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Why Jonny Gomes isn’t about to panic about Red Sox: ‘I don’t think we’re scuffling’ 04.08.14 at 11:23 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes (AP)

Jonny Gomes isn’t concerned about the Red Sox‘ slow start. (AP)

Forget the 3-5 record, the .211 average with one homer with runners in scoring position and the five ground ball double plays Tuesday night in a 10-7 loss to the Rangers.

Jonny Gomes isn’t worried about the timely hitting yet because, the way he looks at it, the Red Sox haven’t really started. After all, the 2013 Red Sox were the third-best team in all of Major League Baseball in such situations, hitting .278 with 50 homers and a .794 collective OPS. Only St. Louis (.330) and Detroit (.282) were better in the clutch with runners on.

“I don’t think we’re scuffling,” Gomes said. “I don’t think we’ve started. I think it’s too early in the season offensively, defensively, pitching to say we’re scuffling. The starters are barely cracking 40 at-bats right now.”

On Tuesday, the Red Sox were 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position while grounding into a season-high five double plays, one shy of the club record.

“That’s a pitcher’s best friend but it’s early in the season and you want to look at the positive side of things,” Gomes said. “We hit into five double plays and we scored seven runs, I’m sure that’s pretty rare, too. Like I said before, I like where we’re at. If we can score seven runs on five double plays, I think we’re scratching the surface on some things on the positive side.

“He’s got a good downward angle to his ball, a left-hander who is extremely over-the-top with some velocity behind it. Saw some ground balls today from that.”

“I just had my sinker working,” added Rangers starter Martin Perez, who induced all five double plays, including three in the first three innings and five in the first six frames.

Manager John Farrell watched as Felix Doubront made matters worse by giving up five runs in the third inning and the Red Sox weren’t able to recover.

“Once we’re down five, even though we got a number of lead-off hitters on base, we’ve got to be a little bit protective of just giving away outs and it was the ground ball double play that snuffed everything out,” Farrell noted.

“I think [trailing 5-0 and 9-1] speaks for itself. It makes it a lot easier on the starting pitcher and they were able to add some early runs. Playing catch up is tough, especially at this level,” Gomes said.

To Gomes’ point, the Red Sox Tuesday, even in a lopsided loss, started to show signs of warming to the task. They were a very respectable 5-for-14 with RISP, including 4-for-9 and a walk over the last three innings as the Red Sox made things close.

Gomes, 0-for-4 this year with runners in scoring position, would rather just look forward to Wednesday’s starter Jake Peavy.

“Jake is getting his second start [Thursday],” Gomes said. “Two days ago our bullpen sure wasn’t scuffling with all those Ks. We just have put a positive nine together and we’ll roll.”

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An ‘aggressive’ John Lackey is a good John Lackey 04.08.14 at 12:07 am ET
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John Lackey was zoned in Monday night as he won his second game in as many starts. (AP)

John Lackey was zoned in Monday night as he won his second game in as many starts. (AP)

When it comes to taking the mound every fifth day, John Lackey has learned that he’s best when he doesn’t mess around.

Sporting an early season repertoire that has included more fastballs and less curves, Lackey has been getting ahead in the count and sending a message to hitters — get me early or don’t get me at all. Lackey was efficient, and at times dominating, allowing just five hits and one run, while walking two and striking out five in seven innings as the Red Sox beat the Rangers, 5-1.

“It’s been a lot of fastball action early on. So far, my arm has been feeling pretty good,” Lackey said. “I’ve been challenging guys and trying to get ahead in the count, and A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game again for me tonight. I was able to get ahead and dictate some at-bats and it makes things go a little bit faster.

“I definitely want to pound the strike zone. I want them to know that I’m going to throw strikes. If you’re going to get me, you better get me quick [in the count] because I’m coming after you for sure. It can work both ways, if you’re not locating well, you can give it up pretty quick, too, that way. Just have to continue to locate and hopefully keep pitch counts down and get deep into games.”

After going six solid innings (90 pitches) in Baltimore on April 2, leading the Red Sox to their first win of the season, Lackey took the hill Monday at Fenway, the same mound that he stood on while clinching Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. Ironically, it was also the last time the Red Sox had won at Fenway after being swept by the Brewers in the home opening series over the weekend.

But if there’s anyone on the staff that knows something about stopping a losing streak, it’s Lackey. He’s been an ace longer than Jon Lester. And on Monday night, the Red Sox needed a pitcher to take the mound who could give the Red Sox a chance to avoid their first four-game losing streak since losing eight straight to end 2012.

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Why David Ross and tired Red Sox are glad first week is over 04.06.14 at 6:56 pm ET
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David Ross and the Red Sox are still reaching and searching for first home win. (AP)

David Ross and the Red Sox are still reaching and searching for first home win. (AP)

The mere thought might provoke snide laughter among skeptics.

One week into the season and the Red Sox are a tired group. How else to explain sloppy play and mental lapses on Friday, Saturday and Sunday? The Red Sox not only lost their home opener, spoiling the ring ceremony glow a bit, they were swept at Fenway by a Milwaukee team that is coming off a 74-win season and was picked for next-to-last in the National League Central by many experts.

