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A little love for Millsy

09.22.10 at 7:38 pm ET
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It’s been this kind of season for Terry Francona.

Following Tuesday night’s 9-1 blowout loss to the Orioles, Francona, perhaps to try to make himself feel a little better, gave a call to good friend Brad Mills.

Francona’s former bench coach is in the midst of a hot finish to the season that has the Houston Astros making a run at .500 and possibly catching the Cardinals for second in the N.L. Central.

So, he gives Mills a call to congratulate the Astros skipper when he heard they were leading the Nationals in their game.

‘€œWhen we lose, and it’€™s not possible, I want everyone to lose,” Francona said. “I want everyone to play extra innings and lose. The exception, I wanted Houston to win last night. I gave Millsy a nice of congratulations and then found out when I called him, they gave up eight late and so I even screwed that up.’€

The Astros were screwing things up big-time to begin the season. Even late in July, the cause seem hopeless in Mills’ first year in charge. Following a 7-0 loss to first-place Cincinnati in the N.L. Central, the Astros fell to 39-58. Since then, they have caught fire. The Astros are 34-19, posting the second-best record in the NL in that period.

Mills has taken a page out of the Red Sox‘ book by implementing an organization-wide approach toward winning. It’s paid huge dividends of late, on and off the field. Millsy’s bunch are 12-7 in September, with the hope building for 2011.

‘€œNo, I’€™m not amazed,” Francona said. “Not ‘€˜I told you so’€™ but all of his qualities are coming out. He started out slow, they’€™re getting beat up, he just kept fighting. He helped create a culture and they’€™re five games under .500 and they could’€™ve quit. All of sudden, there’€™s reason for optimism, guys are enjoying coming to the ballpark in September and they’€™re not even .500. That’€™s Millsy.

‘€œThey lost the first eight games of the year. Some veterans weren’€™t happy. He did a great job. I think he’€™s kind of included player development and it’€™s his personality, he’€™s finally a got a chance to do it. Good for him. I don’€™t think that’€™s a surprise at all.’€

Get in line:
The Red Sox are doing their best right now to take a look at as many young players as possible while still maintaining a competitive lineup. On Wednesday the Red Sox started Ryan Kalish in the leadoff spot, with Yamaico Navarro at short and Josh Reddick in left. The Red Sox have been averaging roughly three rookies or prospects in their lineup ever since they fell out of the race in the last week.

With the Yankees – who are trying to salt away another A.L. East Division crown – on the docket this weekend in the Bronx, that trend will likely continue.

‘€œWe’€™ve tried every day to put together a lineup that can compete and win and have some balance and it hasn’€™t necessarily looked like that some nights because we haven’€™t done much,’€ Francona said. “Our main concerns are us and if we do it right, we’€™re not going to sacrifice winning. We’€™ve pinch-hit. We want to win. We want to look at some of our younger guys but we still want to win.’€

Traveling men:
Francona announced Wednesday that the team would be taking the train – presumably a charter – down to New York on Thursday afternoon for the weekend series that begins Friday at Yankee Stadium. Following that series, the Red Sox will fly to the Windy City to take on the White Sox in a four-game series, their final road series of the season, before returning to Fenway for the season’s final three games against the Yankees, Oct. 1-3.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, MLB, New York Yankees
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