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Closing Time: Punchless Red Sox once again stymied in loss to Rangers

05.21.15 at 10:01 pm ET
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Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez

If you’re left-handed, grab a glove — you might be able to shut out the Red Sox.

In what easily goes down as the most mystifying facet of a mystifying season, the Red Sox once again on Thursday night illustrated how hopelessly overmatched they are against southpaws of any shape or size.

This time it was Wandy Rodriguez’s turn. The Rangers lefty began the game 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA, but the Red Sox made him look like Lefty Grove. Rodriguez limited the Sox to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five in a 3-1 victory.

The Red Sox entered the matchup batting just .199 against lefties, and that number dropped after Rodriguez finished with them. He particularly baffled them with a curveball that he used as a two-strike hammer.

The Red Sox also once again showed an inability to take advantage of what few opportunities they created.

They put runners at second and third leading off the fourth and scored just once on a David Ortiz groundout, squandering another run when Hanley Ramirez swung for the fences and instead dribbled one in front of home plate, allowing Rodriguez to erase Dustin Pedroia at the plate.

An inning later, they had a chance for runners on the corners with one out, but Xander Bogaerts was clipped in the cleat by a hit-and-run Daniel Nava single and called out for interference.

That was about it for the Red Sox, who wasted a gutty start by right-hander Clay Buchholz, who lacked fastball command for most of the night, but nonetheless navigated his way into the eighth inning while allowing just two earned runs.

Buchholz made just one real mistake, an 0-1 cutter that Mitch Moreland ripped into the left field seats for a solo homer in the fourth. Otherwise, the Rangers did very little after scratching out two runs in the first.

Two runs was about all they’d need, though, against an anemic Red Sox offense that isn’t just struggling against lefties, it’s struggling against everyone.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME:

Rangers left-hander Wandy Rodriguez toyed with the Red Sox for most of the night, limiting them to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Yoan Moncada already making quite the impression with Single-A Greenville

05.21.15 at 8:22 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

Rarely is there a buzz and an electric atmosphere with a Single-A game, but that has been the case all week with the professional debut of 19-year-old, highly touted Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada with Single-A Greenville.

After he signed a minor league contract that featured a $31.5 million signing bonus on March 12, the Cuban prospect spent a little over a month extra in spring training to get acclimated to the American game and since he hadn’t played organized baseball in over a year.

Sunday night it was announced the second baseman’s professional debut would be Monday and it officially became Moncada Mania.

“We haven’t had somebody in our organization since I’ve been around anyway that has got this kind of attention for their debut,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett said. “He’s handled it really well. I think our job and our goal is to put him in the best position to handle some of those things and something he’s balanced really well.

“He’s handled the attention. He’s handled the extra interviews and things like that that some of the other guys don’t have to do. As far as his very short stint here he hasn’t shied away from the spotlight playing games in a packed ballpark and an electric type of environment.”

Going into Thursday night, Moncada had gone 4-for-12 with three runs scored in three games.

Moncada had spent some time with his new teammates when they were together in Fort Myers.

Infielder Mauricio Dubon was one of the first players Moncada made a connection with in Florida, and Dubon has noticed a big difference in the type of player Moncada is now, compared to back in March when he first signed.

“Oh yeah, he’s way better,” Dubon said via phone Thursday. “I understand it’s spring training and he went a year without playing ball. He looks more comfortable. He’s a great player. He’s a really good player.”

MANAGING THE LOG JAM

Even before Moncada joined Greenville, there were a number of talented infielders with the team — 2014 first-round pick Michael Chavis (third base), 18-year-old International free agent signing Rafael Devers (third base), 2012 International free agent signing Javier Guerra (shortstop), 2013 26th round pick Dubon (shortstop/second base) and 2013 30th round pick Nick Longhi (first base).

Devers leads the team hitting .325, while Guerra is third hitting .299. While Chavis’ average isn’t where he wants it (.219), he’s shown some power with four home runs.

Two of those infielders, three including Moncada, were acquired as International free agents, something the Red Sox have taken full advantage of recent years. Crockett noted how important that market has become for the organization.

