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Red Sox concerned with Indians’ running game, which could help decide 2nd catcher for playoffs

10.01.16 at 5:29 pm ET
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Could Christian Vazquez be the Red Sox' second catcher in the postseason? (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Could Christian Vazquez be the Red Sox’ second catcher in the postseason? (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Going into Saturday, the Indians have stolen 132 bases this season as a team, which are the most in the American League and it’s been noticed by the Red Sox — the team they will face in the ALDS starting Thursday.

The Red Sox’ second catcher position backing up Sandy Leon remains up for grabs with it coming down to Ryan Hanigan and Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez is starting Saturday catching Eduardo Rodriguez, which may be a sign he could have the inside track for the spot.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was asked if he’s looking for anything in particular when it comes to deciding on a second catcher?

“Just making sure that everybody has recent game activity more than anything,” Farrell said. “We do know this, with Cleveland their running game is a major component to their offense. Controlling that is what we’ll get into more as a team as we prepare for that first round. All things being considered, the defensive capabilities of the guy behind the plate, which we’re confident in all three, you start to weigh that a little bit more heavily.”

Hanigan has started just one game since Sept. 13 and that was Thursday in New York when Henry Owens got the start the night after the Red Sox clinched the AL East. While Vazquez has started just once in the month of September, it’s worth noting it was Rodriguez’s last start against Tampa — a sign Farrell could be looking to get the two on the same page for the postseason.

Additionally, if Farrell does go by which catcher can control the running game better, it’s clearly Vazquez, who is most known for his defensive ability. This season Vazquez has thrown out 36.4 percent (8-of-22) of runners trying to steal against him, while Hanigan has thrown out 28 percent (7-of-25). For their careers, Vazquez has thrown out 45 percent of potential base stealer’s, while Hanigan has thrown out 37 percent of them.

Both players are below average at the plate with Vazquez hitting .225 this season and Hanigan .171, so it’s not like offense is a major factor for either of them.

Playoff baseball is all about the little things, which is why it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Vazquez make the playoff roster over Hanigan.

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. J.A. Happ

10.01.16 at 3:19 pm ET
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For the penultimate game of the regular season, the Red Sox will send out Eduardo Rodriguez to face Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ.

Rodriguez is 3-7 with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP in 19 starts. He has yet to win a game at Fenway this season, but since being recalled from Pawtucket in July the 23-year-old Venezuelan has posted a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts. Rodriguez last pitched on Sunday, throwing 5 1/3 innings and allowing one run, three hits and two walks with an astonishing 13 strikeouts, which tied a career high, in a 3-2 win over the Rays.

Against Toronto, Rodriguez is 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA and a 1.343 WHIP in four starts. This season against the Jays he is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.114 WHIP in two starts. The southpaw last saw the Blue Jays on Sept. 10. He went six innings, giving up three runs (two earned), four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in Boston’s 3-2 loss.

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Another example why all these David Ortiz heroics don’t happen by accident

10.01.16 at 12:25 am ET
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We would love to say the emotion of the moment lifted the ball out over the right field fence. That this was David Ortiz’s tip of the chapeau to all the fans who came to kick off the three-day Papipalooza.

If Ortiz was to sit out the final two regular season games, the designated hitter offered plenty of regular season punctuation thanks to his game-winning, eighth inning two-run homer to lead the Red Sox to their 5-3 win over the Blue Jays.

But what this at-bat against Brett Cecil should have reminded us of is one of the chief reasons these sort of things have always followed around the 40-year-old.

His production is a product of his preparation.

“Sometimes on 0-0 he’ll just stand there with the bat on his shoulder and never have even thought about swinging, and then he’ll swing. He does a really good job of knowing what that pitcher is trying to do with him depending on the situation, the count, whoever is on base, whoever is behind him,” said Red Sox pitcher David Price. “As good as he is swinging the baseball bat, he’s probably even more intelligent than that.”

This time, it was Cecil who Ortiz dissected.

