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Red Sox still trying to find their third baseman 09.22.16 at 7:17 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

BALTIMORE — A lot has fallen into place for the Red Sox over the past month.

Their starting rotation has fallen into place, as has the roles in the bullpen. The position players have remained relatively injury free while continuing to present one of the majors’ best offenses. And, most importantly, the Red Sox have won more games in September than any other team.

But there is one piece of the puzzle that Red Sox manager John Farrell would like to firm up in the last 10 games of the regular season — third base.

“That’s a position, we were very candid, that’s why [Yoan] Moncada came here,” Farrell said. “We’re looking for production at third base to continue to climb. Guys are here that have done it. It’s a spot that can further be grabbed. We don’t ever want to just hand a spot just because you hit right-handed or left-handed.”

Since the beginning of the month, Aaron Hill has had the most offensive production among the third basemen, hitting .350 (7-for-20), with Travis Shaw coming in at .265 (13-for-49). Moncada, of course, had gotten the first crack at winning playing time before going into the tailspin that currently has him striking out in nine straight plate appearances.

The wild-card in the equation might be Brock Holt, who has only gotten one start at third in Sept. With Andrew Benintendi back and playing in left field against right-handers, third base might represent the best opportunity to get the lefty-hitting utility man in the lineup.

“All of our guys are recognizing that how guys perform is not only important for us but to them and because third base has been a little bit unsettled this year,” Farrell said. “Travis was the majority of the year, obviously. But over the last month or so, six weeks, it’s been a little bit more unsettled just because of the overall production.”

It hasn’t been easy being Yoan Moncada of late 09.21.16 at 8:43 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada has had to watch and learn this month. (Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

Yoan Moncada has had to watch and learn this month. (Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — Remember Yoan Moncada?

The last time we saw the rookie was during a Sept. 12, blowout victory over the Orioles which saw him get one at-bat to extend his streaking of striking out to nine straight plate appearances.

And it has now been three weeks since John Farrell proclaimed Moncada would be getting all the starts at third base against right-handed pitching. It was a strategy that lasted four games.

Now Moncada is left simply watching, a reality that doesn’t figure to be changing any time soon.

“I’m learning a lot. I haven’t been playing, but I’m just watching and learning as much as I can,” Moncada said through translator Daveson Perez. “It’s been a little hard just because I’ve been so used to playing. It’s not my call. It’s not my decision.”

Without a regular spot at third base, there simply doesn’t appear to be much opportunities for Moncada to find playing time in the middle of this pennant race. Even the pinch-running role seems to be a non-starter for the rookie, who has had multiple lapses on the basepaths. (He was picked off in Oakland, and forget the number of outs in Toronto.)

“I know it’s a tough situation for him to be in,” Farrell said. “You know you sit for six seven eight days and then all of a sudden you’re finding yourself in a major league game. All those experiences are going to be beneficial to him.

“If the opportunities present itself, we will. Nothing’s taken for granted here. And you know, seven days or so ago, winning is the precedent right now. Development is secondary.”

There does seem to be some payoff for Moncada during his time with the Red Sox. According to the infielder, the live the life of a major leaguer, even on the bench, has served a valuable purpose.

“The thing I’ve learned the most is the mental part of the game since being up here,” said Moncada, who is still slated to play in the Arizona Fall League next month. “I’ve learned you have to be mentally sharp and on top of that just continue the same routine every day, getting your early work in and maintaining your routine, being consistent.

“This has been a blessing just being here in the big leagues. It’s something I’ve always dreamed up. I’m just trying to pick up as much as I can for next year.”

Red Sox notes: Still window for Steven Wright’s return; John Farrell’s high praise for Koji Uehara; 09.21.16 at 7:45 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

BALTIMORE — The Red Sox aren’t ruling out a Steven Wright return.

The knuckleballer continued his road back from his right shoulder injury Wednesday, throwing out to 120 feet while working out at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

The next step will be to get to the point where a bullpen session is a reality when joining the Red Sox in St. Petersburg, Fla. over the weekend. And even though that would leave just one week in the regular season, Red Sox manager John Farrell said having Wright ready just in case wouldn’t be out of the question.

“As long as he can get into his normal arm slot, and pitch without restriction, we feel like he’ll be able to execute his knuckleball as he did,” said Farrell of Wright, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 31. “That’s what he’s continued to work at, to get to this point.”

According to Farrell, one of things helping keep the window open for Wright is the pitch that the 32-year-old relies on.

“If he was a traditional or conventional pitcher, I don’t know there’d be enough time to buildup arm strength,” the manager said. “I think the fact that he is a knuckleball pitcher gives us the ability to entertain this. Nothing is a given at this point and we don’t want to take anything for granted with Steven and his health but the fact that it’s the pitch that he throws it gives you more of a possibility.”

