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Closing Time: Red Sox bullpen falls apart, handing Blue Jays walk-off win 05.28.16 at 5:00 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez couldn't handle Travis Shaw's throw, allowing the Blue Jays a walk-off win. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez couldn’t handle Travis Shaw’s throw, allowing the Blue Jays a walk-off win. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

It was not the birthday Craig Kimbrel was hoping for.

On the day he turned 28 years old, the closer fell apart in the ninth inning Saturday, allowing the Blue Jays to come back with two runs with two outs to claim a 10-9 win over the Red Sox at Rogers Centre.

Kimbrel had gotten the first two outs in the ninth after David Ortiz’s ninth-inning home run gave the visitors a one-run lead. But a single from Justin Smoak, stolen base by pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera, and an advancement to third on catcher Christian Vazquez’s throwing error put things in doubt.

Russell Martin would tie things up on a two-strike double on a Kimbrel fastball, leading to Devon Travis’ grounder down the third base line. Travis Shaw managed to reach the ball and get off a throw, but first baseman Hanley Ramirez wasn’t able to handle what appeared to be a slight short hop, allowing for the walk-off Blue Jays win.

“Ball down the line, Travis gives him a throw that we’ve seen Hanley catch that ball a number of times,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. “I think if we have a chance to replay that, he probably makes that play routinely. Went off the glove. From my vantage point, I don’t know that it short-hopped him. Unfortunate situation at a key moment.”

“It was a tremendous play by Shaw,” Ramirez told reporters. “I just wasn’t able to finish it. Unfortunately we ended up losing the game.”

Kimbrel, who had pitched just once over the previous week, totaled a season-high 39 pitches in taking the loss.

Before the bottom of the ninth, it appeared as though Ortiz had provided all the heroics the Red Sox needed with his 40th career Rogers Centre home run. But the designated hitter’s solo shot wouldn’t prove enough to prevent the Sox from losing their third straight.

Kimbrel’s issues were just part of the bullpen’s problems.

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Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz back in against Marcus Stroman 05.28.16 at 10:47 am ET
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Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman

With Toronto ace Marcus Stroman on the mound for the Blue Jays Saturday, David Ortiz returns to the Red Sox lineup after getting the series opener off.

Stroman struggled in his previous outing against the Red Sox this season, allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings. He is, however, coming off his best start of the year, giving up just one run over 7 2/3 innings against the Twins.

Another change in the Sox lineup will be Chris Young getting the start in left field. Young is hitting just .161 against righties this season (5-for-34), while totaling a .370 average vs. left-handers.

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

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Christian Vazquez C

For all the matchups, click here.

Reminder that Clay Buchholz might still be of some importance to these Red Sox 05.28.16 at 10:32 am ET
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Clay Buchholz still potentially has come value for the Red Sox.  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz still potentially has come value for the Red Sox. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Friday was the day we officially learned Clay Buchholz would be headed to the bullpen.

It was also the day we were reminded why this might not be the last we hear of the pitcher.

While Buchholz’s move to life as a reliever was inevitable — having the second-worst ERA of any major league starter — there are very real scenarios for the Red Sox where he presence will be called upon to save the day somewhere down the line.

This reality bubbled up during the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays.

Joe Kelly gives up five runs over 4 2/3 innings, and Koji Uehara allows the Blue Jays to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth with Josh Donaldson’s two-run homer. Starting. Relieving. While most everybody got what they wanted when it came to juggling the roster pieces, this team is far from secure.

If something does happen to one of the Red Sox starters, either because of injury or performance, there isn’t much proven reliability sitting behind them.

Perhaps the best option, right now, is Roenis Elias, who has turned things around in his last two starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. In his last two outings, the lefty has allowed a combined three earned runs in 15 innings, striking out 21 and walking just two.

William Cuevas has been the PawSox’s most consistent starter, with the 25-year-old managing a 3.14 ERA while allowing more than three earned runs just once this season. This after managing a 2.63 ERA in his seven starts with Pawtucket last season.

Still, relying on either when it counts for any extended period of time will be a tough call considering there is always the chance for a healthy Buchholz to find of his runs.