After three straight curveballs, the Sox’ designated hitter sold out on Cecil’s front-door sinker. The front leg took was sent toward the right field line, clearing out his hips just in time to lay into the lefty’s 92 mph sinker.

“He was just saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking for one pitch, I got it, and I didn’t miss it. That guy gives me a pitch to hit every time and I miss it. I didn’t miss it this time,'” said Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis.

“Last time I faced him, he was throwing me breaking ball, breaking ball and then finishing me off hard,” Ortiz said. “Cecil has a lot of that good breaking ball and that good fastball at 94. You can’t just be thinking of both. He’s got to give me something and he threw me a good fastball.”

The two were no strangers to each other, with Ortiz having just 6 hits in 31 at-bats (.194) against Cecil. But the DH was due, having not managed a hit against Toronto lefty pitchers in any of his last five at-bats.

“That’s what good hitters do,” Davis said. “Good hitters are stubborn hitters, and you understand one thing when you go up to the plate — I’ve got an idea of what I want to do up there. I know what you’re going to try to do, but I have an idea of what I want to do. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I’m right, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking in an area. If you come in that area — fastball, curveball, whatever — with the right pitch height, I’m going to put an A-swing on it. That’s all you really ask for as a good hitter — a pitch in your areas, pre-two strikes, and put an A-swing on it.”

And Ortiz put on that “A-swing,” he now has 38 homers with 127 RBIs, while adding another example of what has allowed for outfield portraits, light tower banners and three-day celebrations.

“I’m not amazed by how well he hits,” Davis said. “I’m a little saddened in the fact that he’s retiring. He’s such a good hitter, such a smart hitter, that you wonder, when you put up those kind of numbers, he’s got to really be ready to go. To go out the way he’s going out is special, and it’s special to be around. I’m glad to be here to see it. He’s a superb hitter. I forgot who he said he was talking to, it might have been the catcher, who said, ‘Why are you so good?’ He looked at him and said, ‘I used to be better when I was younger.’ That’s the type of player he is. He’ll probably hit when he’s 80 years old, sad to say. He might make a comeback when he’s 80.”

David Ortiz leaves John Farrell speechless with latest big moment in win over Blue Jays

10.01.16 at 12:15 am ET
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David Ortiz hit his 38th homer of the year Friday night against the Blue Jays. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz hit his 38th homer of the year Friday night against the Blue Jays. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

It’s been a grind for 40-year-old David Ortiz.

As his final regular season comes to a close, the designated hitter has been asked to do a lot away from the field starting with all the pregame ceremonies honoring him, which he admitted prior to Friday’s game have taken their toll on him, but time and time he’s produced on the field.

With the game tied at three in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays and going up against left-hander Brett Cecil, Ortiz hit a two-run home run down the right field, which proved to be the game-winner in the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays.

The Sox entered the seventh inning trailing 3-1 and the win also snapped a three-game losing streak.

Friday marked the first game of a weekend-long celebration of Ortiz at Fenway Park for his career with the Red Sox and the home run couldn’t have come at a better time.

“On a night that begins a weekend celebration, I don’t think you could write a script any better for what David did here tonight offensively,” manager John Farrell said.

“In a 2-1 count against Cecil, who had some decent success against him, turned this place upside down given the time of the game, what was needed,” Farrell added. “Almost a storybook night for David Ortiz.”

The home run was Ortiz’s 38th of the season and his 16th go-ahead homer of the year. It was also his 39th career go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later.

“Nights like tonight, it almost leaves you speechless,” Farrell said. “Given the career he’s had, the number of home runs hit from the seventh inning on in ballgames in big moments, tonight was right there with them.”

Despite all the great moments Ortiz has provided in his last season, he hasn’t yet had time to marvel at what he’s doing.

“It is what it is,” Ortiz said. “You work extremely hard every day to get better. It’s working out pretty good.”

