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Sinking against southpaws: Red Sox losses to lefties mounting

06.20.14 at 9:27 am ET
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Remember Shane Victorino? How about Will Middlebrooks? The Red Sox do — particularly any time they face a left-handed starter.

The Red Sox‘ offensive futility, of course, has been staggering to comprehend. With Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the A’s and Scott Kazmir, the team already has endured 26 games in which it has scored two or fewer runs this year. The Sox are on pace to have 58 such contests this year, which would be its most since 1992.

But whereas the Sox had enjoyed relative success early in the year against lefties — winning 10 of their first 14 contests when southpaw starters opposed them — they’ve gone off the rails since Middlebrooks landed on the disabled list with his broken finger, followed a few days later by Victorino.

In 11 games against lefty starters since Middlebrooks landed on the DL, the Sox are 3-8, including losses in each of their last five games. In that span, lefty starters are averaging 6 1/3 innings with a 3.10 ERA against the Sox. Boston’s lineup on Thursday — in which David Ortiz sat out — made clear why the team is struggling in such circumstances.

The team simply lacks right-handed hitting depth. Jonny Gomes, of course, was in the lineup in place of Daniel Nava, and David Ross started at catcher. But beyond them, the Sox didn’t have a credible right-handed bat on the bench. Switch-hitters Nava and Jonathan Herrera both are significantly more successful against right-handed pitchers than lefties.  And so, it was A.J. Pierzynski who started at DH with Ortiz out.

Two qualifications: First, Kazmir’s devastating changeup has given him non-traditional splits. He’s dominating right-handed hitters (.180 average, .227 OBP, .289 slugging mark), whereas lefties actually have handled Kazmir effectively (.278/.345/.316). And Pierzynski, in keeping with that, had one of the Sox’ hits against Kazmir, in defiance of his season .205/.221/.260 line against lefties. (Pierzynski is hitting .299/.336/.445 against righties.)

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Friday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Brad Mills

06.20.14 at 8:12 am ET
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The Red Sox will face the Athletics in the second of a three-game series Friday, sending Felix Doubront to the mound against fellow lefty Brad Mills.

Friday marks Doubront’s first start since May 21, when the southpaw went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Doubront (2-4, 5.12 ERA) has made three rehab starts between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, allowing four runs over 13 2/3 innings (2.63 ERA) while striking out 15.

In his last Triple-A start on June 15 against the Charlotte Knights, Doubront struck out 10 batters over five no-hit innings.

“His last start was much improved in terms of overall stuff,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday. “There was increased intensity, increased velocity, increased action to his pitches that are going to be required here, and he gets the ball [Friday].”

Doubront will take the spot vacated by Brandon Workman, who began serving his six-game suspension for throwing behind Rays third baseman Evan Longoria on May 30.

Doubront’€™s last start against the A’€™s came on April 22, 2013, when the left-hander surrendered three earned runs and five walks in 6 2/3 innings of work. In three career starts against Oakland, Doubront is 1-2 with a 8.56 ERA.

Mills will be making his first start in the majors this season. The southpaw was traded from the Brewers to the A’€™s on Tuesday for a whopping $1. The price tag was a result of a clause in Mills’€™ contract that forced Milwaukee to put him on the trade market if he was not placed on an MLB roster by June 15.

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Read More: A's, Brad Mills, felix doubront, Red Sox

Shane Victorino slowed by stiffness in rehab assignment

06.20.14 at 2:18 am ET
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Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, who was scheduled to play the first of three straight games for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday as part of his minor league rehab assignment, had to be scratched due to what manager John Farrell described to reporters in Oakland as “some overall stiffness.” (“Hamstring, lower back, it’s all in there,” Farrell said of the whereabouts of the soreness.)

Victorino received treatment on Thursday and will do the same on Friday with the intention of having him play again on Saturday.

“We still intend that he’€™ll be joining us on the West Coast,” Farrell told reporters, remaining true to the statement earlier in the month that the Sox expect Victorino to play during the current seven-game stretch against the A’s and Mariners. “While he’€™s not in the lineup I cant say it was a set-back, but we felt like he needed to get a couple days of work in.”