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Read More: ben crockett, mauricio dubon, rafael devers, Red Sox Minor League Notebook

Red Sox injury updates: Shane Victorino out with ‘general soreness'; Pablo Sandoval ‘much improved’

05.21.15 at 5:10 pm ET
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Shane Victorino was in the original lineup posted shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, but just a few minutes later a revised one was sent out with Victorino scratched and Daniel Nava inserted to make his third straight start in right field.

“[Victorino] is held out tonight with some soreness,” said manager John Farrell. “It’s more centralized around the left calf. Not anything related to the lower back or hamstring that he’s dealt with in the past. Precautionary he’s held out tonight.”

The right fielder was inserted as a pinch-hitter for Nava Wednesday and went 2-for-2. He is hitting .421 since returning from the disabled list on May 11 following a hamstring injury suffered on April 25.

“Not anything inside of last night’s game that caused anything,” said Farrell of the late scratch. “Just general soreness. Like I said, general soreness overall, but somewhat localized in the calf.”

Farrell is hopeful he will be available over the weekend.

Over the past two seasons, Victorino has missed a total of 153 games with a variety of injuries, mostly to his back and hamstring. Given the 34 year old’s injury history, Farrell said it wasn’t totally unexpected to have to scratch him without much advance notice.

“Not unexpected to a certain extent,” Farrell said. “You know you’re going to have to run him out there a few days, back off on days even if he feels he’s capable. Almost to protect him against himself. This is a little bit unforeseen, but like I said, you walk in the clubhouse everyday knowing there are 25 guys at your disposal and that is not always the case.”

The news is better for third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who is out of the lineup again after missing Wednesday’s game following taking a 97 mph fastball off the knee Tuesday night.

“Pablo is much improved today,” said Farrell. “There is still some soreness there. Giving him another day, particularly with a left-handed starter on the mound and we anticipate him back in the lineup tomorrow.”

Brock Holt starts at third base in Sandoval’s absence.

It’s also worth noting Rusney Castillo will return to the PawSox lineup Thursday and hit second following being out the last two days on paternity leave. It shouldn’t be long before the outfielder is in Boston.

Read More: daniel nava, Pablo Sandoval, Shane Victorino,

Red Sox lineup: Pablo Sandoval (knee) still out, Shane Victorino late scratch

05.21.15 at 3:20 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

After taking a fastball off the knee Tuesday night and missing Wednesday, Pablo Sandoval is out of the lineup once again Thursday in the series finale against the Rangers.

Shane Victorino went 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter Wednesday, and was originally in the lineup, but was scratched just 20 minutes after the original lineup was posted. No reason was given.

Sandy Leon will catch Red Sox starter Clay Buchhholz, as their own lineup goes up against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

Here is the complete lineup:

Mookie Betts, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, LF
Mike Napoli, 1B
Brock Holt, 3B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Daniel Nava, RF
Sandy Leon, C
Clay Buchholz, RHP

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Dave Magadan knows better than most how David Ortiz can start hitting lefties again

05.21.15 at 12:59 pm ET
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This might be the worst stretch against left-handers David Ortiz has ever endured.

The Red Sox designated hitter has just six hits in 44 at-bats against lefties (.136), with not a single walk.

Not even at was perceived to be his low point against southpaws, throughout the 2009 and ’10 seasons, was it this bad. In ’09, when he finished the year with a career-worst .212 clip against left-handers, Ortiz only dipped below .200 for two games the entire season. And a year later, when the troubles led left his average vs. lefties at .222, his low point was .175 in early June.

As former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan remembered Wednesday, those were the days of panic for some predicting the downturn as the beginning of Ortiz’s end.

“If you remember, there was a clamoring of should we release him, is he done,” the current Rangers hitting coach said. “There was a lot of talk about that. They were talking about his bat speed and all that. But I remember distinctly telling him, ‘€˜David, you take BP with guys throwing 50 mph. If you didn’€™t have bat speed you couldn’€™t hit balls where you do in BP and we’€™re going to look back at this moment and we’€™re going to laugh. We’€™re going to use it to make you better down the line because this is going to make you a better hitter, a better player. As tough as you are, it’€™s going to make you’€™re tougher.’€™ He ended up proving all the doubters wrong.”