The designated hitter has 33 go-ahead RBIs this season, which are the most by a Red Sox hitter since he drove in 40 such runs in 2006. His 127 RBIs are also the most by a Red Sox player since that 2006 season.

Ortiz is now just two home runs away from hitting 40 home runs at the age of 40.

“What can I tell you, pretty good season,” Ortiz said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s all gravy.”

Read More: David Ortiz, John Farrell,

Red Sox officially will take on Indians in ALDS

09.30.16 at 11:40 pm ET
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It’s official, the Red Sox and Indians will meet in the ALDS.

With the Rangers’ win over the Rays Friday night (as they win all tiebreakers), they have clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the American League, which means the Red Sox and Indians will play eachother and is now just a matter of who will have home field advantage.

Going into Saturday, the Red Sox have a half-game lead with a 93-67 record and two games to play, while the Indians are 92-67 with two games against the Royals this weekend and a makeup game Monday in Detroit. The Red Sox would win the tiebreaker as they won the season series, 4-2.

“We kind of anticipated this might be the way it shakes out,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Obviously a very good team. We’ll have time to review them more in-depth as typically the case when we get ready for postseason. Still, we’re looking forward to these final two games here.”

“We’ve just got to play well,” said David Ortiz. “They’ve got a good ball club and when you’re in the playoffs, that means you did something special in the regular season. You’ve got to play.”

The ALDS schedule is as follows, with the times and places still to be determined.

Game 1 Thurs. October 6
Game 2 Fri. October 7
Game 3 Sun. October 9
Game 4 Mon. October 10*
Game 5 Wed. October 12*
*if necessary

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Closing Time: David Ortiz hits 2-run homer in 7th inning to snap tie, give Red Sox win over Blue Jays

09.30.16 at 11:00 pm ET
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David Ortiz's two-run homer in the seventh inning proved to be the game-winner in the Red Sox' win over the Jays (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz’s two-run homer in the seventh inning proved to be the game-winner in the Red Sox’ win over the Jays (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

You couldn’t have scripted it any better.

In the first game of the final series of the regular season dedicated to honoring David Ortiz in his final season, he hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to snap a 3-3 tie and give the Red Sox a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.

With the win, the Red Sox remain half a game ahead of the Indians for the No. 2 seed in the American League and hold the tiebreaker as well.

For Ortiz, it marked the 39th time he’s hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later with 36 of them coming with the Red Sox.

“On a night that begins a weekend celebration, I don’t think you could write a script any better for what David did here tonight offensively,” manager John Farrell said. “A long at-bat in the first inning and takes a pitch on the outside of the plate from [Marco] Estrada for a RBI single. And then in a 2-1 count against Cecil, who had some decent success against him, turned this place upside down given the time of the game, what was needed. Almost a storybook night for David Ortiz.”

Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, the Red Sox scored four times to take the lead. Andrew Benintendi led the inning off with a double and then scored on a Dustin Pedroia tapper in front of the plate as Russell Martin’s throw got past first baseman Justin Smoak and stuck in the tarp.

After a Brock Holt ground out, Mookie Betts tied the game with a RBI single up the middle. The Blue Jays then brought in left-hander Brett Cecil to face Ortiz and he made them pay.

“Focus man,” Ortiz said. “Just want to go out there and do something when I step up to the plate. Be patient and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Toronto threatened against Koji Uehara in the eighth with runners on second and third with one out, but he was able to get out of it, retiring Josh Donaldson for the final out of the frame. After his tough outing in New York Wednesday night, it wasn’t the smoothest of ninth innings after walking two, but he got the save.

With his scoreless seventh inning, Brad Ziegler picked up the win.

The Red Sox led 1-0 until the fifth inning and things unraveled a bit for starter Rick Porcello. It started with a Devon Travis double off the Monster then an infield single and a Donaldson sacrifice fly to tie the game at one. Porcello was one out from getting out of the inning, but Jose Bautista crushed a two-run home run over the Monster into a stiff wind and mist.

