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Closing Time: Jon Lester does it again, this time helping Red Sox to sweep of Royals

07.20.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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David Ross celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run. (AP)

David Ross celebrates his fourth-inning two-run home run. (AP)

Things are getting at least a little interesting.

The Red Sox continued their most impressive surge of the season, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, this time beating the Royals, 6-0, for a sweep of the teams’ three-game series.

Unlike their seven-game win streak in May — in which the Sox were facing two teams in Atlanta and Tampa Bay who were playing their worst baseball of the season — this doesn’t appear to be a mirage. During the current stretch the Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined 25 runs.

While all but one of their previous six wins had seen a margin of one run, this was a rare no-doubter. Riding the arm of Jon Lester and an offensive attack that drove Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura from the game after just 4 1/3 innings, the Sox had the game in control heading into the final four frames.

The hosts scored one in the first inning, two in the third and three in the fourth to put things out of reach for the Royals, who drop below .500 (48-49).

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 46-52, with their next 13 games coming against American League East foes, starting with a four-game set in Toronto.

While the offense was fairly spread out, with Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley all claiming multiple-hit days, the star of the game had to once again be Lester.

The lefty, who come into the game having allowed either zero or one earned run to Kansas City in his previous 10 starts (1.60 ERA) against the Royals, dominated the visitors. Lester allowed just four hits and no runs while going eight innings to lower his season ERA to 2.50. He also struck out eight.

In Lester’s last seven starts he has given up just five earned runs in 55 2/3 innings, striking out 47 and walking eight.


David Ross notched his sixth home run, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. It marked the fifth straight game the Sox have hit at least one home run.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks’ power showcase; Henry Owens not stagnating in Double-A; Trey Ball’s breakthrough stretch?

07.20.14 at 3:37 pm ET
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Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday:



– Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a solo homer to center. It was nearly Middlebrooks’ second homer in as many days (he was robbed of a homer by a tremendous leaping catch on Friday).

For now, Middlebrooks will continue to enjoy steady playing time in Pawtucket. But with the crowd that the Sox have on the left side of their infield between the big leagues (Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt) and Triple-A (Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero), teams are closely monitoring the situation to see if the Sox start dealing what seems like surplus inventory from their minor league prospect pool.

– DH Carlos Rivero reached base in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. He is 8-for-12 with two walks in his last three games.

– Right-hander Brandon Workman tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while punching out six. He struggled with his control at times (59 of 99 pitches for strikes — a 60 percent rate) but shut down his opponents by getting a handful of groundball outs to complement his six punchouts.


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Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine

07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, kansas city royals

Red Sox lineup: Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli get day off in series finale

07.20.14 at 11:43 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.

For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.


Brock Holt 3B

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Carp 1B

Shane Victorino RF

Stephen Drew SS

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jon Lester SP

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, mike napoli, MLB

What the Huston Street trade says about Koji Uehara and the Red Sox’ approach to the trade market

07.20.14 at 9:25 am ET
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Koji Uehara and the Red Sox had news to jump up and down about. (AP)

Koji Uehara recorded his 20th save of 2014 on Saturday. (AP)

July has already seen a number of key trades take place, most recently on Friday, when the Angels acquired closer Huston Street (and a prospect) from the Padres for four prospects. The trade of Street represented the move of one area where the Red Sox potentially could have made some intriguing noise as sellers: Closer.

Koji Uehara, of course, is eligible for free agency after this season. If the Red Sox conclude that they are not in the race, he’d represent a fascinating chip — a player who arguably did as much as anyone to secure a World Series title for the Red Sox last year. A team that feels like it’s one piece away from a title would seem to have every incentive to pursue Uehara.

In this case, however, it appears that the Angels weren’t a match for the Sox on a couple of levels that are revealing about both the state of the trade market for closers and the Sox’ approach to trade chips:

1) The Angels didn’t want a rental player.

The Halos not only acquire the services of Street for the duration of this year, but also hold an affordable $7 million option on him for 2015. The idea that Street could impact the team beyond the final months of this year made a deal more palatable.

‘€œWere it not for the fact we had the ability to control Huston for a year and two months, it would have been far more difficult to justify giving up the type of package we gave up to get him,’€ Angels GM Jerry DiPoto told the L.A. Times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Jon Lester vs. Yordano Ventura

07.20.14 at 8:05 am ET
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The Red Sox will close out a three-game series against the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, sending Jon Lester to the hill against Yordano Ventura.

Lester (9-7, 2.65 ERA) has been nearly unhittable for over a month, allowing just one earned run over his last six starts, posting a 1.01 ERA in the process. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who has posted career-highs in ERA (2.65) and WHIP (1.14) this season, continued his torrid pace in his last start July 10 against the White Sox.

Against Chicago, Lester allowed just one earned run over seven innings with zero walks and 12 strikeouts. Lester looked dominant from the get-go, striking out two batters in each of the first five innings of the game.

“I had pretty good command of my fastball to both sides, but I think the biggest pitch was my curveball,” Lester said after the game. “I was dropping it in for strikes and bouncing it, too. When I’m able to do that, I can get some separation from my fastball and cutter. It widens the plate for me. I was able to exploit that today.”

Lester was solid in his last outing against Kansas City on Aug. 8, 2013, allowing three runs (one earned) in seven innings of work in what as an eventual 5-1 Royals victory. In 10 career starts against the Royals, Lester is 6-3 with a 1.60 ERA — which stands as the lowest ERA from an active pitcher with at least seven starts against Kansas City.

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Read More: Jon Lester, Red Sox, royals, Yordano Ventura

Mike Napoli preserves Red Sox’ hot stretch with clutch round-tripper

07.19.14 at 11:47 pm ET
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Mike Napoli's last three home runs have all given the Red Sox the lead, stretching back to June 23. (AP)

Mike Napoli‘s last three home runs have all given the Red Sox the lead, stretching back to June 23. (AP)

One of the staples of last year’€™s championship season for the Red Sox has once again become a recurring theme over the first two contests of this brief three-game homestand against the Royals: Contributions from up and down the Boston roster.

Whether it be Xander Bogaerts’ and Jonny Gomes’€™ clutch home runs Friday night or Mike Napoli‘€™s sixth-inning go-ahead solo shot Saturday, the Sox are suddenly benefiting from different players stepping to the forefront of individual games en route to wins.

“€œThat’€™s what we did last year,”€ Napoli said after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kansas City. “That’€™s how you win ballgames. It can’€™t just be one guy doing it, so everyone is going to have to contribute and we all know that and we’€™re going to take it one day at a time.”

Comparisons aside, the Red Sox‘€™ recent stretch of clutch hitting has been a key factor in sustaining a run that has seen Boston win three in a row and six out of its last seven games.

With the game deadlocked in a 1-1 score Saturday, Napoli strode to the plate to face off against Royals southpaw starter Danny Duffy, who had only surrendered three hits over his first 5 1/3 innings of work.

After forcing the count to 3-1, Napoli turned on a high fastball from Duffy and clobbered it over the Monster and into Lansdowne Street for his 11th home run of the season, giving Boston a 2-1 lead that it would not yield in the following innings.

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Read More: Danny Duffy, mike napoli, Red Sox, royals
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