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Another example why all these David Ortiz heroics don’t happen by accident 10.01.16 at 12:25 am ET
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We would love to say the emotion of the moment lifted the ball out over the right field fence. That this was David Ortiz’s tip of the chapeau to all the fans who came to kick off the three-day Papipalooza.

If Ortiz was to sit out the final two regular season games, the designated hitter offered plenty of regular season punctuation thanks to his game-winning, eighth inning two-run homer to lead the Red Sox to their 5-3 win over the Blue Jays.

But what this at-bat against Brett Cecil should have reminded us of is one of the chief reasons these sort of things have always followed around the 40-year-old.

His production is a product of his preparation.

“Sometimes on 0-0 he’ll just stand there with the bat on his shoulder and never have even thought about swinging, and then he’ll swing. He does a really good job of knowing what that pitcher is trying to do with him depending on the situation, the count, whoever is on base, whoever is behind him,” said Red Sox pitcher David Price. “As good as he is swinging the baseball bat, he’s probably even more intelligent than that.”

This time, it was Cecil who Ortiz dissected.

After three straight curveballs, the Sox’ designated hitter sold out on Cecil’s front-door sinker. The front leg took was sent toward the right field line, clearing out his hips just in time to lay into the lefty’s 92 mph sinker.

“He was just saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking for one pitch, I got it, and I didn’t miss it. That guy gives me a pitch to hit every time and I miss it. I didn’t miss it this time,'” said Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis.

“Last time I faced him, he was throwing me breaking ball, breaking ball and then finishing me off hard,” Ortiz said. “Cecil has a lot of that good breaking ball and that good fastball at 94. You can’t just be thinking of both. He’s got to give me something and he threw me a good fastball.”

The two were no strangers to each other, with Ortiz having just 6 hits in 31 at-bats (.194) against Cecil. But the DH was due, having not managed a hit against Toronto lefty pitchers in any of his last five at-bats.

“That’s what good hitters do,” Davis said. “Good hitters are stubborn hitters, and you understand one thing when you go up to the plate — I’ve got an idea of what I want to do up there. I know what you’re going to try to do, but I have an idea of what I want to do. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I’m right, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking in an area. If you come in that area — fastball, curveball, whatever — with the right pitch height, I’m going to put an A-swing on it. That’s all you really ask for as a good hitter — a pitch in your areas, pre-two strikes, and put an A-swing on it.”

And Ortiz put on that “A-swing,” he now has 38 homers with 127 RBIs, while adding another example of what has allowed for outfield portraits, light tower banners and three-day celebrations.

“I’m not amazed by how well he hits,” Davis said. “I’m a little saddened in the fact that he’s retiring. He’s such a good hitter, such a smart hitter, that you wonder, when you put up those kind of numbers, he’s got to really be ready to go. To go out the way he’s going out is special, and it’s special to be around. I’m glad to be here to see it. He’s a superb hitter. I forgot who he said he was talking to, it might have been the catcher, who said, ‘Why are you so good?’ He looked at him and said, ‘I used to be better when I was younger.’ That’s the type of player he is. He’ll probably hit when he’s 80 years old, sad to say. He might make a comeback when he’s 80.”

Glimpse into how Fenway Park is going to honor David Ortiz this weekend 09.29.16 at 6:03 pm ET
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While David Ortiz was playing his last game at Yankee Stadium, the finishing touches were being put on Fenway Park’s weekend-long tribute to the retiring designated hitter.

(Note that along with the Ortiz items in the outfield and outside the park, the Red Sox have already put up the banner commemorating the 2016 American League East title.)

Even Yankees’ walk-off grand slam wasn’t going to stop Red Sox’ party 09.29.16 at 12:43 am ET
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David Ortiz looked right at home during the Red Sox' celebration Wednesday night. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz looked right at home during the Red Sox’ celebration Wednesday night. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — The corks were popping. The champagne was flowing. The goggles were distributed. And the hugs were found in all corners of the visitors clubhouse.

All of this after one of the most devastating losses of the season

The Red Sox had just allowed what normally would be classified as one of the biggest punch-in-the-gut defeats of the year, blowing a three-run lead in the ninth to eventually suffer a 5-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Yankees.