– Wondering which pitcher offers the most relaxation for Farrell when they’re on the mound? The manager offered some insight.

“Take away the age or take away the stuff, or the raw stuff as one might look at a radar gun, you look at the most comfortable inning on the field when Koji’s on the mound,” he said. “That’s the way he’s pitched for the vast majority of his time in Boston.”

For Red Sox, there’s no better place than Camden Yards clubhouse to remember no lead in standings is safe 09.21.16 at 10:24 am ET
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Clay Buchholz and David Price each recently reflected on one of the wildest days in big league history, Sept. 28, 2011. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz and David Price each recently reflected on one of the wildest days in big league history, Sept. 28, 2011. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — As swimmingly as things are going for the Red Sox at Camden Yards right now, this visitors clubhouse should offer some sort of reality check.

It was here, after all, that the Red Sox were forced to live out one of the most painful final days of the regular season in major league history. That would have been Sept. 28, 2011, when the greatest collapse ever seen was punctuated with a Orioles walk off win, coupled a few minutes later by the Rays’ Evan Longoria sending his team to the postseason with a 12th-inning homer.

“Regardless of how long you’ve been around you can still learn things from what the game presents you. That was a tough one to swallow,” said Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz. “After [the Orioles] walked us off we walked back in, went into the food room thinking were just going to go to Tampa for the playoff game and they hit the home run.

“In this clubhouse, that’s the signature bad moment.”

There are 11 games left in the regular season, with the Red Sox carrying a four-game lead in the American League East over the Blue Jays, and a five-game advantage in front of the Orioles. They also have a 6 1/2-game cushion in the Wild Card chase.

Still, a lot can happen.

Players from both sides of the equation that day five years ago will never forget the lessons learned that September.

“It was nuts,” said Red Sox pitcher David Price, whose Rays team was nine games in back of the Sox on Sept. 3, 2011 before finally overtaking them that final day. “It all happened so fast, like 15 or 20 minutes. It was crazy.

“When [Robert] Andino hit that to left [giving the Orioles their 4-3 win over the Red Sox] I ran down the dugout and told them, ‘The Red Sox lost! Let’s go! Do something good.’ And then [Longoria] hits a home run in the landing zone. The lowest of low to the highest of highs. That was very special.”

“We learned not to take anything for granted,” Buchholz said. “I think everybody at one point was pretty content on where we were at, and that didn’t end up working out. You’ve got to play the whole season to get to the point where you can move on into October. But you can’t move forward without taking care of the regular season games first regardless of how high in the standings you are.

“I don’t think anybody wants to go through that again. We’ve got to take care of business.”

Closing Time: Eduardo Rodriguez’s pitching, David Ortiz’s historic homer lead Red Sox past Orioles 09.20.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez turned in a gem against the Orioles Tuesday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez turned in a gem against the Orioles Tuesday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — If the Red Sox were looking for their No. 3 starter, Eduardo Rodriguez presented a pretty good case for the position Tuesday night.

The Red Sox received their second straight dominant start against the Orioles, with Rodriguez doing the honors this time. The lefty allowed just two runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings in getting the better of O’s hurler Kevin Gausman. The result was a 5-2 win for John Farrell’s team, which now finds itself five games up on Baltimore in the American League East.

The Red Sox, who are now 21-9 against the AL East since the start of July, have won 11 of their last 14 games and are a major league-best 13-5 in September.

Just as was the case in his last outing at Camden Yards, Rodriguez didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings. The first Oriole to get to the southpaw would be rookie Trey Mancini, who launched a solo home run into the left field bleachers with two outs in the fifth inning, marking both his first big league hit and the first hit of the night for the hosts.

Perhaps Rodriguez’s signature moment of the night came in the sixth inning, when he faced off with Mark Trumbo with two outs, and the tying run at second in the form of Chris Davis. The Sox starter would ultimately win the battle with the O’s right fielder (the owner of 43 home runs), striking out the righty hitter to end the threat.

Applying the dagger for the Red Sox once again was David Ortiz, whose three-run homer in the seventh inning put the visitors up by four runs, while ending Gausman’s night.

The homer was Ortiz’s eighth this season against the Orioles, the most he’s ever hit vs. Baltimore in a single season. The designated hitter also broke the Major League Baseball record for most homers in a season by a retiring player, surpassing Dave Kingman (1986).

The blast also allowed Ortiz creep within two RBI of most by a retiring player, with Shoeless Joe Jackson holding the honor for 121 in his 1920 season.