Victorino has played just 21 games so far this year, hitting .242 with a .276 OBP and .352 slugging mark. He’s amidst his second stint on the DL due to hamstring woes.

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Felix Doubront to start Friday, Clay Buchholz ready to return to big leagues

06.20.14 at 2:06 am ET
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The Red Sox rotation is about to get awfully crowded.

Prior to Thursday’s game against the Athletics, the Red Sox announced that left-hander Felix Doubront will return from the disabled list on Friday to start against the A’s — a contest for which Brandon Workman had been slated until his six-game suspension sidelined him for the contest. Doubront, who was 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA before landing on the disabled list due to a bruise incurred when he banged his shoulder into a car door, pitched most recently in Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, when he threw five no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts and touched 94 mph on the radar gun.

Sometime next week, Clay Buchholz likewise will return from the DL after throwing six shutout innings on 90 pitches for Pawtucket on Thursday afternoon. For now, the Sox have yet to announce the precise date when Buchholz will make his big league start.

“We have a number of things, moving parts, and as we get through this weekend those decisions will become more clear,” manager John Farrell told reporters.

Buchholz’s performance was such that the team is hopeful that his early-season struggles — he’s 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA — will not follow him back to the big leagues.

“Hopefully we worked through a number of things that puts him into a place where the numbers that are on the record to date this year are just that, they’€™re in the past and we get a guy who is straightened out a little bit and ready to go,” Farrell told reporters.

What that means for the rest of the rotation is, at this time, unclear. While Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa were both added to the rotation as a result of the DL stints for Buchholz and Doubront, both have delivered strong performances, with Workman owning a 1-0 record and 3.21 ERA and De La Rosa in possession of a 2.84 ERA as a starter.

Read More: Brandon Workman, Clay Buchholz, felix doubront, rubby de la rosa

Closing Time: Red Sox offensive drought persists in loss to Oakland

06.20.14 at 12:49 am ET
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The Red Sox‘ offensive futility continues to be measured by decades. With a 4-2 loss to the Athletics on Thursday night, the Red Sox now have scored two or fewer runs in six straight games — their longest stretch without a single three-run “outburst” since July 25-30, 1978.

On a night when David Ortiz was not in the lineup, Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir had his way with the Red Sox, working primarily with a low-90s fastball and a devastating changeup that flummoxed the team’s lineup — particularly its right-handed hitters — for most of the night (save for a hanger that Dustin Pedroia hit out to account for the Sox’ lone runs of the night).

The Red Sox have scored two or fewer runs 26 times this year, tied for the fourth-most such instances in the majors. The shocking absence of offense continues to spoil what has been excellent work by the pitching staff.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— The Red Sox have now lost five straight games started by lefties.

— Against Kazmir, the Sox’ right-handed hitters went a combined 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts and no walks.

— With more than half the season remaining, the Red Sox have scored two or fewer runs 26 times. They’re on pace to do so 58 times this year, which would be the team’s most games with such a yield since 1992.

Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-4, with his OBP falling to .352 — its lowest point since April 15. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz sits, A.J. Pierzynski at DH vs. Athletics LHP Scott Kazmir

06.19.14 at 7:55 pm ET
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The Red Sox rarely find occasion to give David Ortiz a day off, but Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir offered the team the impetus to let the 38-year-old sit out of the starting lineup for the sixth time this year. Ortiz has plenty of experience against the former Tampa Bay left-hander (56 plate appearances), little of it good, having hit .208 with a .321 OBP and .354 slugging mark against Kazmir.

With Ortiz sitting, however, the Red Sox didn’t have a natural right-handed bench option to serve as DH, given that Jonny Gomes was already slated to play left field in place of switch-hitter Daniel Nava (who hits better against righties than lefties) against a southpaw. And so, A.J. Pierzynski will serve as DH as Ortiz gets the night off. Shortstop Stephen Drew will make his first start of the year against a left-hander. David Ross will be behind the plate to catch Jake Peavy.

For complete batter vs. starting pitcher histories, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP Read the rest of this entry »

Clay Buchholz dominant in rehab outing with PawSox

06.19.14 at 4:54 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz turned in a solid outing in his second rehab outing with Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday afternoon in Rochester, New York.

