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Joe Kelly has noticed changed Red Sox clubhouse, change in himself

09.20.16 at 10:48 am ET
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Joe Kelly has thrived on this Red Sox team in this new role. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Joe Kelly has thrived on this Red Sox team in this new role. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — In the first two seasons Joe Kelly found himself with the Red Sox, he was playing on a team that combined to go just 101-111. That’s not going to usually lend itself to a smiley clubhouse.

But this year, whether it’s due to a switch in the team’s fortunes, or the club’s personnel, Kelly has observed an alteration in the Red Sox’ mindset.

“The team chemistry, the on and off the field stuff, has felt a lot better this year,” Kelly said. “There have been times on the road where six or seven guys are hanging out in rooms. That didn’t happen last year and that didn’t happen the year before. I don’t know if team chemistry builds winning, or if winning build team chemistry. But right now I would say we’re in a good spot on both sides, playing winning baseball, being good teammates and having good team chemistry.”

It’s not the only change.

The pitcher who began the season in the starting rotation, has landed as at least a semi-high leverage relief pitcher. Since being recalled on Sept. 2, Kelly has yet to allow a run over seven outings, striking out 11 while walking three and giving up six hits over 7 2/3 innings.

The role has flipped, as has the mentality.

“It’s just me, I wouldn’t say being angry, but it’s me wanting to get everybody out,” Kelly said. “It’s just me trying to get the hitter out the best I can no matter the situation.

“I feel like I have more fire in my belly just because I know how playoff baseball is. I’ve pitched in playoff baseball, been a part of teams that have won year in, year out. That’s what makes baseball fun. Coming in last is no fun. To be part of a team where we’re a good group of guys and we happen to be good baseball players. It’s one of the most fun things you can do as a professional athlete, lead your division with a couple of weeks to go and be on a team that actually gets along and likes each other.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell isn’t quite ready to anoint Kelly as a no doubt, eighth-inning option. In front of him still stands Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler and Matt Barnes.

What Kelly has going for him is that 100 mph fastball, much-improved curveball, the ability to get out lefties and righties, and experience with pitching on the big stage.

In case you forgot, he was the Cardinals starting pitcher against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings in what resulted in a St. Louis win. He has also already totaled seven postseason relief appearances, totaling a 2.35 ERA.

When it comes to anxiety in a pennant race or postseason, Kelly has no time for it.

“It just feels like pitching, which is a good thing. I wish I had the feeling … It can play against you if you really think it’s meaningful. It can hinder your performance,” he said. “Wanting to get everybody out as quick as I can, that’s how I’ve approached it. The only time there’s a difference is when the playoffs come around just because the atmosphere is different. People cheer for balls. You go on the road, the count goes to 1-0 and they cheer like there’s a walk off homer.

“My family knows I’m numb to that kind of stuff. I was playing video games right before I went out and pitched. It’s just a game people enhance rather than the players. We’re playing another team but people make a bigger deal of it. Guys who get freaked out about it let it hinder their performance. ‘Oh, it’s a playoff game!’ What’s the worst that can happen? You lose. You don’t pitch well. Obviously you can’t change the outcome, but there are only two outcomes. You’re going to do good or bad. It’s not going to determine your life. You’re not going to die. You’re not going to get in a plane crash. It’s just another game.

“Hopefully I can keep pitching well, we’ll win this division and I’ll try and get on a playoff roster.”

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Kevin Gausman

09.20.16 at 9:24 am ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

The red-hot Red Sox look to continue their winning ways Tuesday night in Baltimore when they send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound opposite right-hander Kevin Gausman, who blanked the Sox last Wednesday for Boston’s last loss.

Rodriguez is 2-7 with a 4.98 ERA and a 1.339 WHIP in 17 starts. The left-hander had one of his worst starts of the season last Thursday against the Yankees. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up four runs, eight hits and no walks while recording no strikeouts in what would end up being a 7-5 Sox win.

