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Closing Time: Michael Pineda spins a (controversial) beauty in beating Red Sox

04.10.14 at 10:03 pm ET
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The NESN broadcast showed a substance on the pitching hand of Yankees' pitcher Michael Pineda.

The NESN broadcast showed a substance on the pitching hand of Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda.

NEW YORK — Michael Pineda pitched very, very well Thursday night. How he did it, however, was a major topic of conversation throughout what turned into a 4-1 Yankees win over the Red Sox.

Pineda finished his six-inning outing allowing just one run on four hits, striking out seven and walking two. But while the righty was getting the Red Sox to chase slider after slider, talk heated up about what appeared to be a significant amount of pine tar on his the base of his pitching hand.

(To read more on the Pineda controversy, click here.)

Clay Buchholz — who came under similar suspicion a year ago when it was pointed out by Toronto broadcasters that he appeared to be using a foreign substance — pitched better than his first start of the season, but it still wasn’t good enough.

Buchholz gave up four runs (two earned) over six innings, striking out six and not walking a batter. The righty, who threw 94 pitches, surrendered seven hits.

Here is what went wrong (and right) for the Red Sox.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Jonathan Herrera, who had been solid defensively at third base, mishandled an easy chance off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury with nobody out in the fourth inning. The miscue opened the door for the Yankees‘€™ first run, with Brian McCann snapping an 0-for-14 stretch with an RBI single down the right field line, scoring Ellsbury.

– The Yanks made it 2-0 in the fourth when the Red Sox had to settle for a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Alfonso Soriano, letting Carlos Beltran score from third.

– The Red Sox weren’€™t able to manage a hit off of Pineda until the fifth, when Xander Bogaerts placed a one-out single into left field.

– Buchholz allowed Dean Anna‘€™s first major league homer in the fifth, laying in a 1-1 fastball the second baseman pulled into the right field seats for a 3-0 Yankees lead.

 WHAT WENT RIGHT

Daniel Nava made one of the best defensive plays of the young season, executing a full-on dive of a Yangervis Solarte fly ball leading off the Yankees‘€™ half of the third inning. Nava had to sprint in on the shallow pop-up, proceeding to leave his feet before hauling in first out in the home half of the frame.

– Nava went a long way toward snapping out of his slump, launching a solo home run to right field leading off the seventh inning to cut the Yanks’€™ lead to 4-1. One batter later, Bogaerts singled to drive Pineda from the game. For the Red Sox shortstop, it was his third multi-hit game of the season.

Craig Breslow appeared in his first big league game of the season, throwing a flawless frame.

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Red Sox notes: John Farrell explains switch for Grady Sizemore

04.10.14 at 7:37 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

NEW YORK — Prior to his team’€™s series-opening game against the Yankees Thursday night, John Farrell explained why Grady Sizemore had been pushed over to left field, with Jackie Bradley Jr. manning center.

Farrell said the move had more to do with the venue then anything else.

“With the ground that’s going to be covered here in Yankee Stadium is almost the reverse of what we deal with at Fenway,” he said. “To keep Jackie in center field and Grady over in left is for that particular reason — to cover the vast space that’s on the left side of the field.”

The manager then added, “As we sat down and talked with Grady about this, well aware that he has defensively only played center field at the big-league level, he’s played a number of games at the minor league level in left field. The alignment being here at Yankee Stadium, that’s what we’re looking to cover.

“It’s an alignment we’ve talked about internally. It’s best fitting here with the ground to cover. Whether or not this is something we do, I’m not going to say on a permanent basis because we’ve shown we’re going to rotate Jonny Gomes through there and he’s going to get ample time in left field as well. This is the way we’re going at it tonight. This isn’t something that we’re looking to pencil in every day going forward.”

Then there was the matter of where Sizemore was hitting in the lineup.

For just the second time this season, the outfielder found himself at the top of the batting order, with Farrell moving Daniel Nava — who had gotten the majority of time at the top of the order against right-handed starters — down to fifth.

“It’s as much trying to get Daniel going,” Farrell said. “We still value the on-base, which Daniel has a strong track record of that, and yet right now we feel like we’ve got to give him an opportunity to get his feet on the ground offensively. Once he does, we feel like he’ll be in that spot. Just trying to make the most of the current streaks or the way guys are swinging the bat right now.”

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Red Sox lineup: Grady Sizemore in leadoff spot, playing left field against Yankees

04.10.14 at 3:34 pm ET
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NEW YORK — With righty Michael Pineda on the mound for the Yankees Thursday night, the Red Sox have Grady Sizemore leading off and playing left field with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. It marks the first time this season Sizemore has played left.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup for the opener of their four-game series against the Yanks:

Grady Sizemore LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Daniel Nava RF

Xander Bogaerts SS

A.J. Pierzynski C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jonathan Herrera 3B

Clay Buchholz P

For all the matchups, click here.

For a series preview, click here.

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Red Sox-Yankees series preview

04.10.14 at 2:18 pm ET
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The Red Sox will head to New York on the heels of a dramatic victory on Wednesday night, taking on the Yankees and former center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in a weekend four-game set.

After being swept in their first Fenway series of 2014, the Red Sox were looking for some redemption against the Rangers, and thanks to some solid pitching and dramatics from David Ortiz, they took the rubber game of the set to win their second series of the season.

“It was a big one for our team. Getting swept, coming back in we needed to bounce back and win the series,” said starter Jake Peavy, who delivered 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. “So I knew coming in that it was a big start, and we needed to find a way to scratch and claw and get a win out of this. Especially going to New york, it’€™s always a fun and intense rivalry, and it’€™s nice to go in there with a little momentum.”

