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Closing Time: Red Sox pitching falters as Cubs sweep Red Sox at Fenway, 16-9

07.02.14 at 11:31 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox were swept by the Cubs Wednesday night. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox were swept by the Cubs Wednesday night. (AP)

Heading into Wednesday’€™s game, the Red Sox had built up an impressive record at Fenway Park: holding opponents to three runs or less in their last 14 home games — the longest such streak in franchise history.

However, in a move that only a sport as unpredictable as baseball could generate, the Cubs — who were 28th in baseball in runs scored (307) heading into Wednesday’€™s game — became the team to break Boston’€™s streak.

By the end of the game, 16 Chicago baserunners crossed home plate, as the Cubs defeated Boston by a score of 16-9 to earn a series sweep at Fenway Park.

It was the first time that the Cubs reached double-digit figures in runs since May 12 — a stretch of 45 games.

Red Sox starter Brandon Workman, who compiled an impressive 2.65 ERA in 17 innings at Fenway going into Wednesday’€™s action, struggled mightily, allowing six earned runs before being pulled after just four innings of work.

While Boston’s offense certainly wasn’t lifeless — scoring more than two runs at Fenway for the first time since June 13 — the team had plenty of opportunities to eat away at Chicago’€™s lead, leaving 14 men on base.

One of the few bright spots for the Red Sox offensively was rookie Mookie Betts, who took a 2-1 offering from Carlos Villanueva into the last row of the Green Monster seats for a two-run home run in the fifth inning. It was his first career hit at Fenway.

Cubs pitcher Travis Wood, like Workman, was ineffective on the hill, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking four over 3 2/3 innings of work.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 38-47 on the year.

Here’€™s what went right (and wrong) for Boston.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–  Xander Bogaerts‘€™ struggles at the plate continue to snowball. The 21-year-old third baseman finished the game 0-for-4 and stranded six runners. Bogaerts, who is 0 for his last 23, did manage to reach base with a walk in the third inning, which was just his second walk since June 14.

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Red Sox slugging prospect Rafael Devers gets promoted to Gulf Coast League

07.02.14 at 11:03 pm ET
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Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers went 0-for-3 for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox on Wednesday, in what amounted to his best day of the year for reasons that had nothing to do with the contest in which he played.

According to an industry source, the 17-year-old — the jewel of the Red Sox‘ 2013 international amateur free agent class — will report to Fort Myers on Thursday to join the Red Sox’ Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate. While the GCL Sox represent the lowest rung of the minor league ladder in the States, the fact that Devers is advancing to that level of competition before the end of his first pro season speaks volumes about how impressive he’s been.

In 28 games, the third baseman hit .337 with a .445 OBP and .538 slugging mark with a dozen extra-base hits (six doubles, three triples, three homers), 21 walks and 20 strikeouts. All but one of those extra-base hits came for the left-handed hitting Devers against right-handed pitching, which he pulverized for a .372/.467/.593 line.

In advancing to the GCL, Devers is moving more aggressively than did Xander Bogaerts and Manuel Margot, among other recent top international amateur prospects. But Devers’ offensive dominance (albeit as a corner player — unlike Bogaerts and Margot, who were athletic up-the-middle players) separated him from virtually all offensive performers for the Sox’ DSL affiliate in recent years.

Devers’ middle-of-the-order potential gives him as high a ceiling as virtually any position player in the Red Sox system, even though he remains years away from the big leagues.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Personnel changes ‘not in the cards’ for the Red Sox; John Farrell ‘hasn’t noticed’ attention in clubhouse regarding Jon Lester’s contract talks

07.02.14 at 6:31 pm ET
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The Red Sox offense has been one of baseball’€™s biggest enigmas this season.

While Boston is currently third in the big leagues in walks (298) and sixth in the AL in times on base (1,026), the team is dead-last in the league in runs scored (312).

The struggle has been frustrating for all parties who are living through it. Yet Red Sox manager John Farrell remained stout in his stance that the team has been creating opportunities to score all season, and added that he doesn’t see a forthcoming roster shakeup to spark the offense.

“I don’€™t think that we’€™re going to make wholesale changes with [our] personnel,” Farrell said. “€œThat’€™s not in the cards. My answer remains fairly consistent, and that is: We continue to create opportunities for ourselves. The elusive base hit is the difference. … We have to stay with a consistent, relentless approach that these guys have done and have a long track record of.”

Of course, the team also is relying heavily on the contributions of players without track records. In what has been a recurring theme all season long, the Red Sox rookies — foremost third baseman€“ Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. – continue to search for answers at the plate. During the month of June, both players combined for just 29 hits in 173 at-bats while driving in 10 runs.

Despite Bogaerts and Bradley’€™s lack of contributions in the lineup, Farrell defended both players and added that it’€™s too early judge their seasons as a whole.

