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Why you should have cared about this Red Sox game: Mookie Betts was good in leadoff spot

09.01.14 at 4:44 pm ET
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Mookie Betts had two hits out of the leadoff spot. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts had two hits out of the leadoff spot. (Getty Images)

(For the final month of the regular season, Closing Time will now be called “Why you should have cared,” taking into consideration the team’s increasing distance from a .500 record.)

Mookie Betts has ascended up the Red Sox batting order in recent days, and his first tango in the leadoff spot suited him well in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Rays.

Betts had hit eighth in nine straight games after his mid-August recall and was moved up to seventh for three straight before hitting second on Sunday. He found success in the leadoff spot Monday, going 2-for-5 with an RBI double and a run scored.

The run scored was a key one, as Betts, after singling in the top of the eighth with the Sox trailing down a run, was advanced to second on a groundout by Brock Holt and scored on a Yoenis Cespedes single.

Monday marked Betts’ second straight game with an RBI, as he contributed a run-scoring single in Sunday’s win over the Rays.

Here are some other things to care about as the Sox fell to 60-77:

Mike Napoli hit a solo shot to left-center in the bottom of the fourth to snap an 0-for-13 skid. With his 17th homer of the season, Napoli is closer to becoming the Sox’€™ second player with 20 home runs this season (David Ortiz leads the team with 30). Ortiz and Napoli were the only Sox hitters with 20 homers last season, which was the first time since 1997 that the Sox didn’€™t have at least three players hit 20 or more home runs.

– Though Napoli came through in the fourth, he struck out swinging to end the top of the eighth after Cespedes had tied the game.

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Red Sox being cautious with Dustin Pedroia after hit to head

09.01.14 at 1:29 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia, sidelined since displaying concussion-like symptoms after taking an elbow to the head during Saturday’s game, remained out of the lineup for Monday’s series finale with the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“A little bit better, and yet he still has some of the symptoms. So this is clearly a day-to-day thing,” manager John Farrell said of Pedroia, who was was hit by Rays baserunner Logan Forsythe on a play at second base. “We’€™re probably at least another day from any kind of exertion test or any kind of ramping up of the heart rate to see if there’€™s still some residual … but he’€™s sore where the impact took place on the side of the head. As I mentioned the other day, we’€™ll be cautious with this.”

The Red Sox next play a three-game series with the Yankees starting Tuesday, but Farrell implied that the team doesn’t expect Pedroia to play in the Bronx.

“I think if he returns at some point during the Yankees series, that’€™s optimistic,” Farrell said. “Not ruling it out. Dustin may have a different view of that right now. We still have to go through all the required steps, regardless of DL or not, and that’€™s documentation, that’€™s testing, that’€™s examination by medical people, doctors included. We’€™re in the midst of that.”

Brock Holt started a second base Monday for the second straight day. Mookie Betts was primarily a second baseman in the minors before transitioning to center field this year, but Farrell said the team has no plans to return the rookie to the infield now.

“No, because it’€™s been quite a while since Mookie has had any reps at second,” Farrell said. “He’€™s had a lot on his plate this year with defensive positioning and changes to it and don’€™t want to take him back and forth.”

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Red Sox lineup: Mookie Betts bats leadoff in series finale vs. Rays

09.01.14 at 10:44 am ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts continues his climb up the Red Sox batting order, as the rookie will bat leadoff in the finale of a four-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday afternoon.

Betts batted seventh in the first two games, then was in the No. 2 slot behind Brock Holt on Sunday, when he collected a double and an RBI single in a 3-0 victory. He’s 4-for-11 with five RBIs in the series and now is batting .259/.344/.424 on the season (85 at-bats).

Holt, who leads the American League with a .364 average in day games (43-for-118), will bat second.

