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Closing Time: Red Sox offense explodes in blowout road win over Blue Jays

07.21.14 at 9:53 pm ET
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Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox' offensive charge Wednesday night. (AP)

Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox‘ offensive charge as the Red Sox exploded for a season-high 14 runs. (AP)

Throughout the Red Sox’ offensive struggles in June, GM Ben Cherington maintained consistently that the team expected that improvement would come not from a trade but primarily from a return to form by members of the team’s lineup. That notion has been borne out in recent games, most dramatically on Monday night.

The Red Sox unloaded on the Blue Jays for a season-high in runs, cruising to a 14-1 victory. The team has now scored 83 runs in 16 games in July (5.2 per game) — nearly matching the team’s total of 84 runs in 28 games (3.0 per contest) in June. The team mashed four home runs, and seven members of the lineup had multiple hits, as the Sox won for the eighth time in nine games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

David Ortiz said on Sunday, after going 1-for-13 in a three-game series against the Royals, that he was “about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August.” According to this random website, the average temperature of Jamaica in August is 88.5 degrees. Ortiz seemed to at least equal that reading on the thermometer on Monday, when he launched a pair of two-run homers, his first two-homer game of the year against any team except the Twins. The 452nd and 453rd home runs of Ortiz’s career allowed him to surpass Carl Yastrzemski. His 42 multi-homer games since joining the Red Sox in 2003 are the most by any hitter except Albert Pujols in that time.

– As much as the Sox’ absence of middle-of-the-order hitters has become a talking point, Mike Napoli has been doing everything in his power to force a reconsideration of that notion. Napoli went 3-for-5 with a homer and double, improving for the year to .280/.398/.462. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox lineup at Blue Jays: Shane Victorino sits, Brock Holt in right, Xander Bogaerts returns

07.21.14 at 3:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox will open their three-game set against the Blue Jays with four rookies in the lineup. Shane Victorino, after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (and four straight overall with the conclusion of his rehab assignment), will sit out, with Brock Holt heading to right field. He’ll flank Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, while Xander Bogaerts (after sitting on Sunday) will return to the lineup at third base, and Christian Vazquez will catch John Lackey.

For a look at how Lackey has fared against the Blue Jays and how Toronto starter Drew Hutchison has done against members of the Red Sox, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, LF

Stephen Drew, SS

Xander Bogaerts, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

John Lackey, RHP

Read More: Brock Holt, Shane Victorino, xander bogaerts,

Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview

07.21.14 at 1:54 pm ET
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With just 10 days until the trade deadline, things are getting interesting for the Red Sox.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays have struggled offensively the last two months. (AP)

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays have struggled offensively the last two months. (AP)

The Red Sox have won six of their last seven games, curtailing (at least temporarily) discussions of the team waving the white flag on 2014 and adopting the role of “€œseller”€ at the end of the month. Boston is firing on all cylinders, hitting .291 while posting a 2.25 team ERA over its last eight games.

The Red Sox have picked a good time to get hot, as they enter into a crucial 13-game stretch against AL East opponents –€“ starting off with a four-game tilt against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Toronto, third in the AL East standings and four games ahead of Boston in the loss column, took two out of three from the lowly Rangers over the weekend and is 4-6 over its last 10 games.

After an impressive May, the Jays have scored the second-fewest runs in the AL since then. Part of the reason for the offensive woes is the injury big, as Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind are on the 15-day disabled list.

“Since June 1, we’€™d scored fewer runs than anybody except for the Red Sox in the AL,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters Sunday. “Clearly offensively we haven’€™t played as well as we can. I’€™m optimistic that our [injured] guys have a chance to come back sooner than we all think. I got an update last night that Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion are really progressing well. Lind is out of his boot. They’€™re swinging off a tee. Lind is going to swing with a little more authority today, but again, after everything he’€™s done he’€™s got no symptoms at all, no pain. It’€™s obviously a great sign.”

Here are the pitching matchups for the four-game series.

