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David Ortiz writes letter to New York fans: ‘I was born to play against the Yankees’ 09.27.16 at 12:33 pm ET
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David Ortiz wants to make it clear how special Yankee Stadium is to him. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz wants to make it clear how special Yankee Stadium is to him. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz has made a lot of stops on this retirement tour. But the one road series he admittedly is most sentimental about is the final regular season stop for the Red Sox, against the Yankees in the Bronx.

It is why Ortiz took to the Players’ Tribune to pen a farewell letter to Yankees fans, entitled, “Thanks for the memories, New York.”

Within the article, Ortiz expresses his feelings toward the Yankees organization and their fans:

— Regarding the notion that Yankees fans might moon him during this three-game series, Ortiz writes,

“Let me tell you something. If 50,000 people moon me, I promise you two things. … First, I’m gonna laugh so hard I might start crying. … Then when the tears dry, I’m gonna step up to the plate and try to hit the ball all the way to the choo choo train. You gotta be careful. You guys don’t have Mariano no more, you know what I’m saying?

“Listen, Yankee fans. I gotta admit something to you. And I’m serious about this. I got love for you.

“It’s just a little bit of love, but I do.”

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Why there will be no Dave Roberts, Joey Gathright or Quintin Berry for Red Sox this time around 09.26.16 at 10:02 am ET
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Marco Hernandez may very well be the Red Sox' pinch-running option in the postseason. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Marco Hernandez may very well be the Red Sox’ pinch-running option in the postseason. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It had been a staple for Red Sox postseason teams.

The guy who not only could come on to pinch-run, but do so in a fashion where you had a pretty good idea a base was going to be stolen in the process. Dave Roberts obviously set the bar in 2004 after being picked up at the non-waiver trade deadline for Henri Stanley, going on to execute the most important steal in Red Sox history.

Then there was Joey Gathright, who the Red Sox signed for the season’s final month both in 2009 and 2011. He would pinch-run for David Ortiz in Game 3 of the ’09 American League Division Series, stealing a base and then coming on to score via Mike Lowell’s RBI single to put the Sox up by two runs.

And, most recently, it was Quintin Berry who got the opportunity, finding his way on to the Red Sox’ postseason roster in all three rounds of the 2013 world championship run following an Aug. 27 trade that pried him away from the Royals in exchange for Clayton Mortensen. Berry went 3-for-3 in steal attempts during the 2013 playoffs, one in each round.

This time around, however, there won’t be that guy.

“We have no other choice,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We looked at trying to acquire that type of player, and we thought might have been some internal candidates that could serve it as well. But we end up probably not being as proficient in that single kind of player.”

As Farrell noted, the Red Sox tried to find that guy. And one of the players they at least contacted was Berry, who had been released by the Angels. But the 31-year-old outfielder chose to sign with the Blue Jays, who ended up releasing him less than two weeks later.

There was some thought in the organization that Yoan Moncada, he of 94 minor-league stolen bases in 109 attempts, might be the solution. Then came the pickoff in Oakland, and forgetting how many outs there were in Toronto, and it was clear he was not ready to put on such a stage.

So, where does it leave the Red Sox? Marco Hernandez, that’s where.

With the Red Sox typically keeping 11 pitchers on the playoff roster, there will be a spot for that extra position player. And while Hernandez has only stolen one big league bag, while going just 4-for-6 with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, he, along with maybe Brock Holt, will likely be the players Farrell turns to when needing more speed on the basepaths.

It as Hernandez who got the call to pinch-run for Ortiz Sunday in the 10th inning after the designated hitter’s double.

“Here’s the thing, there will be certain game situations where we will have an upgrade in speed as needed. It might not be the pro typical base-stealer to get you 90 feet. But the ability to get from first to third, two bases, that is still present,” Farrell said.

The good news is that because of the athletic lineup the Red Sox possess, there might not be a dramatic need for extra speed. Other than Ortiz and the catcher, virtually every starting player has the ability to swipe a bag. And even Travis Shaw has stolen five bases in six attempts this season.

“We have more team speed, but I can’t say that those single opportunities that arise … We don’t have that one particular guy,” Farrell said.

