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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz pitches undermanned Red Sox to victory over Braves

06.18.15 at 11:01 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz was in control on Thursday against the Braves (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images).

Clay Buchholz was in control on Thursday against the Braves. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

No more proclamations. No more reading more into a win than it deserves.

Let’s just say the Red Sox took care of business on Thursday night and leave it at that.

Behind another strong outing from right-hander Clay Buchholz and some opportunistic offense after an error gave them an extra out in the sixth, the Red Sox cruised past the Braves for a 5-2 victory that for one night, at least, quelled any talk of losing streaks or clubhouse chaos or Instagram hotties.

“Regardless of what has gone on, a win is always a good thing,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Atlanta. “We need as many as we can get, obviously. Again, very good pitching, some timely hitting ‘€” a good mix tonight.”

Playing without third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who was benched for violating team and league rules on social media, as well as second baseman Dustin Pedroia (knee), the Red Sox pieced together enough offense to back Buchholz for just their second win in 10 games.

It was a much-needed victory after the events of the previous 24 hours, when eagle-eyed blogger Jared Carrabis noticed that Sandoval had “liked” a couple of photos from a comely young woman on Instagram, and hours later Sandoval found himself on the bench after apologizing to the team.

In his place, Triple A call-up Travis Shaw made a couple of nice plays at third, but the real story was Buchholz, who utilized an excellent two-seam fastball to get in on right-handed hitters and keep the Braves off balance.

He struck out three and walked one over seven innings, scattering six hits. He threw 92 pitches and 63 strikes.

The last time Buchholz pitched in Atlanta, last May, he allowed six hits and eight walks in just three innings, wilting in the heat before spending a month on the DL.

“I underestimated it last year, the heat and how much that can affect you if you’re not used to it,” Buchholz said. “I knew what I was doing coming into the game today. It wasn’t a day game, so that helped out, too. But yeah, if you’re not ready for the heat it can get to you. It’s one of the things I wasn’t going to let affect me today.”

It seemed for a while that he’d need to be perfect before the Red Sox got to Miller, who entered the game with an ERA of 2.03.

David Ortiz plated the first run in the fourth with a groundout, and the Red Sox broke loose in the sixth, thanks in no small part to third baseman Juan Uribe dropping a Mookie Betts foul pop-up with no outs and Holt on first.

Given second life, Betts lined a single to left. Ortiz followed with a sharp single to right, and the Braves looked like they had dodged a bullet when Hanley Ramirez fouled off ball four before grounding into a double play.

Miller couldn’t finish the frame, however, with Xander Bogaerts (single) and Alejandro De Aza (double) lining two-out RBI hits to give the Red Sox a cushion.

Buchholz made about his only mistake in the bottom of the sixth, muffing a two-out liner from old friend A.J. Pierzynski, rushing a gloved throw over the head of first baseman David Ortiz to let two runs score.

That was all the Braves would get, however, and the Red Sox were able to breathe easy with a controversy-free win that sends them to Kansas City with two wins in their last three games.

Baby steps.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Playing with a spring training lineup against one of the best pitchers in the National League, the Red Sox couldn’t afford a mediocre outing from Buchholz, and he didn’t give them one. He stymied the Braves over seven effective innings, dropping his ERA to 3.87 and improving to 4-6.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Batting leadoff and playing second in place of Pedroia, Brock Holt continued his sizzling play, going 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs to pace the offense.

“Just stick with my same approach I try to do regardless of where I’m hitting in the lineup,” Holt said. “You’re only a leadoff hitter one time. You’d like to see some pitches early, but you’re also ready to hit in case they make a mistake.”

— Meanwhile, re-inserted at the top of the order, center fielder Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with a run and RBI, giving the Red Sox breathing room with a run-scoring double in the seventh.

— The Red Sox did some two-out damage in the sixth. After a Hanley Ramirez double play grounder plated a run with the bases loaded, Xander Bogaerts made sure the opportunity wasn’t wasted by lining an RBI single to right. Alejandro De Aza (2-for-3) followed with an RBI double to extend a 1-0 lead to 4-0.

— Closer Koji Uehara struck out two during a perfect ninth, including pinch hitter Jonny Gomes to end it for his 14th save.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Hey, they won! For once we don’t have to fill up this column, except to say Hanley Ramirez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and also grounded into a bases-loaded double play.

Red Sox manager John Farrell: Clubhouse has not ‘run amok’

06.18.15 at 6:43 pm ET
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John Farrell does not believe he has lost control.

The Red Sox manager doused his latest brushfire by benching third baseman Pablo Sandoval for Thursday night’s game against the Braves after Sandoval admitted to violating the league’s policy prohibiting use of social media during games.

