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Red Sox-Nationals series preview

04.13.15 at 12:07 pm ET
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Yunel Escobar (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Yunel Escobar is batting .304 with a five-game hitting streak, but as a team the Nationals are struggling offensively, averaging an MLB-worst 2.17 runs per game through the first week of the season. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

In their first home games of the season, the Red Sox will host the Nationals at Fenway Park for another interleague series.

The Sox spent this past weekend in New York, taking two out of three from the Yankees. Boston experienced its worst loss of the year on Sunday night in the series finale when Clay Buchholz surrendered seven runs in the first inning. As Boston only managed four runs on the evening, that was all the Yankees needed and New York took a 14-4 win.

So far, the Red Sox have scored four or fewer runs just twice this year: on Sunday night and in the second game against the Phillies. They’re also in the top 10 in the league terms of runs scored. This is almost entirely the opposite of what the Nationals are dealing with this season.

The Nats have yet to score more than four runs and are dead last in the league in batting average as well as runs scored. However, their pitching is doing well, allowing just the eighth-fewest runs in the league (20) and the fourth-fewest earned runs (14). They also have the fourth-best team ERA in the league at 2.32.

Outfielder Jayson Werth is expected to make his return to he lineup for Washington on Monday. He had been on the disabled list for shoulder surgery and is a career .276 hitter. He was fourth on the team in RBIs last year with 82.

“I feel good,” he told reporters Sunday. “I haven’t had a lot of at-bats, but I’m about to get a bunch. It was a tough January, February, March. I was just trying. I’m glad to be back. I felt really good.”

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Red Sox lineup: Sandy Leon to catch Rick Porcello in home opener

04.13.15 at 11:39 am ET
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Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon is slated to catch Rick Porcello in the Red Sox‘ home opener Monday, as the Sox take on the Nationals in a 3:05 p.m. start at Fenway Park.

Leon, acquired from the Nationals just before the start of the season, is 0-for-4 with a walk in two games this season.

Shane Victorino will play right field and bat seventh for the Sox, who, despite coming off Sunday night’s 14-4 loss to the Yankees, are tied with the Blue Jays for first in the American League East at 4-2.

The Nationals, expected to challenge for the National League pennant this season, are 2-4 after snapping a three-game skid with Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Here is the Red Sox lineup that will face Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann.

Mookie Betts, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, LF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Mike Napoli, 1B
Shane Victorino, RF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Sandy Leon, C

For the pitching matchups, click here. For a series preview, click here.

Monday’s Red Sox-Nationals matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Jordan Zimmermann

04.13.15 at 8:56 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

After starting the season with series wins in Philadelphia and New York, the Red Sox venture to Fenway Park on Monday for their home opener against the Nationals. Rick Porcello will make his second start of the year, while Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for Washington.

Porcello had a good outing against the Phillies in his first start of the season but took a loss as the Red Sox offense only scored twice. The 26-year-old threw 101 pitches over six innings and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out four batters and forced a lot of ground balls, recording 2.65 ground outs for every air out. The only runs Porcello allowed came on a three-run sixth-inning home run by Jeff Francoeur.

“Sometimes that’s the difference, you know? One big mistake,” Porcello told reporters after the game. “Type of ballgame like that, I can’t make a pitch like that. Left a slider up middle and he did what he’s supposed to do with it.”

Before his first start, Porcello signed a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension with the Red Sox.

Last season with the Tigers was Porcello’s first year exceeding 200 innings. He went 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP.

Porcello likely will need another good outing to keep the Red Sox in the game, as Washington is sending a great pitcher to the mound. Zimmermann holds a career 3.23 ERA and 1.147 WHIP and finished last season with a 14-5 record, a 2.66 ERA and a 1.072 WHIP. The 28-year-old Wisconsin native set a career high in strikeouts with 182 and only walked 29 on his way to finishing fifth in the NL Cy Young Award race.

In his first start of 2015, Zimmermann allowed one run on five hits while striking out four in six innings of work on his way to a win. In his one career start at Fenway in 2012, he gave up three runs on seven hits through seven innings while striking out seven.

