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Closing Time: Rick Porcello continues Fenway Park dominance with win over Rays 08.29.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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Rick Porcello became the majors first 18-game winner, Monday night. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello became the majors first 18-game winner Monday night. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello was coming off an outing in which he threw more pitches than in any game of his career. Would he be worn down coming into his start Monday night? It didn’t look like it.

Porcello appeared to be the pitcher Fenway Park fans have been accustomed to witnessing this season, allowing three runs on six hits over seven innings in the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Rays. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter, while throwing 102 pitches.

The Sox starter is now 13-0 at Fenway this season, with the Red Sox having won all of Porcello’s 14 home starts. The righty is just the fifth major league pitcher since 1913 to begin a season 13-0 at home, joining Dallas Keuchel, Dave Ferriss, Tex Hughson, and Larry Benton. He also becomes the major leagues first 18-game winner.

“I think you deal with ups and downs in baseball, and here in Boston, the downs can seem to be a little bit deeper than most places and all the ups are obviously really high, too,” Porcello said. “You learn to ride that wave and keep an even-keel and continue to work hard and keep your head down until you accomplish the goals you want to accomplish.”

With the win, the Red Sox remain two games in back of first-place Toronto, who claimed a 5-1 win over Baltimore at Camden Yards. The Orioles drop to four games back in the American League East.

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

With his two RBIs, Mookie Betts is now just four shy of 100. Once at the milestone, the outfielder and David Oritz are trending toward becoming just the second set of Red Sox teammates with at least 30 homers, 40 doubles and 100 RBI. Ortiz and Manny Ramirez accomplished the feat in 2004.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Betts launched his 30th homer of the season over the left field wall to kick off the scoring. The solo shot was his seventh since being moved to the cleanup spot on Aug. 10, the second-most of any No. 4 hitter during that span (only behind Chris Davis’ eight homers). Betts added to his RBI total in the fifth inning, driving home Ortiz with a double.

– Despite coming into the night with the second-worst batting average with the bases loaded in the American League (.211), Brock Holt managed to reverse the trend. The second baseman, who was filling in for Dustin Pedroia for a second straight game, rifled a single into left field, scoring Chris Young. The two-out hit couldn’t plate a pair, however, with Sandy Leon getting thrown out at the plate on a throw from left fielder Corey Dickerson to end the inning. (To watch Holt’s single, click here.)

– Young gave the Sox a two-run lead in the fourth inning, lining a two-run double into the left field corner with nobody out. The hit, which scored Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw, was the outfielder’s first RBI against a righty pitcher since June 11. Holt followed in the fourth with his second RBI of game, doubling in Young.

“Each day gets better,” Young said. “When I first came back, it was a process of getting your timing back and things like that. No matter if I’ve felt great, I feel like I’ve been able to go out and battle. And when you first come back, that’s ultimately the goal, to go out there and be competitive and find yourself as fast as possible. And until you find yourself, just try and grind out at-bats and get as good a feel as possible. That’s pretty much where I’m at right now. But I’m feeling more and more comfortable each game.”

– Xander Bogaerts made the defensive play of the game with one out in the fifth inning, ranging into the hole behind second base on Logan Forsythe’s grounder, scooping it up, twisting his body around and finally firing a one-hopper to Ramirez at first. While the play was initially called an infield single, a replay revealed Forsythe was out. Dickerson did score from third on the play for the Rays’ third run.

– Shaw managed just his second multi-hit game for the month, and first since Aug. 4, coming away with three hits.

“It’s nice to go home at night and feel like you’ve contributed to something,” Shaw said. “It’s been a while since that’s happened. It just feels good to actually do something positive for the first time in a while.”

The third baseman also admitted he had been putting too much pressure on himself of late. “I’ve got to try to stop pressing,” he said. “It felt like I was trying to do too much there. You get in a little slump and feel like you’ve got to get a hit every single time you come up to the plate. The last couple days, I’ve felt pretty relaxed and not trying to do too much. I’m just trying to stay there as much as I can.”

