|07.10.14 at 1:21 pm ET|
One day after he was replaced in the eighth inning by a pinch-hitter, Xander Bogaerts is out of the Red Sox lineup for the series finale against the White Sox. Despite the presence of a left-hander (Jose Quintana) on the mound for Chicago, Stephen Drew will start at shortstop with Brock Holt at third, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Mookie Betts in right. (Here was John Farrell‘s explanation for why he replaced Bogaerts with Mike Carp in the late innings.)
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt, 3B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Mookie Betts, RF
Stephen Drew, SS
David Ross, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Jon Lester, SP
|07.10.14 at 12:07 pm ET|
Fox Sports 1 analyst and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Red Sox’ struggles and the controversy surrounding A.J. Pierzynski. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Red Sox released Pierzynski on Wednesday, and reports indicate the veteran catcher — who came to Boston with a reputation of being abrasive — had issues with teammates in the clubhouse. Kapler knows Pierzynski, having played winter league ball with him in Hawaii in the late 1990s.
“I got to know him well, and he’s a harmless individual,” Kapler said. “Big heart, sweetheart of a guy. Has the propensity to rub some folks the wrong way if things aren’t going well for him. And I think that’s the most important thing to look at here. He’s having his worst season ever offensively.”
Added Kapler: “We all have to be careful not to kick a guy on his way out, right? I think that that is the common thread, it’s the easiest thing to do. While I think there was certainly an element of clubhouse chemistry and his ability to connect with his teammates, I think the bottom line here is that he just didn’t perform. And that’s what Boston Red Sox front office members want to see — does a guy come in and perform? At some point you have to say, look, we don’t see this getting better.”
Christian Vazquez was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Pierzynski on the roster, and the young catcher showed promise in his debut Wednesday night.
“The other part of this equation — and it’s irresponsible not to illuminate it — is that the Red Sox want to see Vazquez: plus defender, a guy who can shut down a running game,” Kapler said. “[John] Farrell‘s a big fan — actually, all of baseball is a big fan. And they want to see what this guy can do behind the plate, stopping the running game.”
With Wednesday’s win, the Red Sox improved to 40-51. The defending World Series champions are 9 1/2 game behind the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Kapler said he does not hold Farrell entirely responsible for this year’s struggles.
“I think John Farrell‘s doing a fine job,” Kapler said. “Look, a lot of things have gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox. Last year they were sort of playing like superhero versions of themselves. A lot of them have sort of regressed back to the mean. You have a group of guys that — particularly in the lineup — that aren’t doing a very good job of scoring runs. And sans [Jon] Lester and [John] Lackey, there hasn’t been a whole lot of dependability in the starting rotation. The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise in a lot of different ways.
“But look, Farrell can’t walk into the batter’s box and hold the bat for these guys. And until they are scoring runs like we saw last year, it’s going to be a pretty tough road for them.”
|07.10.14 at 10:56 am ET|
Tune in to WEEI’s Trade Deadline Show, hosted by Rob Bradford and Alex Speier, on Thursday night, sponsored by Hub New England Insurance. (Click here for more information.)
Guests will include Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore and other baseball insiders.
There will be plenty of talk about the Red Sox‘ changed outlook on 2014 going forward, what that means for the trade deadline, who might get moved, the state of the team’s youth movement and where the Red Sox can turn to find power (and at what cost), among other topics.
The fun begins at 10 p.m. and runs until midnight.
|07.10.14 at 9:44 am ET|
Lester (9-7, 2.73 ERA) will make his final start with the Red Sox before going to the All-Star Game next week. The left-hander certainly has pitched like an All-Star as of late. He hasn’t allowed an earned run over 16 innings in his last two outings and has made seven quality starts in his last eight games, going 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in that span.
Lester dominated the Orioles in his most recent outing on Saturday. He gave up two unearned runs on five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over eight innings on 118 pitches.
“I feel good. My fastball command has been pretty good,” Lester said after the game. “I feel like I’ve gotten the consistency back with my cutter — which has been helpful at times, just getting it in on righties. All in all, I’m moving the ball around pretty well. I’m keeping it down, keeping the ball on the ground. The base hits today were a couple on the ground, a couple that just got over the infielders’ heads. I’ll take that all day.”
Thursday will be Lester’s second start of the season against the White Sox. He dominated Chicago with eight strong innings April 17 in a 3-1 Red Sox win. Lester limited the White Sox to one run on seven hits and had nine strikeouts. He’s 5-5 with a 4.93 ERA in 11 career starts against Chicago.
Quintana (5-7, 3.20 ERA) hasn’t gotten the results in the win-loss column, but the Colombian lefty has proven to be a reliable arm for the White Sox this season. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his 18 starts, including in the last four outings. Quintana is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA in his last four starts. He has 31 strikeouts to seven walks in that span. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.10.14 at 7:38 am ET|
THIS was what had been missing. THIS was what the Red Sox had hoped to see from their infusion of youth — a surge of energy that could alter the dynamic of a 2014 Red Sox team that so often seemed pulseless.
