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Red Sox-Mariners series preview 07.08.13 at 12:26 pm ET
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The Red Sox will look to rebound from a tough series against the Angels, heading north to take on the Mariners for the first time in 2013.

The West Coast road trip got off to a frustrating start for the Red Sox, who took the first game of the series with the Angels but lost a heartbreaker on Saturday night and were shut out by Jered Weaver and the Angels bullpen on Sunday. It was the first series the Red Sox dropped since losing three of four against Detroit on their last road trip.

“Last night was a tough loss. One out away from winning the series and it got away from us,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters after Sunday’s setback. “We didn’t close the door and they kind of kicked it down and walked through it last night. I still like this team. Tonight, we didn’t create a whole lot for ourselves, but this is a team that continues to battle. There’s a lot of good at-bats. We’re going to put a lot of people on base. Tonight just wasn’t one of them.”

Despite the trying three-game set in Anaheim, the Red Sox still enjoy a 4½-game lead over the Rays and Orioles, while the Yankees fell to five games out with a loss on Sunday. With 54 wins, the Red Sox still have more victories than anyone else in the majors, and have won seven of their last 10. With the defeat on Sunday, the Red Sox fell to 23-20 on the road and 11-8 against AL West foes. The stop in Seattle is the second-to-last series for the Sox before they send (at least) three representatives to the All-Star Game, with David Ortiz making the start at the designated hitter position and Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz joining the AL squad. Reliever Koji Uehara also has a shot at making the team in a final fan vote.

The 39-49 Mariners have not been a winning team since April 5. They sit 12½ games back of the Rangers in the AL West. Their offense ranks in the bottom third of most offensive categories, while their starting rotation is hit-or-miss and their bullpen is one of the worst in the league. But despite all of this, the Mariners have been playing good baseball over the past couple of weeks.

The Mariners, a much better home team (21-22) than road team (18-27) finally won consecutive road series when they took two out of three from both the first-place Rangers and the 50-38 Reds. Seattle wasn’€™t able to gain much ground in the division, but the M’s managed to stay afloat, trailing the third-place Angels by only four games.

“It’s a real good trip for us,” manager Eric Wedge said after Sunday’€™s 3-1 victory in Cincinnati. “I think we would have liked to have won one more, but you don’t get greedy this time of year. You work hard to win series. Our guys fought hard and played pretty good baseball.”

It hasn’€™t been easy for the Mariners, but there have been bright spots. They will send two All-Stars to the Midsummer Classic in New York City this year, with staff ace Felix Hernandez being joined by another starter, Hisashi Iwakuma. The pair have been a force to be reckoned with at the top of the rotation, combining to post a 2.64 ERA between them. Another thing the Mariners have done well is hit home runs. The ageless Raul Ibanez may be the only player with 20-plus long balls, but the Seattle offense has combined for 104 home runs, good for fourth in the American League and more than stacked lineups like the Angels or the Tigers. But things haven’€™t quite clicked for the Mariners yet, and they’€™ll come into their first series with the Red Sox 10 games under .500.

Here are the pitching matchups for the four-game set:

Monday: Jon Lester (8-4, 4.41) vs. Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.69)
Tuesday: Allen Webster (1-2, 7.88) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.60)
Wednesday: Felix Doubront (5-3, 4.11) vs. Aaron Harang (4-7, 4.92)
Thursday: Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.04) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (1-3, 4.93)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ There’€™s no question that Daniel Nava has been one of the team’€™s most consistent hitters throughout the first half of the season. The outfielder ranks third on the team in OBP (.378), third in slugging percentage (.450) and fourth in batting average (.294), and he’s tied with Pedroia for the third-most RBIs on the team (50). Though Nava went through a cool stretch in June, he’€™s heating up once again, going 7-for-14 in the series against the Angels, while batting .415 over his last 11 games with five RBIs, three doubles, and a walk. Overall this season, Nava is batting .294/.378/.450 with 10 home runs and 14 doubles, while drawing 35 walks and striking out 60 times in 79 games.

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Read More: Andrew Bailey, daniel nava, felix hernandez, Raul Ibanez
Closing time: Allen Webster notches first major league win as Red Sox sweep Padres 07.04.13 at 4:59 pm ET
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Allen Webster set the Padres down in order only once on Thursday, but when it was all said and done the rookie right-hander accomplished something that had eluded him since his debut 2½ months ago: a major league win.

On a hot, muggy July afternoon, the 23-year-old Webster matched his outing from that cool Sunday in April, allowing just two runs in six innings. Despite all of the baserunners ‘€” he walked four and gave up five hits ‘€” Webster stayed efficient to guide the Red Sox to a 8-2 win and series sweep of the Padres at Fenway Park. He threw more than 20 pitches in only one inning (the third) and stayed under 15 on four occasions.

“He had good stuff again today,” John Farrell said. “With each passing start here at this level, he starts to get his feet under him. He’s clearly a work in progress, but I thought today he made a couple big pitches when he had to.”

Webster capped his day at 97 pitches (54 strikes) and got the final two outs with a 93 mph fastball. Pedro Ciriaco lined to third, and Brandon Snyder easily doubled Alexi Amarista off of first.

