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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz makes case for Red Sox not to trade him in win over Blue Jays

06.29.15 at 9:37 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz dominated the Blue Jays on Monday. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz dominated the Blue Jays on Monday. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Trade Clay Buchholz? Not the way he’s pitching right now.

Clay Buchholz earned the Opening Day start for the Red Sox, and then endured some of the same ups and downs to afflict the rest of the rotation. Unlike starters such as Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly (and Wade Miley and Justin Masterson, for that matter), Buchholz has clearly righted the ship.

Needing a big outing from their best starter to open an all-important four-game series in Toronto, the Red Sox got one on Monday night. Buchholz dominated one of baseball’s best offenses en route to a 3-1 victory.

“He’s been on a really strong run through the entire month, and tonight tops off the month that he’s had,” said manager John Farrell. “Eight very strong innings for us. On a night we needed a starter to go deep, he provided it. But he was outstanding. He threw four pitches for strikes. He threw some quality two-seamers in to their big right-handers to keep them honest. It was a constant mix, staying out of the middle of the plate. He was outstanding tonight.”

This one was all Buchholz, who lowered his team-leading ERA to 3.48 while improving to 6-6. He scattered five hits over eight innings, efficiently dispatching the Jays on just 96 pitches to give the Red Sox their seventh victory in 11 games.

The timing couldn’t have been better from a personal standpoint as well. Buchholz’s name is share to come up in trade rumors next month, one year after Jon Lester and John Lackey got shipped out at the trade deadline.

“I never even thought of that,” Buchholz said. “I don’€™t know. It is what it is. I understand the business side of it. But like I said before, this is the only place I’€™ve ever been, but I’€™d like to be here as long as I can. That’€™s my job. If they’€™ve got to make decisions, I’€™ve got to make it tough on them. First start in the big leagues to now.”

Buchholz struck out Jose Reyes and Josh Donaldson leading off the game to set the tone, and then got some help from his defense in the second when left fielder Alejandro De Aza chased down a Kevin Pillar double and fired to relay man Xander Bogaerts, who threw behind Russell Martin at third, which led to third baseman Pablo Sandoval winning the footrace and chasing down Martin from behind to apply the inning-ending tag.

“It was a huge pickoff for us,” Buchholz said. “I pitched against him for the last six or seven years on different teams and know what kind of player he is. He’€™s got pop, he can hit homers if you just lay one in there. He can run, plays the outfield as good as anybody, and is a threat on the bags, just all around player.”

The Red Sox gave Buchholz all the offense he would need in the top of the third when Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt sandwiched walks around a Mookie Betts single. The Red Sox have consistently found ways not to score in such situations, but this time Bogaerts delivered, plating two runs with a double.

It’s a good thing he did, too, because the next three hitters popped up, but Buchholz had all the support he’d need.

The Red Sox added an insurance run in the fifth when Betts led off with a triple and scored on a Holt single.

The Blue Jays rarely threatened from there, with Sandoval starting a key 5-4-3 double play to end the seventh and keep Buchholz’s pitch count manageable enough to pitch the eighth.

Closer Koji Uehara then closed things out in the ninth for his third save of the road trip, making a winner of a pitcher the Red Sox need more than ever.

“[Buchholz] had a couple of bumps early in the year, but he’s been very consistent — a guy that you know is going to give you six, seven or possibly more on a night that he starts,” Farrell said. “He’s doing that for us. It allows you to be a little bit more aggressive with a bullpen the day before he starts. That’s comforting when you’ve got that kind of guy pitching as an upper end of a rotation guy.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: This one’s not even a question. Clay Buchholz continued an outstanding run with one of his best outings of the season, silencing the Jays over eight five-hit innings.

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Read More: Brock Holt, Clay Buchholz, mookie betts, xander bogaerts

Hanley Ramirez still out as Red Sox open series with Blue Jays

06.29.15 at 3:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox open a four-game series in Toronto on Monday night, with Clay Buchholz opposing R.A. Dickey.

No real surprises in the Red Sox lineup, particularly with Hanley Ramirez back in Boston to have his left wrist examined before a potential DL stint. Red-hot Alejandro De Aza gets the start in left and Jackie Bradley Jr. stays in right. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts slides into the No. 3 spot in the order.

The Jays are one of four teams within a game of first place in the American League East. They’re a game out, in fourth, but seven games ahead of the last-place Red Sox. The Jays are 6-3 against the Red Sox this year and own a run differential of plus-88, second in the majors only to the Cardinals (plus-98).

