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Closing Time: Red Sox return to losing ways, drop another to Braves 06.17.15 at 10:20 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

So much for a winning streak.

The Red Sox fell back to 11 games under .500 once again with a 5-2 loss to the Braves, Wednesday night. The Sox have now lost eight of their last nine games, and two of three against Atlanta in its home and home set. They also find themselves nine back in the American League East.

This time the Red Sox fell victim to a methodical Braves attack on the scorching hot night, with Atlanta ultimately pulling away thanks to a two-run seventh inning.

In the seventh, Junichi Tazawa fell victim to a one-out, infield hit by Cameron Maybin, who would move to third on rookie Daniel Castro’s hit-and-run grounder into right field. Nick Markakis managed the eventual game-winner, placing a single into left.

Making the inning more frustrating for the Red Sox was that Maybin’s hit should have probably been an out, with Mike Napoli unable to catch a toss from Xander Bogaerts, who raced in and fielded the ball bare-handed. The throw appeared to hit off of the first baseman’s wrist on the fly and symbolized the inability by the Red Sox to make key plays when it counted the most.

“I was just trying to stretch as far as I could,” Napoli told reporters. “He’s a quick runner.”

More unforgivable for the Red Sox was how the Braves scored their second run in the seventh, with Tommy Layne coming on and walking the seemingly unwalkable A.J. Pierzynski. It was the first time the catcher has walked twice in a game since 2012, and just the second occasion in the past five seasons. It also marked the third time Pierzynski has walked with the bases loaded for his career.

The Braves added one more in the eighth, with Maybin singling in Jonny Gomes. That run came against reliever Craig Breslow.

Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn’t able to stick around for the entirety of the game, getting tossed by umpire Larry Vanover after arguing a Pedro Ciriaco checked swing with two outs in the seventh inning. Earlier in the game Farrell had come out on the field to argue with Vanover on a play at first base involving Mookie Betts, with the manager having already used his challenge.

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Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Joe Kelly, John Farrell, tommy layne
Does Mike Napoli think he’s back after his two hits Tuesday? ‘No’ 06.17.15 at 12:28 pm ET
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Like the Red Sox, it would seem Mike Napoli took a turn for the better Tuesday.

The first baseman came away with a pair of hits after having come into the series finale hitting .156 in his 12 games played this month. It was a stretch that saw Napoli strikeout 17 times in 46 plate appearances, walking just once.

So, when he pulled a single into left field on a Julio Teheran slider, that must have made Napoli feel like his swing was getting back to a good place, right?

“No,” he responded after the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Braves.

Well, certainly the sixth-inning double to left offered the solution he had been searching for.

“Nope,” Napoli responded once again.

He then elaborated.

“I’m not the kind of guy who gets a couple of hits and thinks, ‘I’m back.’ Yeah, I felt better, but I have to go a couple of games of executing what I’m trying to do,” Napoli said. “I’ve still got work to do, but I’m going down the right path.”

It is pretty clear what pitchers have been doing to Napoli, living on the outside part of the plate. He knows that.

“I haven’t really shown I can hit the outer corner pitch,” the righty hitter said. “I have to make the adjustment to be able to hit that pitch.”

Then comes a pause. Now Napoli once again identifies what he continues to believe is a big part of the problem: the strike zone.

“Some of them are off, and they’re being called strikes,” he said regarding the dilemma he’s facing on the outside part of the plate. “For me, sometimes with two strikes I have to expand and I have to swing at something. I’m not just going to take something and walk back to the dugout. But, whatever. I’m feeling better. I’m going in the right path.”

It’s obviously been an issue on Napoli’s mind, along with evidently at least somebody else in the Red Sox clubhouse. According to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, one of the players asked about the consistency of this season’s strike zone during his pregame meeting with the team.

That person wasn’t Napoli. According to the first baseman, at the time of the get-together he was in the trainer’s room getting treatment.

“No, it wasn’t me,” he said. “But I wish I was in here for that.”

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Dustin Pedroia: ‘I’ll be in there in the next couple of days’ 06.16.15 at 7:54 pm ET
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Following his team’s 9-4 win over the Braves Tuesday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell passed along that tests revealed no structural damage to his left knee and that he should be back in the lineup shortly.

Pedroia, who injured the knee when attempting to execute a double play in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays Sunday afternoon, didn’t do much to elaborate on his timetable after Tuesday’s win.

“I’ll be in there in the next couple of days,” he noted.