Against the Orioles, with whom he began his professional career in 2010, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.330 WHIP in six career starts. This season he is 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP in three starts against Baltimore. In his most recent matchup vs. the O’s on Aug. 16, Rodriguez was dominant, throwing four innings without allowing a baserunner and fanning seven, but he was removed in the fifth inning because of tightness in his hamstring.

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Rick Porcello on dust-up with Manny Machado: ‘It’s September baseball’

09.19.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The moment added a little bit more intrigue to the latest biggest game of the season.

With two outs in the fourth inning, and Rick Porcello still not having allowed the Orioles a single baserunner, the Red Sox starter delivered an 0-1 fastball to Manny Machado. The offering hit the O’s batter, leading to some verbal sparring between the pitcher and hitter as Machado walked toward first base.

Television replays showed Porcello reminding Machado (in some salty language) that it would make no sense to hit the infielder considering slugger Mark Trumbo was up next.

Sure enough, Trumbo made Porcello pay for the hit batsman, lining a double off the right field wall for the Orioles’ first run.

“It’s September baseball. Obviously emotions are running high,” Porcello said. “Nobody wants to get hit by a pitch, that’s why I completely understand. I wouldn’t like it if I was up there and I got hit. At the same time, there’s absolutely no reason why I would hit him right there, especially with Mark Trumbo standing on deck. I mean, he’s hitting missiles all over the ballpark off me. So I don’t want to face him in a 2-0 game, especially when I’ve got a perfect game going.”

Added manager John Farrell: “Obviously he’s not trying to him him. He’s retired every guy he’s faced. Let’s face it — in this ballpark, with those big right-handed hitters, you’ve got to keep guys from getting extended out over the plate. The two-seamer that ran in a little bit, it clipped him. He was not trying to hit him. [Umpire] Tim Timmons felt like he needed to warn both sides, which that was his decision.”

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Closing Time: Rick Porcello cements himself in Cy Young conversation with dominating win over Orioles

09.19.16 at 9:41 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — When you’re kicking off the most important series of the season, it probably isn’t a bad thing when you do so with the pitcher steaming his way toward the American League Cy Young award.

That’s exactly what the Red Sox were reminded of Monday night at before 18,456 fans at Camden Yards.

In a year that has now seen Rick Porcello garner 21 wins, this one might have been the most impressive, and certainly was the most important. The Red Sox ace dominated the O’s in leading John Farrell’s team to a 5-2 win, pushing Boston’s lead in the American League East to four games.

“We’re going to try, but we’re playing against a good ball club,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz when asked if the Red Sox wanted to use the four-game series to push the Orioles out of the picture. “You’re not supposed to take anything for granted.”

Said Porcello: “Up to this point right now, this is the biggest series of the year for us. So you know we got to beat these guys up front and we have three more games left. It’s a good way to start it.”

The performance was Porcello’s third complete game of the season and marked the 11th straight start he has gone at least seven innings. The righty’s ERA would have stood at 3.03 — the exact same as perhaps his most formidable competition for the Cy Young, Chris Sale — but Adam Jones took the Sox pitcher deep with a solo blast with two outs in the eighth inning.

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David Ortiz hits 35th home run of season, extends Red Sox lead

09.19.16 at 8:34 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — There might only be a few regular-season games left in David Ortiz’s career, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down as the finish line draws near.

The latest feat in Ortiz’s historic final season came Monday night at Camden Yards when the designated hitter launched his 35th homer of the season. The fifth-inning blast over the right field wall scored Dustin Pedroia and increased the Red Sox’ lead to 5-1 over the Orioles.

It was Ortiz’s seventh homer against the O’s, matching the most the 40-year-old as ever hit in one season against Baltimore (with the other seven-homer campaign coming in 2013).

Ortiz has 53 home runs against the Orioles, the third most by any opponent. Only Harmon Killebrew (68) and Alex Rodriguez (69) have more.

Ortiz has homered in five of his last eight games at Camden Yards, having gone deep 10 times in his last 16 trips to the home of the O’s. Since 2012, Ortiz has hit 15 homers in 34 games here.