But perhaps the more intriguing potential holes resides in that eighth inning the Red Sox struggled through Friday night.

Uehara seems to still be a reliable late-inning option. But we can’t ignore that he has now allowed at least one hit in eight of his last nine outings, totaling a 5.19 ERA and .901 OPS against in May. Also of note, the 41-year-old has already thrown 305 pitches, 80 more than at this time last year

The Carson Smith injury was more damaging than many are realizing, with the righty have been slotted in as the one to take some of the pressure off of Uehara.

It would be a pretty big leap to suggest Buchholz would emerge into the next Wade Davis and start locking down high-leverage relief innings, particularly considering he has served as a reliever for two games throughout his entire career. But, at the same time, stranger things have happened.

Perhaps the more realistic scenario is Buchholz filling in the innings left behind if the Red Sox choose to start leaning more on Matt Barnes. Barnes has started to show enough production, and velocity, to suggest that will emerge as an option.

Will Clay Buchholz be of some value at some point this season?

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Closing Time: Josh Donaldson gets better of Red Sox, Koji Uehara 05.27.16 at 10:04 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Concerns might be shifting from the starting rotation to the bullpen.

On the day Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Clay Buchholz would be joining the relievers, the continued possibility that the Sox may need late-inning help as the season unfolds emerged.

After the Red Sox crawled back from a three-run deficit, Sox reliever Koji Uehara allowed the Blue Jays to get the last laugh. Uehara fell victim to a two-run, opposite field home run off the bat of Josh Donaldson in the eighth inning, giving the Blue Jays a 7-5 win over the Red Sox in the teams’ series-opener at Rogers Centre.

With Carson Smith out for the season, the eighth-inning focus has turned to Uehara. The 41-year-old has allowed at least one hit in eight of his nine appearances this month, leading to a 5.19 ERA for May.

It was the third time Donaldson gave the Blue Jays the lead, finishing with a pair of home runs and five RBIs.
For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

This season against the Red Sox, Donaldson is hitting .393 with four home runs, going 4-for-5 Friday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Joe Kelly couldn’t duplicate the 6 2/3 scoreless innings he turned in during his previous start, allowing five runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. The righty did avoid suffering his first loss since July 22, 2015, with the Red Sox offense taking him off the hook.

– The Red Sox were never able to get David Ortiz’s bat in the game. Once Marco Hernandez failed to reach with one out in the ninth, Farrell opted not to pinch-hit for Christian Vazquez without the possibility of tying the game. Ortiz wasn’t in the starting lineup in an attempt to rest his feet on Rogers Centre’s artificial turf.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Xander Bogaerts extended his hit streak to 20 games with a fourth-inning single.

– The Red Sox took advantage of some shoddy fielding from the Blue Jays, particularly when tying the game in the eighth inning. Dustin Pedroia’s routine fly ball to left field dropping after miscommunication between left fielder Michael Saunders and center fielder Kevin Pillar. The end result was Pedroia coming home with the equalizer on Travis Shaw’s grounder, that neither first baseman Justin Smoak or second baseman Devon Travis could handle.

– The inning before they tied it, the Red Sox got back into the game on Christian Vazquez’s two-run single up the middle, scoring both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez. As the play unfolded, a spectator ran onto the field, almost interrupting Bradley Jr.’s path to home plate.

– Matt Barnes continued to emerge as a legitimate weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen, not allowing a hit or a run over his 1 1/3 innings, striking out a pair. Coming into the game, Barnes had allowed opponents a .184 batting average.

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Clay Buchholz heading to bullpen, Eduardo Rodriguez to start Tuesday 05.27.16 at 5:17 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

The Red Sox have finally made their move when it comes to Clay Buchholz.

John Farrell announced to the media in Toronto Friday prior to this team’s series-opener against the Blue Jays that Clay Buchholz would be headed to the bullpen. Taking his place in the Sox rotation will be Eduardo Rodriguez, who is slated to start against the Orioles Tuesday.