For a series preview, check out this story. For more on tonight’s matchup’s, click here.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Brock Holt, 2B
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Mike Napoli, 1B
7. Alejandro De Aza, LF
8. Sandy Leon, C
9. Jackie Bradley, Jr., RF

MLB introduces new rules for Home Run Derby

06.29.15 at 1:21 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, now teammates talk at the 2010 Homerun Derby. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, now teammates talk at the 2010 Home Run Derby. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The MLB announced changes to its Home Run Derby format on Sunday, nixing the 10-out set up and installing a five-minute timer for each batter. Balls hit within the field of play will no longer be counted as outs.

One of the primary reasons for the clocked rounds is time-certainty, a major advantage for television purposes.

The timer will begin counting down once the first pitch is released. Any home run hit during the final minute will stop the timer, which will then resume once a player swings and misses or hits a ball that does not land in home run territory.

Additionally, the Derby will seed the eight-man field according to 2015 home run totals through June 7, with the better seed batting second in each round. The winners of each bracket will meet in the final.

As an incentive for long homers, batters will receive a minute of bonus time if at least two balls in a round equal or exceed 420 feet and balls hit further than 475 feet will merit 30 seconds of extra time. Ties will be broken by a 90-second swing-off and if the batters remain tied, they will enter a three-swing swing-off.

This year’s Home Run Derby is scheduled for July 13 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, a slugger’s paradise.

Read More: Home Run Derby, MLB,

Monday Red Sox Farm Report: Joe Kelly solid in 7-inning effort with PawSox; Rafael Devers drives in 3 runs in Greenville loss

06.29.15 at 8:56 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (38-39): W, 3-2 (11 innings), vs. Gwinnett (Braves)

— Second baseman Sean Coyle drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th inning to bring in the winning run. Mike Adams crossed the plate on Coyle’€™s free pass after pinch-running for Allen Craig, who singled to right to leadoff the frame. Garin Cecchini was intentionally walked and Jemile Weeks also walked to load the bases.

— Cecchini hit a two-run single to right to tie the game in the sixth inning. The 24-year-old lefty, who played left field Sunday, finished the day 2-for-4 with a double and the 11th-inning walk. The 24-year-old is hitting .201 with 13 RBIs through 60 games this season.

— Right-hander Noe Ramirez earned his fourth win of the season after tossing a perfect 11th inning. Ramirez is 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings over 15 appearances, including one start.

— Joe Kelly made his first start in a Pawtucket uniform after he was optioned to the Triple-A club on June 25. Kelly allowed two runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts over seven innings Sunday. The right-hander has a 2-5 record and a 5.67 ERA in 14 starts with Boston this season.

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Read More: garin cecchini, Joe Kelly, rafael devers,

Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview

06.29.15 at 8:52 am ET
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The Red Sox will travel to Toronto for four games to take on the Blue Jays, who lead all of baseball in runs scored.  (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

The Red Sox will travel to Toronto for four games to take on the Blue Jays, who lead all of baseball in runs scored. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

To conclude a very division-heavy slate of games, the Red Sox will finish up their week-long road trip with a four-game series at Rogers Centre in Toronto to take on the Blue Jays. Previously the only other team in the basement of the AL East, the Jays, though still in fourth, are five games over .500 and just a half-game out of the wild card slot. Now the only team in the division with a sub-.500 ERA, the Sox will be put to the test against a team that, for a stretch of time, just wasn’t losing.

The Blue Jays have lost just seven games in the month of June, which for them has included an 11-game winning streak that contained a sweep of the Red Sox. However, Boston has the best team batting average this month (.281), the most hits in the American League (253), the most doubles of any team in the majors (56), the fourth-highest on-base percentage (.331), the fifth-best slugging percentage (.445) and the third-most extra-base hits (89). After scoring just 2.83 runs per game in May, the Sox have averaged 4.58 per contest in June.

“More than anything, it’s just the relaxation in the batter’s box by every guy that walks to the plate,” manager John Farrell said after a 13-2 win over the Royals on June 21. “You see a lot of close pitches being taken, we’re not expanding the strike zone.

“The ability to build the inning is becoming more evident,” he added.

The Jays also have had offensive success recently, putting up the most runs of any team in the league this month (152), the third-most home runs (37), the most RBIs (147), the second-most walks (85), the fourth-fewest strikeouts (171), the second-best on-base percentage (.339) and the third-best slugging percentage (.460).