And at that moment Mark Teixeira’s game-winning grand slam cleared the Yankee Stadium center field fence, the red Sox looked the part, trudging off the field. And the pitcher who surrendered the blast, Joe Kelly, certainly felt the sting. That was until he got into the clubhouse and saw plastic hanging everywhere.

“The plastic was already up, so I knew,” Kelly said.

But, unlike most of his teammates the relief pitcher didn’t realize that the Red Sox had actually clinched the American League East just as the bottom of the ninth was beginning thanks to Baltimore’s win over the Blue Jays.

“I was the first one through the dugout and the first one in the clubhouse, upset obviously, and I came in and realized all the stuff was up, the shirts were out, alcohol was everywhere,” Kelly said. “That instant I knew that we clinched. I still wasn’t very happy about what happened. A minute later, I was the first one to take my jersey off, take my cleats off, take my belt off. A couple guys came in: [David] Price, [Rick] Porcello, [Clay] Buchholz. They came in and say, ‘Hey, man, we clinched. Forget about it. It’s one pitch. You’ve pitched big innings for us the last month and been a big help.’ It’s one of those things, there aren’t many times you give up a walk off grand slam and be happy about it a minute later.”

According to party’s participants, seemingly from the minute the Red Sox got back into their plastic-covered clubhouse, the loss had been forgotten.

“One inning should not take away from the fact that they’re AL East champions,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We are AL East champions. It’s been a hard fought bottle, they should be proud of the work that they put in but by no means is this the end. This is just the beginning of our postseason.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Ziegler is about to get his big chance, in postseason and beyond 09.28.16 at 12:45 pm ET
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Brad Ziegler is on the verge of hitting major league free agency for the first time. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Brad Ziegler is on the verge of hitting major league free agency for the first time. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — Brad Ziegler has pitched in the postseason before, appearing in two games for Arizona during the 2011 National League Division Series against Milwaukee. So when that opportunity arises next week, it will be somewhat old hat for the reliever.

What he hasn’t done is live life a major league free agent. He’ll get his crack at that this year, as well.

Ziegler is on the verge of entering the offseason as a free agent for the first time in his 14-year professional baseball career. He could have previous attained the status before, but decided to agree to at two-year, $10.5 million extension with the Diamondbacks with a $5.5 million option that was picked up for the 2016 season.

He has had some choices. After being released by the Phillies in 2003, Ziegler got to pick with Independent League team he would play for. And once the majors came calling again the next season, there were a few options.

Seattle and Milwaukee each were offering spots on their low Single-A teams as a reliever, while the A’s came in with the chance to pitch as a starter in high Single-A. Ziegler found the right path.

“We thought it would a good fit for me anyway because I wasn’t a big power arm, but I knew how to pitch and knew how to get guys out,” he remembered. “Oakland was a good fit with their philosophy and developing pitchers throughout the minors. We hoped that opportunity would present itself and when it did we jumped on it.

“I’ve already given away two years of possible free agency to get a little security. It’s a chance to just see what’s out there,” he said. “Other than when I got released by the Phillies in the minors, I never really got a chance to decide where I was going to play. I had three options coming out of Independent Leagueball and that was the extent of my decision-making. There was no signing bonus attached. It was just what do you think the best situation is. Now to get to do it at the big league level will be a lot of fun. It’s something I feel I worked pretty hard to get to, and I hope the process will be enjoyable.”

The 36-year-old has certainly set himself up for some kind of pay day. Since joining the Red Sox, he has totaled a 1.33 ERA in 30 appearances, putting his ERA for the season at 2.20 for the season. His bread and butter, getting ground balls, hasn’t left him either, with the ground ball percentage remaining at 65 percent in both Arizona and Boston.

Add in the fact that Ziegler has saved 30 and 22 games the last two seasons, respectively, and it is safe to say this round of decisions for the sidewinder might be a bit more appetizing than when he escaped independent baseball 12 years ago.

“There’s been a lot of talking with my wife,” Ziegler said. “We’ve been apart for this whole second half of the season, so it’s a decision we want to make together, for sure. It will be good for our whole family to experience, because this may be my only shot to do it.