The Red Sox, like much of the rest of the AL East, have stumbled out of the gate a little bit, going 4-5 over their first three series. The big hit, which came from none other than Ortiz on Wednesday, has been elusive for the Red Sox, who have grounded into 17 double plays over just nine games, which stands as the most in the majors (four more than the team with the second most).

After going 85-77 in 2013 and missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees sought to rebuild their roster and restore their dominance in the AL East during the offseason, which resulted in all kinds of turnover during the winter. The Yankees lost star second baseman Robinson Cano, starting pitcher Phil Hughes and outfielder Curtis Granderson to free agency, saw legendary closer Mariano Rivera and longtime starter Andy Pettitte retire, and had to fill the void left by Alex Rodriguez‘€™s 162-game suspension.

They responded by dishing out $555 million in salaries to the likes of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brendan Ryan, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton, Kelly Johnson, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, and of course, Ellsbury. They also signed outfielder Brett Gardner to a four-year extension, as well as re-signing starter Hiroki Kuroda and face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, who announced that 2014 would be his final season.

But the Yankees already are experiencing some of the same problems that plagued them in 2013. First baseman Mark Teixeira hit the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and new closer David Robertson joined him Monday after suffering a groin strain. The injuries weaken the two biggest question marks for the Yankees: their infield and their bullpen. They’ll be forced to use a combination of relievers to fill the void left by Robertson, and the infield will be spread thinner to compensate for Texeira’s absence.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: How long until Henry Owens is in Triple-A?; Manuel Margot breaks out; Salem’s streak ends

04.10.14 at 11:42 am ET
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Left-hander Henry Owens struck out nine and didn't walk a batter on Wednesday. (Salem Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter in Wednesday’s game. (Salem Red Sox)

In a complete letdown from his previous outing, left-hander Henry Owens did not throw a no-hitter.

However, a case can be made that he was better than he was in his Opening Day no-no, as he tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings while allowing six hits (five singles and a double). For the second straight outing, he recorded nine punchouts, but this time, he did not issue a walk. He elicited 13 swings and misses on his changeup alone, and 25 overall among his 83 pitches (59 strikes, a whopping 71 percent rate).

A few milestones and notable takeaways from the performance:

1) The 6 2/3 innings matched his longest outing in Double-A.

2) This marked the fifth start of his career, and first of more than five innings, in which he didn’t permit a walk.

3) The nine strikeouts were tied for the fifth most of his career

Owens’ line in Double-A in his first two starts: 12 2/3 innings, 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 18 strikeouts (12.8 per nine innings), 2 walks (1.4 per nine innings), opponents line of .140/.178/.163.

Owens’ line in 8 total starts in Double-A between this year and last: 43 innings, 5-1, 1.26 ERA, 64 strikeouts (13.4 per nine innings), 17 walks (3.6 per nine innings), opponent’s line of .159/.253/.258.

All of this will start the drumbeat: When will it be time for the Red Sox to move Owens up to Triple-A to challenge him? Read the rest of this entry »

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Ben Cherington on D&C: John Lackey likely ‘going to keep pitching past 2015’

04.10.14 at 10:30 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss the beginning of the season and pitching contracts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

After saying during the spring that they were turning the page on last year, the Red Sox have gone 4-5 during the first two weeks of the 2014 season.

“I think doing it is a little more difficult than saying it,” Cherington said. “I think we’re in the process of doing it. We’ve had a couple of reminders early in the season, reminders of last year — obviously great reminders and good reasons to be reminded.

“I think once we get into a normal routine, and this road trip might represent that normal routine, we’ll see if the team is more fully turning the page.”

Veteran pitcher John Lackey has won two of those games, but, due to a stipulation in his contract, Lackey is set to make the league minimum during the 2015 season.

“John’s one of the most accountable, reliable guys in our clubhouse,” Cherington said. “And one of the things, even when things weren’t going as well for him in Boston, he was always one of the most reliable guys. … He already has a high degree of accountability, and I think he understands the contract he signed.

“It’s also clear the way he’s throwing right now that in all likelihood he’€™s going to keep pitching past 2015, so he’s got a lot of reasons to keep pitching. He certainly looks more than capable of pitching for a while, and he’s got the kind of body and delivery and command. He’s the type of guy that could pitch for a while longer if he wants to, so it is a bit of an unusual situation, but it was part of the contract that was agreed to, and I think the way it looks like right now, we would all expect for John to sign another contract at some point and continue through 2015.”

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Michael Pineda

04.10.14 at 9:39 am ET
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The Red Sox on Thursday will begin their first series against the arch-rvial Yankees, a four-game tilt in New York, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against Michael Pineda.

Buchholz will make his second start of the season, five days after Saturday’s appearance against the Brewers. The 29-year-old struggled in that game, lasting 4 1/3 innings and giving up six runs on 13 hits, including two home runs, while striking out three.

“It took a little bit to get loose,” Buchholz said after the game. “It was pretty cool out there. You don’t want to give up that many hits ever. They’re swinging early and putting balls in play.”

Buchholz ended up with a no-decision as Boston was able to come back and tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning before falling in 11.

Buchholz has faced the Yankees 12 times (all starts), holding a 5-5 record with an ERA of 5.32 and a WHIP of 1.601. Last year Buchholz was dominant against the Yankees, going 3-0 in three games with an ERA of 0.50 and a WHIP of 0.94.

Pineda pitched well in his debut with the Yankees, his first major league start since 2011 (he had shoulder surgery in 2012 and pitched in the minors last year). Pineda went six innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday and allowed one run while striking out five. His performance wasn’t good enough, however, as he was saddled with the loss as the Yankees were shut out, 4-0.

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