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz’s poor outing dooms Red Sox in blowout loss to Yankees

04.12.15 at 11:32 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz allowed a career-high 10 runs in Sunday's loss to the Yankees. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz allowed a career-high 10 runs in Sunday’s loss to the Yankees. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Maybe thinking Clay Buchholz is back to his 2013 pre-injury form was a little premature.

After dominating the Phillies on Opening Day, the Red Sox‘ right-hander struggled out of the gates allowing seven first inning runs (six earned) en route to allowing a career-high 10 runs in the Yankees’ 14-4 win Sunday night to avoid a series sweep.

The Yankees batted around in the first inning as Buchholz allowed a lead off walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, followed by a perfectly executed hit-and-run single by Brett Gardner with Ellsbury advancing to third. Carlos Beltran then hit into a fielders choice for the Yankees’ first run. Then, following a Mark Teixeira walk, Brian McCann reached on a Mike Napoli error, as he bobbled the ball on a play going to his right, which loaded the bases.

Alex Rodriguez would clear the bases with a double to left center field, giving the Yankees a 4-0 lead, and things would only get worse for Buchholz.

He then allowed back-to-back home runs to Chase Headley and Stephen Drew to close out the first inning scoring.

In a normal situation, without a depleted bullpen following Friday’s 19-inning game and the inability to recall a pitcher, Buchholz may have been removed from the game, but he needed to take some heat off the bullpen. He actually settled down retiring seven of the next eight batters after the first, but struggled again in the fourth, allowing three more runs and thus being removed from the game in the inning.

Buchholz finished by going 3 1/3 innings, allowing 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits, while walking two and striking out three. It was his shortest outing since going just three innings May 26 in Atlanta last season, and he went on the disabled list after the start. It’s also worth mentioning the right-hander failed to back up the bases on a few occasions in the fourth inning.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka breezed through the first three innings, but had trouble in the fourth, throwing 38 pitches and allowing three runs. He finished the night going five innings, allowing four runs on four hits, which was enough to earn the win.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: The Yankees’ bats broke out in a big way by totaling 16 hits and were led by Headley, who went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI, including the first inning home run.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ second loss of the season:

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, hanley ramirez, Masahiro Tanaka

Koji Uehara slated to return as Red Sox closer Monday

04.12.15 at 10:31 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

According to John Farrell, the plan is to have Koji Uehara close out a Red Sox win Monday afternoon at Fenway Park if needed.

Uehara came through his one-inning outing with Single-A Greenville Saturday without any physical issues, although he did allow three hits. So, with the pitcher’s hamstring no longer an issue, the Red Sox feel confident enough to not only activate the righty, but immediately re-insert him as the team’s closer.

The 40-year-old pitched in just three spring training games, allowing runs in two of them.

“Yeah, he came through [Saturday’s] outing fine,” the Red Sox manager told reporters Sunday. “Feels, I think, an increase in confidence after a full game intensity. Everything points to he rejoining us tomorrow.”

The Red Sox will have to clear a roster spot to make room for Uehara, with relievers Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross Jr. the likely candidates since both have options.

The Red Sox have only had one save opportunity to date, with Edward Mujica allowing a ninth-inning solo home run to Chase Headley Friday night to send the eventual 19-inning Sox win into extra innings.

Red Sox lineup: Shane Victorino back in against Masahiro Tanaka

04.12.15 at 5:46 pm ET
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With right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on the mound for the Yankees Sunday night, Shane Victorino returns to the starting lineup. The right fielder, who has played in three of the Sox’s five games, hits seventh.

With Clay Buchholz going for the Red Sox, this is John Farrell‘s lineup as the Sox attempt to sweep the Yankees in the Bronx:

Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Shane Victorino RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Ryan Hanigan C

For all the matchups, click here.

Sunday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Masahiro Tanaka

04.12.15 at 8:22 am ET
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The Red Sox will send Opening Day starter Clay Buchholz to the mound Sunday in the series finale against the Yankees as Boston goes for the sweep. He will be matched up against Masahiro Tanaka.

