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Closing Time: Brock Holt’s 3-run homer snaps tie, leads Red Sox over Orioles

04.24.15 at 10:39 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Through the first 16 games of the season, the Red Sox have made it a habit to capitalize on their opponents mistakes.

Friday was no different, as the Red Sox were given an extra out on a Manny Machado error with two outs in the eighth inning and the next batter, Brock Holt, made him pay with a three-run home run. The homer snapped a 4-4 tie and gave the Red Sox an eventual 7-5 win over the Orioles.

Pablo Sandoval worked a two-out walk and then pinch-hitter Allen Craig’s grounder got by Machado at third, which was ruled an error. Holt then stepped in and belted a three-run home run over the wall in right. It was his first homer of the season.

With a three-run lead, Junichi Tazawa allowed a solo home run to Chris Davis in the eighth, but fortunately it was just a solo home run and then Koji Uehara came on for a scoreless ninth to pick up the save.

It was an up-and-down outing for Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who made it into the seventh inning, but couldn’t record an out. He allowed the first two batters to reach and was pulled in favor of Craig Breslow. Breslow allowed one of the inherited runners to score, which tied the game at four.

Porcello went six-plus innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out seven. For the first time this season he didn’t eclipse the 100-pitch mark, as he was removed after throwing 91 pitches. He was given a two-run lead going into the fifth, but allowed single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to take a no-decision.

The Red Sox have now won all six series openers this season.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Holt. His home run snapped the four-all tie in the eighth inning. He finished the game 2-for-4 and is now hitting .424 on the year.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox win:

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt, rick porcello

Jim Palmer: David Ortiz should watch how Adam Jones plays, he ‘doesn’t show anybody up’

04.24.15 at 6:37 pm ET
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If you thought the Jim Palmer-David Ortiz drama of the past week was over, think again.

The former Orioles pitcher and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame made a few comments about Ortiz last weekend, and now with the Red Sox being in Baltimore this weekend and Palmer broadcasting the games for MASN, he spoke on the matter again.

Speaking with the Baltimore Sun, Palmer didn’t regret what he said last weekend when he called Ortiz out for being ejected from last Sunday’s game against the Orioles, and thus being suspended for a game.

“I can understand that, but on the other hand I am an analyst,” Palmer said to the paper. “That’€™s what I was doing. I watch baseball and I looked at it from that angle. To put this to rest, all David Ortiz has to do in this three-game series is watch the way Adam Jones plays the game. If he hits a home run, he puts his head down, runs around the bases, doesn’€™t show anybody up. To me, that’€™s the way you play the game.

“He’€™s entitled to do it any way he wants, but when he throws his whole team under the bus, all the fans who came out to Fenway Park, it’€™s kind of like a puppy –€“ unconditional love –€“ but at the end of the day, if the puppy doesn’€™t do the right things, you need to housebreak him.”

Palmer also reportedly didn’t visit the Red Sox clubhouse prior to the game, like he usually does to opposing clubhouses before the game.

“It’€™s not about me,’€™’€™ Palmer said. “It’€™s about the Orioles starting to pitch better than they have and play defense and the Red Sox are not hitting with runners in scoring position. Those are the important things. I had an opinion on what David Ortiz does. I’€™m still waiting for somebody from Boston or David to come out and apologize for throwing his team under the bus, because that’€™s what he did that day.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Jim Palmer,

Mike Napoli, Pablo Sandoval remain flipped in Red Sox order against Orioles

04.24.15 at 4:26 pm ET
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The Red Sox look to bounce back after losing their first series of the year, opening  a three-game set in Baltimore on Friday night with Rick Porcello opposing former Red Sox farmhand Miguel Gonzalez.

The Sox lost two of three in Tampa to the Rays, including Thursday night’s walkoff defeat. For the third straight game, first baseman Mike Napoli will bat fifth and Pablo Sandoval sixth, in an effort to keep teams from bringing in a left-handed reliever to face David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Sandoval.

Also, with Shane Victorino battling a sore hamstring, Daniel Nava gets the start in right field. Click here for a series preview, and also read up on why Porcello has been questioning his pitch selection of late. Here’s the lineup.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
7. Daniel Nava, RF
8. Brock Holt, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
Rick Porcello, RHP

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Rick Porcello and his 4-seam fastball conundrum

04.24.15 at 1:40 pm ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

There’s a few things Rick Porcello would have done differently in his last start, a five-inning, 12-hit, eight-run outing against the Orioles last Sunday.