But upon further review, you can see why. The Red Sox played a night game Thursday, traveled back early Friday morning and then got up early to get to Fenway and prepare for their ring ceremony before a 2:05 p.m. game Friday. They were allowed to sleep in Saturday, only to play a tedious 11-inning contest Saturday night that took four hours, 23 minutes to complete. They then got up early Sunday morning to make their way to Fenway and try to salvage a game from the Brewers.

Yovani Gallardo made sure to make life miserable by keeping the ball down all day as Milwaukee stifled the Sox, 4-0, to complete the three-game sweep of the fatigued champs.

“That was a lot going on,” catcher David Ross said. “No excuses and I’m not making excuses but getting in late, the ring ceremony, turn around night game, extra innings, day game. They took it to us. You have to give credit to that team. We’ll regroup, have a night game [Monday], get some rest. It’s a long season, have a lot of games left and we have guys in here that play hard so I’m not worried about that.”

What will turn it around? A little rest and little luck, starting with the Rangers Monday night in Boston.

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Ross said. “Some of those ground balls that are finding holes are at guys and some of those hard hit balls find the gaps or find the outfield grass. Rest helps, too. Guys get in this first weekend. You have all sorts of stuff going on, getting unpacked and your apartment settled. Figuring out how to get home because I know a couple of guys got lost the other day going home. Just getting readjusted.”

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Sunday notes: Will Middlebrooks (right calf) heads to DL, Brock Holt recalled, Garin Cecchini on hold for now 04.06.14 at 11:40 am ET
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After feeling a twinge in his lower right leg during pre-game sprints Saturday night, Will Middlebrooks was diagnosed Sunday with a Grade 1 strain of his right calf and immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The third baseman underwent an MRI Sunday morning that revealed the nature of the injury. Taking Middlebrooks place on the roster is utility infielder Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.

In playing the first four games of the season, Middlebrooks was 4-for-13 (.231) with one homer, one double and four strikeouts.

“He was disappointed when he first felt the calf grab him,” Farrell said. “The exam probably confirmed some of the thoughts based on the way he was reacting and responding to the sprints he went through and what he felt afterward. Unfortunately, we’re missing a power right-handed bat that was getting off to what looked to be a pretty darned good start.”

“It’s going to be case. He’ll be back on the field when he’s first available but it’s not going to be for another two weeks.” Longer? “Could be but we don’t know that yet.”

Farrell said the organization decided against promoting top infield prospect Garin Cecchini due to the desire to see Cecchini get more defensive reps with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“While he’s had some good at-bats there there’s still some development defensively that’s taking place,” Farrell said. “His time is coming but we didn’t feel like it was right now.”

Cecchini is hitting 5-for-9 (.556) in his first four games with Pawtucket this week.

Holt comes to Boston after being one of the last cuts in camp, when the team decided to keep infielder Jonathan Herrera.

“We’ll see what the best matchup might provide with those two guys,” Farrell said of Herrera and Holt. “Right now, Brock is the one that is on the roster. To get someone here currently to fill that spot and then in response to put Will on the DL. Whether we look find a better fit, that’s something we’re always looking for, not just this case but every other case so we’ll see what transpires over the two-week period that Will is going to be missed.”

Herrera was thrown into the fire Saturday night as the emergency fill-in at third base when Middlebrooks was initially scratched.

“This is a veteran guy who’s been accustomed to that role,” Farrell said of Herrera. “He finds a way to contribute based on his skills and he was able to do that [Saturday] night. Short notice, given the level of experience he has, he’s been in that position before and did everything we could’ve asked.”

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Ice-cold Clay Buchholz (six, runs, 13 hits) struggles badly as Red Sox fall in 11 at frigid Fenway 04.05.14 at 11:33 pm ET
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Mike Napoli's 3-run homer in the third put the Red Sox back in the game Saturday against Milwaukee. (AP)

Mike Napoli‘s 3-run homer in the third put the Red Sox back in the game Saturday against Milwaukee. (AP)

Clay Buchholz was as ice-cold as the elements Saturday night.

Back-to-back doubles from Khris Davis and Logan Schafer in the 11th inning off former Brewer Burke Badenhop broke a 6-6 tie and led Milwaukee to its second straight interleague win over the Red Sox, 7-6, Saturday night in a four-hour, 23-minute marathon at a frigid Fenway Park. Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in order in the 11th to send Boston to its second straight loss at home and drop them to 2-3 on the very young season.

The game began just after 7 p.m., with a temperature reading of 48 degrees and a wind chill in the upper 30s. By the 10th inning, Fenway was less than half-full and the temperature had dipped into the upper 30s.

Buchholz, the Red Sox starter, allowed a career-high 13 hits and lasted just 4 1/3 innings. The Brewers used two long home runs from Mark Reynolds and Carlos Gomez off Buchholz and clutch hitting to race out to a 6-2 lead heading into the bottom of the third.

“I missed with a lot pitches and when I did they seemed to put the barrel on it and find some holes,” Buchholz said. “Obviously, the couple of home runs they hit were pitches not where they were supposed to be. Just a lot of mistakes that they found holes for.

