

Napoli is focusing on getting on top of the ball and staying in the middle of the field. He’ll bide his time and do his early work until he gets a chance to reclaim his job.

Asked if he feels like time is running out, he shook his head.

“I don’t know. No,” he said. “I come here every day, put in the work. You never know in this business. I’m going to make the best of my opportunity when I get my chance and try to help us win.”

Red Sox pregame notes: Mike Napoli’s off field work on hitting at some point ‘has got to be put back on the field’

07.07.15 at 5:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox are remaining patient with first baseman Mike Napoli, but at some point that patience will need to result in him performing on the field.

Napoli is currently batting .168 since June 1 with just two home runs and eight RBIs, while striking out 35 times in 113 plate appearances. After a 1-for-17 most recent stretch, he was given the day off Sunday with David Ortiz playing first base and will be off again Tuesday as recalled first/third baseman Travis Shaw gets the nod at first, giving Napoli a chance to work on regaining his confidence.

“[He will] continue to work through the challenges he’s finding himself in right now,” manager John Farrell said. “The work ethic is there. He’s trying to gain some comfort at the plate and that is going to come through work and repetition and working with (hitting coach) Chili [Davis], which he’s done early — been here on off days — and will continue to work through it to right its self. At some point, that work has got to be put back on the field with an opportunity to play its self out. For the time being, we’re giving him the chance to work through some things.”

In the meantime, the Red Sox are working on different lineups without Napoli. On Sunday, Ortiz played first and Hanley Ramirez served as the designated hitter in the team’s 5-4, comeback win over the Astros. Tuesday, Shaw will get his chance to show what he can do.

While Sunday it seemed like Ortiz playing first base was just a one time thing, it could happen again, especially with Thursday being an off day and the All-Star break coming after the weekend series with the Yankees.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of thought,” Farrell said of Ortiz playing first base again. “The way the schedule works out it gives David a day of recovery if we do choose to do that. I do know this: that was a deep lineup. I think it was reflective in the number of quality at-bats up and down the lineup, it gives us a chance to have [Alejandro] De Aza in the outfield. So all those things are being discussed and certainly available to us. We’ll approach that tomorrow if that exists.”

If Napoli’s struggles continue and the team can find a suitable lineup in his absence, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him either traded or DFA’d as the trade deadline nears.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

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Red Sox lineup: Mike Napoli out again vs. Marlins, Travis Shaw starts at first base

07.07.15 at 5:02 pm ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

Right-hander Steven Wright was optioned to Pawtucket after Justin Masterson was shifted to the bullpen, allowing the Red Sox to promote infielder Travis Shaw to the big club for Tuesday’s series opener with the Marlins.

Shaw will play first base and bat eighth in the order Tuesday, as Mike Napoli is out of the lineup again.

Shane Victorino will also get another start in right field for his third game back with the Red Sox since returning from the disabled list and David Ortiz will serve as the designated hitter after his outing at first base on Sunday.

Ryan Hanigan will start behind the plate for Wade Miley.

For more about the pitching matchups, click here.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Mookie Betts, CF
Brock Holt, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, LF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Shane Victorino, RF
Travis Shaw, 1B
Ryan Hanigan, C
Wade Miley, LHP

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Xander Bogaerts one year removed from life as third baseman: ‘I just had to live with it’

07.07.15 at 10:54 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts is officially a shortstop, and judging by 2015 returns it appears that’€™s the way it’€™s going to stay for a long time.

He has played well enough to be a candidate for the All-Star Game’€™s Final Vote, leading all American League shortstops in hits, doubles, RBI, slugging percentage, times on base and Wins Above Replacement.

A year ago, what Bogaerts was identified as was a question mark.

That was because, thanks to the midseason acquisition of Stephen Drew, the only existence he had ever known (except for a short postseason run) ‘€“ that of a shortstop ‘€“ was being stripped from him.

What a difference 365 days makes.

“Yeah, that was the toughest part for me, but I just had to live with it,” Bogaerts said when he was moved from shortstop to third base for the final four months of the season. “I’€™m just here to help the team win, and obviously that was what the team thought was best.”

As it turned out, it wasn’€™t best for anybody.

Bogaerts went on to play 44 games at third base, hitting just .182 with a .517 OPS while at the position. In those contests he manned third, the Red Sox went just 35-54.

“I just felt the comfort level was never the same,” Bogaerts said. “That said, I just had to play that way and I was blessed to have a chance to play every day.”

Two important things did unfold for the 22 year old, leading to his current success. First, he finished 2014 with confidence, hitting .313 with an .806 OPS in September.

“I finished the season on a good note,” Bogaerts remembered. “That was important.”

Then he made the commitment to attending EXOS (former Athletes Performance) in Phoenix for the offseason, resulting in an increased quickness and overall improved confidence in his physical capabilities.

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Red Sox-Marlins series preview

07.07.15 at 8:42 am ET
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Ichiro Suzuki and the Marlins are headed nowhere fast. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Ichiro Suzuki and the Marlins are headed nowhere fast, struggling offensively since star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton broke a bone in his hand last month. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

The Red Sox are reaching a critical point in their season going into their series with the Marlins. Winners of six of their last eight, the Red Sox are 39-45, but just six games out of first place in the AL East. A two-game sweep of the Marlins could prompt a buying mentality leading up to the trade deadline. Meanwhile, two losses could spell the white flag.

Coming off of three consecutive series wins, including a crucial two-of-three over the AL-leading Astros, the Red Sox appear to be right on the cusp of contention in the division. And with a three-game set against the first-place Yankees on the horizon, the Sox have the potential to make a huge leap before the All-Star break.