“There’s a lot of big leaguers that haven’t even made it this far in their career. There’s a lot of people who didn’t think I would make it this far. I always looked at it like, if this is my last season and no offer presented itself I wanted to go out and enjoy myself. I felt that every single year. I never knew what the future would hold. Anything could happen. An injury could happen, or something off the field could happen that changes everything. So I wanted to enjoy every moment of being a big leaguer that I could. If there is opportunity after this year, great. There are always things that could happen. I don’t go through life walking on egg shells by any means, but at the same time I want to be realistic and understand baseball is not the most important thing in my life. I thoroughly enjoy my time, and hopefully there’s some more time left after this year.”

John Farrell explains why he left David Price in for 7th inning 09.27.16 at 11:27 pm ET
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John Farrell took out David Price only after the starter gave the lead back to the Yankees in the seventh inning Tuesday night. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

John Farrell took out David Price only after the starter gave the lead back to the Yankees in the seventh inning Tuesday night. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — It’s been a while, but Tuesday night the second-guessing of John Farrell resurfaced.

With his team suffering it’s first loss since Sept. 14, dropping a 6-4 decision to the Yankees, Farrell was forced to explain what was a pivotal decision in what would be the end of an 11-game win streak.

The moment came heading into the home half of the seventh inning, with the Red Sox just having scored two in the top of the frame to tie things up at 4-4. Red Sox starting pitcher David Price was sitting at 76 pitches, having given up 10 hits, two of which were home runs.

With a rested bullpen, and Price’s pitch count at a manageable level, Farrell chose to ride out his starter despite the fact he clearly wasn’t as sharp as he had been in recent outings.

The result wasn’t good.

First came Austin Romine’s leadoff single to left field. That was followed by an opposite field home run to right field by rookie Tyler Austin, breaking the deadlock and ultimately proving the difference in the game. (To watch the homer, click here.)

“You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right field porch,” Farrell explained. “Wanted to keep the right-handers in the ballgame, mislocated over the plate.”

After another single, and finally the inning’s first out, Farrell lifted Price for reliever Brad Ziegler. The righty reliever came on and induced an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Gary Sanchez.

The runs were just the second and third allowed by Price in the seventh inning this year, having pitched into the frame in 22 of his previous outings.

“I felt really good,” said Price of his condition heading into the seventh. “My pitch count was good and I felt good.”

The loss was Price’s first since Aug. 7, a stretch that included nine starts. During the run the lefty was 8-0 with a 2.86 ERA. Against the Yankees, however, he is now 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA in five starts.

“I feel good. I’m fine mentally. I’m fine physically,” Price said. “Didn’t do it tonight, but so what. I’ll get ‘em next time. That’s what I’ve said all year and I’ve done a much better job of that in the second half and I’m not going to be great every time out there.”

Closing Time: Red Sox’ magic number stuck at 1 after loss to Yankees 09.27.16 at 10:18 pm ET
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David Price suffered through another rough outing against the Yankees, Tuesday night. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

David Price suffered through another rough outing against the Yankees, Tuesday night. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — The Red Sox will have to wait.

David Price couldn’t seal the deal Tuesday night, coming up with yet another supbar outing against the Yankees in suffering the loss in the Sox’ 6-4 defeat to New York Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. With the Blue Jays win over the Orioles, it was a loss that kept John Farrell’s team’s magic number at one.

Besides putting the champagne showers on hold in the visitors clubhouse — and making the Red Sox’ ownership group hang around for at least another day — the loss also ended the Red Sox’ 11-game win streak

Punctuating the frustration for Price was Tyler Austin, a rookie first baseman who started 2016 in Double-A. Austin collected his third hit of the game on a two-run blast over the right field, breaking a 4-4 deadlock to give the hosts the lead for good.

The Red Sox did bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate with two outs in the ninth in the form of David Ortiz. But with Andrew Benintendi standing at second, Dustin Pedroia at first and Tyler Clippard pitching for New York, the Red Sox’ designated hitter capped his 0-for-5 night by striking out on a 3-2 fastball.

Price ended his start giving up six runs on 12 hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking just two while throwing 89 pitches. He gave up three home runs, making his total allowed for the season 29 after totaling just 17 against in 2015.

For the season, Price’s ERA against the Yankees was 7.89 (26 earned runs, 29 2/3 innings) over five starts. The lefty gave up at least five runs in every one of his meetings with New York.