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

Hanley Ramirez recorded his 107th RBI of the season, setting a new career-high.


– Mookie Betts claimed three more hits, giving him 16 in 31 at-bats (.516) at Camden Yards this season. In his last at-bat, he missed another home run by just a foot, with Baltimore left fielder Hyun Soo-Kim catching Betts’ blast with the fielder’s back against the wall. Betts also became first player since Miguel Cabrera (2012) to register 200 hits, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI.

– Red Sox hitters each collecting a pair of hits were Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chris Young. One of Bradley Jr.’s hits was a solo homer (his 26th) over the center field fence in the fourth inning, extending the visitors’ lead to two runs at the time.

– Brad Ziegler managed to put out the Red Sox’ biggest fire of the night, coming on with two outs in the seventh inning, and two runners on, to induce a long fly ball off the bat of Adam Jones. At the time, Jones represented the game’s tying run.


– Matt Barnes came on for Rodriguez and allowed the Orioles to score their second run, with the pitcher not able to get to J.J. Hardy’s slow roller in time to prevent Jonathan Schoop from notching the two-out score. It remarkably marked the first inherited runner the Sox relievers have allowed to score this month (1-for-20).

David Ortiz subtly makes his case for Hall of Fame, not so subtly praises Dustin Pedroia 09.20.16 at 8:17 pm ET
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David Ortiz. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — When it comes to the Hall of Fame, David Ortiz is letting his actions do the talking … most of the time.

The familiar topic of Ortiz’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame came up once again, Tuesday. And while the Red Sox designated hitter usually deflects the question about his possible induction, this time he at least steered everybody in what he believes is the right direction.

“If you put up numbers. You go to the Hall of Fame on numbers, right? So that’s what it seems like,” said Ortiz when asked if designated hitters should be viewed like the other positions when targeting Hall of Famers. “I haven’t seen anybody make it without numbers. This game is based on numbers and it seems like pretty much most the guys in the Hall of Fame have won a lot of championships and have personal numbers and done a lot of special things for the game. So I’m not going to kill myself thinking about it right now because I’ll have plenty of time to grab some knowledge. But we’ll see how it plays out.”

Ortiz, who was meeting with the media prior to Tuesday night’s game as part of his Camden Yards farewell, wasn’t so subtle when asked if induction into Cooperstown was on his mind.

“Well, when you play as long as I’ve play and do what I have done, of course it’s going to be important,” he said.

While Ortiz addressed multiple non-Hall of Fame topics in the 15-minute get-together in the visitors dugout, it was his answer when asked about teammate Dustin Pedroia that was delivered perhaps most passionately.

“He’s having a great season. But you know Pedroia is a guy that he loves the game,” Ortiz said. “He plays the game like nobody I’ve ever seen. The past three or four years he would play through injuries. The best decision ever made was last year, telling him, ‘Look, you are going to play when you are able. We don’t want to get things worse.’ And he learned. He would’ve played with a broken foot on there, you know?

“I have never seen anybody doing things like that but Pedroia. As you get older, things are different. He learned the memo. He has been able to take care of himself. And that’s the Pedroia that everybody knows. When I hear people criticizing Pedroia because of years before, I just laugh. Because if there is a player I would like to have on my team, especially when you have a bunch of young guys on the ballclub, there’s not a better player to have around than Pedroia. I’m older than Pedroia and I learn from watching him. Pedey is like, this guy is, I don’t even know how to describe him. But Pedroia is the best thing you can have on a ball club.”

Rick Porcello on dust-up with Manny Machado: ‘It’s September baseball’ 09.19.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The moment added a little bit more intrigue to the latest biggest game of the season.

With two outs in the fourth inning, and Rick Porcello still not having allowed the Orioles a single baserunner, the Red Sox starter delivered an 0-1 fastball to Manny Machado. The offering hit the O’s batter, leading to some verbal sparring between the pitcher and hitter as Machado walked toward first base.

Television replays showed Porcello reminding Machado (in some salty language) that it would make no sense to hit the infielder considering slugger Mark Trumbo was up next.

Sure enough, Trumbo made Porcello pay for the hit batsman, lining a double off the right field wall for the Orioles’ first run.

“It’s September baseball. Obviously emotions are running high,” Porcello said. “Nobody wants to get hit by a pitch, that’s why I completely understand. I wouldn’t like it if I was up there and I got hit. At the same time, there’s absolutely no reason why I would hit him right there, especially with Mark Trumbo standing on deck. I mean, he’s hitting missiles all over the ballpark off me. So I don’t want to face him in a 2-0 game, especially when I’ve got a perfect game going.”