Closing Time: Red Sox pitchers strikeout franchise record 23 on way to 11th straight win 09.25.16 at 5:13 pm ET
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David Ortiz, and other Red Sox, reflect on death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez prior to their game against the Rays Sunday afternoon. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz, and other Red Sox, reflect on death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez prior to their game against the Rays Sunday afternoon. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

It’s hard to upstage winning 11 in a row, or knocking the magic number to win the American League East down to two. But the Red Sox’ pitchers and Dustin Pedroia seemingly did that in their team’s 3-2, 10-inning win over the Rays Sunday.

Once again, it was Pedroia’s contribution that meant the most.

With one out and the second baseman standing at first in the 10th, David Ortiz rifled a shot into right-center field in what would be his last Tropicana Field at-bat. Pedroia would be waved in by third base coach Brian Butterfield, with the throw to catcher Luke Maile easily beating the baserunner.

But upon arriving at the plate, Pedroia began dancing around the tag of Maile until the catcher’s over-sized mitt (he was catching knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa) hit off the runner’s left leg. The contact forced the baseball out of the glove, allowing for the eventual game-winning run to score.

Then there were the strikeouts.

Red Sox pitchers struck out a franchise-record 23 batters in the win, including 11 straight at one point. The run of punch-outs was a major league record, surpassing Tom Seaver’s previous mark set in 1970. It was a stretch that started with Eduardo Rodriguez fanning Richie Shaffer to end the fourth inning and ending with Logan Forsythe finally singling off reliever Matt Barnes to leadoff the eighth inning.

Rodriguez ended up allowing a run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out a career-high 13 batters. He was followed by Heath Hembree, who struck out all five the batters he faced.

For the second time during the three-game series, it appeared Pedroia sealed the deal for the Red Sox via a home run, giving the visitors a lead in the third with a solo shot. But the Red Sox’ one-run lead disappeared in the eighth inning when Fernando Abad allowed an RBI single to Brad Miller.

The hit by Miller was the first allowed to a left-handed hitter by Abad since Aug. 10, and just the second inherited runner allowed to score by Red Sox relievers in September.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Joe Kelly was able to come on and get out of a first and third jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Nick Franklin to end the eighth.

Kelly went on to earn the win, pitching the last 2 1/3 innings.

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time note

The Red Sox set a franchise record for most strikeouts by pitching staff for a season, topping the total of the 2013 staff.

Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in boating accident 09.25.16 at 9:47 am ET
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Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez

Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. He was 24 years old.

The game between the Marlins and Braves Sunday has been canceled.

According to multiple reports, three people, including Fernandez, were found dead at the scene of the accident, which took place just off Miami Beach. According to multiple reports, authorities were called to the scene just after 3 a.m. after a call concerning a boat having overturned due to a collision with rocks.

Fernandez was originally scheduled to pitch Sunday, but was pushed back to Monday in order to make room in the rotation for starter Adam Conley, who was coming off the disabled list.

The right-hander was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA this season, totaling the second-most strikeouts in the National League (253). He was concerned perhaps the best young pitcher in baseball, with a career ERA of 2.58 and 589 strikeouts in 479 1/3 innings.
For more, click here.

Closing Time: Dustin Pedroia’s grand slam leads Red Sox to 10th straight win, playoff berth 09.24.16 at 9:21 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia watches his fourth career grand slam clear the left field fence Saturday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia watches his fourth career grand slam clear the left field fence Saturday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia has experienced his fair share of meaningful September baseball. Six of his 10 Septembers as a major leaguer have had some sort of importance attached to them.

But it would be hard to find a bigger September hit than the one Pedroia supplied in the seventh inning Saturday night.

With the Red Sox trailing by a run against the Rays, two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, Pedroia launched the decisive blow for the visitors. The second baseman took Tampa Bay reliever Danny Farquhar over the left field fence for his fourth career grand slam, leading Sox to a 6-4 win over the Rays.

The win was the Red Sox’ 10th straight, and cut their magic number to win the American League East to three with the second-place Blue Jays also winning. They also clinched at least a berth in the Wild Card playoff game.

“It’s obviously big, it’s the position we wanted to be in this last week in September,” said Saturday night’s winning pitcher, Rick Porcello. “We definitely want that division, so we’re going for it.”

Earning his 22nd win of the season was Porcello, who allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings to put his ERA at 3.11. All three runs against Porcello came in the third inning. He becomes the first 22-game winner for the Red Sox since Pedro Martinez’s 1999 campaign, in which he won 23.

The pivotal seventh inning started with back to back singles from Hanley Ramirez and Brock Holt. After a Chris Young ground out, the Sox loaded the bases on a walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. Sandy Leon failed to get the runners home, hitting into a fielder’s choice for the second out, but keeping the bases loaded.