Farrell also suggested Ramirez, who sat out of Tuesday’s game with a sore mid-back, would be available for the opening game of the Sox’ two-game set in Atlanta.

“Both are day to day,” the manager said. “I would expect that Hanley would be available for sure tomorrow after going through a full day of treatment for his back. Nothing structurally was defined with the images that Pedey underwent before the game. He’€™s dealing with some inflammation. He’€™s dealing with a little bit of fluid and hopefully in a day or two he’€™s back in the lineup.”

Without the pair, the Red Sox still managed 18 hits against the Braves. Coming into the series finale, Pedroia had been one of the Red Sox’ hottest hitters, hitting .397 with a 1.005 OPS in 14 games this month.

Red Sox notes: Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez sit with physical issues 06.16.15 at 1:57 pm ET
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Both Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez started Tuesday’s game against the Braves on the bench, with physical issues plaguing both players.

Prior to the series finale, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Pedroia was sitting out due to left knee soreness. The ailment stemmed from a takeout slide at second base during Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays.

“Pedey’s got some left knee soreness that stems from a collision at second base a couple of days ago,” Farrell said. “There’s a little bit of fluid buildup in there. We’re taking precautions with him. Hanley aggravated his mid-back last night with a swing early in the game and it continued to persist throughout the night and needs a day down.”

When asked about the particular incident that injured Pedroia — which is believed to happen in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays — Farrell said it didn’t appear serious at the time

“Yeah it was a slide into second base that he received the throw,” the manager said. “It wasn’t a major collision. A little bit of an awkward spot as we’ve even gone back to review the video of it. Felt a little different in it yesterday but played. Coming in today, felt it was best to continue to receive treatment throughout the day today.”

Pedroia has been the Red Sox‘ hottest hitter, most recently going 2-for-3 with a walk in his team’s 4-2 loss to the Braves Monday night. For June, the second baseman is hitting .397 with a 1.005 OPS in 14 games.

Ramirez is out after aggravating his mid-back on a swing Monday night.

Farrell also noted that Shane Victorino (calf) could be on the verge of making a rehab assignment following the Sox’ upcoming two-game set in Atlanta. Nothing has been scheduled, with the timetable dependent on how the outfielder comes through the next two days of tests.

David Ortiz: ‘I’m not worried about fastballs’ 06.15.15 at 9:15 am ET
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Sitting in the clubhouse prior to the Red Sox‘ series finale against the Blue Jays, David Ortiz offered a pointed rebuttal to those suggesting he could no longer handle big league fastballs.

“What do I think about people who talk about guys who can hit a fastball and guys that can? I think people need to shut the [expletive] up. You know why? Because hitting a fastball is not a problem,” he said. “It’€™s when you get it and where you get it.”

A few hours later, he got one on the seventh pitch of his fifth-inning at-bat against Marco Estrada, and the result backed up Ortiz’ proclamation. The designated hitter deposited the heater over the right field fence.

While Ortiz wasn’t available to elaborate after hitting his ninth homer of the season, the DH made his thoughts on the fastball issue clear to WEEI.com earlier in the day.

“It’€™s always something,” he said. “When I struggle there’€™s always something to say. They said six years ago that I had no bat speed, that I was old. I’€™ve hit 200 homers since. So whatever they say now, [expletive] it. I’€™m just not going to pay attention to what they say. They always have something to say. If I do well, they’€™re going to say [expletive]. I’€™m just not going to pay attention to it.

“What happens if I start hitting 97 [mph] again? What are they going to say? ‘€˜We were wrong,’€™ or this and that? The best thing you can do is go out, have fun and try to perform at the highest level. That’€™s all you can do.

“I’€™m not worried about fastballs. That’€™s not a thing I’€™m worried about.”

The conversation regarding Ortiz and fastballs was recently amped up by the approach by Orioles and Blue Jays pitchers, who appeared to err on the side of throwing the DH heaters. And when they didn’t — such as the case when Baltimore reliever Chaz Roe’s curveball resulted in a homer, or Drew Hutchinson’s slider was hit to the left field wall — the Sox hitter made them pay.

Ortiz has been one of the few bright spots during the Red Sox‘ current six-game losing streak, hitting .333 (6-for-18) with four walks, a 1.288 OPS and three home runs.