In the Labor Day matinee the Sox will attempt to slow down left-hander Drew Smyly (9-10, 3.31 ERA). Smyly, acquired from the Tigers in the David Price deal at the trade deadline, has won three straight with a 0.88 ERA over that span. In his last outing, Smyly allowed one run on two hits in a 3-1 victory at division-leading Baltimore on Wednesday. That was preceded by a complete-game two-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Blue Jays.

“This is probably one of the better stretches I’ve had as a starter,” he told MLB.com.

Smyly is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against the Red Sox. David Ortiz is 4-for-7 against him.

On the hill for Boston is Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81 ERA), who allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings in the Red Sox‘ 11-7 victory in 11 innings over the Blue Jays last Tuesday. The right-hander has a 6.46 ERA over his last three starts.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, CF

Brock Holt, 2B

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Mike Napoli, DH

Allen Craig, 1B

Daniel Nava, RF

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Christian Vazquez, C

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes, Trey Ball punctuate second-half turnarounds; Javier Guerra, Rafael Devers show rare potential

09.01.14 at 9:24 am ET
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A somewhat brief synopsis of the action in the Red Sox farm system over the weekend:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET SEA DOGS: 6-2 LOSS, 10-4 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

Right-hander Matt Barnes matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

– Though right-hander Matt Barnes allowed five runs in seven innings on Saturday, he matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. The outing was the fourth straight, fifth in six starts and sixth in eight starts that the 24-year-old pitched into the seventh inning, a noteworthy development for a pitcher who had struggled with his pitch efficiency in the past.

Barnes entered the All-Star break with a 4-7 record, 5.06 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine. In eight starts after the break, however, he went 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 7.8 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explained that Barnes has been dialing back his fastball at times, working around 90-91 mph rather than reaching for velocity at all times, and it would appear that the improved second half numbers testify to the success of the approach.

– Left-hander Henry Owens allowed just three hits in six innings, though all were for extra bases (homer, two doubles) in a four-run yield. Still, the 22-year-old walked two and punched out nine, and though he’s shown some vulnerability to homers (four in 38 innings) and authored a modest 4.03 ERA since moving up to Pawtucket, he has also shown the ability to get swings and misses in volume, resulting in 10.4 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine while pitching at least six innings in five of six outings.

– Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 3-for-8 over the weekend, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 15. He’s hitting .263/.373/.544 with seven extra-base hits, nine walks and 15 strikeouts during the run. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: javier guerra, matt barnes, rafael devers, simon mercedes

Clay Buchholz (98 pitches) throws 3-hit shutout, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts provide spark in win

08.31.14 at 4:33 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz was in complete command Sunday against Tampa Bay. (Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz was in complete command Sunday against Tampa Bay. (Getty Images)

The very good Clay Buchholz showed up Sunday at Tropicana Field.

The right-hander held the Rays to three hits and recorded his second shutout of 2014 — and second complete game — in a 3-0 Red Sox win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. Buchholz, coming off a strong 8 1/3-inning effort last Monday in Toronto, followed it up Sunday by striking out six and walking none in arguably his best effort of the season.

Buchholz, who retired the final 12 batters he faced, needed just 98 pitches for his sixth career shutout.

It’s been a schizophrenic season for Buchholz, who improved to 6-8 with a 5.43 ERA.

The Red Sox suddenly have found their way on the road, winning two out of three in Toronto and following it up by winning two of three as part of the four-game series at Tampa Bay. The series wraps up Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Supporting Buchholz Sunday was rookie center fielder Mookie Betts, who went 2-for-4 and drove in a run, while Xander Bogaerts also had two hits in his second game back from the seven-day disabled list due to a concussion.

Betts and Bogaerts each doubled while Christian Vazquez singled in the first run in the third inning. Betts singled home Brock Holt in the fifth and David Ortiz singled home Betts in the eighth for insurance and to conclude the scoring on the day.

The Red Sox played the game without second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who received the day off after taking a forearm to the head early in Saturday night’s game. Pedroia still is going through the concussion testing protocol and won’t need to go on the disabled list as rosters expand to 40 players on Monday.