Monday: John Lackey (10-6, 3.79 ERA) vs. Drew Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA)
Tuesday: Jake Peavy (1-8, 4.59 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (7-5, 4.91 ERA)
Wednesday: Clay Buchholz (5-5, 5.46 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (7-10, 3.95 ERA)
Thursday: Rubby De La Rosa (3-2, 2.64 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (5-2, 3.58 ERA)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

Daniel Nava is coming off of one of his strongest games of the season, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs in Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Royals. Nava, who posted a line of .130/.221/.234 over his first 22 games of the season, has hit .337 (33-for-98) while compiling a .421 OBP since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 2. The 31-year-old outfielder has been even better this month, hitting .382 (13-for-34) since the start of July.

Rubby De La Rosa has been one of the best surprises of the 2014 season for Boston, as the young righty is 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA on the year. De La Rosa has now allowed one run or less over seven innings in four of his seven starts this season. While De La Rosa has excelled at home this season (3-0, 1.38 ERA), the same can’€™t be said on the road, as he owns a 4.42 ERA away from the friendly confines of Fenway.

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Read More: Blue Jays, daniel nava, Jose Bautista, Red Sox

Red Sox minor league roundup: Travis Shaw taking off in Pawtucket; Cody Kukuk figuring things out; Teddy Stankiewicz’s landmark outing

07.21.14 at 12:56 pm ET
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Travis Shaw now has 19 homers in 2014. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Travis Shaw now has 19 homers in 2014. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– First baseman Travis Shaw launched a three-run homer as part of a 1-for-2 game in which he also walked. The 24-year-old is enjoying a standout month that has seen him show his characteristic pitch selection and plate discipline while driving pitches.

After walking just seven times with 41 strikeouts in his first 33 games with the PawSox following his promotion to Triple-A, Shaw has reached base in all 17 games in July while walking nearly as many times (10) as he’s struck out (11). Shaw is now hitting .302/.392/.540 with four homers among his seven extra-base hits this month. Notably, three of his four homers this month have been to the opposite field, an indicator of Shaw’s intriguing ability to stay back on the ball and drive it to the opposite field, traits that have convinced the Sox that he has a made-for-Fenway swing that could allow him to pepper the Green Monster.

Between Portland and Pawtucket, Shaw now has a .288/.365/.503 line with 19 homers — making him one of 24 players in all of minor league baseball to reach that home run total so far this year.

–  Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, the ninth time in 12 outings he’s allowed one or no runs. He permitted just three hits (all for extra bases — two doubles and a solo homer) while walking three (his most walks in eight outings) and striking out four. He is tied for the International League lead in wins (11), ranks second in ERA (2.54), eighth in innings (113 1/3) and is tied for fifth in strikeouts.

Despite his across-the-board dominance in Triple-A, one potential hiccup worth noting is that Ranaudo ranks among the most extreme flyball pitchers in the International League, with three fly ball outs for every two groundouts, the second highest such rate among qualifying pitchers in the league. Though he’s allowed just six homers in Triple-A this year, that ratio suggests the possibility of vulnerability to the longball and/or extra-base hits in the big leagues.

– For the first time in his Triple-A career, Mookie Betts did not reach base, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing center field in his first contest since being sent back down to Pawtucket. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron wilkerson, anthony ranaudo, cody kukuk, teddy stankiewicz

Peter Gammons on D&C: Potential trade partners show most interest in Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller

07.21.14 at 11:15 am ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ outlook and the potential scenario of Jon Lester leaving Boston in free agency. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox have made it interesting of late, winning seven of their last eight games and possibly putting a temporary halt to talk of them adopting the role of “seller” in 2014.

When asked how many games the Sox would need to win over a 10-game span in order to get back in the race, Gammons said the division’s mediocrity limits the sense of urgency.

“I would say six or seven, just because the Orioles are on the West Coast and I don’t think they’re pulling away from anyone right now with their pitching problems. That temptation of always being within distance of first place, and it’s fortunate that they’re in the worst division in baseball, because if they were in the American League West, they would already be selling. But they’re not, they’re in the American League East, where Baltimore can go lose 15 out of 25 at any time and Toronto’s pitching isn’t that good.