But with Ortiz currently hitting .209 against four-seam fastballs (according to BrooksBaseball.net), the scouting report has seemingly been crafted. According to those in the Blue Jays clubhouse, it was one of the reasons Toronto manager John Gibbons left in righty Liam Hendricks to face Ortiz with the bases loaded Saturday instead of going to lefties Phil Coke or Aaron Loup.

One big difference in pitchers’ recent approach is how left-handers are going to their fastballs more against Ortiz, using the heater 43 percent of the time compared to a 32 percent clip last year. For example, Loup finished off the Sox’ lefty hitter with 96 mph pitch at the top of strike zone.

It’s a dynamic Ortiz knows will continue to evolve, but it’s also something the DH feels he will be able to handle.

“What am I going to do? They say I can’€™t hit fastballs anymore so I’€™m going to be afraid when somebody throws me a fastball,” he said. “That’€™s not going to resolve any problem. That’€™s not the case. Pitchers, when I face them, they find a way to make good pitches. When they make mistakes they know what’€™s going to happen, but it’€™s not like they’€™re throwing fastballs right down the middle. No, no, no. Now, when you see me having problem turning on 95 [inside] then we’€™ve got problems.

“Just tell them to come and tell me they’€™re going to throw me a fastball and I guarantee I will hit it. When a guy goes 70 [mph] and then goes 97 [mph], that can be a problem to catch up on that 97 [mph]. But it’€™s easy to talk about it.”

John Farrell, Wade Miley downplay dugout confrontation 06.11.15 at 11:16 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The Red Sox had just been swept by the Orioles, dropping a 6-5 decision Thursday night at Camden Yards. With the loss they fell to seven games under .500 for the second time this season. And David Ortiz hit his first home run since May 19.

But the chief topic of conversation following the game was what transpired after the fourth inning.

Upon entering the dugout following the home half of the fourth, Red Sox starter Wade Miley started shouting at John Farrell, engaging the manager in an animated discussion. While Farrell wasn’t nearly as animated, the two ultimately adjourned to the runway leading into the dugout, with Miley still seemingly shouting.

It was explained by Farrell following the loss that the pitcher’s displeasure stemmed from being taken out after 69 pitches, even though he had allowed five runs on nine hits.

Wade Miley

Wade Miley

“He’s a competitor,” Farrell said. “You work four days for your start. He doesn’t want to come out of the ballgame. I fully respect that. I thought he had good stuff overall, but where we were on the scoreboard, I felt like we needed a change of contrast, a change of style, and made a move at that point after four innings.”

The manager then added, “He didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s his competitive spirit coming through. While he’s had good stuff, there were some decent swings against him, and I felt like we needed to make a move.”

Farrell also insinuated there had been further discussion between the two following the incident.

“We’ve had a chance to talk,” he said. “It’s a competitive guy on his day to pitch. I fully respect it.” Farrell also later classified it as a “heat-of-the-moment thing.”

After Farrell’s meeting with the media, Miley proved even less information in regards to the issue.

The pitcher’s first comment on the matter was, “I mean, it’s between me and John. It is what it is.”

A few questions later, he added, “It’s fine. It’s over. Everything that happened is over. If you want to talk about the game, we can talk about the game. But that’s it.”

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Closing Time: Wade Miley loses game, temper as Orioles sweep Red Sox 06.11.15 at 9:45 pm ET
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Wade Miley

Wade Miley

BALTIMORE — At least the Red Sox have unique ways of landing at their low points.

The latest excursion to the depth of the 2015 season didn’t only include 6-5 loss to the Orioles Thursday night, completing a three-game sweep by the O’s, but also a dugout confrontation between starting pitcher Wade Miley and manager John Farrell.

It was Miley who was at the center of most of the chaos in the series finale, taking the loss after surrounding five runs on nine hits in just four innings.

After finishing off the fourth, in which Miley allowed his third homer of the game (a solo blast by Manny Machado), the lefty began to shout at the Red Sox manager. While it didn’t appear as though Farrell was yelling back, the two did adjourn to the dugout runway.

The lefty, who has routinely shown emotion upon exiting his starts, had thrown just 69 pitches before being replaced by Steven Wright.

(To see video of a portion of the confrontation, click here.)

Thanks in large part to another solid relief outing by Wright (2 2/3 innings, 1 R), the Red Sox were able to draw within a run heading into the late innings. But the inability to come up with the big hit (going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position) would haunt Farrell’s team once again.

The Red Sox did close within a run in the eighth thanks to David Ortiz‘s solo home run off Orioles reliever Chaz Roe. But that would be the closest they would come.

