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Peter Gammons on D&C: Potential trade partners show most interest in Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller

07.21.14 at 11:15 am ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ outlook and the potential scenario of Jon Lester leaving Boston in free agency. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox have made it interesting of late, winning seven of their last eight games and possibly putting a temporary halt to talk of them adopting the role of “seller” in 2014.

When asked how many games the Sox would need to win over a 10-game span in order to get back in the race, Gammons said the division’s mediocrity limits the sense of urgency.

“I would say six or seven, just because the Orioles are on the West Coast and I don’t think they’re pulling away from anyone right now with their pitching problems. That temptation of always being within distance of first place, and it’s fortunate that they’re in the worst division in baseball, because if they were in the American League West, they would already be selling. But they’re not, they’re in the American League East, where Baltimore can go lose 15 out of 25 at any time and Toronto’s pitching isn’t that good.

“They actually can keep thinking, ‘We have a chance.’ I know this: Tampa Bay really thinks it has a chance. Now their pitching has come back together again, I talked to people in Seattle who thought they were very close to a deal for Ben Zobrist and they said the Rays pulled back the last couple of days because they want to take it right down to the last 48 hours before the deadline.”

Gammons said that the Red Sox have not entertained offers for Koji Uehara, but he noted that another member of the Red Sox bullpen has been getting a lot of attention from teams across the league.

“I talked to a general manager in the market for a closer yesterday who said when he talked to Ben [Cherington] that he seemed disinclined to even discuss it. That they think they’re going to bring [Uehara] back next year and build around him and let him go pitch the ninth inning again. … I was told that, by far, the player the they’ve had the most calls on is Andrew Miller. I find it really hard to not give him the [$6 million-$7 million] that it’s going to take [to re-sign him] because that’s what the premier seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guys get, and I think he’s really close to the point where he can close.”

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Monday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: John Lackey vs. Drew Hutchison

07.21.14 at 8:52 am ET
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The Red Sox begin a four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday night when they send John Lackey to the mound against Drew Hutchison.

After three straight subpar performances, Lackey (10-6, 3.79 ERA) finished strong in his final start before the All-Star break despite the added challenge of throwing to rookie catcher Christian Vazquez for the first time. He allowed just two runs and four hits but had a season-high five walks over six innings in the Sox’ 8-3 win over the Astros on July 11.

“There’s more on my shoulders as far as calling the game and that sort of thing,” Lackey said after the game. “I’m going to have to do some of that on my own, but as far as just catching the ball — and we all know the way he can throw the ball — [Vazquez] is a weapon back there, for sure.”

Despite being in the same division, Lackey hasn’t faced the Blue Jays since April 6, 2013. That start was his first since coming back from Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his 2012 season.

The right-hander pitched in pain for some of the start against the Blue Jays as well. Lackey left in the fifth inning that night with a biceps strain that sidelined him for another three weeks. He gave up two runs on five hits and had eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings but took the loss in the game.

Lackey is 5-8 with a 5.43 ERA in 20 career starts against Toronto.

Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA) had a frustrating end to his first half of the season, finishing with two straight losses in which he failed to get out of the sixth inning. His loss against the Rays on July 12 was especially disappointing. Hutchison left the game with only three runs allowed but walked three batters in the sixth to surrender a run and load the bases before being pulled.  Read the rest of this entry »

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David Ortiz: ‘I’m about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August’

07.20.14 at 6:44 pm ET
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David Ortiz has played in 2,064 games in his career, and so it qualifies as a surprise when he arrives at a first. But in this case, the milestone was hardly one for which he’ll be seeking out any mementos.

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

On Sunday, Ortiz went 0-for-5, the 60th time in his career that he’s failed to reach base even once in a game in which he stepped to the plate five or more times. It was the 14th time that he had failed to reach base despite putting the ball in play in each of his at-bats. But the contest — which resulted in a 6-0 Red Sox win over the Royals — represented just the first time in his 17 big league seasons in which Ortiz grounded out every time he stepped into the box in a contest that saw him hit at least five times.

Thus concluded an odd start to the second segment of the season. Ortiz made contact in every trip to the plate during the three-game set — no walks, no strikeouts — but the contact he made was of an atypical sort. He went 1-for-13 in the three game series against the Royals, and made hard contact just twice — on a double to right and a flyout near the warning track in center. That aside, he had eight groundouts and three weak pop-ups.

“I think David’s in one of those little stretches right now, I think we witnessed one earlier in the season, he’s trying to get some things going. He’s been offering at some pitches early in the count, which might not be characteristic,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “But as he’s gone through these stretches, we’re confident he’ll be back as the hitter we know.” Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Time: Jon Lester does it again, this time helping Red Sox to sweep of Royals

07.20.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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David Ross celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run. (AP)

David Ross celebrates his fourth-inning two-run home run. (AP)

Things are getting at least a little interesting.

The Red Sox continued their most impressive surge of the season, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, this time beating the Royals, 6-0, for a sweep of the teams’ three-game series.

Unlike their seven-game win streak in May — in which the Sox were facing two teams in Atlanta and Tampa Bay who were playing their worst baseball of the season — this doesn’t appear to be a mirage. During the current stretch the Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined 25 runs.

While all but one of their previous six wins had seen a margin of one run, this was a rare no-doubter. Riding the arm of Jon Lester and an offensive attack that drove Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura from the game after just 4 1/3 innings, the Sox had the game in control heading into the final four frames.

The hosts scored one in the first inning, two in the third and three in the fourth to put things out of reach for the Royals, who drop below .500 (48-49).

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 46-52, with their next 13 games coming against American League East foes, starting with a four-game set in Toronto.

While the offense was fairly spread out, with Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley all claiming multiple-hit days, the star of the game had to once again be Lester.

The lefty, who come into the game having allowed either zero or one earned run to Kansas City in his previous 10 starts (1.60 ERA) against the Royals, dominated the visitors. Lester allowed just four hits and no runs while going eight innings to lower his season ERA to 2.50. He also struck out eight.

In Lester’s last seven starts he has given up just five earned runs in 55 2/3 innings, striking out 47 and walking eight.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

David Ross notched his sixth home run, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. It marked the fifth straight game the Sox have hit at least one home run.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks’ power showcase; Henry Owens not stagnating in Double-A; Trey Ball’s breakthrough stretch?

07.20.14 at 3:37 pm ET
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Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a solo homer to center. It was nearly Middlebrooks’ second homer in as many days (he was robbed of a homer by a tremendous leaping catch on Friday).

For now, Middlebrooks will continue to enjoy steady playing time in Pawtucket. But with the crowd that the Sox have on the left side of their infield between the big leagues (Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt) and Triple-A (Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero), teams are closely monitoring the situation to see if the Sox start dealing what seems like surplus inventory from their minor league prospect pool.

– DH Carlos Rivero reached base in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. He is 8-for-12 with two walks in his last three games.

– Right-hander Brandon Workman tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while punching out six. He struggled with his control at times (59 of 99 pitches for strikes — a 60 percent rate) but shut down his opponents by getting a handful of groundball outs to complement his six punchouts.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-3 WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine

07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, kansas city royals

Red Sox lineup: Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli get day off in series finale

07.20.14 at 11:43 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.

For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt 3B

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Carp 1B

Shane Victorino RF

Stephen Drew SS

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jon Lester SP

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