Buchholz finished with six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while fanning five. The righty didn’t allow a single hit until the fifth inning, finishing up with 87 pitches.

The starter, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list, told ‘€˜The Bradfo Show€™ he will join the Red Sox in Oakland, although it is unclear when he might be activated.

The outing was a step up from Buchholz’€™ previous start for the PawSox, in which he allowed three runs on four hits over 4 2/3 innings.

For more from Buchholz, listen to ‘€˜The Bradfo Show’€™ podcast by clicking here.

Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard released by Rangers

06.19.14 at 12:47 pm ET
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Daniel Bard‘s latest attempt to resuscitate his career ended with his release by the Rangers organization Thursday.

The 28-year-old right-hander retired only two of the 18 batters he faced in four games with the Hickory Crawdads of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He continued to be plagued with wildness, walking nine and hitting seven. He had an astronomical ERA of 175.50 with a 13.43 WHIP.

Bard was a solid set-up man for the Red Sox from 2009-11, posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 213 strikeouts in 197 innings. He struggled during the team’s infamous collapse in September 2011, and his command got worse after he was moved into the starting rotation at the start of the 2012 season. He could not regain his form even after being returned to the bullpen.

Bard appeared in two games for the Red Sox in 2013 before being sent back to the minors and eventually designated for assignment. He then had a brief stint with the Cubs organization late last year.

Bard, who had January surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which affected a nerve in his shoulder, signed with the Rangers as a minor league free agent in February.

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Poll: Was David Ortiz out of line for complaining about Fenway scorekeeper?

06.19.14 at 11:19 am ET
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David Ortiz helped the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Twins on Wednesday at Fenway Park, hitting a game-tying home run in the 10th inning before Mike Napoli won the game with another homer.

However, Ortiz also drew the ire of some when he gestured toward the press box and later complained about the scorekeeper after he reached base safely in the seventh inning only to have the play ruled as an error on first baseman Joe Mauer.

This, of course, isn’t the first time Ortiz has made news for complaining about a hit being taken away. What do you think about his latest issue?

To hear Dennis & Callahan’s take on the situation, click here.

How do you view David Ortiz's complaint about the Fenway Park scorekeeper Wednesday?

  • Out of line: Ortiz should be focused on the team, not his stats (73%)
  • Doesn't matter: He can do what he wants, as long as he does his job (14%)
  • He's right: Nothing wrong with Ortiz sticking up for himself (13%)
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Ben Cherington on D&C: David Ortiz ‘an emotional guy, and you can’t ask him to be emotional in all the best ways’

06.19.14 at 11:06 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss David Ortiz‘s outburst against the Fenway Park scorekeeper, John Lackey‘s contract and the current state of the team. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox are in fourth place in the AL East with a 34-38 record, sitting 6 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto. Cherington acknowledged that the team’s focus in determining whether or not to become a buyer or seller going forward revolves around observing the team’s potential.

“I think it’s really a combination,” Cherington said. “Each day, we look at where we are and what we think we can be with the players we have and what chance we have to be in it and make a run. You plan your course accordingly. I think, based on that exercise, and we repeat that exercise over and over as the season goes on, we determine the course, and right now that’s led us to the focus of staying in this thing. We believe in the group we have, we believe that we’re capable of winning games, and staying in it and ultimately making a run, so that’s our focus.”

While Wednesday marked a thrilling 2-1 walkoff victory for Boston, it was also mired in controversy, as Ortiz lashed out at Fenway Park scorekeeper Bob Ellis after Ellis ruled a play an error instead of giving Ortiz a hit.

“€œDavid’s done a heck of a lot of good things for the Red Sox over the years and he’s an emotional guy, and you can’€™t ask him to be emotional in all the best ways,” Cherington said, adding: “€œUltimately, he’s up there in the 10th inning with the game on the line and delivers as he has so many times and we win the game, so it makes it a little bit more OK to talk about a scoring call.”

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Read More: ben cherington, David Ortiz, john lackey, Red Sox
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