Ortiz evidently took the pep talk to heart, going on to hit a combined .293 with a .889 OPS over the last four seasons.

But the first 40 games of this season has offered an uncomfortable reminder of what happens when the production against left-handers comes to a halt.

Now Ortiz finds himself searching for the same kind of solution Magadan helped the DH uncover five years ago.

“It was showing old video. Showing him what he did against left-handers, how he used the field,” Magadan said. “A lot of his troubles back then was that he was using half the field. And it was more trouble with the relievers than it was the starters. Lefty starters he was still getting his hits, but it was the guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out he had a little too much of a pull approach. Then it was when he started opening up the left side of the field is when he got going.

“You can say it about any lefty hitter, these guys coming out of the pen who are paid to get lefties out usually have really good breaking balls. And if you’€™re up there worried about getting the head out and pulling the ball ‘€¦ Most of the time they’€™ll flash you inside to get you going away, so that flash got him leaning away and then they would come with the breaking ball.”

Ortiz has seemingly made a conscious effort of returning to an opposite field approach against left-handers, at least when elevating the ball.

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

But one noticeable trend this season has been an inability to hit the ball on the ground to the left side, as is evidenced by not a single ball hit on the ground to the left of second base against a lefty hurler.

There might be a reason: unlike five years ago, the balls he is putting in play are coming on pitches on the inside part of the plate.

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

Here are the 13 hits Ortiz had managed against lefties by the time May 20, 2011 rolled around …

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

(Courtesy BaseballSavant.com)

“When he started hitting the ball the other way, taking his base hit over there, it changed the way they were pitching him,” Magadan remembered. “They started throwing more fastballs on the inner-half. But he needed the pay back of hitting balls over to the left side, keeping the defense and the pitchers honest for it to flow from there.”

Evidently, it’s time for another adjustment from Ortiz.

Read More: Dave Magadan, David Ortiz, Red Sox,

Thursday’s Red Sox-Rangers matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Wandy Rodriguez

05.21.15 at 11:58 am ET
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The Red Sox will close out a three-game series with the Rangers on Thursday, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against veteran Wandy Rodriguez.

Aside from one bad start, Buchholz has been a source of consistency for the Red Sox all season long. Since his disastrous game in New York on April 12 in which he allowed nine earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work, Buchholz has improved drastically. Despite a meager 1-3 record, he has posted four quality starts in his last six appearances.

During these last six starts, the right-hander has shown swing-and-miss capability, fanning 42 batters in 35 1/3 innings. Additionally, he has fallen victim to bad luck, with opponents’ batting average on balls in play reaching .375 over this stretch.

Though his last start showed his BABIP beginning to even out as he hurled eight innings of three-hit ball Friday against the Mariners, Buchholz still received the tough-luck no-decision as the Red Sox dropped the contest 2-1 behind shoddy run support.

“He had command, he had a lot of strikes, he had every pitch working for him tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said following Buchholz’s latest start. “He pitched ahead in the count for the most part. … He was very, very good.”

The Nederland, Texas, native heads into Thursday’s start with a 2-4 record and 4.93 ERA. He will look to boost these numbers against a team which has presented him with problems in the past. Buchholz has lost four of his six starts versus Texas in his career in large part due to the 1.40 WHIP he has compiled when facing the Rangers.

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Joe Kelly takes one for the team while showing signs of turnaround

05.21.15 at 9:34 am ET
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Joe Kelly gave the Red Sox another strong performance Wednesday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Joe Kelly gave the Red Sox another strong performance Wednesday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

If there was one person inside Fenway Park Wednesday who deserved a better fate Wednesday night, it was Joe Kelly.

On a night when he wasn’t feeling well to begin with, the Red Sox righty starter took to the mound and dug deep for seven quality innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits, working his way out of trouble and giving his team a chance.

All he got for his troubles was a bruise on the fleshy outside part of his right hand on a Shin-Soo Choo grounder back to the mound in the third inning and his third loss in four decisions this season in Boston’s 2-1 defeat to Texas.

“It’s a little bit sore but it didn’t affect the way I pitched out there,” said Kelly, who wore a white bandage over his wrist and hand after the game. “I’m definitely going to ice it and keep trying to get the swelling down. It feels fine.”