“I felt fine. It took a little bit to get loose. It was pretty cold out there. But other than that, it was just basically missing in the middle of the plate or missing up [in strike zone] and that’s where their hits came off of. I don’t think I threw one good pitch that was hit, that I look back on and I don’t think he should’ve hit that pitch. That’s the way it goes.”

Buchholz is slated to pitch next Thursday in the Bronx in the opener of a four-game series against the Yankees.

“I’ve been around for a little bit so you can’t dwell on your last start,” Buchholz added. “To do that, it’s probably not going to work out too well for you. Just put in the work that I have to do to get ready for that start against the Yankees.”

Buchholz was bailed out by his offense and did not figure in the decision. Buchholz, who managed only 72 pitches on the night, didn’t allow more than eight hits in any start in 2013 and had never allowed more than seven hits in any game at Fenway.

“You don’t want to give up that many hits ever,” Buchholz said. “But they were swinging early and that’s what I want teams to do, I want them to swing, I want them to put balls in play. I have to do a better job of limiting that and obviously putting pitches where I want to. I wasn’t able to do that at all tonight, really. That’s the way the game goes some times. I have to figure it out before the next time out.”

The Red Sox, playing without David Ortiz (rest), Will Middlebrooks (right calf) and Mike Carp (back) in the starting lineup, managed to battle back as the Brewers started to self-destruct, namely third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segura.

With one out, Dustin Pedroia reached on a fielding error by Ramirez. The next batter, Daniel Nava, hit a routine grounder to Segura at short that appeared to be tailor-made for an inning-ending double play. But instead of a 6-4-3 DP, Segura bobbled it and retired only Nava at first.

Mike Napoli followed with a rocket to the center field bleachers off Brewers starter Wily Peralta that cut Milwaukee’s lead to one, 6-5.

The Red Sox used more Milwaukee mayhem in the field to tie the game in the sixth. The Brewers appeared ready to escape a first-and-second, none-out jam when A.J. Pierzynski grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Jonathan Herrera grounded softly to Segura at short. Segura bobbled and couldn’t recover as Xander Bogaerts scored from third.

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Ryan Braun on his Fenway reception: ‘The more you deal with it, the easier it becomes’ 04.04.14 at 9:59 pm ET
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Ryan Braun heard boos from Fenway fans all day during his first road game since a PED suspension. (AP)

Ryan Braun heard boos from Fenway fans all day during his first road game since a PED suspension. (AP)

Ryan Braun wasn’t about to kid himself.

This wasn’t going to be like Monday in Milwaukee when an adoring crowd welcomed him back to the majors from a PED suspension with a rousing ovation.

He knew Fenway was going to give him a different kind of reception, the one that Alex Rodriguez and other suspected PED users got in the past.

Starting with the lineup introductions Friday afternoon, every time Braun’s name was announced over the Fenway P.A. system, fans serenaded him with boos, boos that got louder and louder each time he came to the plate.

“I’ve dealt with it for the last couple of years,” Braun said. “It’s not something that’s new to me. I’ve had plenty of experience dealing with it and I think, regardless of how challenging anything is, the more you deal with it, the easier it becomes to deal with it.

“So, I dealt with it in 2012. Had my best year last year. I was off to a good start before my early departure.”

Braun’s “early departure” of course was mandated by MLB when he admitted to PED use and was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season.

“All I can do is focus on things I can control, focus on trying to prepare myself in helping my team win games. I’m happy we were able to win. Obviously, an incredible team over there. It was a special day for them, getting to enjoy what they were able to accomplish last year. Certainly, I wasn’t anticipating a reception like I got in Milwaukee. Just focus on the things I can control.”

On Friday, Braun went 0-for-5 with a strikeout and didn’t really contribute as his team scored four times in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie and walk away with a 6-2 win over the Red Sox.

“It always makes it so much better,” Braun said. “I think I’m at a point in my career where I’ve had a lot of individual success and this game is always so much more fun when the team is winning. It’s really not an enjoyable job or profession when you’re not winning. The more games we’re able to win, the more that what I do individually doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on me.”

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Red Sox get their bling in a stirring home opener 04.04.14 at 6:37 pm ET
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In a 60-minute ceremony before their 2014 home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers Friday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox were honored for their improbable run to the 2013 World Series title. The ceremony began with the unveiling of a 2013 World Series banner over the Green Monster in left.

Then, first responders and victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing brought in the World Series rings to the Red Sox owners, who then handed them out to the players. The players, led by David Ortiz then rose the American flag and the 2013 world championship flag up the center field pole before Boston firefighters of Engine 33 lowered it to half-mast in tribute to the two firefighters, Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh, lost in a fire in Boston on March 26. The emotional ceremony was capped off by former Mayor Tom Menino tossing the ball to current Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who threw the pitch to David Ortiz.

The City of Boston and New England have captured eight pro championships since the 2001 New England Patriots captured Super Bowl XXXVI. All eight were represented on the field before the ceremonial first pitch.

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