|06.30.15 at 8:18 am ET|
The Show will not be any kinder to Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday, when he heads north of the border to face Marco Estrada and baseball’s most prolific offense in the Blue Jays.
Since his three-start debut to the majors which saw him go 2-0 with a 0.44 ERA, Rodriguez has come crashing down to Earth. In his last three starts, the 22-year-old southpaw has thrown 14 2/3 innings and has given up 21 hits, 16 earned runs and a .339/.382/.516 opponents’ slash line.
Part of Rodriguez’ misfortune can be attributed to a .380 BABIP, but he’s also lost some of the trademark control that made him the talk of Red Sox Nation in early June. Over his last three starts, Rodriguez has thrown just 58 percent of his pitches for strikes and opponents have tagged him for a 33 percent line drive rate.
Rodriguez’s latest outing against the surging Orioles last Thursday was absolutely brutal. The native Venezuelan lasted just 3 2/3 innings, as he allowed six runs on seven hits with the big blow coming off the bat of Matt Wieters, a two-run shot that gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead. Rodriguez never recovered from the blow and took the loss in an 8-6 slugfest.
“This game, it’s a faster pace than the minor leagues,” teammate Clay Buchholz said after the game. “Competition from minor leagues to the big leagues — there’s a lot of good players in Triple-A, but here there’s constant study on your delivery, if there’s any sort of thing they can hint on to cancel out pitches. There’s a couple of things we’re going to sit down and look at over the next couple of days just to look and clear his mind because it’s not easy going out there, especially the first three innings throwing as well as he did and then something happen like that.”
Rodriguez, 3-2 with a 4.33 ERA on the season, will have to tread carefully against the Blue Jays, who average a whopping 5.45 runs per game and slug .445 as a team, both MLB-leading marks. In a start against the Bluebirds on June 14, Rodriguez had the worst outing of his young career when he gave up nine runs in just 4 2/3 innings pitched en route to a 13-5 Red Sox loss. No doubt, that start will certainly be fresh in his mind Tuesday in Toronto.
|06.30.15 at 1:00 am ET|
“That’s the De Aza way,” the outfielder explained. “That’s how I like to play the game. I dont like to be lazy in the game because I’m a runner too and I know you give the opposite team runner a chance to advance to the other base. So I do it as quick as I can.”
Since taking over left field for the past five games due to Hanley Ramirez‘ left hand injury, De Aza has been flying around with great success.
Offensively, the 31-year-old has totaled a .474 batting average during his stint as Ramirez’ replacement, hitting three home runs while managing a 1.105 OPS. It is the best production of any left fielder over that span, with De Aza punctuating it during the Red Sox‘ 3-1 win over the Blue Jays Monday night with three hits.
Since joining the Red Sox via a trade from the Orioles — who had designated the outfielder for assignment to free up playing time for Travis Snider — De Aza is hitting .317 with a .968 OPS. In games he has started, the Sox are 9-6.
“If you look back to what he was able to do against us last year while in Baltimore with a defined role, he was a very productive player,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell of De Aza, who was an every day player in each of his last three seasons (with the White Sox and Orioles). “Now that he’s getting regular at-bats, he’s starting to prove that again, and he comes to us at a time when we have a little bit of a rotation in right field, Hanley goes down so the at-bats are there. I can’t say that [playing time is] more than we anticipated, but he gets DFA’ed, obviously, for roster reasons over there, and he’s fit right in here very well.”
Then there is the defense.
De Aza was running all over the Rogers Centre outfield during the Red Sox’ latest win, including a pivotal grab of Jose Bautista’s blast at the left field wall in the sixth inning that almost went out for a game-tying homer.
The defensive aggressiveness has been a dramatic departure from Ramirez’ approach in left field.
So what happens upon Ramirez’ return? The likely scenario in the short-term will see De Aza platooning with Shane Victorino, who is trending toward returning to right field with the Red Sox upon the club’s return to Fenway Park Friday.
“I dont know what was going to be my role, but I’m happy,” De Aza said. “They gave me a chance to play and I’ll try to do my best to keep myself in the lineup.”
|06.30.15 at 12:27 am ET|
He also showed up early enough to execute something that had been eluding him since injuring his left hand last Wednesday. Ramirez was able to swing a bat, hitting balls off a tee.
The exercise made more feasible in Ramirez’ mind after getting word that his injury was just a “deep bone bruise,” following an MRI performed back in Boston.
“It was a relief because the pain I was having, in my mind I didn’t know what was happening,” Ramirez told WEEI.com before leaving the ballpark Monday night. “There was too much pain. But we got the MRI and it’s a deep bone bruise and hopefully the next couple of days, or tomorrow, I’ll be back in the lineup.”
“The swelling has diminished even through the weekend, and yet he didn’t feel complete confident that everything was cleared up in there,” Farrell said. “The MRI has given him some peace of mind that there’s nothing structural going on. He’s dealing with some soreness with the bone bruise and maybe a little residual swelling that’s there. More than anything, a little peace of mind that structurally he’s good allows him to move through the hitting progression.”
In case Ramirez’ diagnosis wasn’t what he or the team had hoped, Rusney Castillo was at the ready. According to sources, the outfielder had postponed joining Triple-A Pawtucket in Rochester, N.Y. in order to wait in Toronto for word of Ramirez’ condition.
Since filling in for Ramirez in left field, Alejandro De Aza has provided the best offense of any major leaguer at the position. In the past five game, De Aza has hit .474 with three home runs and a 1.105 OPS.
|06.29.15 at 9:37 pm ET|
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.
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.
|06.29.15 at 3:32 pm ET|
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).
|06.29.15 at 1:21 pm ET|
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.
2015 Gillette HR Derby presented by Head & Shoulders introduces new format, featuring brackets & timed rounds. pic.twitter.com/e3sFa1qxBp
‘ MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 28, 2015
|06.29.15 at 8:56 am ET|
A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:
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.
|06.29.15 at 8:52 am ET|
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.
|06.29.15 at 8:18 am ET|
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.
|06.28.15 at 6:42 pm ET|
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.”
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