After his 108-pitch effort, manager John Farrell recognized what Kelly was able to accomplish after allowing solo runs in the second and third innings.

“After the third inning, he settled in. He used his curveball a little bit more,” Farrell said of his hard-throwing starter. “He started to elevate his fastball for some strikeouts. And on a night when he wasn’t completely healthy in terms of an illness he was dealing with. He threw the ball exceptionally well. He takes the one-hopper off the hand that really, after the initial sting went away, didn’t affect the way he threw the baseball. He got a couple of big strikeouts with men in scoring position. A well-pitched game.”

It was a well-pitched game using mostly his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, his two best pitches. Of Kelly’s 108 pitches, 79 were fastballs. He velocity improved as the night wore on, reaching 99 on his final pitch of the night to end the seventh with a strikeout of Thomas Field. As a matter of fact, Kelly was able to fan Chirinos and Field back to back after Leonys Martin doubled with one out.

“My fastball was working for me,” Kelly said. “My offspeed, I was giving up a lot of hits on those. My slider wasn’t breaking like it normally does. I couldn’t really throw a changeup over the plate but I made some pitches when I had to and commanded my heater.”

In the last two starts, Kelly has been not only been overpowering, he’s been in command for the most part. Heading into his start last Thursday in Seattle, he allowed 21 runs and 26 hits over a stretch of four straight starts. Last Thursday, he yielded just one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win. Ironically, Wednesday night, he was on the wrong end of a 2-1 score.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Joe Kelly, John Farrell,

Ben Cherington on D&C: Despite offensive struggles, ‘I’m still confident that the offense will start clicking’

05.21.15 at 8:36 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to discuss the state of the Red Sox through the first 40 games, focusing on the offense. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Through the first 18 games in May the Red Sox are averaging 2.39 runs per game, and are hitting just .146 as a team with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-8 in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night to the Rangers. Cherington feels things will change.

“Our offense hasn’t clicked yet,” Cherington said. “I don’t think it is necessarily predictive of what is going to happen. I think if we look at the reasons for it, there are just much different reasons than we saw last year. Our intent in building the team and one of the things we thought we’d be able to do this year is to put deep lineups out there night in, night out, give John [Farrell] as many options as possible. I still feel like we’re going to be able to do that. There have been times where we haven’t been able to do that because of injury or being short-handed or whatever. I think we’re going to get closer and closer able to do that.

“I think if you look at some of the underlying numbers — bottom line is we’re just hitting a lot of balls in play that have ended up in people’s gloves and some of that evens out over the course of the year. We’ll go through stretches where more balls will drop. Last night was a good example, we hit several balls really well that were either caught or tracked down. I’m still confident that the offense will start clicking. It hasn’t yet and hasn’t been what we expected, but we have a long way to go.”

Many have wondered about Pablo Sandoval, and maybe he might want to stop switch-hitting and just hit exclusively from the left side. So far this season, Sandoval is hitting .365 from the left side, but just .049 (2-for-41) from the right side. Last year he hit .199 from the right side, but for his career he’s a .260 hitter from the right side.

Cherington said it’s up to Sandoval to correct things, and the team just needs him to get back to his career norms against lefties.

“I’m not sure it is anybody’s job,” Cherington said. “I think Pablo knows what he needs to do to be successful. He’s obviously been one of the better left-handed hitters in the game this year. I think he’s had in his history, he’s always been a little better, he’s always been stronger from the left side. But, he’s got several years where he’s been at least fine or good from the right side and if he just gets back to his career norm from the right side to go along with what he is as a left-handed hitter because if you’re a switch-hitter, if you had to choose your strong side you’d choose the left side and that’s what he is. If he gets back to his career norm from the right side then he’s going to be fine.”

In the short-term, Cherington just wants his third baseman back on the field, as he is still banged up from being hit by a pitch on the knee Tuesday night.

“Our main concern is getting him back in the lineup,” he said. “He got hit pretty good and he’s sore. Probably won’t be in there tonight, but he should be in there soon.”