“I look at it as how are the young players’€™ mental strength going to allow them to endure the challenges that they’€™ll face,” Farrell said. “€œThat’€™s what will continue to give you confidence and give them the opportunity and you feel like they’€™re going to handle some of the downturn and maybe some of the focus and the attention that maybe some struggles will generate. On the flip side, you don’€™t say that by X number of games, he’€™s going to be an established big leaguer. That’€™s pretty difficult to project.” Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell on D&H: ‘Opportunities are created’ for Red Sox offensively

07.02.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell checked in with Dale & Holley on Wednesday to discuss the state of his team. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Red Sox had another tough night at the plate Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs. The Sox were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

“We’ve had some moving parts in our lineup, there’s no question about that,” Farrell said. “We’ve integrated four rookies in the lineup, last night was probably the first time in quite a while the Red Sox have done that. That’s not to say or point the finger at a certain group of guys as the reason why we’ve struggled to score runs consistently.

“The one thing I continue to focus on and will remain focused on is the opportunities are created. Yes, we left another 10 men on base last night, we’re in situations where there’s bases loaded, two-out opportunities and seemingly the one thing that jumps off the page for me is the two-out RBI situations. And that’s the one thing that can make or break a given night and we have been on the short end of that probably a little too much.”

Hitting coach Greg Colbrunn returned to Fenway Park on Monday night less than a month after a brain aneurysm forced him to leave the Red Sox clubhouse for some time. Farrell said his absence is not an excuse for his team’s struggles offensively.

“I think anytime that you have continuity there’s familiarity, there’s a consistent and a familiar voice,” he said. “When you remove a guy who has been so hands on in a daily routine, there’s going to be an adjustment, there’s going to be change.

“But even when Greg is here, he’s not in the batter’s box with them as well, so our guys are well aware of what their daily work routine is and how they prepare each and every night. So to say our preparation has changed, it’s changed in the matter of it being a different voice, but the same information is used.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox promote shortstop Deven Marrero to Triple-A Pawtucket

07.02.14 at 3:26 pm ET
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Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, amidst a strong season in Double-A that suggested considerable offensive progress from a year ago, was promoted from Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. Marrero, 23, is hitting .287 with a .368 OBP, .429 slugging mark, five homers and 26 extra-base hits in 68 games, representing statistical improvement by every hitting measure over his first full pro season, in which the 2012 first-rounder hit .252/.338/.317 with two homers and 22 extra-base hits in 104 games between High-A and Double-A.

He’s also an extremely polished defender who projects to offer well above-average defense at shortstop, with some evaluators likening his defense to the steadiness of Stephen Drew but with greater range and the potential for more spectacular plays. He projects as a first division major league starting shortstop.

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Red Sox lineup: Stephen Drew, Jackie Bradley Jr. sit vs. left-hander

07.02.14 at 3:16 pm ET
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With lefty Travis Wood on the mound, the Red Sox will have a pair of their left-handed regulars sit. Both Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. will get the day off, with Jonathan Herrera getting a start at shortstop and the Sox featuring an outfield alignment of Jonny Gomes in left, Mookie Betts in center and Brock Holt in right.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Jonny Gomes, LF

Xander Bogaerts, 3B

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Mookie Betts, CF

Jonathan Herrera, SS

Brandon Workman, RHP

Family affair: Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini, brother Gavin pursue major league dreams

07.02.14 at 1:54 pm ET
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Garin (left) and Gavin (right) Cecchini played for their dad Glenn (center) at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, L.A. (Photo courtesy of Cecchini Family)

Garin (left) and Gavin Cecchini (right) played for their dad Glenn (center) at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. (Cecchini family)

Understand this about Garin and Gavin Cecchini: They did not grow up in the typical southern, Christian household. Sure, the Cecchinis are both from Louisiana and were raised in a very devout Christian family, but Raissa and Glenn Cecchini did not raise their kids like most other families.

Both Raissa and Glenn Cecchini are lifelong baseball coaches. Both parents coached at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., where Glenn still coaches baseball in addition to his duties as a coach for Team USA. Raissa, on the other hand, is a 20-year coaching veteran and won the Easton National Master Coach of the Year award in 1997.

Saying that baseball runs in the Cecchini bloodline would be an understatement. The kids started off playing baseball at a young age together. Garin and Gavin often played with the neighborhood kids in their backyard, where the family had a small baseball field.

The brothers would team up and “destroy” their opponents.

“Garin and me would get two other guys,” said Gavin, now a 20-year-old Mets minor league shortstop. “It wasn’t always the same guys, but there was another guy that we usually played against. His name was Zach Von Rosenberg. He pitches in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Zach and Garin are the same age and me and Zach’s younger brother are the same age so we would play against them a lot.”

“I remember us always being on teams and us fighting when we would lose and us cheering when we would win,” said Garin, now a 23-year-old third baseman who is one of the Red Sox‘ top prospects. “That’s where we started to actually love the game. We would have Wiffle balls and we would throw as hard as we could and try to hit the ball as far as we can and always beat the other guys.”

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