Porcello wasn’t at his best as he went six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, while walking two and striking out six. For anyone else this would be considered a decent start, but the right-hander came into the game with a 13-1 record at Fenway Park this year and a 2.88 ERA.

“I thought he’s been throwing the ball as he’s been so many times out for us,” Farrell said.

Ortiz also got the Red Sox on the board with a two-out RBI single to left field in the first inning.

Closing Time note

By going 3-for-5, Pedroia now has 201 hits on the season. It is his second career 200-hit season, the other being his MVP year in 2008.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

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What is David Ortiz’s favorite Fenway Park at-bat of all-time?

09.30.16 at 6:42 pm ET
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David Ortiz

David Ortiz

David Ortiz has had a lot of at-bats at Fenway Park over the years — 3,654 in the regular season going into the weekend to be exact.

Before Friday’s game, Ortiz was asked what his favorite was and it wasn’t even one of the 3,654, as it came in the postseason.

“I have a lot of good at-bats here at Fenway, I’m not going to lie to you,” Ortiz said with a smile. “But I definitely got to go back to 2004, man, those walk-offs. That put us back on track. We used the opportunity to go back to New York and finish them off over there and win that World Series that everybody was expecting for the past 86 years at the time.”

The game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS off Paul Quantrill was brought up and Ortiz said that was one of the ones he will never forget.

“I always look at that at-bat like it was yesterday,” Ortiz said. “When I saw Quantrill coming in, I’m like, he’s coming with a front-door sinker. He threw it to me, and I was ready. Your mindset — when it comes down to his game, you can’t just play this game with an empty mind. I feel, as a player, whatever you do on the field, when you do it not thinking about it, the only advantage we have as a player is those two seconds to think about things before they happen. After that, you’re on your own. If your mind is not in it, whoever is watching from the outside, you can tell. Me, I can tell most of the time when a player wasn’t ready for whatever happened.

“But you also can tell when the players was ready, too. You can’t play the game thinking about something else. You’ve got to be 100 percent in it, otherwise you’re not going to see the results, and I have been able to keep up with it.”

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David Ortiz discusses Hall of Fame chances: ‘I’m super proud of what I have done’

09.30.16 at 6:24 pm ET
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David Ortiz said he hasn't given his Hall of Fame chances much thought. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz said more Dominican Republic players will get into the Hall of Fame in coming years. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Although his career isn’t completely over, it’s getting time to start seriously thinking about David Ortiz’s chances of making the Hall of Fame.

As it stands now, there is one designated hitter — Frank Thomas — and two players from Dominican Republic — Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal — in Cooperstown, but Ortiz acknowledges that soon will be changing, especially when it comes to Dominican Republic players.

“We’ve got plenty coming. We’ve got plenty,” Ortiz said. “We’ve got Adrian Beltre. I think that guy should be in the Hall of Fame once he’s done with his career. We’ve got Albert Pujols. If he retired tomorrow, he’d be in the Hall of Fame. We’ve got Vladi [Vladimir Guerrero]. He’s going to be in the voting next year, ’17. That guy has Hall of Fame numbers. We’ve got a lot of guys coming. Things are going to change with time. We have been able to progress when it comes down to that, no question about that. The Dominican Republic is developing so many great talents. It has become a masterpiece when it comes down to what we do right here.

“I’m very excited about it. I am one of the guys that, I look up to those guys. We always had conversations. We have a great relationship. I think we are in pretty good shape to have a few more Dominicans at some point, probably 5-10 years from now, 15 years from now, in the Hall of Fame. In my case, I always tell you guys, all I can do is keep on doing what I’m doing on the field right now.

“When it comes down to voting five years from now, I’ll probably start thinking about it a little more, sitting at home, not worrying about all those things I’m thinking about right now. All I want to do is just what I’ve been doing throughout my career, send the right message to everybody and try to do the right thing. It’s going to be up to them.”