But Farrell refuses to believe the incident paints a larger picture of inmates running the asylum.

“The clubhouse is not one that has run amok,” Farrell told reporters in Atlanta. “This is an incident that I believe is isolated, and like I said, my focus is to continue to do what we can to get better on the field each and every day.”

That said, Farrell was unhappy to discover that Sandoval had used his Instagram account during Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Braves.

“It’s understood by all,” he said. “Game time is to commit and devote yourself to the game and your teammates. Anything beyond that is taking away from what we’re trying to do.”

Farrell said Sandoval will not be fined, though he left open the possibility of MLB taking action.

“It’s disappointing,” Farrell said. “It’s disappointing, because it’s a rule that is known by all. It’s very disappointing. It’s not tolerable, and as a result, he’s on the bench tonight.”

Farrell reiterated that the clubhouse is not crumbling.

“No, I won’t give in to that,” he said. “We’ve had some things of late that have come up, that we’ve addressed head-on, and it’s important that everyone take accountability for their actions. We’re trying to work every day to get better, and that won’t stop.”

Farrell acknowledged the last few weeks have probably been eye-opening for players new to Boston, like Sandoval, with last-place team under a microscope.

“Those conversations are had even before the signing takes place,” Farrell said. “You can outline, you can provide examples, you can talk through situations. But until they live it the first time, there’€™s a different reaction to it. That’€™s where their teammates are invaluable in sharing their experiences as they’€™ve gone through it prior to. It’€™s important that we stick together and work through this.

“I understand the environment in which we work,” Farrell added. “I understand that there’s a lot of passion and currently a lot of frustration by many, and that includes our fans. I understand that. When situations arise, they’re addressed head-on. But the same approach is applied every day, and that is, what are we doing daily to work at getting better? That’s what I expect and I think that’s what we demand from our players.”

Pablo Sandoval apologizes for in-game Instagram use: ‘I let my teammates down’

06.18.15 at 6:22 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval knows he messed up, so he fessed up.

In just the latest embarrassment to an embarrassing season, Sandoval will miss Thursday night’s game in Atlanta for violating the team’s social media policy. He admitted to “liking” a woman’s photos on his Instagram account while using the bathroom during Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Braves.

“I made a mistake yesterday and I learned from that,” Sandoval told reporters in Atlanta. “I’m a human being, I made a mistake. I apologized to my teammates, the team, the organization, the fans. This is something I punched the button at the wrong time. I’m upset from the things I learned yesterday. I’ll learn from it.”

Sandoval wasn’t fined or officially suspended by the team, which leaves open the possibility of further punishment by the commissioner’s office. He said that he apologized to manager John Farrell, general manager Ben Cherington, and his teammates during a meeting.

“I take the blame. I take the punishment,” Sandoval said. “When you’€™re a grown-up, you learn from a lot of things. You learn every day of your life. … I broke the team rules.”

MLB rules prohibit the use of electronics from 30 minutes before the start of a game to the end of the game. Sandoval said it’s the only time he has made that mistake, and he won’t make it again.

“I let my teammates down,” he said. “It ain’€™t gonna happen no more.”

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Suspended Pablo Sandoval sits, Dustin Pedroia out as Red Sox field makeshift lineup against Braves

06.18.15 at 4:21 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

Not even the uneventful Red Sox losses can stay that way.

One night after a forgettable 5-2 loss to the Braves, the Red Sox will field a markedly different lineup for Thursday’s series finale.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has been suspended for violating the team’s social media policy after admitting to “liking” photos on Instagram during Wednesday’s loss. Also, second baseman Dustin Pedroia will sit for the second time in three days as he deals with a balky left knee.

Brock Holt slides over to second in place of Pedroia, with Travis Shaw getting the call from Pawtucket to start at third base. A first baseman by trade, the 6-4, 225-pounder has made 93 appearances at third in five minor league seasons.

Here’s the full lineup in this matchup of Clay Buchholz vs. Braves ace Shelby Miller.

2B Brock Holt
CF Mookie Betts
1B David Ortiz
LF Hanley Ramirez
SS Xander Bogaerts
RF Alejandro De Aza
3B Travis Shaw
C Sandy Leon
RHP Clay Buchholz

Pablo Sandoval benched for violating Red Sox social media policy

06.18.15 at 4:02 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval admitted to reporters in Atlanta Thursday afternoon that he was being benched for the series finale against the Braves because he violated the Red Sox‘ social media policy.

