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Closing Time: Powerful July continues for Red Sox hitters

07.27.11 at 10:20 pm ET
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This has been a July to remember for Red Sox hitters, as they continued their hot streak of late by hammering 16 hits en route to a 12-5 win over the Royals. The 16 hits give the Red Sox 11 consecutive games of 10 or more hits at Fenway Park. It is tied for the third longest streak in Red Sox history. At 18-4, the Red Sox have the best July record in the majors.

David Ortiz belted a grand slam in the fourth inning off of Royals left-handed starter Bruce Chen (5-4) to blow the game open, giving the Red Sox a 10-3 lead at the time.

The powerful Red Sox lineup bailed out Red Sox starter John Lackey (9-8) who gave up three first inning runs, putting the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole before they even stepped to the plate. Lackey has struggled in the first inning of late as he has allowed seven runs in the first inning in his last three starts combined — though notably, he has settled down after getting touched up early.

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

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia hit back-to-back home runs to lead off the bottom of the first. It was the first time the first two Red Sox batters hit home runs in a game since July, 21 1995, when Troy O’Leary and John Valentin did it.

– Ellsbury also stole his 29th base of the season. The swipe ended a 15-game streak without a stolen base, which was the second longest streak of his career. Back in 2008 he went 24 games without a stolen base. With 17 home runs and 29 stolen bases so far thus season, Ellsbury has a chance to become the first 30/30 player in Red Sox history. He is a near-lock to become the first 20/30 player in Sox annals.

– Pedroia’s 24-game hit streak is the longest hit streak in Red Sox history by a second baseman. He also continues to feast off of left-handed pitching. Entering Wednesday’s game, he led the majors with a .410 batting average against lefties.

– Ortiz’s grand slam in the fourth inning was the first grand slam by a member of the Red Sox this season. It was his 10th career grand slam (ninth as a Red Sox), and the four RBIs gave the slugger 1,000 career RBI’s in a Red Sox uniform. Ortiz’ four RBIs, after the five he had last night, marked the third time in his career in which he has knocked in four or more runs in consecutive games, and the first since 2005.

Yamaico Navarro went 2-4 on the night, with an RBI and a run scored. It was his first career multi-hit game.

– The win for Lackey was his fourth straight. It is the first time as a Red Sox that he has won four consecutive starts. Before the streak his ERA was 7.47; it has now dropped to 6.28. During the four-game streak, he has struck out 18 while walking three, dramatically improving on his marks earlier in the year. Lackey did bounce back after the rough first inning, retiring eight straight Royals hitters at one point.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Although Lackey earned the win, he was not as overpowering as he was in his prior outing. He gave up 11 hits in only 5 2/3 innings of work, and for the first time since his first start of the year, he allowed multiple homers. Lackey also did not get off to a good start, giving up three runs in the first inning. It is the third straight game in which Lackey has given up at least one first-inning run.

– Navarro, on a foul pop-up that could have ended the game, overran the ball and flopped to the ground while committing an error.

Red Sox vs. Royals Live Blog, July 27

07.27.11 at 7:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox look to build upon their 13-7 win over the Royals on Tuesday night. John Lackey will try to build on his recent strong performance that has seen him go 3-0 with 18 strikeouts, two walks and a 1.86 ERA in his last three outings. He will oppose Royals left-hander Bruce Chen, a journeyman who has emerged as a surprisingly effective starter in Kansas City, going 5-3 with a 3.30 ERA.

For all the latest news, analysis and updates from Fenway Park, join the Live Blog, below.

Red Sox vs. Royals Live Blog, July 27

Trade Deadline: Rangers target Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey

07.27.11 at 6:14 pm ET
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The Rangers are moving on from Carlos Beltran and focusing on some of the top available relievers in the league, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

The Rangers are reportedly one of several teams talking with the Padres about Heath Bell (2.40 ERA) and Mike Adams (1.17 ERA). At, the same time, Texas is also pursuing two members of the A’s bullpen: Andrew Bailey (2.25 ERA) and Grant Balfour (1.98 ERA).

The Rangers rank in the top five in every major team offensive category, but are 13th in team ERA this season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Andrew Bailey, grant balfour, Heath Bell

Trade Deadline: Talks heating up on Padres relievers

07.27.11 at 5:38 pm ET
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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, “the pace has quickened” in trade negotiations for Padres’ relievers Mike Adams and Heath Bell. The Cardinals are reportedly interested in both pitchers, and now have the flexibility to pursue them after acquiring bullpen arms Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel in the Colby Rasmus trade Wednesday.