When the Red Sox called up Mookie Betts at the end of June, the decision reflected a desire to inject some of the dynamism that had been missing in the absence of Shane Victorino and in the aftermath of Jacoby Ellsbury‘s departure. On Wednesday, the 21-year-old underscored that he has the talent to deliver.
Betts’ 11-pitch at-bat against White Sox starter Chris Sale that concluded with a double off the scoreboard in left center was impressive enough. After all, it was just the fourth at-bat of 11 or more pitches that Sale had ever encountered, and the first to conclude with a hit.
“I can tell myself that I can compete with the best of the best,” Betts concluded of the at-bat. “It was fun. You’ve got a guy coming in at 98 from that angle, but it was tough at the same time, and that’s the part I love about it.”
Yet that hit was rendered almost incidental in documenting Betts’ feats on Wednesday.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Sale and the White Sox seemingly on cruise control towards a shutout victory, Betts tapped a ground ball and burst out of the box. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez‘s throw to first could not catch the outfielder, and then things got interesting.
Second baseman Gordon Beckham was backing up the play at first base. With Ramirez having come in on the ground ball, Betts recognized immediately that no one was at second base and took off for second, outrunning everyone for what was ruled an infield double.
“It was a big gamble, but [Sox manager John Farrell] says be aggressive the same way I’ve been my whole career. I just saw the second baseman going to back up. I knew the shortstop had to come in on it, so second base had to have been open,” said Betts. “I looked and just took a gamble and went.”
|07.10.14 at 2:02 am ET|
It was baseball’s version of poetic justice.
Out of anyone to deliver the game-winning hit in Boston’s thrilling 5-4 comeback win over the White Sox Wednesday, it was only fitting that it was carried out by the player who has served as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable campaign in 2014: Brock Holt.
With the game knotted at four runs apiece, Holt stepped into the batter’s box, looking to turn around an 0-for-4 showing and drive in an energized Daniel Nava anxiously holding at second base.
Facing a 1-2 count against White Sox reliever Javy Guerra, Holt delivered, sending a 95 mph fastball into right field, allowing Nava to cross the plate and complete a comeback that served as a refreshing reminder of the tenacious and resilient 2013 Red Sox squad.
It was the first walkoff hit of Holt’s major league career, as well as the first time that the 26-year-old infielder/outfielder drove in a go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later.
“Mookie [Betts] gets hits by the pitch, gets on base, Nava comes in — huge pinch-hit double, drives in the tying run, so my job was the easy one I guess,” Holt said. “I think Nava had the tough one. I got a fastball to hit and put a good swing on it and scorched it to get it into the outfield there and Nava scored.”
|07.10.14 at 1:53 am ET|
It’s no secret that Xander Bogaerts is slumping. A decision to pinch-hit for him in a pivotal spot in Wednesday night’s 5-4 walkoff win over the White Sox gave some insight into the depth of his struggles.
The Red Sox rallied in the eighth inning to score three runs after starter Chris Sale was taken out of the game. With his team having pulled within a run of the White Sox with two on and two out in the eighth, manager John Farrell opted to pinch-hit Mike Carp for Bogaerts in the big spot.
The matchup made more sense for a bat off the bench, with the right-hander Javy Guerra on the mound. Bogaerts is hitting just .232 with a .332 slugging percentage against same-handed pitchers this season. The move didn’t pay off, with Carp grounding out to end the Red Sox threat.
While seemingly trivial when looking at the bigger picture of the game, the decision to pinch-hit for Bogaerts signals a couple of things. It alludes to the degree that the infielder is struggling, but also makes it clear that the Red Sox are not in full-on development mode and are still competing to win games.
“I think our intent every night is to play the game to win it, and that may cause situations as you saw tonight,” Farrell said. “Fortunately we had guys step in and put up quality at-bats. But guys are understanding where we are and we haven’t conceded anything, and the bottom line is to go out and win. If that means a matchup is better suited for a guy coming off the bench, we’ll look to do that.”
This was not the first time Bogaerts had been pinch-hit for in his brief major league career. But the only other time came in his sixth major league game and third start. The situation was notably similar to Wednesday night’s: two runners on in the eighth inning with two outs. In that game, the Red Sox had knotted the score at 3. Carp was also the pinch-hitter, but rather than grounding out softly to end the inning, he singled in the go-ahead run.
Obviously the context was much different back in August of 2013. At that point, Bogaerts had just a couple of games worth of experience under his belt. The Red Sox were 2 1/2 games in first place. Bogaerts was 3-for-9 in his very limited at-bats.
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