– Leon got going after hitting a bit of a dry spell of late, notching two hits, including a two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning. It was the catcher’s first multi-hit game since Aug. 21, having claimed seven games with two hits or more more in the first three weeks of Aug.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Red Sox had two runners thrown out at the plate in the second inning, with Hanley Ramirez going from third base on contact on Young’s one-out grounder to third base. Leon would end the inning with his failed attempt at reaching home.

– Porcello couldn’t keep the lead for long, with the Rays scoring a pair in the third inning.

– Clay Buchholz, who had limited hitters to just one hit in 22 at-bats while pitching in relief since July 27, gave up a run on two hits and a walk in a 29-pitch eighth inning.

Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t buying that move to No. 9 spot in Red Sox batting order turned things around 08.29.16 at 6:30 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr. isn't crediting his recent move in the batting order to turning things around. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t crediting his recent move in the batting order to turning things around. (Winslow Townsend/USA Today Sports)

Jackie Bradley’s take on the matter wasn’t hard to decipher.

Would you say you don’t care where you hit in the lineup?

“Somewhat.”

Do you care?

“I don’t make the lineup. I just play. You obviously get more opportunities in the top and middle of the lineup.”

Does hitting ninth matter?

“I’ve never heard of a spot in the order that swings the bat. I’ve never heard a pitcher talk about certain sequences with a number in the order. They pitch to hitters no matter where they are in the order. For example, I had a 3-2 splitter in the game yesterday. If I’m the No. 9 guy why don’t you throw me a fastball? You don’t pitch to a number in the batting order. You pitch to tendencies. You pitch to each batter individually. If you hit David in the No. 9 spot he’s going to hit one [home run]?”

Judging by his comments before Monday night’s game, it’s pretty clear that Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t running into John Farrell’s asking to be kept in the lineup’s No. 9 spot. But, for the time being, that’s where the center fielder finds himself. Why? Because one he went back to the bottom of the order, Bradley Jr. started getting on base again.

“Seems to be,” said Farrell when asked if there was a correlation to Bradley Jr.’s recent comfort at the plate and the shift in the order. “His at-bats have been better. He walked a couple of times last night. It’s a really interesting conversation to see or suggest there’s a different mindset based on the number in the lineup in which you’re hitting at. But I think there’s something real to that for certain individual. But Jackie’s had good production in a lot of different places in the lineup this year. He’s going through a little bit of a spell where maybe he’s getting a little bit too pull oriented. I know the work continues to be concentrated to stay inside the ball, use the whole field. That’s there in BP. Does it allow him to see the ball deeper, track the ball better? That might be evident in the walks last night. All in all, multiple times on base the last couple of nights, and certainly that’s a positive.”

After going through 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts, Bradley Jr. was moved to the No. 9 spot. Since the switch he has reached base five times in eight plate appearances.

For the season, Bradley Jr. came into Monday night hitting .371 with a 1.044 OPS in his 108 plate appearances hitting ninth this season. The production has helped the Red Sox carry far and away the best OPS of any team in the No. 9 slot (.793), 82 points higher than the second-best club, Kansas City. (They are vying to become just the seventh team in Major League Baseball history to have the ninth spot in its order to carry an OPS of .800 or better.)

But Bradley Jr. isn’t buying there is a tangible difference when it comes to either the pitchers’ approach, or how hitters have to look at things.

“Obviously they know certain times when you’re scuffling a little bit. They want to attack you more. But they’re still not wanting to miss their spots,” he said They’re not going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to throw this pitch down the middle.’ They’re still going to pitch to their scouting report. I’m just trying to hit, no matter where it is. Everybody tries to stereotype a certain number in the order. I think the main goal is to hit, produce. If you’re producing, it don’t matter.

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Dave Dombrowski offers insight to likelihood of Yoan Moncada, Christian Vazquez call-ups 08.29.16 at 12:10 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski

Listening to Dave Dombrowski Monday morning, it sure sounds like Yoan Moncada might not be spending his September in the majors. Christian Vazquez? That’s another story.

Speaking with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Dombrowski explained that part of the decision regarding whether or not to promote Moncada when rosters expand on Sept. 1 will have to do the opportunity for playing time. And right now, that would seem to be hard to come by for the infielder.