“They actually can keep thinking, ‘We have a chance.’ I know this: Tampa Bay really thinks it has a chance. Now their pitching has come back together again, I talked to people in Seattle who thought they were very close to a deal for Ben Zobrist and they said the Rays pulled back the last couple of days because they want to take it right down to the last 48 hours before the deadline.”

Gammons said that the Red Sox have not entertained offers for Koji Uehara, but he noted that another member of the Red Sox bullpen has been getting a lot of attention from teams across the league.

“I talked to a general manager in the market for a closer yesterday who said when he talked to Ben [Cherington] that he seemed disinclined to even discuss it. That they think they’re going to bring [Uehara] back next year and build around him and let him go pitch the ninth inning again. … I was told that, by far, the player the they’ve had the most calls on is Andrew Miller. I find it really hard to not give him the [$6 million-$7 million] that it’s going to take [to re-sign him] because that’s what the premier seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guys get, and I think he’s really close to the point where he can close.”

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Read More: andrew miller, Jon Lester, Koji Uehara, Red Sox

Monday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: John Lackey vs. Drew Hutchison

07.21.14 at 8:52 am ET
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The Red Sox begin a four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday night when they send John Lackey to the mound against Drew Hutchison.

After three straight subpar performances, Lackey (10-6, 3.79 ERA) finished strong in his final start before the All-Star break despite the added challenge of throwing to rookie catcher Christian Vazquez for the first time. He allowed just two runs and four hits but had a season-high five walks over six innings in the Sox’ 8-3 win over the Astros on July 11.

“There’s more on my shoulders as far as calling the game and that sort of thing,” Lackey said after the game. “I’m going to have to do some of that on my own, but as far as just catching the ball — and we all know the way he can throw the ball — [Vazquez] is a weapon back there, for sure.”

Despite being in the same division, Lackey hasn’t faced the Blue Jays since April 6, 2013. That start was his first since coming back from Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his 2012 season.

The right-hander pitched in pain for some of the start against the Blue Jays as well. Lackey left in the fifth inning that night with a biceps strain that sidelined him for another three weeks. He gave up two runs on five hits and had eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings but took the loss in the game.

Lackey is 5-8 with a 5.43 ERA in 20 career starts against Toronto.

Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA) had a frustrating end to his first half of the season, finishing with two straight losses in which he failed to get out of the sixth inning. His loss against the Rays on July 12 was especially disappointing. Hutchison left the game with only three runs allowed but walked three batters in the sixth to surrender a run and load the bases before being pulled.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Drew Hutchison, john lackey,

David Ortiz: ‘I’m about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August’

07.20.14 at 6:44 pm ET
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David Ortiz has played in 2,064 games in his career, and so it qualifies as a surprise when he arrives at a first. But in this case, the milestone was hardly one for which he’ll be seeking out any mementos.

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

On Sunday, Ortiz went 0-for-5, the 60th time in his career that he’s failed to reach base even once in a game in which he stepped to the plate five or more times. It was the 14th time that he had failed to reach base despite putting the ball in play in each of his at-bats. But the contest — which resulted in a 6-0 Red Sox win over the Royals — represented just the first time in his 17 big league seasons in which Ortiz grounded out every time he stepped into the box in a contest that saw him hit at least five times.

Thus concluded an odd start to the second segment of the season. Ortiz made contact in every trip to the plate during the three-game set — no walks, no strikeouts — but the contact he made was of an atypical sort. He went 1-for-13 in the three game series against the Royals, and made hard contact just twice — on a double to right and a flyout near the warning track in center. That aside, he had eight groundouts and three weak pop-ups.

“I think David’s in one of those little stretches right now, I think we witnessed one earlier in the season, he’s trying to get some things going. He’s been offering at some pitches early in the count, which might not be characteristic,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “But as he’s gone through these stretches, we’re confident he’ll be back as the hitter we know.” Read the rest of this entry »

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