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Rusney Castillo era kicks off in Fort Myers

08.31.14 at 2:17 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo met with the media in Fort Myers after playing in his first professional game with the Red Sox organization Sunday. (WEEI.com photo)

Rusney Castllo (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At 12:05 p.m., Rusney Castillo officially became a little less of a mystery.

The newly signed outfielder stepped into the batters box for the Red SoxGulf Coast League team, leading off and serving as a designated hitter against the GCL Yankees, playing competitively for the first time since July 2013.

With friends, family and some curious South Florida fans lining Field 1 at the Red Sox minor league training facility, Castillo watched a Luis Cedeno fastball sail just outside the strike zone for a ball. After another ball, the right-handed hitter jumped all over a third heater from the 20-year-old Venezuelan for a line-drive single just to the right of the shortstop.

(Cedeno, a righty, entered the game with a 1.13 ERA in 40 innings, striking out 35 and walking six.)

Castillo attempted to make the most of his trip to first, attempting a steal of second on catcher Alvaro Noriega. The 19-year-old backstop got the better of the battle, however, gunning down the 5-foot-9 speedster.

“I’ve done this for a long time. it’€™s like riding a bike,” Castillo said through translator Laz Gutierrez. “I felt good and I was happy I was back out there today.”

Regarding the stolen base attempt, he added, “That’€™s my game. try to get on and try to steal. It was something I was definitely thinking about.”

Castillo’s second (and final) at-bat didn’t go as well, as he sat down on a called third strike after seeing three fastballs. The first he took a healthy cut on the initial pitch and then fouled off the second before watching strike three on the outside corner.

“I feel great. It was a good day,” he said. “I’ve wanted this day to come for a long time now. It finally got here. I feel good physically and mentally.”

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Red Sox trade Kelly Johnson, Michael Almanzar to Orioles for Jemile Weeks, Ivan De Jesus Jr.

08.30.14 at 11:12 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Following their 7-0 loss to the Rays, the Red Sox announced a trade with the Orioles.

The Sox are sending Kelly Johnson and minor leaguer Michael Almanzar to the O’s in exchange for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus.

“First of all, I mean, Boston, you can tell right away why they win and why they’re always at the top year in and year out,” said Johnson, who was saying his goodbyes in the visitors clubhouse after the loss. “Obviously a down year, but they have winners everywhere throughout the organization. I enjoyed it and definitely learned just in those regards, just watching guys with World Series rings on their fingers and how they prepare and treat the game. A lot of respect.

“Also, obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team. Had a blast last year with Tampa going to the playoffs. Obviously Boston was the best team in baseball. It’s a weird year. This, obviously, being the last team in the East that I hadn’t played with that I’m going to play with.”

For the Red Sox, perhaps the most notable piece of the deal is Weeks, who was the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft for the Athletics. The 27-year-old utility man (and brother of Milwaukee’s Richie Weeks) — whose best position is probably second base — has very limited time in the majors this season, going 3-for-11.

Weeks, a switch-hitter, hit .280 for Triple-A Norfolk, totaling 12 doubles, four triples and a home run. He will be added to the Red Sox‘ 40-man roster.

This will be the second go-round with the Red Sox for De Jesus, who had initially joined the Sox in the 2012 trade with the Dodgers. He has spent all of ’14 in Triple-A, making the International League‘s midseason All-Star Team. He hit .282 with five homers for Norfolk.

Johnson, who was dealt from the Yankees in exchange for Stephen Drew just before the non-waiver trade deadline, played in 10 games for the Red Sox, going 4-for-25. He appeared at first base, second base, third base and left field.

Almanzar spent spring training with the Orioles after having been selected by Baltimore in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason. He was returned to the Red Sox July 1, hitting .277 with five home runs for Double-A Portland. The corner infielder was originally signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic by the Red Sox for $1.5 million.

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