“First of all, if you’re going to bring a guy like that up, you want to make sure he has a chance to play some,” said Dombrowski of Moncada, who has been primarily working out at third base, of late. “It doesn’t do you much good if you’re going to bring him up and he just sits and doesn’t play. That doesn’t do you much good. For example, when [Andrew] Benintendi came up he played. We put him right out there in left field. That’s one thing with Moncada. The second thing is that you do have some roster situations, how you work with that with the 40-man roster (which currently has 39 players on it). I wouldn’t let that stop him from being brought up if he was going to play. But those are the conversations that we still need to have over the next day. We’ve talked a lot of generalities.”

The one opening Moncada might fit on the big league roster would be as a pinch-runner. But Dombrowski warned of jumping to the conclusion that just because of the infielder’s minor-league success stealing bases (44-for-56 this season, but just 8-for-12 with Double-A Portland), that doesn’t mean he will become a viable base-stealing threat in the majors during the Red Sox’ pennant race.

And while Dombrowski is on the lookout for potential base-stealing options to add to the big league club, finding the right player, he explained, might not be an option.

“The unfortunate part is that clubs have gotten pretty smart on that so there’s not a lot of those guys available like they used to be at the end,” he said. “It’s a situation where it’s difficult to find those speed guys. For us, a lot of times too you want to get guy who can steal a base. If you can’t find that you want to have a guy who can score from first on a double. We have a lot of those type of guys, so we’re in pretty good shape in that regard.

“Even if you look at Moncada, who, in my estimation, is going to be a great player. He’s going to be an exciting player. He’s going to steal a lot of bases at the big league level. But he’s learning that art at the upper-levels. He hasn’t stole as many bases at Double-A as he did in A-ball. In A-ball his speed just took over. You’re working with him, but he hasn’t stolen quite as many bases yet at the Double-A level. And I do think he will do that at the big league level, eventually.”

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Dave Dombrowski doesn’t sound optimistic Jonathan Papelbon will be option for Red Sox 08.29.16 at 11:25 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

The Jonathan Papelbon Watch has lingered for most of August, and figures to continue to do so until the end of the month.

But with Papelbon still not choosing to sign with a team since his release from the Nationals Aug. 13, time is becoming a major factor when it comes to the idea of the reliever joining the Red Sox. It’s a point Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski reiterated when appearing with the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. (To donate, click here.)

“We had interest in him, and we expressed that to him,” Dombrowski said Monday morning. “John Farrell spoke with Jonathan Papelbon, and I think a couple of our players spoke to him, too. For his own personal reasons, he’s just decided so far not to sign. I’m not sure if he’s going to sign or not. I know he has a lot of strong feelings about Boston if he decides to sign. It’s just more of a situation where his agent says he’s not ready to make a decision.

“And now it becomes complicated because he hasn’t thrown in a game since Aug. 6. So you’re in a position where you just can’t thrust him out there. I don’t know what he’s been doing as far as throwing is concerned. I would doubt that he’s been throwing a lot. So you would have to go back out there and build up his arm strength and be in a position to face some hitters. It’s not just inserting him like it would be if you signed him right off the bat.”

Another fly in the ointment is the deadline for Papelbon to be added to an organization in time for postseason eligibility. The pitcher would have to be signed by the Red Sox before Sept. 1 for such a qualification.

“I’m sure he and his representatives know that. But I think it’s more of his own personal situation that he’s decided,” Dombrowski said. “It has nothing to do with a club interest. It’s just more, for whatever reason, his own decisions are like that.”

Why Red Sox are digging in with Clay Buchholz as a late-inning reliever 08.29.16 at 10:27 am ET
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Clay Buchholz has emerged as one of the Red Sox' most important pitchers. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz has emerged as one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. (Bob DiChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox-centric social media world predictably started raising it’s collective heart rate as soon as the sixth inning started unraveling Sunday night.

Clay Buchholz HAD to go back to the starting rotation. This outing by Eduardo Rodriguez simply wasn’t going to do.

But what the loss to the Royals actually should have reminded was how important Buchholz has become as the next eighth inning option. Remember when Matt Barnes was considered that guy? Well, after giving up three runs on five hits without recording an out, he has now allowed 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last eight outings.

As mediocre an outing as Rodriguez turned out in his return from a hamstring injury, he — and all of the starting rotation — remains less of a concern than the bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel.