Ortiz did admit he’s proud of his career, as he will enter the weekend with a career average of .286 with 540 home runs and 1,765 RBIs over his 20 seasons. He also noted his career story, as he came from seemingly no where.

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David Ortiz admits pregame ceremonies have been distracting, looking forward to postseason

09.30.16 at 6:03 pm ET
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David Ortiz has appreciated all the pregame ceremonies this year. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz has appreciated all the pregame ceremonies this year. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

While all the pregame ceremonies to honor David Ortiz for his final season have been nice tributes, the Red Sox’ designated hitter admitted they have been a bit distracting at times, especially in his first at-bats of games which have come mere minutes after the ceremonies.

“It has, I’m not going to lie to you,” Ortiz said. “The good thing is that we’re already in the playoffs so for the next three days I don’t really have to worry about it. The best thing about it is that once we go into the playoffs there’s not going to be all these distractions. I like to be focused when I play, especially when I play for a reason. We worked extremely hard in the regular season to get to the playoffs and I don’t want to blow that off.

“It’s not easy going through all these things and playing baseball at the same time. It can cause distraction … I am going to try to enjoy these next three days and be ready to play in the playoffs.”

Ortiz said he’s been so busy to even think about this being his last season, but admitted he never expected things to go like they have with seemingly every away team honoring him this year.

“I was telling Junior in Spanish, he asked me how I feel about everything that has been happening. Everything happened so fast, and I’m like in it, so I haven’t really had the time to drop knowledge on things,” he said. “I never expected everything to be this way. We play during the season, we get involved in everything we’ve got to do. I don’t expect anything ever, but everything is so beautiful, what has been going on.”

Added Ortiz: “Looking forward to the regular season being over with. I know we’re going to have three busy days. It is what it is. Just trying to get prepared for the playoffs and be part of what we’re trying to do during the regular season. I really appreciate all those in the organization taking their time to honor me and make me feel good about what my career has been.

“I think it was super nice what the Yankees did last night, very professional. After this weekend, we’re just going to get prepared for the playoffs.”

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Red Sox notebook: Steven Wright ruled out of first round of playoffs, John Farrell explains decision to drop Xander Bogaerts in order

09.30.16 at 5:48 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

It’s now official: when the division series starts next week, Steven Wright won’t be a part of it.

The knuckleballer threw another bullpen on Friday afternoon before the Red Sox opened their final series of the regular season against the Blue Jays, but he won’t throw again until Monday, and manager John Farrell said there’s no longer time to get him ready for the start of the playoffs.

“He wouldn’t be eligible for the first round,” Farrell said. “No, he would not.”

Wright is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in August running the bases against the Dodgers. Farrell said Friday’s bullpen was at roughly 70 percent effort.

“Now it’s just a matter of continuing to build some repetition,” Farrell said. “It’s likely he throws two more bullpens, the next being Monday, before we would look to alter his program. In other words, starting to see hitters or anything along those lines. A step in the right direction for Steven.”

In other pregame news, Farrell explained the decision to drop shortstop Xander Bogaerts to sixth in the batting order.

“I just feel like, and this isn’t centered around Xander, even though he’s the one moving down a little bit,” Farrell said. “This is to try to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively because we’ve been grinding a little bit and also to create a little balance up and down the lineup a little bit more. We’re soon to get out of an expanded roster. So maybe to create a little more balance, that’s where today’s lineup is reflective of it.”

Bogaerts has scuffled in the second half. He’s hitting .227 since Aug. 1, but he went 5-for-14 vs. the Yankees with more of his typical right-field approach.

“I think what he’s shown in the New York series has been the goal of getting him back to that approach,” Farrell said. “And when you see the line drive approach into the right-center field gap, that all-field approach is what he’s working extremely hard to get back to. He’s been pitched to extensively. I want to make it clear, Bogey being in the six-hole isn’t reflective of the second half.”

Read More: John Farrell, Red Sox Notes, steven wright, xander bogaerts
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