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Thursday Red Sox Farm Report: Henry Owens’ walk numbers, Yoan Moncada mania

05.21.15 at 7:35 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (23-18): L, 2-1, 12 innings, at Indianapolis (Pirates)

Henry Owens

Henry Owens

— Henry Owens (Boston’€™s top prospect per MLB.com, No. 2 at Baseball America) made his eighth start of the season for the PawSox, a no decision outing with a line of: 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO (97 pitches, 58 strikes). Owens lowered his ERA from 3.41 to 3.19. However, walks continue to be a nuisance for Owens as his 30 on the season are the most in the International League. The lone Indianapolis run against Owens started with a free pass in fourth-inning (scoring after a stolen base, advance on ground out, run-scoring wild pitch sequence). Owens continues to rely on his excellent change-up that averages mid-70s and sets up his fastball (often sitting yesterday at 89 or 90 mph).

— The PawSox rallied for a game-tying run in the ninth inning against the top closer in the International League, as Indy’€™s Blake Wood suffered his first blown save (now 10-for-11 on the year). Speedy center fielder Quintin Berry led off with an infield single to short, stole second base (now 13-of-15 in swipes this year), and scored on third baseman Travis Shaw’€™s two-out, two-strike single to center. The throw to the plate beat Berry, but the Indianapolis catcher could not hang on to the ball and Berry recovered to tag home plate. Shaw, who is hitting just .197, did pick up his 18th RBI of the year, which is just seven off the International League lead.

— On Wednesday, the organization acquired right-handed pitcher John Cornely from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for cash considerations and optioned him to Pawtucket. The 26-year old has spent most of the season with Atlanta’€™s Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, going 2-2 with a 4.42 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings of work (fifth among International League relievers with a rate of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings). Originally a 15th-round selection in the 2011 draft, Cornely has pitched in 158 career games in the minor leagues, all in relief, and made his major league debut on April 29, allowing four runs in an inning of work against Washington. Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Cornely, “We like the fastball ability. It might not be in pure velocity, but there’€™s some swing-and-miss throughout the course of his career. Those guys always jump out to us.”

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May or may not: Red Sox offense continues to sputter

05.20.15 at 11:51 pm ET
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The Red Sox couldn't get a clutch hit in Wednesday night's loss. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox couldn’t get a clutch hit in Wednesday night’s loss. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The last thing the Boston sports scene needed was more talk of something deflated.

But in May, the Red Sox offense has done its’€™ best Deflategate impression.

Wednesday night at Fenway Park the Sox dropped a 2-1 decision to the Rangers, their 11th game of 18 this month with their offense producing two runs or fewer.

And again, the opportunities were there in the form of runners on base.

The Red Sox stranded 12 runners in Wednesday’€™s loss, bringing the monthly total to 140 (an average of 7.8 per game).

The team’€™s batting average with runners in scoring position is even uglier, as a 1-for-8 night brought the May total to just 18-of-123, a .146 team anti-clutch batting average. Entering the night’€™s action, the Sox’€™ team mark with runners in scoring position on the season was .205, 29th out of 30 teams in the majors.

For manager John Farrell, he’€™s aware, but trying not to sound concerned.

“€œYou’€™d like to see, and I think you will see an offense that is going to score more runs than we have over the last, I don’€™t know, eight or ten games,”€ Farrell said. “€œBut, I like where we are right now.”

“There were a number of times you saw a guy square a ball up and someone is either running one down in the gap or standing right there,”€ Farrell added. “Mookie [Betts] five hard hit balls tonight. Hanley [Ramirez] with a couple of line-outs to end a couple of threats. Bogey [Xander Bogaerts] with a two-out line drive to center field. We’€™re getting a number of good at-bats, the ball’€™s just not falling right now.”

The Wednesday key mis-opportunists were: Brock Holt, who fouled out with two aboard to end the fourth inning, as well as struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth, Bogaerts, who flied out to center to end the same sixth inning situation, Dustin Pedroia, who sent one to the wall in the ninth, but also to the glove of Rangers’€™ left fielder Delino DeShields and Ramirez, who went 0-for-5 and lined out to strand two runners in the seventh, as well ending the ballgame with Betts standing on second base.

The Red Sox are now 0 for their last 19 with the bases loaded.

Like Farrell, many of the players are speaking with an optimistic tone.

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