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Mookie Betts’ case for American League MVP grows stronger thanks to 200th hit

09.20.16 at 11:32 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

BALTIMORE — When what you’re doing is being compared to a Triple Crown season, you know it’s probably something special.

That’s exactly the reality Mookie Betts finds himself with.

With three more hits in the Red Sox’ 5-2 win over the Orioles Tuesday night, Betts now owns 201 for the season. He becomes the 14th player in Red Sox history to claim 200 or more hits in a season, and just the second to do so before turning 24 years old. (Johnny Pesky was the other.)

By the time the Red Sox left their clubhouse, Betts stood as the majors only player with 200 hits, as Houston’s Jose Altuve stood at 199.

Betts was made aware that he was close to the milestone by former Red Sox outfielder Michael Coleman, who helps train the outfielder in the offseason.

“Yeah, I got a text yesterday that I was pretty close but he didn’t say how many,” Betts said. “He just said, ‘You’re pretty close, keep going.’ They threw the ball in and I had an idea.”

But it’s not just the hits, as the statistic put out by ESPN Stats and Info suggests.

The organization revealed that Betts is now the first major league player since Miguel Cabrera to register at least 200 hits, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in a season. And the year Cabrera managed that just happened to be 2012, when the Detroit slugger hauled in the Triple Crown.

“It’s unbelievable. He works so hard every day,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz of Betts. “Like I say, man, these kids, they’re not playing around. They are up to the challenge.”

“I’m proud of him. He’s been great, obviously, ever since he’s come up,” added second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’s continued to get better in every aspect of his game. He can help us in a ton of ways. He’s pretty special.”

Of the Red Sox players who finished with at least 200 hits, only Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Jacoby Ellsbury and Nomar Garciaparra join Betts in also totaling 30 or more homers.

“Means I put in a lot of work,” Betts said. “It’s been a long season and I’ll give myself a little credit for just working and grinding through the whole thing. I do know there is more to go.”

Closing Time: Eduardo Rodriguez’s pitching, David Ortiz’s historic homer lead Red Sox past Orioles

09.20.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez turned in a gem against the Orioles Tuesday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez turned in a gem against the Orioles Tuesday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — If the Red Sox were looking for their No. 3 starter, Eduardo Rodriguez presented a pretty good case for the position Tuesday night.

The Red Sox received their second straight dominant start against the Orioles, with Rodriguez doing the honors this time. The lefty allowed just two runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings in getting the better of O’s hurler Kevin Gausman. The result was a 5-2 win for John Farrell’s team, which now finds itself five games up on Baltimore in the American League East.

The Red Sox, who are now 21-9 against the AL East since the start of July, have won 11 of their last 14 games and are a major league-best 13-5 in September.

Just as was the case in his last outing at Camden Yards, Rodriguez didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings. The first Oriole to get to the southpaw would be rookie Trey Mancini, who launched a solo home run into the left field bleachers with two outs in the fifth inning, marking both his first big league hit and the first hit of the night for the hosts.

Perhaps Rodriguez’s signature moment of the night came in the sixth inning, when he faced off with Mark Trumbo with two outs, and the tying run at second in the form of Chris Davis. The Sox starter would ultimately win the battle with the O’s right fielder (the owner of 43 home runs), striking out the righty hitter to end the threat.

Applying the dagger for the Red Sox once again was David Ortiz, whose three-run homer in the seventh inning put the visitors up by four runs, while ending Gausman’s night.

The homer was Ortiz’s eighth this season against the Orioles, the most he’s ever hit vs. Baltimore in a single season. The designated hitter also broke the Major League Baseball record for most homers in a season by a retiring player, surpassing Dave Kingman (1986).

The blast also allowed Ortiz creep within two RBI of most by a retiring player, with Shoeless Joe Jackson holding the honor for 121 in his 1920 season.

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

Hanley Ramirez recorded his 107th RBI of the season, setting a new career-high.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Mookie Betts claimed three more hits, giving him 16 in 31 at-bats (.516) at Camden Yards this season. In his last at-bat, he missed another home run by just a foot, with Baltimore left fielder Hyun Soo-Kim catching Betts’ blast with the fielder’s back against the wall. Betts also became first player since Miguel Cabrera (2012) to register 200 hits, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI.

– Red Sox hitters each collecting a pair of hits were Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chris Young. One of Bradley Jr.’s hits was a solo homer (his 26th) over the center field fence in the fourth inning, extending the visitors’ lead to two runs at the time.

– Brad Ziegler managed to put out the Red Sox’ biggest fire of the night, coming on with two outs in the seventh inning, and two runners on, to induce a long fly ball off the bat of Adam Jones. At the time, Jones represented the game’s tying run.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Matt Barnes came on for Rodriguez and allowed the Orioles to score their second run, with the pitcher not able to get to J.J. Hardy’s slow roller in time to prevent Jonathan Schoop from notching the two-out score. It remarkably marked the first inherited runner the Sox relievers have allowed to score this month (1-for-20).