Sandoval said that he had, indeed, “liked” a photo of a woman on Instagram during the seventh inning of the Sox’ game against the Braves Wednesday night. The third baseman explained to reporters that he had grabbed his phone on the way to the bathroom in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Sandoval said he met with both Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington about the incident Thursday. He was not fined, but did apologize to both his teammates and manager.

Travis Shaw takes Sandoval’s place in the Red Sox’ lineup, playing third base and hitting seventh.

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Yoan Moncada ‘starting to get comfortable’ in Greenville

06.18.15 at 12:38 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

No Red Sox Single-A player has ever received more hype than Greenville second baseman Yoan Moncada.

After the 19-year-old Cuban signed a minor league contract with a $31.5 million signing bonus in March and then spent over a month in extended spring training, Moncada made his professional debut May 18.

Through the first month of his professional career, the switch-hitting second baseman hasn’t blown anyone away with his numbers — posting a slash line of .220/.312/.317, while committing nine errors in 16 games in the field. It’s worth noting he hadn’t played organized baseball in over a year before coming to America and signing with the Red Sox, so he is still getting acclimated to the American game.

“I’ve seen a guy who is finally starting to get comfortable just in the daily routine of professional baseball,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster said via phone. “I think slowly, but surely the work that we put in before seven o’clock is paying dividends. He’s more understanding of the expectations that we and the staff are putting on him every day in terms of not sure how he’s playing the game, but more importantly how he’s working between 2:00-7:00.”

Moncada has spent much of his pregame work with hitting coach Nelson Paulino in the cage and also working on everything involved with playing a fundamentally-sound second base at the professional level.

“It’s everything from cage work with our hitting coach Nelson Paulino every single day where he’s hitting off the tee, he’s hitting soft toss, to really get a good understanding of his own swing so he understands what it feels like where he needs to be from both sides of the plate,” Fenster said. “It’s a mechanical thing, it’s an approach thing that we are hammering at him every day. Nelson Paulino, that’s his baby in terms of the work they do in the cage and during batting practice.

“From a defensive standpoint he’s on the field every day just getting consistent with fundamentals of fielding ground balls and turning double plays. More fundamentals we stress every day from relays, to communication, run downs, all the stuff that you see at seven o’clock we are working on that stuff far before the gates have even opened. He embraces the work and he’s a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

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Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen on D&C: ‘Nobody’s happy where we’re sitting here today’

06.18.15 at 10:13 am ET
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Mike Hazen

Mike Hazen

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the Sox, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Having lost eight of their last nine after dropping Wednesday’s game to the Braves 5-2, falling to last in the American League, Hazen said the mood around the baseball operations people is nothing short of disappointed.

“I think we’re remaining optimistic about the team,” he added. “I think nobody’s happy where we’re sitting here today. You know, it’s unfortunate, and we deserve to be where we are. We haven’t played very well on the course of the season. We need to work to at least see this through for the moves that we made that we believe in, that we think these guys are going to continue to perform and get better, and we need to continue to look at the roster and ways that we, at least as a baseball operations side of things, can impact this.

“What moves can we make to the roster, how can we make additions, are there things that we need to look at as we move into the trading deadline season, all those things. So that’s sort of the focus as we’re shifting forward, but the fact remains we need to play better, and we need to do a better job in the front office and we haven’t done that yet.”

During Wednesday night’s game, Pablo Sandoval’s Instagram account liked a picture, but Hazen said he had no knowledge of the situation. There is no confirmation that it was in fact Sandoval, as many times athletes have other people run their social media accounts.

“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things from Pablo, nothing that I’ve seen. He’s a great teammate, and he plays his butt off. I was in the clubhouse last night during the game, I didn’t see him so I’m not really sure, but I’m sure we’ll find out more about that today.”

A lot was said of outfielder Rusney Castillo when he signed a $72.5 million contract last summer, but he’s had some trouble producing consistently at the major league level. In his past 22 games, Castillo is 16-for-70 with a .229/.260/.286 slash line and just two extra-base hits.

“Obviously we love the speed, the defense, the ability to impact the ball from a raw strength standpoint, but this guy’s still trying to get his timing down,” Hazen said. “I realize the commitment that was made from a financial standpoint, so results are expected right away. It’s still a guy within the first 100 plate appearances of this season at the major league level. As we watch guys move into that phase at the major league level, as they’re getting attacked a lot differently than they do when they’re either in triple-A, or somewhere else or even September last year when you’re facing a lot of September call-ups in a lot of cases, this is a more challenging environment.