Buchholz gave Red Sox fans a sigh of relief in his first start of 2015. The 30-year-old righty pitched seven shutout innings against the Phillies on the way to his first win of the season. He allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out nine. On 94 pitches, Buchholz threw 65 strikes and was able to keep many batted balls on the ground. Of balls in play, nine were ground balls, seven were fly balls and four were line drives.

“It was good,” Buchholz told reporters after the game. “There was a lot of building up to this moment. I felt good all spring. It’s just another step, I guess. I was a little more anxious today than I have been for [other] first starts given all the attention to it. After the first couple pitches, it felt like a normal game.”

Throughout the offseason, the Red Sox rotation was criticized for not having a viable ace. Last year Buchholz went 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA and was the fifth starter for most of the season. While one game is not enough of a sample size to predict what will happen the rest of the season, Buchholz looked like the ace the Sox are looking for.

“Mechanically, I’m in a lot better spot,” Buchholz said. “I feel like I’m within my delivery with every pitch. Whenever I come out of it, it’s like … I feel it and I can switch on the next pitch rather than letting it go for an inning and coming in the dugout and having someone say, ‘This is what you’re doing.’ I feel like I know my mechanics better than I did at any point last year. Yeah, it just puts me in a better spot to command and throw strikes.”

In seven career starts in the new Yankee Stadium, Buchholz is 4-3 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. He made three starts against New York last year, going 0-2 with a 6.88 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Masahiro Tanaka, Red Sox,

Clay Buchholz was warming up to pitch in Saturday’s Yankees game

04.11.15 at 5:53 pm ET
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NEW YORK — A short note from Saturday’s 8-4 victory over the Yankees: Clay Buchholz was warming to pitch.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed Buchholz throwing in the bullpen in the latter innings of the victory. And it would be easy to assume that, because Buchholz is Sunday’s listed starter, he was just getting work in before his regular turn.

That would be false.

“I was up to pitch,” Buchholz said. “All hands on deck. (Justin) Masterson and I were both down there. If something happened and the game got out of hand and we were tied and went to extra innings, that’s what I was out there for. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. You’ve got to win today.”

Manager John Farrell said that Masterson actually would’ve entered the game before Buchholz, but that both were available in light of Friday’s 19-inning, bullpen-taxing marathon. Similarly, the Yankees had starter CC Sabathia warming in their pen, too.

“I do that every day before a start, I throw about 10-15 pitches off a mound with a catcher on the plate,” Buchholz said. “That’s my routine. But today I pushed it back a little bit in case I needed to get out there and throw a couple of innings. My routine wasn’t messed up at all.”

The real question is who would’ve started Sunday in Buchholz’s absence. Buchholz maintained that he would’ve liked a chance to record a save on one day and a win the next, but recognized that probably wasn’t happening.

Because of the 10-day rule on players optioned to the minors, the Red Sox wouldn’t have been able to summon a starter from Pawtucket who got demoted at the end of spring training, meaning they’d potentially have needed to turn to a non-roster pitcher for the spot start while simultaneously clearing room on the 40-man roster.

Thankfully for all involved, it didn’t come to that.

Closing Time: Joe Kelly dominates, reserves shine as Red Sox down Yankees

04.11.15 at 4:21 pm ET
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Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees

Joe Kelly dominated the Yankees on Saturday during seven, one-hit innings. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Talk about a situation fraught with peril.

Just hours after burning through their entire bullpen in Friday’s 19-inning victory that was also the longest game (6:49) in franchise history, the Red Sox sent Joe Kelly to the mound unsure if he’d even give them five innings.

Making his first start of the season after talking his way out of a final rehab appearance, Kelly topped those modest expectations by a country mile, silencing the Yankees over seven one-hit innings. He walked two, struck out eight, and allowed just one run in an 8-4 victory that was every bit as inspiring as the previous night’s marathon.