Buchholz has only pitched two games in relief throughout his career, with the most recent occasion coming in 2008. Farrell noted he will be used for multiple-inning stints out of the bullpen.

“The bottom line is the results, and there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell told reporters. “I can tell you that Clay understands the decision but probably doesn’t like it, which I can respect, but at the same time, the most important thing as we stand today is how he embraces this decision, how this change will work itself out, but his attitude toward the move has got to be one where you take this as an opportunity to work through some of the issues that have presented themselves, and that’s been the big innings or that’s been the home runs that have come with men on. Maybe in shorter stints, shorter looks, he begins to gain a little momentum and gets back on track.”

The move comes after Buchholz’s latest struggles, with the righty giving up six runs over five innings. It was the sixth time in his 10 starts this season he had allowed five or more runs. Buchholz’s ERA stands at 6.35, the second-highest of any starter in the majors.

Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis surmised that Buchholz’s struggles weren’t a product of physical or mechanical issues.

“We’ve watched a lot of video,” Willis told reporters. “Again, he feels good. Mechanics, we haven’t been able to really pinpoint anything significant that’s different. It’s just, yeah, execution and balls leaking back at the inappropriate count. I think more than anything else, it’s controlling the count.”

Rodriguez, who hasn’t pitched in the majors this season while recovering from a right knee injury, last pitched Tuesday when he allowed one run over seven innings. In five rehab starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, Rodriguez totaled a 3.54 ERA.

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz starts on bench 05.27.16 at 3:53 pm ET
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David Ortiz

David Ortiz

David Ortiz is getting a breather.

Despite owning Toronto starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez — managing four hits and three walks in his 11 plate appearances against the righty — Ortiz will start the Red Sox’ series opener at Roger Centre on the bench.

The Sox DH is coming off a homestand in which he hit .500 (11-for-22), with an OPS of 1.638. He has multiple-hits in five of his last six games, currently carrying the best OPS (1.126) in the majors.

“All things considered, he’s still 40 years old, and we’ve got to take care of the days when, physically, it’s recommended,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters before the game. “We’re in one of those days right now. He’s had some success against Sanchez. There’s a number of factors that go into this decision. Preserving his health through the remainder of the year is primary.”

Marco Hernandez plays third base, with Travis Shaw moving over to first base, and Hanley Ramirez sliding into the designated hitter spot. Ramirez is 9-for-18 with a 1.471 OPS as a DH this season.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Joe Kelly getting the start for the visitors:

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Marco Hernandez 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF

For all the matchups, click here.

Red Sox lineup: Jackie Bradley Jr. leads off, Mookie Betts starts on bench 05.26.16 at 3:32 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox are going to make sure Jackie Bradley Jr. gets as many at-bats as possible in an effort to extend his 29-game hitting streak.

For the first time this season, Bradley Jr. will hit in the leadoff spot, with Mookie Betts starting the series finale against the Rockies Thursday on the bench. Bradley Jr. has four plate appearances in the order’s top spot for his career, over three games.

The Red Sox center fielder is leading the American League in hitting with a .350 batting average, having totaled a .415 clip with a 1.271 OPS over the life of what has become the fourth-longest hitting streak in club history.

The Sox also seemingly dodged a few bullets with ailments, with both Dustin Pedroia (hamstring tightness) and Xander Bogaerts (lacerated finger) getting starts after leaving Wednesday night’s game early.

Here is the Red Sox lineup against Colorado righty Jon Gray, with Clay Buchholz going for the hosts:

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young RF
Blake Swihart LF
Christian Vazquez C

For all the matchups, click here.

Closing Time: Steven Wright, Red Sox offense get it done again 05.25.16 at 10:20 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez and the Red Sox continue to feel pretty good about themselves. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez and the Red Sox continue to feel pretty good about themselves. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Same old story.

Red Sox score a bunch of runs. Steven Wright pitches well enough to hold the lead. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts get some hits.

This time the formula added up to a 10-3 win over the Rockies, giving the Red Sox their 13th win in their last 15 games at Fenway Park. It marked the Sox’ fifth straight home series win.