That’s where Buchholz comes in.

“The fact that he’s on the mound in the eighth inning, he’s lived it with all of us what that eighth inning has been of late,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell regarding Buchholz. “I’m sure he looked upon that as, hey, this is an opportunity to fill that role.”

The previous two nights were the warm-ups. Buchholz didn’t even get in the game on Friday, simply getting ready just in case. And pitched a semi-meaningless eighth Saturday night. But both began to set the stage for commitment the Red Sox are about to extend.

“[Friday night] if tied the game I was going in, so that was a different role. Before if we tied a game late in the game it was going to be Barnes, Craig or Ziegler. The opposite of going in,” Buchholz said. Talking to John, this is going to a little bit more of a defined type of role.”

The Red Sox’ pitchers OPS-against in the eighth is the highest of any inning other than the first. Brad Ziegler is best when he can be matched up against righties, with left-handed hitters batting just about 50 points higher against the side-winder since he joined the Red Sox. And while Koji Uehara’s progress toward returning has been encouraging, there can’t be any assumptions regarding his effectiveness.

That leaves the Red Sox with Buchholz.

“It’s still the eighth inning. There’s one guy behind you. We haven’t pitched all that well out there,” said Red Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. “They all want to protect each other. There’s responsibility out there, we just have figure it out and put everything in line. It got a little bit loose when Koji left and we had some moving parts.

“Those guys dictate when they pitch out there. When they pitch well with consistency, they get moved back to later innings. We’re going to get it. It’s just putting everybody in comfortable spots to pitch in. And when we get everything back everybody will exhale and say, ‘We’ve got what we want'”

But there is no time left for dancing around the need for the righty to fill this role, a notion Farrell cemented when talking with Buchholz prior to his return to the bullpen. And the manager’s actions in how he called down for Buchholz over the weekend only reinforced the mindset.

“Having a role, it’s a little bit easier to prepare for that rather than going out there and sitting for the first three innings and maybe one of our starters getting hit around a little bit and having to go in and mop up,” Buchholz said. “When the game is on the line you tend to think about what you’re doing. It allows you to prepare.

“I’m not anybody who is going to run around and stretch out. Phone rings, they call my name, I’ll get ready.”

It has taken a month or so, but Buchholz has figured out how to live the relieving life. LeVangie points out that the pitcher only needs about 15 tosses to get ready, and has shown the ability to figure out how to get ready for some of the games’ most important moments.

“He studies beforehand. He knows what he wants to do,” LeVangie said. “He asks questions. It’s more about the mental preparation than anything else.”

Now there’s no turning back. Unless an injury occurs to one of the starting pitchers, or one of them suffers a complete collapse, Buchholz has found his stretch-drive role. And it promises to be one of the most important roles in the season’s final 32 games.

“That feels better going into a game knowing I can watch the game unfold and I can sort of understand when I’m going to pitch rather than just flipping a coin,” he said. “In games that mean something, it feels better knowing that.”

Dustin Pedroia to miss Sunday night’s game due to family matter 08.28.16 at 3:31 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

According to the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia will no be available for Sunday night’s game, with the second baseman having to attend to a family matter.

“He’s left the team to attend some services for a member of their family,” manager John Farrell said. “Our condolences go out to both Dustin and Kelli and their families. And we would expect him back later later tomorrow night — after the beginning of the game. We’ve not put him on the bereavement list. That requires a minimum of three games missed, so we’ll play a man short here.”

“Based on his texts, he’s envisioning a walk-off hit in the ninth,” Farrell added. “Much like Pedey fashion, that was his parting text this morning before he left.”

Pedroia has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, having collected hits in 11 consecutive at-bats — one shy of the major league record — before grounding out to second in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals Saturday night.

In his last three home games, Pedroia has 13 hits, having become the first player since 1913 to notch four or more hits in three straight Fenway Park contests.

Brock Holt will start at second base for Pedroia.

Here is the entire Red Sox lineup with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound for the hosts:

Brock Holt 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Sandy Leon C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

The Boston Herald was first to report Pedroia’s absence.

Red Sox slated to open 2017 season at home against Pirates 08.27.16 at 11:35 pm ET
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The schedule is still subject to change, but the original blueprint for the 2017 Red Sox regular season should be a conversation-starter.