David Ortiz subtly makes his case for Hall of Fame, not so subtly praises Dustin Pedroia

09.20.16 at 8:17 pm ET
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David Ortiz. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — When it comes to the Hall of Fame, David Ortiz is letting his actions do the talking … most of the time.

The familiar topic of Ortiz’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame came up once again, Tuesday. And while the Red Sox designated hitter usually deflects the question about his possible induction, this time he at least steered everybody in what he believes is the right direction.

“If you put up numbers. You go to the Hall of Fame on numbers, right? So that’s what it seems like,” said Ortiz when asked if designated hitters should be viewed like the other positions when targeting Hall of Famers. “I haven’t seen anybody make it without numbers. This game is based on numbers and it seems like pretty much most the guys in the Hall of Fame have won a lot of championships and have personal numbers and done a lot of special things for the game. So I’m not going to kill myself thinking about it right now because I’ll have plenty of time to grab some knowledge. But we’ll see how it plays out.”

Ortiz, who was meeting with the media prior to Tuesday night’s game as part of his Camden Yards farewell, wasn’t so subtle when asked if induction into Cooperstown was on his mind.

“Well, when you play as long as I’ve play and do what I have done, of course it’s going to be important,” he said.

While Ortiz addressed multiple non-Hall of Fame topics in the 15-minute get-together in the visitors dugout, it was his answer when asked about teammate Dustin Pedroia that was delivered perhaps most passionately.

“He’s having a great season. But you know Pedroia is a guy that he loves the game,” Ortiz said. “He plays the game like nobody I’ve ever seen. The past three or four years he would play through injuries. The best decision ever made was last year, telling him, ‘Look, you are going to play when you are able. We don’t want to get things worse.’ And he learned. He would’ve played with a broken foot on there, you know?

“I have never seen anybody doing things like that but Pedroia. As you get older, things are different. He learned the memo. He has been able to take care of himself. And that’s the Pedroia that everybody knows. When I hear people criticizing Pedroia because of years before, I just laugh. Because if there is a player I would like to have on my team, especially when you have a bunch of young guys on the ballclub, there’s not a better player to have around than Pedroia. I’m older than Pedroia and I learn from watching him. Pedey is like, this guy is, I don’t even know how to describe him. But Pedroia is the best thing you can have on a ball club.”

Red Sox notes: Dustin Pedroia sidelined with knee ailment; Brock Holt gone for 2 days; John Farrell endorses Rick Porcello for Cy Young Award

09.20.16 at 6:16 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

BALTIMORE — Even with so much on the line Tuesday night, the Red Sox felt it was time to get Dustin Pedroia off his feet.

Red Sox manager John Farrell kept Pedroia out of the lineup against Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman Tuesday with the second baseman nursing a sore left knee.

“He needs a day to get some treatment on his left knee,” Farrell said. “In the series in Toronto he made that play up the middle and kind of twisted the knee a little bit on the throw. It’s a situation he’s been managing since that series. After [Monday] night, though, there seemed there was a little more swelling in the knee and needed a day to recover and get some additional treatment.”

Pedroia is coming off a two-hit game in the series opener after having gone hitless in back-to-back contests against the Yankees. Since the series in Toronto, he is hitting .253 (9-for-3) with a double.

“I just twisted my knee in Toronto trying to make a play,” Pedroia said after the Red Sox’ 5-2 win. “We’re just getting treatment and trying to get the swelling out. It gets to a point where you need to stay off it for a day to get the inflammation out of there. That’s about it.”

Farrell surmised the Pedroia would be back in the lineup or the series’ third game, Wednesday night. The manager said no MRI was needed at this point.

“We were kind of targeting to get through this series and give him some downtime in Tampa, but we felt like [Tuesday] was going to be needed,” Farrell said.

Asked if the reality of the Red Sox’ four-game lead had anything to do with the timing of giving Pedroia a break, Farrell said, “A little bit. I don’t want to take it for granted by any means. But I think I prioritize anybody’s health and that’s first and foremost in this particular situation.”

Taking the place of Pedroia at second base is Marco Hernandez. While Farrell noted that Hernandez was the logical choice because of the lefty hitter’s bat speed against the hard-throwing Gausman, another option, Brock Holt, wasn’t option. Holt has left the team for two days to tend to a death in the family.

– To nobody’s surprise, Farrell offered an endorsement for Rick Porcello when it comes to the race for the American League Cy Young Award.

“Pitching in the American League East presents unique challenges and that’s all ballpark-related in addition to the way teams are built,” the manager said. “You start to factor in the full body of work, the number of innings pitched, the walks allowed, hits allowed, he’s obviously in the conversation. I can’t think of it objectively. He’s our guy. He would be my vote for the Cy Young. But still, I love the way Rick has handled those questions and it’s about what we do, not what he does. He’s having a hell of a year.”

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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