It was Bogaerts who once again defined the hosts relentless attack, kicking off a four-run fourth inning with his fifth homer of the season, launching a Chad Bettis offering well over the left field wall.

The homer extended the shortstop’s hit streak to 18 games, and increased his American League-leading hit total to 66.

Bradley Jr. also once again did his thing, stretching his hitting streak to 29 games with an opposite field single in the fourth inning. He would add a seventh-inning double to boost his batting average to .350, tops in the American League. and just slightly ahead of Bogaerts’ .349. (For more on JBJ’s hitting streak, click here.)

Also doing his part was Wright, who kept his ERA at 2.52 after allowing two earned runs over seven innings. He struck out seven, and walked two in throwing 117 pitches (the second-most the knuckleballer has totaled this season).

It was the seventh time this season Wright has allowed two or fewer earned runs while pitching 6 2/3 or more innings. With the outing, the Red Sox starters have now managed a combined 2.83 ERA over their last seven appearances.

Wright did, however, have three wild pitches, to go along with Ryan Hanigan’s four passed balls.

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Dustin Pedroia leaves game in 5th inning with hamstring tightness 05.25.16 at 9:03 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia left Wednesday night’s game in the fifth inning as what the Red Sox termed as a “precaution” due to right hamstring tightness. It is the same hamstring that sidelined Pedroia for much of 2015.

Pedroia exited the contest after doubling down the left field line to start the inning. He would be pinch-run for by Marco Hernandez.

“I just came in — I grounded out to third and I felt a little cramp, and then Russ [Nua], one of our guys on the staff, stretched me out, and my training staff saw that. I usually don’t have a good stretch,” Pedroia said. “They asked me, ‘What’s going on? Are you tight?’ You know me — I was like, ‘Yeah, no [expletive], that’s why I’m getting stretched. This isn’t rocket science.’ Then everybody was like, ‘Be smart. Don’t push anything. Don’t run hard.’ I hit the ball down in the corner, so I jogged to second, and I was out. I don’t know. I’m fine. I appreciate John [Farrell] and everybody looking out. We obviously don’t want anything to happen like last year. But I’m good.”

In his previous two at-bats, the second baseman flew out to right field and grounded out to third base. He is hitting .304 with an .834 OPS. Pedroia has played in all but two of the Red Sox’ games this season.

When asked if he was planning on playing Thursday, Pedroia said, “Yeah, unless I get benched.”

Ryan Hanigan also was forced to leave the game early, exiting in the fourth inning due to illness. Prior to being replaced by Christian Vazquez, Hanigan had allowed four passed balls while catching knuckleballer Steven Wright.

“You know, he’s done such a great job,” said Farrell of Hanigan. “He battled and gives you everything that he has. So for Hanny to come out of that game, something is going on there. Again, ball was darting in both directions. There’s no consistency to it in terms of to be able to anticipate the direction it’s going to be able to move. It’s almost like he’s defending himself in a way trying to receive it. But after the four innings, it was time to get him out of there.”

Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 29 games 05.25.16 at 8:38 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr. is still going.

The Red Sox outfielder extended his hitting streak to 29 games with a fourth-inning single against Colorado starter Chad Bettis. The opposite-field single came on the first pitch Bradley saw in his second at-bat.

“I wouldn’t say hard to imagine,” Bradley Jr. said. “It’s pretty cool, definitely excited and hopefully you can just keep it going.”

Bradley’s streak now is the fourth-longest in Red Sox history, surpassing Wade Boggs’ stretch in 1985. The only Sox players ahead of the lefty hitter are Dom DiMaggio (34 in 1949), Nomar Garciaparra (30 in 1997) and Tris Speaker (30 in 1912). He is tied with Johnny Damon, who also managed a streak of 29 in 2005.

In his first at-bat of the night, Bradley grounded out to the pitcher.

Coming into Wednesday night’s game, Bradley had led the majors in batting average (.412), slugging percentage (.784), OPS (1.271), RBI (29), and triples (3) since the streak started on April 24.

He is the first major league player to hit in 29 straight games since Denard Span did it in 2013.

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