Toronto’s pitching has been reliable as well, posting a 3.23 ERA over the last 25 games as a staff and allowing the eighth-fewest earned runs this month in the league, fifth-fewest in the American League alone. Blue Jays pitching has the fourth-best team WHIP this month at 1.18 and is holding opposing batters to a third-best .239 AVG. So while the Red Sox don’t seem to consistently get support from both sides of the ball, as their team ERA in June is 23rd overall despite their offensive success, the Blue Jays do.

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Read More: Alejandro De Aza, dioner navarro, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson

Monday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. R.A. Dickey

06.29.15 at 8:18 am ET
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In the first game of their series at Rogers Centre, the Red Sox send Clay Buchholz to the mound to face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Buccholz’s last start came Wednesday night when the Orioles were at Fenway Park. He tossed seven innings and gave up just one earned run on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. The outing was his third straight lasting six or more innings and his second consecutive one allowing fewer than two earned runs.

“[I] was able to throw some changeups in some big spots and was able to use the cutter on both sides of the plate,” Buchholz said Wednesday. “They hit some balls pretty hard right at some guys and defense made the plays on them, so that always helps, too.”

Over his last nine starts, Buchholz has a 2.48 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, holding opponents to a .246/.291/.336 slash line. Of those nine outings, the righty has only surrendered more than three earned runs twice, when he conceded four in consecutive starts on June 7 and June 13. Buchholz’s recent success has helped improve his season record to 5-6 and his ERA to 3.68.

The Blue Jays are one team that Buchholz is very familiar with, especially on the road in Toronto. With 26 career starts against the Jays, and 27 total appearances, Buchholz has been on the hill at the Rogers Centre 14 times. Overall, he has a 3.51 ERA and a 12-9 record through 166 2/3 innings vs. the Blue Jays, and that improves to a 2.30 ERA with a 9-3 mark over 94 innings in Toronto. Opposing Jays batters slash .233/.309/.320 against Buchholz, and he manages an even more impressive .208/.286/.270 when away from home. Out of teams that he’s made at least six starts against, Buchholz’s 1.138 WHIP at Toronto’s field is his second best. Only his 0.952 mark at Tropicana Field is better.

In three starts vs. the Jays this season, Buchholz is 1-1 with a 6.60 ERA, though two of those outings were at home. In his one start at the Rogers Centre, he pitched 6 1/3 innings while giving up just three earned runs with as many walks and strikeouts. At Fenway, he pitched 2 2/3 innings on April 28 and 4 2/3 innings on June 13 against Toronto, allowing four earned runs in each abbreviated start.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays,

Mike Napoli ejected for not doing bat boy’s job

06.28.15 at 6:42 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mike Napoli’s overall relationship with the umpires this year has not been good. Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field, it hit it’s boiling point.

Napoli was tossed from what would ultimately turn into a 5-3 Red Sox win over the Rays in the second inning for what appeared to be for arguing a called third strike on Chris Archer’s 3-2 slider.

But, according to the first baseman, the actual ejection by home plate umpire Tripp Gibson was only in part due to the initial disagreement.

“I mean, first of all, it was a ball,” Napoli said. “And I thought I walked, so that’s why I dropped my bat. I had a conversation with him and told him I thought it was a ball and he said it was a good pitch. Started taking off my batting gloves, starting walking back to the dugout, and he told me I forgot my bat. I kind of stopped a little bit, and he told me to come pick up my bat. I pointed to the bat boy who picks up our bats, and he tossed me. So when he tossed me, I told him how I felt.”

He then added, “I mean, I was walking away, I was going back to the dugout, and he was telling me to come back and pick up my bat when it was over. It’s kind of embarrassing. I don’t know how you can throw someone out for that. I’m not trying to get thrown out in the second inning. We’ve got a short bench. Enough’s enough. I’ve been getting pitches that have been called off the plate. It’s frustrating. I’m the type of hitter that sees a lot of pitches, and that’s the way I hit. I’m not going to change the style of how I came up and the player I became because they keep calling pitches off the plate. It’s frustrating, and I’m going to keep battling, but something’s got to give.”

The ejection clearly was not what Napoli, or the Red Sox, were banking on with just two position players (catcher Sandy Leon and infielder Deven Marrero) on the bench.

Once he was tossed, Napoli would be replaced at first base by Brock Holt, whose second base position would be occupied by Marrero.

“I wasn’t saying anything,” he noted. “I’m not just going to sit there and keep taking it. I’m going to let them know how I feel, but I don’t do it in a way where I’m going to get tossed. I didn’t do anything wrong to get tossed there. Maybe it’s a rookie mistake, young-guy mistake, but for me to get thrown out in that situation for him telling me to pick up my bat, it’s embarrassing.”