The list was made almost immediately made after the loss. And at the top of it — stop going away from his bread and butter, the two-seam, sinking fastball.

According to BrooksBaseball.net, Porcello only threw his go-to pitch 20 times, relying more on his cutter (30), changeup (16) and curveball (18). Compare that to the 62 sinkers he threw in his first game as a Red Sox.

And then there was the four-seamer.

Porcello has broken out the rising fastball at a much higher rate than usual, partially explaining his uptick in strikeouts (7.58 per nine innings) and home runs allowed (5 in 19 innings).

“I used it a lot to lefties. I think it’€™s one of those things where it’€™s a useful pitch but I’€™m not getting too far away from my identity as a pitcher, getting ground balls and being a sinkerballer,” he explained.

So, why did he feel the need to start relying on the four-seamer on a more regular basis?

“I started throwing it last year just to get guys off my sinker. There’€™s one of two reasons I’€™ll throw it,” Porcello said. “If I’€™m going to throw a fastball and I don’€™t want it to run back out over the middle of the plate to a right-handed hitter, or I don’€™t want a left-handed hitter to see my sinker I’€™ll use my four-seamer and then I still have my sinker, which they haven’€™t seen yet. Then it can be effective to throw a four-seamer and a sinker right after because they’€™re tracking the first one and it’€™s staying true, and then the next one isn’€™t. That is one reason to use it is to elevate in the strike zone, which is more effective to left-handed hitters. Some of the slap guys have a bat path where they stay on sinkers pretty well where a four-seam fastball kind of plays above the barrel. That’€™s the reasoning for it.”

Judging by Porcello’s comments throughout the week, in terms of pitch selection, Friday night might look a whole lot more like that first game in Philadelphia then what the Orioles faced at Fenway Park.

“There’s a balance and there’€™s a fine line between throwing it the right amount and throwing it too much, you can get away from what I do best and what my strength is, which is throwing the sinker,” Porcello noted. “The thing is I have the ability to throw a good four-seamer and generate some swings and misses. It’€™s just a matter of picking the right spots.”

Red Sox-Orioles series preview

04.24.15 at 11:38 am ET
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The Red Sox and Orioles split their four-game series last weekend at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox and Orioles split their four-game series last weekend at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Red Sox will make their first trip of 2015 to Camden Yards for a three-game weekend series with the Orioles starting Friday night. The two teams split their first series of the year at Fenway Park last weekend. Boston currently is in a three-way tie for first in the AL East, but the top and bottom spots in the division are separated by just two games.

Despite the division lead, the Sox have struggled on the mound and have not had the offensive consistency many expected at the beginning of the season. The pitching staff is ranked 23rd in the league with a 4.31 ERA, 13th with a 1.26 WHIP, and 11th with a .239 batting average against. No Red Sox starter has an ERA below 4.00, and Joe Kelly (4.08) and Clay Buchholz (4.84) are the only starters with an ERA below 5.50.

Boston’s bats have been able to win some games for the team, but have yet to live up to what was expected of them. They are tied for sixth in baseball with 77 runs and tied for 10th with 15 home runs, but there have not been enough base runners to expect this productivity to continue. The Sox are ranked 19th with a .230 team average and 18th with a .669 OPS. Just two Red Sox hitters (Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts) have averages over .263 and only three (Holt, Bogaerts, Ryan Hanigan) have OBPs of at least .350. Over the last seven days, just Holt and Hanigan have an average over .250.

Hanley Ramirez is tied for second in the American League with five home runs.

Shane Victorino is listed as day-to-day with hamstring tightness.

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Red Sox,

Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Miguel Gonzalez

04.24.15 at 6:43 am ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

Just days after they last saw them for the first time this season, the Red Sox are heading to Baltimore to face the Orioles at Camden Yards for another series with Baltimore. Boston will open with Rick Porcello on the mound against Miguel Gonzalez in a rematch of Sunday’s matinee at Fenway Park.

Porcello didn’t have to wait long before he was set to take on the team that put eight runs up on the board against him in his most recent start. Against the O’s, the righty lasted five innings, allowing 12 hits and surrendering three walks. Five of those 12 hits were for extra bases, including home runs from centerfielder Adam Jones, who had five RBI on the day, and second baseman Ryan Flaherty.

“I just didn’t execute pitches. I made a lot of mistakes and they hit pretty much every one of them,” Porcello said. “I left a lot of fastballs over the plate.”