Added manager John Farrell: “Obviously he’s not trying to him him. He’s retired every guy he’s faced. Let’s face it — in this ballpark, with those big right-handed hitters, you’ve got to keep guys from getting extended out over the plate. The two-seamer that ran in a little bit, it clipped him. He was not trying to hit him. [Umpire] Tim Timmons felt like he needed to warn both sides, which that was his decision.”

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David Ortiz hits 35th home run of season, extends Red Sox lead 09.19.16 at 8:34 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — There might only be a few regular-season games left in David Ortiz’s career, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down as the finish line draws near.

The latest feat in Ortiz’s historic final season came Monday night at Camden Yards when the designated hitter launched his 35th homer of the season. The fifth-inning blast over the right field wall scored Dustin Pedroia and increased the Red Sox’ lead to 5-1 over the Orioles.

It was Ortiz’s seventh homer against the O’s, matching the most the 40-year-old as ever hit in one season against Baltimore (with the other seven-homer campaign coming in 2013).

Ortiz has 53 home runs against the Orioles, the third most by any opponent. Only Harmon Killebrew (68) and Alex Rodriguez (69) have more.

Ortiz has homered in five of his last eight games at Camden Yards, having gone deep 10 times in his last 16 trips to the home of the O’s. Since 2012, Ortiz has hit 15 homers in 34 games here.

Prior to the Ortiz homer, the Red Sox already had utilized the long ball to get the better of Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, with Mookie Betts launching a two-run home run to kick off the scoring in the third inning. It was Betts’ eighth homer at Camden Yards this season the most by a visiting player since the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954.

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Why Red Sox would be well-served not settling for anything but American League East title 09.18.16 at 8:19 am ET
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The Red Sox should be eyeing a chance to celebrate clinching the division. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox should be eyeing a chance to celebrate clinching the division. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

After the Red Sox’ latest win, Saturday afternoon, Hanley Ramirez reminded the media, “It’s a long season. You’re going to have some ups and downs.”

He was then presented with the notion that, with just 14 regular season games left, it actually wasn’t such a long season anymore. That didn’t sit well.

“Yes it is,” Ramirez responded. “There’s a lot of games left. Who knows?”

He’s right. Just ask Robbie Ross Jr.

On Sept. 24, 2012 his Rangers were five games up in the American League West, sitting with an American League-best 91 wins. Nine games, and just two victories, later, Texas found themselves playing a one-game Wild Card matchup against the Orioles.

On Oct. 5, 2012, Ross Jr.’s season ended when his team’s ace, Yu Darvish, was beaten by Baltimore’s Joe Saunders.

A year later, Ross Jr. and the Rangers lived the life of having an entire season rest on one game once again. This time it was in the form of Game No. 163, when Texas won its last seven games to earn the right to play Tampa Bay in a winner-take-all play-in to the playoffs.

Thanks in large part to David Price, the Rangers season once again ended with a one-game thud.

The moral of the story for these Red Sox: Don’t take the foot off the gas because you don’t want to take your chances with just nine innings standing between you and the golf course.

“When I was with Texas in 2012, it was like, ‘Oh crap, we have to face David Price now.’ You’re facing that ace,” Ross Jr. said. “You’ve got to be ready to roll. Winning that division early and knowing we have five games to go after it is a lot easier than knowing it’s one and done.”

Heading into Sunday night’s series finale with the Yankees, it would seem the Red Sox are in a pretty good spot. For the American League East, they are three games up on both Baltimore and Toronto, who are both three games ahead of Detroit, Houston and Seattle for the final Wild Card spot.

It would sure seem like some sort of postseason berth is in the cards for the Red Sox. But even if that’s the case, just playing beyond that final game against Toronto shouldn’t be the focus.

History scare the Red Sox into really, really not wanting to play that Wild Card game.

In 2013, the Indians fell one game short of equaling Central Division-winning Detroit. But instead of playing a best-of-five postseason series, Terry Francona’s club were forced to take on the Rays in the Wild Card tilt, which ultimately ended it’s season.

Or how about the Pirates?

Pittsburgh has been in the Wild Card game the last two seasons, missing out on the division lead by two games in both years. The payoff? In 2014, after winning 98 games, the Pirates got to face San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, and in 2015 the opponent was Jake Arietta of the Cubs. Neither ended well for the Bucs.

Lessons should be learned. The Red Sox will be best served not settling.

“Winning the division is huge,” Ross Jr. said. “But with this team if we win the division or a Wild Card spot I think we’ll be good because we have some tough guys. Mentally tough. It’s awesome.”