“It’s good, man,” David Ortiz said after 12-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays last Thursday. “We haven’t been able to play consistently good, you know? If we finish the first half of the season playing the way we have lately, it’ll give you hope for the second half, especially when you’re in a division where there’s not too many games apart. We played the worst the first couple months of the season and we’re still six, seven games away. If we start playing better, it’ll give you hope.”

The Red Sox have scored at least five runs in each of their last four games leading to a 3-1 record. Over the last seven days, they have slashed a hefty .277/.344/.463, good for the fifth best OPS in the MLB. During this stretch, they have slugged the majors’ third-most extra-base hits.

Though the Sox rotation has struggled to say the least, the hurlers have begun to rebound. Over the last month, their ERA does not look pretty, sitting at 4.88. However, they sport a 3.49 FIP and a league-high .359 BABIP during this period, indicating they have fallen prone to some bad luck of late. Additionally, the starters’ 2.8 WAR ranks in the top third of the MLB.

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Read More: Christian Yelich, David Ortiz, Dee Gordon, giancarlo stanton

Tuesday Red Sox Farm Report: Brian Johnson proves healthy, but unlucky; Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis homer for Greenville

07.07.15 at 8:23 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (38-48): L, 3-2, at Syracuse (Nationals)

— LHP Brian Johnson (Boston’€™s No. 6 prospect at MLB.com), making his first start since being removed due to illness on June 29 after throwing five pitches, took the loss (8-6, 2.73 ERA) despite allowing just two unlucky earned runs over five innings.

With two outs in the second inning, PawSox second baseman Jonathan Roof lost an easy pop fly in the afternoon sun and the batter reached as the ball fell on the infield dirt on what was ruled a base hit. The next batter connected on a two-run double over the head of left fielder Carlos Peguero and Syracuse took a 2-0 lead.

Johnson, 24, retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced before being lifted after 87 pitches (54 strikes), finishing with five hits and two walks allowed while striking out five. The 6-foot-4 Johnson, drafted by Boston with the 31st pick of the 2012 draft, is among the International League leaders in wins (second), strikeouts (second), ERA (sixth), and WHIP (first).

— The struggles for LHP Edwin Escobar (Boston’€™s No. 17 prospect at MLB.com) continued, as the 23-year-old surrendered what would eventually prove the decisive run in the sixth inning. Escobar allowed a double, hit a batter, walked a batter, and then hit another to force in a run. Escobar was then pulled for Noe Ramirez, who escaped the jam and finished with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Escobar was acquired by Boston last summer as part of the return from the San Francisco Giants in the Jake Peavy trade. In seven outings this year for the PawSox since coming off the DL, Escobar has allowed 13 runs in 9 1/3 innings (12.54 ERA).

— Pawtucket dropped their ninth straight game, a span over which they’€™ve scored just 13 total runs. The offense struggled again on Monday, with the PawSox managing just two runs on five hits, four of them singles. In the sixth, a leadoff Roof single and stolen base led to an RBI groundout by DH Rusney Castillo. In the eighth, a Roof double set up shortstop Mike Miller in scoring position and rehabbing right fielder Daniel Nava used another groundout to bring a runner home.

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Marlins matchups: Wade Miley vs. Dan Haren

07.07.15 at 8:19 am ET
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Wade Miley

Wade Miley

In a battle of former Diamondbacks, Wade Miley and Dan Haren will square off Tuesday night as the Red Sox and Marlins try to get back into their respective division races.

Miley, who spent the first four years of his career in Arizona, has righted the ship since a rocky beginning to the season. Over his last four starts, he is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA and just one home run allowed.

The southpaw has gone 8-7 on the year with a 4.53 ERA and a 0.8 HR/9 ratio, his lowest mark since his All-Star campaign of 2012. He also maintains a 4.10 FIP, indicating that he has pitched better than his standard numbers suggest. However, Miley is giving up baserunners at the highest rate since his rookie season as he owns a 1.44 WHIP.

In his latest start against the Blue Jays last Thursday, Miley did not pitch his best, but the offense still bailed him out. The 28-year-old lasted just five innings, allowing four runs and tying a career worst with seven walks. Fortunately for the Louisiana native, the Red Sox brought their big sticks to the ballpark. They knocked out Blue Jays starter Matt Boyd before he could record an out and went on to earn Miley the victory in a 12-6 drubbing.

“Wade turned in what I would consider a blue-collar night,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He didn’t have much command, anywhere consistent to where he’s been, but found a way to make some big pitches.”

Miley cannot expect the same kind of run support vs. Haren, one of the strongest veteran pitchers in the majors.

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Former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester records first career hit with Cubs

07.06.15 at 10:11 pm ET
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Jon Lester lost two no-hit bids on Monday night against the Cardinals, and one of them has been a long time coming.

In the second inning against former teammate John Lackey, Lester lined an infield single off of Lackey’s shin, legging out the first hit of his career.

Lester had started his career 0-for-66 (with another 0-for-5 in the World Series) before he finally ended his record run of futility. It was the longest hitless streak to start a career in big league history.

Lester had another no-hit bid end in the seventh when Jhonny Peralta lined a single off the glove of third baseman Kris Bryant with one out. A Bryant error extended the inning, and the Cardinals went on to score two runs to take a 2-0 lead in support of Lackey.

Win or lose, at least Lester doesn’t have to worry about getting that first hit anymore.

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