The Red Sox had clawed all the way back with two runs in the seventh inning, starting with a leadoff homer by pinch-hitter Aaron Hill off former Sox Tommy Layne. That was followed by a Jackie Bradley Jr. single and Sandy Leon sacrifice bunt.

After Benintendi made the inning’s second out, Pedroia placed an opposite field ground ball down the first base line (a direction he typically never hits the ball) and into the right field corner for the game-tying, RBI single.

It appeared as though the trend of late was going to continue, with the Red Sox have trailed after five innings in five of their wins during the recent 11-game streak. But for the first time since suffering a 1-0 loss to the Orioles on Sept. 14, there would be no comeback.

The Red Sox found themselves in their hole due to Price’s troubles, which included giving up two runs in the first, one in the fifth and another in the sixth on Didi Gregorius’ solo homer.

For a complete box score, click here.

David Ross on Bradfo Show podcast: Red Sox on Cubs’ minds, Jon Lester better than ever 09.27.16 at 8:38 am ET
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David Ross (WEEI.com)

David Ross (WEEI.com)

Fans are talking about the possibility, so why not the players.

Appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast, Cubs catcher David Ross isn’t hesitant to admit that the idea of meeting his former club, the Red Sox, in the World Series has been the topic of conversation among at least a portion of the Wrigley Field home clubhouse.

“This season has been a dream come true for me in so many ways, but to end it playing the Red Sox, that would be the storybook,” Ross said. “I love all those guys. I’m rooting those guys on all the time. I’m in constant contact with a bunch of those guys, coaches included. I miss those guys. I’m always pulling for them. Getting me and David in the World Series would be pretty neat.

“For sure, because we’re always following it. We have such a connection with the city and the organization, that comes up all the time. We’re talking about David and what he’s doing and what is going on there and all the success that’s happening in Boston. Heck yeah, we’ve talked about it. I think the storybook is the Red Sox and Cubs. Two of the oldest franchises in the game. The two best stadiums, in my opinion, in all of baseball. We think about it all the time. If that’s the goal there wouldn’t be a better place to be than Boston and Chicago.”

Heading into Tuesday, the Red Sox and Cubs owned the best records in their respective leagues, with Chicago having already clinched the National League’s best record with a 100-56 mark. The Red Sox are 1/2-game up on Texas for the top mark in the American League at 92-64.

The Cubs, of course, are littered with players, coaches and members of the front office who are tied to the Red Sox organization, with Ross joining fellow Cubs Jon Lester, John Lackey, Anthony Rizzo, Tim Federowicz, Eric Hinske, Darnell McDonald among those who had previously worn a Red Sox uniform but now call Chicago home.

Speaking of Lester, Ross had high praise for the Cubs’ lefty.

Lester has totaled a 19-4 record and 2.28 ERA this season, with the Cubs going 24-7 in his starts. In his last eight starts, he has a 0.64 ERA, allowing just four runs in 56 1/3 innings.

“I would say he’s at that spot where he was rolling in Boston,” the catcher said. “He was rolling before we went into the playoffs in ’13 and kept on rolling and dominated just about every outing when he toed the rubber. That’s where he’s at right now. He’s very, very good. He’s got more pitches. He can do more with the baseball, so he’s a more complete pitcher. I would say he dominates the game the same way. I would say he’s better than he was there as far as the complete pitcher goes.”

Among some of the other topics discussed by Ross on the podcast are his retirement tour this season, and the unique tribute given by Cubs manager Joe Maddon Sunday night.

Even without playing, Red Sox come out winners Monday 09.26.16 at 11:33 pm ET
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The Red Sox had a good night Monday.

Even though the Sox were enjoying their last off day of the regular season, they came away in a better spot than when John Farrell’s team left St. Petersburg, Fla. As the Red Sox head into their three-game series against the Yankees in the Bronx Tuesday, their magic number now stands at one.

The Red Sox can clinch the American League East with either a win over New York Tuesday, or a Blue Jays loss against the Orioles. That was made possible because of Toronto’s 7-5 loss to the Yankees Monday night.

The matchup between Toronto and New York included two bench-clearing incidents.

Another positive development for the Red Sox was the loss by the Rangers to to Milwaukee, putting the Sox in lone possession of the best record in the American League by 1/2 game, with Texas possessing one more loss.