Prior to the Ortiz homer, the Red Sox already had utilized the long ball to get the better of Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, with Mookie Betts launching a two-run home run to kick off the scoring in the third inning. It was Betts’ eighth homer at Camden Yards this season the most by a visiting player since the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954.

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Red Sox have no plans to draw back on Drew Pomeranz

09.19.16 at 6:12 pm ET
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Drew Pomeranz. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

Drew Pomeranz remains in the starting rotation. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — With three more trips through the rotation to be had in the regular season, the Red Sox and Drew Pomeranz are staying the course.

Despite the lefty’s recent downturn — nine runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two starts — Red Sox manager John Farrell said that the plan still is to have Pomeranz make his next scheduled outing, Friday in St. Petersburg, Florida, against the Rays. On Sunday night, the southpaw allowed four runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Yankees.

The 27-year-old is well above his career high in innings pitched, having thrown 164 1/3 between his stints with the Padres and Red Sox.

“Command. It’s been command,” Farrell said when asked what has been Pomeranz’s primary issue. “Is that a direct correlation to the innings workload to date? That’s quite possible. I thought last night his velocity was consistent or similar to previous starts. The command from pitch to pitch was not there. And it cost him. That’s something we monitor close. He’s going to start Friday in Tampa. We continue on.”

The only mechanism in place to limit Pomeranz’s workload has been the Red Sox not allowing the starter to begin an inning when at or over 100 pitches.

“That still holds true. That still holds steadfast,” Farrell said of the mandate. “If there’s a quality outing after ‘X’ number of innings, we feel like, you know what, here’s a step in the right direction, given the availability of a number of arms to us, that might be a little bit of a shift as we move forward. We’re balancing all of that.”

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Red Sox lineup: Andrew Benintendi gets start in LF, Brock Holt at 3B against Orioles

09.19.16 at 3:36 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

BALTIMORE — Andrew Benintendi is getting the call for the first game of the season’s most important series.

The rookie starts in left field for the Red Sox, who begin their four-game set against the Orioles Monday night at Camden Yards with Baltimore trailing the Sox by three games in the American League East. The lefty hitting Benintendi bats ninth against Orioles starter Dylan Bundy.

A new wrinkle to the Sox’ order is Brock Holt playing third base, a position he hasn’t started at since Aug. 24. It will be Holt’s sixth start at third this season.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup with Rick Porcello getting the start for the visitors:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Andrew Benintendi LF

For all the matchups, click here.

Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Dylan Bundy

09.19.16 at 12:54 pm ET
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On Monday night the Red Sox will be in Baltimore to open a four-game series with the second-place Orioles. The Sox will send Rick Porcello to the mound for the opener to face rookie right-hander Dylan Bundy.

Porcello is 20-4 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.002 WHIP, all among the best marks in the American League. On Wednesday against the Orioles, Porcello went eight innings, allowing just one run, four hits and no walks with six strikeouts but was the hard-luck loser in a 1-0 game. The lone run came via a Mark Trumbo home run in the second inning. It was Porcello’s first loss at Fenway this season.

“Rick was outstanding,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He settled in. He takes the ball off the calf [on a line drive in the second inning], was able to maintain staying loose, got better as the game went on.”

Against the Orioles, the right-hander is 3-8 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.365 WHIP in 14 starts. Before Wednesday, Porcello last pitched against the O’s in June, going six innings, giving up five runs, six hits (three home runs) and no walks with three strikeouts.

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Closing Time: Hanley Ramirez (2 HRs) continues torrid September by lifting Red Sox to sweep of Yankees

09.18.16 at 11:42 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) watches his three run home run during the fifth inning against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) watches his three run home run during the fifth inning against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez is not of this world. At the very least, no ballpark can contain him.

Ramirez continued one of the most torrid stretches of his career on Sunday against the Yankees by smashing two home runs, including the go-ahead shot in the seventh, to lift the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory and four-game sweep that might just deal a death blow to the Yankees’ playoff hopes.