The game would end with the potential game-tying run, Blake Swihart, standing at first base after Orioles closer Zach Britton struck out Dustin Pedroia.

With the loss, the Red Sox drop to 10-18 against American League East teams, with the red-hot Blue Jays next up for a three-game set at Fenway Park. They fall seven games under .500 (27-34) for the second time this season, previously reaching the mark after being swept in Minnesota.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Orioles defense. Led by stellar first-inning plays by left fielder David Lough and third baseman Manny Machado, the hosts punctuated an excellent defensive series. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Wade Miley, John Farrell have words in Red Sox dugout 06.11.15 at 8:32 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — After finishing his half inning in the fourth Thursday night, Red Sox starter Wade Miley evidently was not happy.

Miley, who had just given up his fifth run of the game courtesy a Manny Machado blast in the fourth, could be seen screaming at Red Sox manager John Farrell before the two adjourned into the dugout tunnel.

The fourth would be Miley’s last inning, with the lefty having allowed five runs on nine hits while throwing 69 pitches. He was replaced in the fifth by Steven Wright.

Check back for more after the game …

Red Sox notes: John Farrell won’t pinch-hit for David Ortiz; Shane Victorino schedule still not set 06.11.15 at 5:38 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — While John Farrell did sit David Ortiz against Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yen Chen Wednesday, he’s not ready to make such a substitution with the designated hitter already in the game.

Farrell explained prior to his team’s series finale against the Orioles Thursday that he had no intention on pinch-hitting for Ortiz despite his struggles against left-handers (8-for-70, .114).

“As far as pinch-hitting for him? I’ve not talked to him about that at all,” Farrell said. “At this point I wouldn’t look to do that.”

The last time Ortiz was pinch-hit for in a significant situation was April 20, 2010, when Mike Lowell replaced him for a seventh inning at-bat against Darren Oliver.

(For Lowell’s recollection of the at-bat, click here.)

Ortiz was in the starting lineup Thursday, hitting fourth against Baltimore righty Chris Tillman.

– There still hasn’t been any timetable set for Shane Victorino executing a minor league rehab assignment.

The outfielder hasn’t played since injuring his calf May 23.

“There’s been no advancement in his running progression, so to give you any sense of if we’re getting closer to a rehab assignment, we’re not there yet,” the manager said. “We’ll get a better read as we get through the weekend.”

When asked if there had been any sort of setback, Farrell responded, “I wouldn’t say he’s hit a wall. It’s been an involved program and stages of programs, and the intensity continues to ramp up. There’s a lot of change-of-direction work being accomplished. How he comes out of the more strenuous days, the medical staff isn’t ready to say, let’s go to the next step, which would be a game.”

– Brock Holt has evidently earned his way into the starting lineup, even if it’s at the expense of Rusney Castillo’s playing time.

With Holt hitting .324 against lefties, while fitting nicely into the lineup’s No. 2 spot, Farrell said it will be a priority to keep the lefty hitter in the starting lineup.

“Right now we’re looking to put the best alignment on the field, and what Brock is doing in the two-hole, he’s got the priority right now,” the manager said.

When asked about Castillo, who has seemingly struggled to pitchers’ adjustments to him (hitting 67 percent ground balls), Farrell said the 27-year-old outfielder is a work in progress.

“There’s good plate coverage away. He’s probably seeing some righthanded sinkerballers a little bit more competent at this level than anytime in the past,” Farrell said. “He’s been pitched there at times. When he stays within the strike zone — at times he’ll expand, but when he stays in the strike zone, he’s got the ability to put a charge into the ball. Right now, he’s offered at some pitches on the fringe at times.”

– Christian Vazquez made it a point to catch up with Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters before Thursday’s game, with the Orioles’ backstop offering advice in terms of coming back from Tommy John surgery.

(To read Wieters’ advice to Vazquez in regards to how a catcher should approach rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, click here.)

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz back in, hitting fourth 06.11.15 at 3:06 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — With righty Chris Tillman on the mound for the Orioles Thursday night, David Ortiz returns to his usual spot as the Red Sox‘ starting designated hitter.

Ortiz will be hitting fourth, with Hanley Ramirez going back to left field after manning the DH spot Wednesday.

Here is the Red Sox‘ lineup in their series finale against the O’s, with Wade Miley starting for the visitors:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Brock Holt RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Mookie Betts CF
Blake Swihart C

For all the matchups, click here.

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