The start bumped Porcello’s ERA from 3.86 to 6.63 on the year. Over the course of his career, he has a 5.13 mark exclusively against Baltimore in 10 starts for 59 2/3 innings. Porcello is also averaging 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings against the Orioles and has a WHIP of 1.475. His .313 opponent batting average against them is fourth-largest among teams who he’s played at least five times.

Miguel Gonzalez

Miguel Gonzalez

Gonzalez fared a little better than his Red Sox counterpart while in Boston, yielding three runs on five hits over as many innings. He walked four and struck out five in the win. Gonzalez isn’t a stranger to getting the better of the Sox, as he has a 5-1 record against them in seven starts, posting a 2.81 ERA in that time. The Red Sox hit a modest .254 against him, and they’ve struck out 31 times in 48 innings of play when he has the ball.

Each of Gonzalez’s three starts this year have come against AL East teams. His first outing, an April 8 game against the Rays, resulted in a loss despite the fourth-year pitcher only earning one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. Jake Odorizzi and Tampa Bay shut out the O’s to make Gonzalez’s lone earned run costly enough to give him the loss. On April 14, Gonzalez welcomed the Yankees to Oriole Park, and he led Baltimore to a 4-3 win, a game where he gave up just one run in seven innings of four-hit, 10-strikeout baseball. In his third start, he defeated the Red Sox.

His 2.55 ERA ranks him 36th among starting pitchers in that category while his opponent batting average of .190 is 22nd in the MLB.

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Read More: Miguel Gonzalez, rick porcello,

Shane Victorino on hamstring injury: ‘It’s frustrating’

04.23.15 at 11:14 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shane Victorino could ride out the early-season offensive struggles. But hamstring issues? That’s testing the outfielder’s patience.

After the Red Sox‘ 2-1 loss to the Rays Thursday night, Victorino explained that he was hopeful that his right hamstring would be healed enough so that he could make a return to the lineup sometime during the upcoming three-game series in Baltimore.

“It’€™s frustrating. I was feeling good, feeling great and it’€™s basically more of the same,” Victorino said. “You work so hard and you feel so good out there, you’€™re doing everything, and then you go and steal a base and you feel it. You’€™re like, ‘€˜What? Where did this come from?’€™”

Victorino felt the right hamstring tighten up when stealing second in the fourth inning of the Red Sox‘ loss Wednesday night. It was the first time this season he had a re-occurence of the discomfort in the right hamstring, which had bothered him for most of the 2014 season.

“There were no signs. Zero,” he said. “That’€™s where the biggest frustration comes from. No signs. I would feel a lot better if there was a sign that suggested it was tight or I felt something in there. Nothing. I felt great. The saw him do a big leg kick and I thought I could take the bag. But then I feel it when I start to slide and dive and I’€™m like, ‘€˜What the heck?’€™ It’€™s definitely not what I felt last year. It’€™s in that same area, and that’€™s the part where my conscious is saying, ‘€˜Damn, again?’€™”

While Victorino is mindful that the discomfort is in the same spot as last season, he can take solace knowing the severity of the injury isn’t close to what he experienced in 2014.

“It definitely doesn’t feel [as bad as before,” he said. The right fielder later added, “I think I’€™ll be fine. My goal is that I would love to play this weekend. I’€™m hoping that it heals. It’€™s definitely not what I felt before, but it still worried me because it’€™s the same area.”

Read More: Shane Victorino,

Closing Time: Red Sox lose to Rays on Rene Rivera walk-off single

04.23.15 at 10:13 pm ET
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Anthony Varvaro

Anthony Varvaro

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This time you couldn’t blame the starter. It was surely difficult to point fingers at the bullpen. Thursday night’s loss to the Rays was all about the Red Sox‘ offense (or lack thereof).

Sox hitters managed just three hits and three walks, none of which came off Tampa Bay relievers. It finally caught up to John Farrell‘s team as the Rays’ Rene Rivera rifled a shot down the third base line with one out in the ninth inning, scoring Gordon Beckham to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 win.

The game-winning single, which was just out of reach of a diving Pablo Sandoval, came off of reliever Anthony Varvaro, who started the home half of the ninth.

Clay Buchholz did his job, turning in an outstanding outing in his fourth time through the rotation. The Sox starter didn’t pitch past the sixth inning, but at least he survived the sixth inning (the frame Red Sox pitchers have given up more runs than any other club).

Buchholz allowed just two hits and a run in his six-inning stint, striking out 10 while walking three. He threw 104 pitches before being replaced by Alexi Ogando. In 11 starts at Tropicana Field, Buchholz now carries a 1.92 ERA.