Ramirez, who began the series with a dramatic game-winning three-run homer, ended it with a three-run homer in the fifth and then the solo shot over everything in left in the seventh to send the Red Sox to Baltimore for a four-game showdown with the second-place Orioles.

“I just was just listening from the dugout, ‘Make him pay, make him pay, make him pay,'” Ramirez said of the first homer, which got the Red Sox back in the game.

The Red Sox needed Ramirez’s heroics, because left-hander Drew Pomeranz once again struggled with his command, allowing seven hits and four runs in 3 2/3 innings, as well as another homer his 12th in 13 games.

Pomeranz got in trouble right off the top, allowing Brett Gardner to lead off the game with a double. He scored on a two-out single by Didi Gregorius.

The Yankees added another run in the third on the 16th homer of the season from catcher Gary Sanchez before chasing Pomeranz in the fourth. An infield single, double, and a walk loaded the bases, and the Yankees plated two runs with fielder’s choices before Farrell summoned right-hander Heath Hembree for the final out.

“Got in a few jams that I didn’t get myself out of,” Pomeranz said. “It’s kind of frustrating, a few balls that don’t leave the infield, but that’s baseball. They put them in the right spot and they did a good job. Most importantly, we won the game. This team’s amazing. It seems like we’re never out of reach. They really picked me up tonight. It’s really fun to watch.”

The Red Sox finally got to Yankees starter CC Sabathia in the fifth. Bryan Holaday led off with a double before Xander Bogaerts worked a one-out walk. Both runners advanced on Sabathia’s error after he caught Mookie Betts’ liner, but Ramirez rendered their respective choice of bases irrelevant with a line drive home run to left that made it 4-3.

“Everything, like I say, everything’s coming together,” Ramirez said. “When we need a big play, you know, it’s come. When we need a big rally, we’ve been doing it. Everything’s coming together at the right time.”

The Red Sox tied the game in the sixth after singles by Travis Shaw, Aaron Hill, and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated a run. David Ortiz pinch hit to a standing ovation, but struck out. The Red Sox failed to score.

No matter. Ramirez took care of everything in the seventh against reliever Tyler Clippard by unloading on an off-speed pitch and blasting deep into the night to give the Red Sox their four-game sweep and a two-game lead in the division.

MVP candidate Mookie Betts helped the Red Sox hang on with a pair of brilliant diving catches, including one on Gardner leading off the ninth.

Closing Time note

Reliever Koji Uehara closed it out in the ninth for his seventh save. His last three saves have come against the Yankees, including two in July before he suffered the pectoral injury that nearly ended his season.

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Red Sox lineup: Doubles machine David Ortiz gets night off as Sox look to complete sweep of Yankees

09.18.16 at 6:42 pm ET
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David Ortiz

David Ortiz

David Ortiz has earned a night off.

The Red Sox DH, originally penciled in for the entire Yankees series, will skip Sunday’s finale to rest up for a four-game series with the Orioles that starts on Monday. He served as honorary captain at the Patriots-Dolphins game in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon.

“When I talked with David after Friday night’s game, in large part because of the number of times he was on base and the extent to which he ran, with a quick turnaround on Saturday, we talked about the upcoming two days — yesterday and today,” manager John Farrell said. “With the late-night arrival, likely four right-handed starters in Baltimore, felt like this was the day to give him down.”

Ortiz leads the league in doubles with 47, a feat Farrell considers even more impressive than his 34 homers.

“I would say, yes,” Farrell said. “Fortunately here, I don’t know how many have been ground-rule where he’s jogging into second base, but it was before the All-Star break where you look up and he’s already in the low 30s, and at that point you look up and it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher. To see that number of doubles hit in this, what would be his last year, that’s a crazy amount if you ask me. A crazy amount. He’s got a chance to have 50-plus doubles, 35-plus home runs. That’s a career for a lot of guys.”

Here’s the Red Sox lineup, with Drew Pomeranz facing Yankees lefty CC Sabathia.

Pedroia 2B
Bogaerts SS
Betts RF
Ramirez DH
Young LF
Shaw 1B
Hill 3B
Bradley Jr. CF
Holaday C

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