However, the Padres are reportedly uninterested in moving Adams, and don’t think the Cardinals have the pieces to match up with Bell.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Heath Bell, Mike Adams,

Trade Deadline: Cubs tried to trade Carlos Zambrano to Yankees

07.27.11 at 4:55 pm ET
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The Cubs attempted to unload Carlos Zambrano on the Yankees and offered to pay a significant amount of his salary, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Although the Yankees are in desperate need of another starting pitcher, the team declined the deal.

New York ranks 19th in the majors in quality starts, and the next best options behind ace CC Sabathia are Phil Hughes (9.47 ERA), A.J. Burnett (4.21 ERA) and Bartolo Colon (3.29 ERA).

Still, Zambrano’s 7-5 record, 4.70 ERA and off-the-field issues apparently did not seem like a good fit to the Yankees’ front office. The Cubs starter is also owed $23 million through the 2012 season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Carlos Zambrano, cubs, Yankees

Trade Deadline: Phillies ‘had a deal’ for Hunter Pence before Astros ‘backed off’

07.27.11 at 4:20 pm ET
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According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, the Phillies were close to acquiring prized outfielder Hunter Pence from the Astros, but the deal fell through earlier this week. The Phillies reportedly offered two of their best prospects, first basemen Jonathan Singleton and pitcher Jarred Cosart, but Houston refused the trade.

Now it looks like the Astros may hold on to Pence. Just minutes after Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Braves were turning their attention to the slugger, Dan Knobler of CBSSports.com tweeted the Astros have told teams they will likely hold onto Pence until the offseason.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Phillies have now turned their attention to White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, who’s hitting .263 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs this season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Hunter Pence, Phillies,

Terry Francona on the Big Show: ‘We’re walking a fine line’ with Andrew Miller

07.27.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show on Wednesday to talk about Dustin Pedroia‘s hitting streak, small ball and giving days off. One of the more pressing concerns for the manager is what to do with starter Andrew Miller, who has made it out of the fifth inning just once in his last four starts.

Listen to the whole interview, on The Big Show audio on demand page.

“There’s a lot to like about this kid and certainly we’re walking a fine line between now, the future and what he can do [and] performance,” Francona said. “The saving grace is we’re 6-1 in his starts. I understand what’s going on, we’re in our bullpen a lot and things like that. There’s a lot to like about this kid. I think [pitching coach] Curt Young thinks this guy is going to be in our rotation next year. It’s something to think about.”

Francona added that it was a tough call to make because the Sox like his upside. “I know at times he needs to be better and I think he realizes that,” Francona said. “At the same time if you panic or lose confidence a little bit early you possibly lose out on something really good and we don’t want to do that either.”

Francona said he will give Carl Crawford the night off after the outfielder went 1-for-11 with six strikeouts in his last two games. This comes on the heels of a hot stretch where Crawford went 10-for-24 after returning from a hamstring injury.

“My big concern when he came back was not being healthy because I saw how he worked, I saw he was running really well,” Francona said. “But you think, ‘OK he’s going to take some time to get his stroke back,’ and he came out of the chute so well. And then the last couple of games it’s been a little bit tough for him. You can see he’s real early with his stride, he’s late on his swing, kind of how he looked earlier in the season. We’re going to give him a blow tonight. Kind of let him regroup a little bit. I think that will do him so good because the last 10 at-bats have been tough.”

Here’s the rest of the transcription:

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Read More: andrew miller, carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Terry Francona

Adrian Gonzalez on The Big Show: Home Run Derby did not hurt swing

07.27.11 at 3:58 pm ET
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Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez paid a visit to The Big Show at Fenway Park Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the third game of a four-game series with the Royals. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

Gonzalez fell off his torrid power pace after the All-Star break, and there was some speculation that his participation in the All-Star Home Run Derby may have affected his swing. Gonzalez said that wasn’t the case.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I know my swing pretty well. If you go watch me in BP, I can still do everything I was doing before. My timing was thrown off a little bit, more by the break, more by the two days off. After that, just trying to get back into it.

“I’ve been swinging the bat well lately, hitting the ball hard, just not getting it up in the air as much as I would want to. But when you’re getting hits, you can’t try to change anything. You can’t try to elevate the ball, because when you start trying to do things like that, then you put yourself into some kind of a slump. So, you just plug along.”