“I thought Clay threw the ball outstanding tonight,” said Farrell, whose team lost their first series of the season. “There was quality stuff for the six innings of work. I thought he threw some pitches with some purpose in off the plate to keep some hitters honest. Four pitches for strikes. Made a couple of key pitches, particularly in the sixth inning. That’€™s been a little bit of a bump for us. But did his job.”

Perhaps most impressive, according to BrooksBaseball.com, Buchholz managed two strikeouts apiece on five different pitches — two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, and curveball.

“Best I’ve felt all year,” Buchholz said. “I felt that way warming up. Getting here today, I felt really good. My mindset was to build off the last time out. I just about had all of my pitches working the way I wanted to.”

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Rivera. It was his second career walk-off hit.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss:

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One year later, David Ortiz has no regrets about White House selfie

04.23.15 at 9:12 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With all the fun and frivolity that came with the Patriots trip to the White House Thursday (click here for photos), it reminded some in the Red Sox clubhouse of their trip to meet the President last April.

That visit, of course, was defined by one photo: David Ortiz‘ selfie with President Barack Obama.

At the time, the moment seemed like a fun piece of the Red Sox‘ championship celebration. But as time went on, the designated hitter came under some criticism with many insinuating that he was paid by Samsung to execute the photo.

Ortiz insisted once again prior to Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field that wasn’t the case, that this was simply a fan being a fan.

“I had fun. The world we live in, it is what it is,” said Ortiz of the post-selfie criticism. “Everything turns out to be news. I was simply taking a picture with him. Whenever somebody sees a celebrity, or sees me ‘€¦ They ask for a photo and I say, ‘€˜Fine.’€™ It turned out to be a big deal. I had no idea about anything that happened before, like with Ellen Degeneres. You can’€™t see people all doing the same thing. People love taking pictures. I love taking selfies. Now I’€™m the selfie master. … I was very surprised (about all the attention).”

Part of the fallout included senior White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer going on CBS’s Face the Nation and saying the White House lawyers were looking into the possibility of the photo being part of a company promotion.

Ortiz, however, said he was not contacted by the White House at any time regarding the matter.

“Nobody said anything to me,” the DH noted, saying the President was “super cool” with the whole experience. “I’€™ve got in on my phone. It was for me. I didn’€™t forward the picture to anybody. That was for me, personally. For David Ortiz.”

Ortiz still has the photo (which he says was his first-ever selfie) in his phone, although he recently added another self-portrait — one with Tom Brady.

“I was less nervous with Brady,” he said.

And, no, there were no reenactments of Ortiz’ selfie with the President Thursday when the Patriots paid their visit. (Although some of the players weren’t shy with their camera phones.)

Shane Victorino ‘doing great’ after hamstring issue

04.23.15 at 7:45 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell sounded optimistic prior to Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field that Shane Victorino’s right hamstring injury wouldn’t be sidelining the outfielder long.

“He’€™s doing great,” Farrell said. “He’€™s day-to-day. And before we get him back to the game we’€™ll get him through some running. Change in direction, some explosive work, just to test it out. He came into today feeling better than anticipated but still day to day.

“I think we’€™ll wait to see how he responds to the treatment and testing we put him through, but even [Wednesday] night he wanted to fight through it. But given all he’€™s been through there wasn’€™t going to be any additional risk taking.”

Victorino, who hadn’t experienced any setbacks with his hamstring since arriving in spring training this year, aggravated the leg muscle when stealing second base in the fourth inning of the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Rays.

After staying in for another half inning, Victorino was pinch-hit for by Allen Craig in the fifth.

“When you think back to the inning [Wednesday] night, he attempts to steal a base, has to spring back because there’€™s a ball in the air,” Farrell said. “Couple pitches later he’€™s off again. He’€™s running full-tilt but that might’€™ve been the first time he’€™s sprinted three times within a six-pitch sequence.”

While Daniel Nava was scheduled to start in right field Thursday even before the Victorino injury, Craig’s start in left field wasn’t necessarily part of the plan.

Farrell noted that the Red Sox wanted to use the series finale as an opportunity to get Hanley Ramirez off his feet after two straight games on the Tropicana Field turf.

“Our guys when they get in on the astroturf, they react a little bit differently,” the manager said. “He’€™s obviously been on the bases a lot, running continuously. But he’€™s been playing extremely hard and I think he’€™s feeling it and we want to stay ahead of it.”

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