Then came Pedroia’s 14th homer of the season, punctuating an eight-pitch at-bat.

The Rays did manager to get the potential game-tying run to the plate in the seventh inning. But Brad Ziegler’s one-out outing resulted in a fly out off the bat of Evan Longoria, who was followed by Brad Miller’s line-out to right against Robbie Ross Jr.

Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel closed things out in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Despite giving up a ninth inning homer to Logan Forsythe, Kimbrel recorded his 30th save. The closer now has six straight 30-save seasons.

For a complete box score, click here.

Closing Time: Red Sox sweep Orioles, lower magic number to 5 09.22.16 at 10:28 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez flips the ball to David Price in the first inning of the Red Sox' win Thursday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez flips the ball to David Price in the first inning of the Red Sox’ win Thursday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

BALTIMORE — The Magic Number to win this division is now five.

When looking at the Red Sox schedule heading into the second half, such a reality wouldn’t seem plausible with nine games to play. But John Farrell’s team has managed to officially put any and all concerns about the September gauntlet in the rear-view mirror, completing a four-game series sweep of the Orioles with Thursday night’s 5-3 win at Camden Yards.

The Red Sox now own a seven game lead over the Orioles in the American League East, while maintaining their five-game cushion over idle Toronto. The Sox are still 1/2 game in back of Cleveland in the jostling for postseason position, with the Rangers 1 1/2 games in front with the American League’s best record.

The Sox own an eight-game winning streak, their longest stretch since 2011. Each of the victories have come against AL East clubs, a run against divisional teams the Red Sox hadn’t accomplished since 1990.

The impetus for this win was a familiar formula: solid starting pitching and timely hitting.

Earning the win on the mound for the Red Sox was starter David Price, who gave up three runs over seven innings, striking out five and walking two. Of the lefty’s 99 pitches, 72 of them were strikes.

But perhaps the most impressive statistic to come out of Price’s outing was the fact the Red Sox have now won in each of Price’s last nine starts, the longest such streak of his career with any team.

“We do everything well,” Price said. “I don’t know what our weakness is, to be honest. We do a lot of things really well. That’s what you want. There’s no over glaring weakness with our team. Everybody has really picked it up in the second half and that’s what you need.”

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Story behind Andrew Benintendi’s Michael Jackson dance 09.21.16 at 11:12 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Andrew Benintendi wanted to be prepared.

So while waiting for his opportunity to star in the Red Sox’ outfielders’ celebratory victory dance, Benintendi did his due diligence.

“Oh, yeah. All the time,” said Benintendi when asked if he practiced his moves. “I’m always practicing.”

It paid off.

After hitting Wednesday night’s decisive three-run homer in a 5-1 win over the Orioles, all eyes — and fake movie cameras — turned to Benintendi after the final out. With Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. “rolling,” the rookie broke out a solid rendition of Michael Jackson’s strut, kick, and tippy-toes dance made famous by the video for “Billie Jean.”

“I grew up watching him on YouTube, his dances,” Benintendi said. “I thought it would be quick enough to do out there. Just wanted to add a little fun to that.”

Even though the maneuver had to follow up what has become Bradley Jr.’s popular ski jump, Benintendi’s execution seemed to be on point.

How would he grade himself?

“I’ll have to watch the video,” he said with a laugh.

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Michael Jackson, Red Sox, Win dance repeat
Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia returns after day off, Hanley Ramirez sits 09.21.16 at 3:34 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

BALTIMORE — Dustin Pedroia said he would be back in the Red Sox lineup for Wednesday night’s game, and he was true to his word.

After missing Tuesday night’s Red Sox win with a sore left knee, Pedroia returns to leadoff against the Orioles and their righty starter, Ubaldo Jimenez.

Not in the starting lineup is Hanley Ramirez, with Travis Shaw playing first base.

“The ball off his foot last night, a little bit of the back of his shoulder is nagging a little bit,” Farrell said of Ramirez’s nagging ailments. “After we talked in between at-bats on a couple of occasions last night, felt like today was the day to get him off his feet.”

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup in the third of the four-game set at Camden Yards with Clay Buchholz on the mound for the visitors:

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Travis Shaw 1B
Aaron Hill 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Andrew Benintendi LF

For all the matchups, click here.