The dispute was just the latest issue Napoli has had with umpires and their strike zones. The righty hitter has been extremely vocal in his displeasure with how he views a widening zone.

“I’m waiting for the borderline call to be called a ball one time,” he said. “But that’s where my frustration’s coming from. I try to get into hitters’ counts, and people want to say it’s just one pitch. But it swings an at-bat, and people don’t understand that. With the stuff guys have today – Archer’s throwing 98 with a 90 mph slider – I mean, I can’t do nothing with the slider off the plate. He’s too good to be able to get those pitches. I don’t know. I mean, I’d like to get those pitches. It seems like I haven’t really all year.”

Closing Time: Red Sox, Justin Masterson get better of Rays, Chris Archer

06.28.15 at 4:13 pm ET
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David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval celebrate the DH's fourth-inning home run Sunday. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval celebrate the DH’s fourth-inning home run Sunday. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As far as wins go, this had to be classified as one of the better ones of the season for the Red Sox.

Playing first-place team (Rays). Facing one of best pitchers in the American League (Chris Archer). Unknown entity going for you on the mound (Justin Masterson).

The Red Sox, however, flipped the script in the series finale at Tropicana Field, claiming a 5-3 win over the Rays and Archer Sunday afternoon.

While Archer did show why his stuff is considered among the best in the majors — striking out 10 in his six innings. (He entered the game with third-most punch-outs in the AL.) But in the end, the righty would tie his season-high for most runs allowed, giving up five before exiting.

Since allowing five runs to Texas on May 7, Archer had gone 6-1 with a 1.61 ERA in nine starts.

But the saving grace for the Red Sox coming into the game was that Archer carried a 1-5 mark with a 5.18 ERA against the Sox in his previous eight starts. Thanks in large part to home runs by Alejandro De Aza, Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz, that trend continued.

The Red Sox initially jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to solo, two-out home runs from Sandoval and De Aza. The Sox increased their lead to 4-0 in the fourth when Ortiz launched his 12th homer of the season into the right field seats, plating Xander Bogaerts.

Bogaerts and Sandoval were in the middle of the Red Sox’ third run, as well, with the shortstop ripping a one-out double in the sixth inning and ultimately coming in via Sandoval’s sacrifice fly.

While the Red Sox were getting to Archer, Masterson was holding off the Rays.

The Sox starter, who was making his first big league appearance since allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings in Oakland on May 12, gave up just one run on five hits over five innings. Masterson struck out six while not walking a batter for the first time this season.

(For a complete box score, click here.)

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Hanley Ramirez headed back to Boston for tests

06.28.15 at 2:30 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez is still dealing with soreness in his left hand (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez is still dealing with soreness in his left hand (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The healing wasn’t coming fast enough for the Red Sox or Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez, who has been sidelined since June 24 when he took a line-drive off his left hand while running to second base, is being sent back to Boston for more tests on the injury.

The outfielder wasn’t initially placed on the 15-day disabled list after it was determined there was no fracture in the hand. But Ramirez continues to be unable to swing a bat, leading to the further examination.

“He’s still feeling some discomfort in the hand where he got hit,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before his team’s series finale at Tropicana Field. “He’s actually going to return to Boston today to get further studies performed. At this time tomorrow, we’ll get a better read on his roster status and if there’s anything in addition to what was determined with the CT scan and the X-ray. Unfortunately, he’s not progressing as we anticipated, particularly over the last 24-48 hours.”

In other injury news, Daniel Nava (thumb/wrist) continues to take batting practice with the team after receiving a cortisone shot last week. If all goes well the outfielder would go out on a rehab assignment when the team gets home from its current road trip.

Farrell also noted that the Red Sox could possibly bring catcher Ryan Hanigan back off the 60-day disabled list to play in Wednesday’s day game in Toronto.

Red Sox lineup: Blake Swihart catching Justin Masterson

06.28.15 at 11:05 am ET
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Chris Archer

Chris Archer

With one of the American League‘s best pitchers, Chris Archer, on the mound for the Rays Sunday, John Farrell starts catcher Blake Swihart, while keeping Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field for a fourth straight game.

Alejandro De Aza is also once again starting in left field, with Hanley Ramirez headed back to Boston for additional tests on his injured left hand.

Here is the Red Sox‘ lineup with Justin Masterson on the mound:

Mookie Betts CF
Brock Holt 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Alejandro De Aza LF
Blake Swihart C
Jackie Bradley Jr. RF

For all the matchups, click here.

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