Closing Time: Wild pitch punctuates Red Sox come-from-behind win over Yankees 09.17.16 at 4:45 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts watches his fifth-inning home run leave the park. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts watches his fifth-inning home run leave the park. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Here’s your one-run win.

On a day David Price was not the pitcher he had been of late, the Red Sox still found a way to bury the Yankees deeper in the standings. And all it took was Sandy Leon getting out the way of a wild pitch.

What it resulted in was a 6-5 win for the Red Sox Saturday afternoon over the Yanks, who now find themselves seven games in back of the first-place Sox. It was also a reversal of fortune for John Farrell’s team, which had seen five of its last six losses have come by one run (making the Red Sox 17-22 in such margins this season).

The victory also continued a recent trend of the Red Sox coming back late in the game, having struggled all season to rally. Entering Saturday, the Sox were just 8-44 when trailing after six innings. Now, make that nine wins.

After the Red Sox found themselves trailing by three runs heading into the fifth inning, the hosts’ offense started chipping away, scoring two in the fifth inning on Xander Bogaerts’ 20th homer of the season.

The Sox, who finished going just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, seemed to squander their best chance for a comeback in the sixth inning when Dustin Pedroia struck out looking with the bases loaded.

But in the seventh, they were able to seal the deal.

Bogaerts led off with a double and was advanced to third on David Ortiz’s long fly ball to center field. With the infield drawn in, Mookie Betts lined an RBI single over the head of shortstop Didi Gregorius to knot the game at 5-5.

After a Hanley Ramirez single, the Red Sox found themselves with runners on second and third with two outs thanks to a ground out to first base by Travis Shaw. That set the stage for Adam Warren’s wild pitch, that Leon was able to step away from just in time to allow the ball to carom toward the Sox’ on-deck circle.

While the errant pitch did let Betts race in with the eventual game-winner, an ill-advised race home by Ramirez — who tried to take advantage of nobody covering home plate for a moment — ended the threat.

“We won the game, that’s all that matters,” Ramirez said. “Just going out there and trust what you see.”

“When [Yankees catcher Austin] Romine went to retrieve the ball after Mookie scores, he’s walking back to home plate with his head down,” Farrell said. “And actually I thought it was a good heads-up risky play on Hanley’s part. Yeah, he comes up short but he has the right and accurate read on Romine’s awareness or lack thereof in the moment.”

The resurgence of the Red Sox’ offense took Price off the hook. The Red Sox starter, who had gone 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last six starts, struggled against the Yankees for a fourth time this season, giving up five runs on nine hits over six innings. Price now has a 7.71 ERA (20 earned runs, 23 1/3 innings) vs. New York in 2016.

The biggest blow against Price came in the third inning when Yankees phenom Gary Sanchez continued his historic major league debut, launching a three-run homer over the left field wall.

Some good news for the Red Sox was that their bullpen continued to dominate, with the combination of Robbie Ross Jr., Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel pitching three hitless innings to finish things off. Kimbrel struck out all four batters he faced.

The Red Sox’ bullpen now has a 1.06 ERA in September, the lowest in the majors.

Ramirez finished with three hits for the 12th time this season, marking the ninth time he has accomplished the feat at Fenway Park in 2016. The first baseman is now six or his last eight with three extra-base hits.

“Everything is coming together,” Ramirez said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have some ups and downs. When you’re down you just have to find a level until you get hot. We’re playing pretty good baseball right now.”

When it was suggested that it is no longer a long season, with 16 games left in the regular season, Ramirez responded, “Yes it is. There’s a lot of games left. Who knows?”

Bogaerts also finished with three extra-base hits, which was the second time in his career he has finished with such a day.

“It’s just what I was doing. It was something blocking me. I was blocking myself. It wasn’t anyone else,” Bogaerts said of his recent struggles. “It was just me blocking myself from doing what I was able to do at the plate and freeing up myself was one of the main things I had to do. Obviously you get frustrated when you don’t get hits, but it was all physical. I know I wasn’t feeling what I was supposed to be feeling and freeing up myself was the best thing I had to do. I kind of dive a lot so I kind of lock up my own self. It’s just a bad habit that’s probably created from taking pitches and stuff like that. I’ve just got to keep working.”

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

The Red Sox improved to 17-6 in day games at Fenway this season, including 16-2 since the start of May. Betts is hitting.342 in his 47 day games this season. The Sox’ right fielder has also hit safely in 117 of the club’s 148 games. Since 1913, only four Red Sox have hit safely in more games through this point in the season (Wade Boggs, 124 in 1985; Joe Vosmik, 120 in 1938; Ted Williams, 118 in 1949; Johnny Pesky, 118 in 1947).

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