Mookie Betts’ case for American League MVP grows stronger thanks to 200th hit 09.20.16 at 11:32 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

BALTIMORE — When what you’re doing is being compared to a Triple Crown season, you know it’s probably something special.

That’s exactly the reality Mookie Betts finds himself with.

With three more hits in the Red Sox’ 5-2 win over the Orioles Tuesday night, Betts now owns 201 for the season. He becomes the 14th player in Red Sox history to claim 200 or more hits in a season, and just the second to do so before turning 24 years old. (Johnny Pesky was the other.)

By the time the Red Sox left their clubhouse, Betts stood as the majors only player with 200 hits, as Houston’s Jose Altuve stood at 199.

Betts was made aware that he was close to the milestone by former Red Sox outfielder Michael Coleman, who helps train the outfielder in the offseason.

“Yeah, I got a text yesterday that I was pretty close but he didn’t say how many,” Betts said. “He just said, ‘You’re pretty close, keep going.’ They threw the ball in and I had an idea.”

But it’s not just the hits, as the statistic put out by ESPN Stats and Info suggests.

The organization revealed that Betts is now the first major league player since Miguel Cabrera to register at least 200 hits, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in a season. And the year Cabrera managed that just happened to be 2012, when the Detroit slugger hauled in the Triple Crown.

“It’s unbelievable. He works so hard every day,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz of Betts. “Like I say, man, these kids, they’re not playing around. They are up to the challenge.”

“I’m proud of him. He’s been great, obviously, ever since he’s come up,” added second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’s continued to get better in every aspect of his game. He can help us in a ton of ways. He’s pretty special.”

Of the Red Sox players who finished with at least 200 hits, only Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Jacoby Ellsbury and Nomar Garciaparra join Betts in also totaling 30 or more homers.

“Means I put in a lot of work,” Betts said. “It’s been a long season and I’ll give myself a little credit for just working and grinding through the whole thing. I do know there is more to go.”

Red Sox notes: Dustin Pedroia sidelined with knee ailment; Brock Holt gone for 2 days; John Farrell endorses Rick Porcello for Cy Young Award 09.20.16 at 6:16 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia

BALTIMORE — Even with so much on the line Tuesday night, the Red Sox felt it was time to get Dustin Pedroia off his feet.

Red Sox manager John Farrell kept Pedroia out of the lineup against Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman Tuesday with the second baseman nursing a sore left knee.

“He needs a day to get some treatment on his left knee,” Farrell said. “In the series in Toronto he made that play up the middle and kind of twisted the knee a little bit on the throw. It’s a situation he’s been managing since that series. After [Monday] night, though, there seemed there was a little more swelling in the knee and needed a day to recover and get some additional treatment.”

Pedroia is coming off a two-hit game in the series opener after having gone hitless in back-to-back contests against the Yankees. Since the series in Toronto, he is hitting .253 (9-for-3) with a double.

“I just twisted my knee in Toronto trying to make a play,” Pedroia said after the Red Sox’ 5-2 win. “We’re just getting treatment and trying to get the swelling out. It gets to a point where you need to stay off it for a day to get the inflammation out of there. That’s about it.”

Farrell surmised the Pedroia would be back in the lineup or the series’ third game, Wednesday night. The manager said no MRI was needed at this point.

“We were kind of targeting to get through this series and give him some downtime in Tampa, but we felt like [Tuesday] was going to be needed,” Farrell said.

Asked if the reality of the Red Sox’ four-game lead had anything to do with the timing of giving Pedroia a break, Farrell said, “A little bit. I don’t want to take it for granted by any means. But I think I prioritize anybody’s health and that’s first and foremost in this particular situation.”

Taking the place of Pedroia at second base is Marco Hernandez. While Farrell noted that Hernandez was the logical choice because of the lefty hitter’s bat speed against the hard-throwing Gausman, another option, Brock Holt, wasn’t option. Holt has left the team for two days to tend to a death in the family.

– To nobody’s surprise, Farrell offered an endorsement for Rick Porcello when it comes to the race for the American League Cy Young Award.

“Pitching in the American League East presents unique challenges and that’s all ballpark-related in addition to the way teams are built,” the manager said. “You start to factor in the full body of work, the number of innings pitched, the walks allowed, hits allowed, he’s obviously in the conversation. I can’t think of it objectively. He’s our guy. He would be my vote for the Cy Young. But still, I love the way Rick has handled those questions and it’s about what we do, not what he does. He’s having a hell of a year.”

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