“Coming out like that against this team, to be able to execute with the lower pitch count and get through seven, that was huge for us, man,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan. “Once he gets the ball rolling and gets some momentum and starts feeling it, he’s tough. That was a good start for us, for sure.”

Featuring a fastball with tremendous movement that routinely topped 95 mph, Kelly dominated on a day when the Red Sox desperately needed it, sparing the bullpen further torment.

He had originally been scheduled to start in Single A Greenville on Saturday in a tuneup before coming off the disabled list with a biceps injury. But after throwing 78 pitches in a rehab start on Monday and coming out of his bullpen later in the week feeling strong, Kelly proved to manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves that he was ready to go.

“As well as he threw the ball, it looked like he was ready,” Farrell said. “And that wasn’€™t just me but it was Juan, it was Dana (LeVangie), we all witnessed the same thing.”

Kelly predicted on Thursday in Philadelphia that he’d throw at least 90 pitches on Saturday, and he also reiterated that he pitches with a bulldog mentality, both of which turned out to be true.

“We had a very, very thin bullpen, and it was a marathon game (the night before),” Kelly said. “I was going to go out there until they told me I couldn’t. If it was in the fifth inning, I was going to try to say, ‘Well, these guys need a little bit more of a break and my arm is feeling fine,’ no matter where I was at in the game. Luckily enough, I made it to the seventh inning and gave myself and the team a chance to win that ballgame.”

The right-hander proclaimed over the offseason that he planned to win the Cy Young Award, and the boast quickly became a punchline. What’s he thinking? He’s never thrown more than 124 innings.

But one start into his season, Kelly looked as good as anyone in the Red Sox rotation, which has collectively excelled through its first turn. He threw 58 of his 93 pitches for strikes while compiling an impressive 12 swings and misses.

He certainly made the most of his opportunity, and now the Red Sox are sitting pretty at 4-1, with a chance for Clay Buchholz to complete the sweep on Sunday. Five games into the season, the Red Sox look like a team that is for real, with incredible offensive depth — reserves Brock Holt and Daniel Nava combined to go 6 for 9 with five RBIs — as well as better than expected starting pitching.

Kelly provided just the latest example of that on Saturday.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: This one’s easy. Joe Kelly started the game as a question mark, and ended it as the standout performer. He went seven one-hit innings, walking two and striking out eight. He dominated the Yankees practically from start to finish, retiring the last 17 batters he faced.

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Adam Warren

04.11.15 at 8:53 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Up until Wednesday, as he began the season on the disabled list with sore biceps, it was unclear whether or not Joe Kelly would get his first start of the season this weekend. In fact, manager John Farrell had already decided to send Steven Wright out to the mound to face Adam Warren on Saturday in the Bronx. However, after Kelly threw 78 pitches in a rehab outing Monday and emerged from a bullpen session Wednesday feeling strong, Farrell indicated Kelly was likely to get the ball Saturday.

“My body and arm and everything is physically there,” Kelly said Thursday. “It’s just a matter of that one rehab start [with Single-A Greenville], trying to build pitches up, and being around 75 pitches my last time out, five up and downs, I should be able to get, I hope, to 90, and give the team a chance to win. After those 75 pitches and all those up and downs, my arm bounced back like it normally does. Then I went through my side session and everything checked out good. They felt comfortable letting me go and I felt comfortable.”

Since being traded to the Red Sox from the Cardinals in the deal that sent John Lackey to St. Louis, Kelly has posted a 4-2 record in 10 starts with a 4.11 ERA. In his 61 1/3 innings of work with Boston, the 26-year-old averaged 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and 4.7 walks per nine as well.

In three starts this spring training, Kelly tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing nine runs and finishing with an 11.05 ERA. Granted, his preseason stint was cut short by his injury.

Kelly faced the Yankees twice last season, both times in September, and earned wins in each game. The first, a 9-4 victory on Sept. 2 in New York and the second a 10-4 victory at Fenway Park on Sept. 27. In both starts, he went at least six innings and struck out nine total batters.

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