The Indians did gain a 1/2 game on the Red Sox with their 7-4 win over Detroit and now reside one game behind Boston.

In the Wild Card race, the Blue Jays still possess the top spot, with the Orioles holding onto the other postseason berth. The Tigers are two games in back of Baltimore.

Red Sox notes: John Farrell talking like Pablo Sandoval could return this season 09.25.16 at 12:19 am ET
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Pablo Sandoval could actually return to the Red Sox this season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval could actually return to the Red Sox this season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Winning their 10th in a row was something. So was clinching a playoff berth spot, and cutting the magic number for an American League East title to three.

But there was bit of news that separated itself at Tropicana Field Saturday: Pablo Sandoval might actually play for the Red Sox again this season.

Here is what John Farrell dropped on reporters when asked about Sandoval prior to the Red Sox’ 6-4 win over the Rays: “Could he return this year? I’m not ruling it out.”

Sandoval, who hasn’t played April 10 due to his surgically-repaired left shoulder, was with the Red Sox in St. Petersburg, Fla., having driven up from the team’s training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. He has been working at at JetBlue Park, having already participated in two instructional league games as a designated hitter.

Prior to Saturday night’s game, Sandoval took batting practice and fielded ground balls with the rest of the Red Sox.

“He’s got to go through some steps in instructional league. That’s first and foremost,” Farrell said. “But, again, you can never forecast injury, you can never forecast what takes place ahead. Nothing has been ruled out with Pablo, particularly how he’s responded. He’s well ahead of schedule in terms of his recovery. We’ll see.”

While it would still seem unlikely Sandoval would be an option to be placed on a Divisional Series roster, he could be a legitimate backup plan if the Red Sox suffered any injuries. Farrell could also be throwing the possibility of more competition at the position to spur on the current group of candidates, Travis Shaw, Brock Holt and Aaron Hill.

Another possible benefit of Sandoval being proclaimed healthy enough to contribute is in regards to Sandoval’s offseason trade value. Showing his shoulder isn’t an issue would go a long way toward convincing potential suitors the 30-year-old should be of some worth.

At last check, Sandoval had lost 22 pounds, working out six days a week at JetBlue Park while also integrating a bike-riding regimen.

“At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next spring training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but, at the same time, I want to compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself back into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.”

– The medical update for Steven Wright (right shoulder) wasn’t as encouraging, with the knuckleballer not able to participate in his scheduled bullpen session Sunday at Tropicana Field.

“He got through his 120 feet here today. But it was not to the point where he felt like he was going to throw his bullpen here [Sunday],” Farrell told reporters. “So he’ll remain in Ft. Myers and continue to progress. Logically, the days continue to come off the calendar, so where that puts him in terms of getting back on the mound, getting back to us, that becomes with each passing day a little bit less likely.

“Just feeling like the symptoms aren’t completely gone, diminished,” Farrell added. “We’ve been taking this very much as a day to day type situation. So the way the throwing program was built out was to get to the point of throwing 120 feet, which he did yesterday, hopefully get through a second consecutive day of that, and then be here to throw a bullpen tomorrow. Felt like coming out of [Saturday], that wasn’t going to be the case.”

– The way the Red Sox have their starting rotation lined up, David Price will pitch the final game of the regular season and then Game 2 of the Division Series. Rick Porcello is still on target start what figures to be the Red Sox’ first postseason game.

Red Sox lineup: Brock Holt gets start at third base 09.24.16 at 2:55 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Red Sox manager John Farrell said the last few regular seasons games might determine who would get the majority of playing time at third base when the postseason rolled around. (He said that, of course, without specifically mentioning the Red Sox might be in the playoffs.)

Judging by Saturday’s lineup, that continues to be the case.

With right-hander Matt Andriese on the mound for the Rays, Brock Holt gets the start at third base. Holt is 2-for-8 against Andriese, while the other lefty-hitting option, Travis Shaw, is 1-for-6. Shaw is coming off a start Friday night in which he went 0-for-4.

Chris Young gets the nod in left field, having not started since Tuesday.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup with Rick Porcello on the mound for the visitors:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Brock Holt 3B
Chris Young LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
For all the matchups, click here.

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