According to Major League Baseball sources, the Red Sox are slated to kick off next season at home against the Pirates. They would then head to Detroit for the second series of the year.

It would be the first time the Red Sox began their season at home since 2010, when they played the Yankees in an April 4 meeting. It would mark just the fourth time since 1996 the Red Sox have kicked off the schedule at Fenway Park.

The meeting with the Pirates would mark the Sox’ second National League Opening Day opponent, having played the Phillies in Philadelphia in 2015.

While the 2017 schedules have been presented to the teams in MLB, the plans could change, particularly with time of games and scheduling being a focal point for the players in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

Red Sox lineup: Jackie Bradley Jr. dropped to 9th 08.27.16 at 3:12 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t getting the night off, but he is being dropped in the lineup.

The Red Sox center fielder is hitting ninth against Royals’ lefty Danny Duffy Saturday, having been mired in a fairly vicious slump. Bradley Jr. has seen his batting average drop to .269, having hit .167 with a .557 OPS in August.

Of late, Bradley Jr. has gone 3-for-34 in his last nine games with 14 strikeouts.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup with David Price on the mound for the hosts:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Sandy Leon C
Chris Young LF
Aaron Hill 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

For a breakdown of the pitching matchup, click here.

Clay Buchholz officially heading to bullpen, Eduardo Rodriguez to start Sunday 08.25.16 at 4:20 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

It was no surprise, but after the Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to the Rays, Sox manager John Farrell made it official.

Clay Buchholz is headed back to the bullpen.

The move was necessitated by the return of both Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez to the starting rotation, with Wright starting Friday night in the series opener against the Royals, and Rodriguez getting the call for Sunday’s night’s finale.

Buchholz has been outstanding since July 27, totaling a 1.96 ERA in eight appearances, three of which were starts. In the three games he started in place of Wright, Buchholz managed a 2.70 ERA.

He is coming off a 6 1/3-inning gem against the Rays Tuesday night in which the righty only allowed one run while striking out nine.

The move was made official after Rodriguez (hamstring) completed another successful bullpen session, having throwing a three-inning simulated game Tuesday at Tropicana Field.

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Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox will have to wait to find out extent of outfielder’s knee injury 08.24.16 at 11:49 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With his backpack finally filled up and thrown over his shoulders, Andrew Benintendi started his long walk out of the visitors’ clubhouse Wednesday night. This time, however, it was a lot longer, and a lot more painful, than when he entered.

Benintendi exited the premises with a pronounced limp, putting as little weight on his left leg as possible. It was the best he could muster after spraining the knee while trying to get back to second base on a Dustin Pedroia ground ball in the seventh inning.

“Right now it’s just stiff,” he said. “I’m going to come back tomorrow and see how it feels.”

Benintendi and Red Sox manager John Farrell both reiterated that no conclusions can be drawn until they get the results of an MRI that is expected to be taken Thursday.

(For more on how Benintendi was injured, click here.)

“He’s going to go through some testing [Thursday],” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was joined with two trainers in helping Benintendi off the field. “We’re trying to get an MRI scheduled here for Thursday morning. He changed direction on the base-running play and unfortunately he felt the left knee grab him. To what extent the injury is, we’ll hopefully know more by game-time [Thursday].”

“It was just one of those freak things you don’t plan on it to happen, but it’s one of those things,” said the outfielder, who didn’t even realize he had also twisted his ankle until watching the replay. “So we’re just going to see what the results say and move on from there.”

The injury certainly made the Red Sox’ 11-inning, 4-3 loss to the Rays more difficult to stomach, as was evident by the mood in the clubhouse following the game.

“That hurt. That kid has been doing so good for us,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “Losing him that way, just, did you hear what he said? MRI? Hopefully it’s not bad. But the way they took him off the field it seems like it’s not looking good. Let’s wait and see what they say. Hopefully it’s a couple of days kind of thing.”

“That stinks,” said Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello. “Hopefully everything turns out all right and he can make a speedy recovery. He just got up here. He’s been doing so well. He’s made a really big impact for our team. To see him go down definitely hurts. We’ll cross our fingers and hope it’s something he can recover from quickly.”

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