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Thursday Red Sox Farm Report: Allen Craig homers; Aaron Wilkerson impresses again; Sam Travis on fire

06.18.15 at 8:47 am ET
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A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

Noe Ramirez

Noe Ramirez

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (32-34): L, 7-5, at Charlotte (White Sox)

— The PawSox had a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning, but could not hold it as right-hander Noe Ramirez surrendered a three-run home run on the second pitch he threw in relief of Zeke Spruill. The first two Charlotte batters had reached via a walk and a fielder’€™s choice, the latter a comebacker that Spruill threw into the back of the lead runner digging for second base. Spruill was not charged with an error as second baseman Mike Miller didn’€™t initially break to cover the bag, leading to hesitation on Spruill’€™s throw.

For Ramirez, a fourth-round draft choice of Boston in 2011, it was the first homer he had allowed since August 6, 2013, a span of 59 appearances and broke a string of four straight scoreless outings since he came off the DL on May 28 (right forearm strain). The updated numbers for Ramirez on the season are: 20 2/3 IP, 16 H, 6 ER, 9 BB, 19 SO. Opposing hitters are hitting at just a .219 clip against him.

The Charlotte long ball was the second of the game for Trayce Thompson, as he also had a two-run shot in the fourth off of Pawtucket starter Jess Todd (4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO). Thompson also had a two-homer game against the PawSox on June 8 in Pawtucket.

— Allen Craig had tied the game at four with a leadoff home run in the sixth inning, before Pawtucket then took the lead in the seventh on a Jackie Bradley Jr. double and a Bryce Brentz RBI single.

For Craig, it was his third home run as a member of the PawSox since his arrival on May 12, an opposite field line drive on an outside fastball on the first pitch of the sixth. Craig has hits in 20 of his 27 games with Pawtucket with a slash line of .296/.406/.426. Craig ended the game as he was called out on strikes with a runner aboard.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Braves matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Shelby Miller

06.18.15 at 8:19 am ET
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In the final day of a four-game, two-city set with the Braves, the Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the hill opposite Shelby Miller.

In his first 13 starts on the year, Buchholz is 3-6 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.316 WHIP. The right-hander has not been the ace many hoped he would, but has not received much help from either the defense behind him or his team’s offense.

Buchholz has accrued a FIP of 2.79, pitching far better than just his ERA would suggest. At the plate, his teammates have managed to score only one run in a whopping seven of the Texan’s 13 outings.

The 30-year-old’s last appearance came on Saturday against the Blue Jays. Buchholz lasted six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out seven. Buchholz recorded a no-decision in the game, which the Red Sox eventually lost 5-4 in 11 innings.

“Everybody in here knows we’re not playing like we want to play,” Buchholz said in the clubhouse afterward. “We’ve got to find a way to win.”

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Ben Cherington takes blame for Red Sox troubles

06.18.15 at 12:12 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Speaking to the media prior to his team’s 5-2 loss to the Braves Wednesday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insisted blame for the last-place team’s woes should fall on his shoulders.

“From my perspective, looking at the bigger picture and why we are where we are, when you are where we are, there’s a lot of reasons for it,” Cherington told reporters. “There’s no single player that’s responsible for that. No single player can be responsible for a lot of reasons. The only person who perhaps is responsible, for a longer list of reasons, is me.”

With the team residing 11 games under .500 and nine games back in the American League East, Cherington said he understands there has been plenty of blame cast all across the organization.

“Well, the record is the record. The record is clearly not good enough for where we play and the amount that’€™s invested in the team,” he said. “We all know that. My job is to try to dig in to every reason for that, to look back at every decision we’ve made and try to learn something from that and then try to make it better, starting today and tomorrow and the next day. I think that whatever good things are going on in the organization, which I think there are a lot of good things going on in the organization, the record of the major-league team is the biggest thing. In Boston, that’€™s the biggest thing. When that’€™s not good enough, I’m more responsible than anyone else for that, so I have to find a way to make it better.”

The general manager was also asked about the expectations of specific players:

Rusney Castillo: “Well we think he’€™s a good player. The performance at the big league level so far this year obviously doesn’€™t reflect what we think he is. If you look at all of the attributes, he’€™s got athleticism, he’€™s got the tools, he’€™s strong, he cares, he’€™s accountable, he works hard. I think he’€™s smart. That all adds up to being a good player. It hasn’€™t shown up yet on the field in 2015 on the big league level so he’€™s got to keep working through it. There’€™s plenty of time for him to do that. On the other hand John has got to put the guys in the lineup who are swinging the bat the best.”

Jackie Bradley Jr.: “We talked about this a couple weeks ago. Very encouraged. He’s made an adjustment offensively and been one of the better hitters in the International League all year. Obviously the defense has always been there. He’s played hard at the top of that lineup every day. He looks like a good major-league player, the way we always thought that he could be. That’€™s where he is right now.”

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