Gonzalez has continued to hit for a high average, but the extra-base hits have not come as frequently.

“I am a first baseman and I am expected to drive the ball and hit doubles and home runs,” he acknowledged. “But you can’t try to do those things. Those things just happen naturally. If I try to do them, like I said, I could easily put myself in a slump and put myself in a position where I’m not getting the RBIs and not getting on base for the rest of the team.

“The object of the game is to win. It’s not to put up personal stats. I could care less if I’m not hitting home runs or doubles, as long as I’m being productive, I’m getting on base and I’m helping the team win. That’s the major thing is that we’re in first place, and just continue to go along with that.”

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox,

Red Sox held the line on potential Carlos Beltran deal

07.27.11 at 3:43 pm ET
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According to sources familiar with the talks, the Red Sox were engaged with the Mets regarding the potential acquisition of outfielder Carlos Beltran, to the point where Boston made what was characterized as a “solid offer” to the Mets for the All-Star right fielder. However, the Red Sox held the line on certain prospects in talks with New York, and regardless, the Mets liked Giants prospect Zach Wheeler — a 21-year-old right-hander who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft — more than they did the prospects whom they discussed with Boston.

Of course, the Giants were also more motivated than the Sox to deal for the 34-year-old, who is hitting .289 with a .391 OBP, .513 slugging mark, .904 OPS, 15 homers and an NL-leading 66 RBI. The Giants entered today having scored 3.60 runs per game, a mark that ranks 28th among the 30 major league teams (and 15th among 16 NL squads). The Sox, meanwhile, have far and away the best offense in the majors, having scored 5.50 runs per game.

That fact, along with the recent emergence of 24-year-old Josh Reddick (hitting .362/.403/.619/1.022 in 119 plate appearances), left the Sox in a position of relative comfort with regards to the outfield market. Even as some Sox officials acknowledged that Reddick doesn’t have the proven track record of a Beltran, and that some return to earth is likely, his performance made it difficult for the team to justify giving up a significant prospect haul in exchange for a two-month rental of Beltran, who will be a free agent after the season and who cannot be offered salary arbitration, meaning that he could not be used to acquire draft picks.

In the Sox clubhouse, there was likewise a level of comfort that the Sox didn’t need to acquire Beltran (widely viewed as the best bat on the market) given the performance of Reddick.

“That kid right there, I would throw up against anybody,” Ortiz said of Reddick in an interview with WEEI.com on Tuesday. “What he’s doing right now for us is big-time.

“When I watch him play he just looks like one of those old-school guys who plays the game hard. It doesn’t matter who’s pitching, he’s going to give you 120 percent when he’s playing. That kid right there, that’s how he is. His confidence is unbelievable, he’s hungry and he wants to play. I’ll take my chances with him.”

The Sox also looked into the availability of outfielder Colby Rasmus, but felt that the 24-year-old was someone who would make more sense for them as a potential offseason acquisition from St. Louis. They didn’t have the pieces to match up with the Cardinals, since St. Louis required starting pitching and relief help for the center fielder, who is hitting .246 with a .332 OBP, .420 slugging mark and .752 OPS and 11 homers for the Cardinals. Instead, it was the Blue Jays who were able to acquire Rasmus (a 2005 first-rounder) as part of a three-team, eight-player deal that resulted in starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel going to St. Louis.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, carlos beltran, josh reddick, New York Mets

Trade Deadline: Nationals, Giants, Indians, Braves reportedly in mix for B.J. Upton

07.27.11 at 2:32 pm ET
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The Rays have been testing the waters for potential suitors for struggling center fielder B.J. Upton, and four teams have reportedly emerged as possible destinations, according to the Tampa Tribune. The Nationals, Giants, Indians and Braves are interested in the 26-year-old, who’s hitting .227 this season.

The Rays aren’t under any pressure to shed Upton’s salary, and he could very well stay in a Tampa Bay uniform past the July 31 trade deadline. Either way, Upton doesn’t seem concerned about the speculation.

“I’m to the point now where I don’t really care,” he said Wednesday. “I turn on the TV, it’s on. I hear it all day. I’ve heard enough of it now. At this point, it is what it is.”

The Tribune also reported that the Rays have all but taken starting pitcher James Shields off the trading block.

“My gut feeling would that be I’m not going to get traded, that I’m going to stay here,” said Shields. “We’ll see.”

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, B.J. Upton, Rays,
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