Andrew Bailey (one inning, two strikeouts), Alex Wilson (1 1/3 innings, one strikeout) and Craig Breslow (2/3 innings) all had scoreless relief appearances to finish off the game and the Red Sox 8-1 homestand, their best mark in a run that long in more than two years.

“We’€™ve played very well, and we’€™ve gotten some good starting pitching the last time through the rotation, really the last two times,” Farrell said. “We’€™ve had some exciting games late, and I think this further builds the momentum and confidence of this group. Any time you can rack up that many wins in a nine-game homestand ‘€” this is the obvious statement ‘€” it’€™s a good thing.”

Farrell was particularly impressed with Bailey, who effectively mixed all four of his and retired the Padres in order.

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Read More: allen webster, Andrew Bailey, brandon snyder, Jacoby Ellsbury
Koji Uehara to close, but Andrew Bailey optimistic he’ll reclaim ninth-inning duties 06.21.13 at 7:55 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Detroit that if a save situation arises in the ninth inning on Friday night, he will entrust the responsibility for securing the game-ending three outs to right-hander Koji Uehara. The decision comes in the wake of Andrew Bailey‘s third blown save in five appearances on Thursday night, when he gave up a game-ending, two-run, walkoff homer to Jhonny Peralta.

“I had a chance to talk to both [Uehara] and Andrew, and just where we’re at, Andrew needs to back out and get some opportunities where he gets a little momentum,” Farrell told reporters. “We did this before with [Bailey] and [Joel Hanrahan] as well. All good players go through stretches where things aren’t happening for them, so that’s where we’re at right now.”

Given that the Sox have been trying to manage Uehara’s workload, Farrell suggested that others could see save opportunities at different times as well. He added Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa to the mix, while also noting that “in time” Bailey could also receive renewed chances to close out the ninth. Given that there is a willingness to involve others in closing opportunities, Farrell suggested that the separator in making Uehara the primary option was the fact that he has previous experience as a closer, specifically when he went 11-for-13 in save opportunities for the Orioles in 2010.

“We’re very confident when he walks to the mound. He’s been very good for us. He’s had success in closing opportunities previous,” Farrell told reporters. “There’s an element of not only dependability but success in the past that we’re turning to.”

Given the presence of Uehara, Miller and Tazawa (as well as the team’s longer-term belief that Bailey will once again be ready to close), Farrell said that he didn’t expect to see the Red Sox pursue a closer via trade. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, andrew miller, junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara
Kevin Millar on M&M: Andrew Bailey ‘needs to get that confidence back,’ AL East poised for exciting summer at 1:31 pm ET
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Kevin Millar joined Mut & Merloni Friday afternoon, and the MLB Network host was sure to chime in on the latest controversy in Red Sox Nation’€” that of the team’€™s closer, or lack thereof.

John Farrell indicated Thursday night he will start to look at other options at the end of close games after Andrew Bailey blew another save, this time in a 4-3 loss to the Tigers.

According to Millar, Bailey’€™s problem is similar to the one he said last week that Jon Lester has.

‘€œHe needs to get that confidence back,’€ the former Sox first baseman said. ‘€œThis game is all about confidence. Everybody at this level can throw, hit and catch, but you go through these little two-, three-week periods where we all lose our confidence. I don’€™t care who you are, Tiger Woods on the golf course, it happens. And right now Bailey just needs to take a deep breathe and realize, ‘€˜You know what? I’€™m OK.’€™ ‘€

Millar suggested a few days off, or at least in low-pressure situations, would do Bailey a lot of good and help him get back on track. In the long term, he added, Bailey is the team’€™s closer since the Red Sox don’€™t have too many other legitimate options.

Millar also stuck to his guns when it came to the left side of the Red Sox infield. He said in his appearance last Friday that Will Middlebrooks is the third baseman, and there shouldn’€™t be any controversy about that.

That leaves the Red Sox with making a decision between Stephen Drew and Jose Igelsias.

‘€œI’€™ve never been a fan of the whole platoon situation,’€ Millar said. ‘€œI couldn’€™t stand having to look at the lineup every single day. ‘€¦ We know [Iglesias] isn’€™t going to be a third baseman unless he starts running into 15 to 20 [home runs] a year, let’€™s face it.

‘€œI don’€™t think this whole revolving door is healthy.’€

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Read More: Andrew Bailey, jose iglesias, Kevin Millar, Stephen Drew
Friday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Jon Lester vs. Doug Fister at 1:25 pm ET
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Fresh off of one major pitching problem coming to a head ‘€” that of Andrew Bailey and the suddenly ambiguous closing situation ‘€” the Red Sox will be immediately faced with another Friday night against the Tigers at Comerica Park: Jon Lester.

The left-hander, who will take to the mound against Detroit righty Doug Fister, has struggled to the tune of a 0-4 record and 7.20 ERA in his last six starts dating back to May 20. His stellar start means his season ERA (4.37), WHIP (1.32) and opponents average (.251) still are respectable, but Lester’€™s performance in the last month has proven both troublesome and dumbfounding.

His last time out, Lester allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings to absorb the loss, 6-3 to the Orioles on Sunday. Three of those runs came off the bat of Chris Davis, who homered and doubled.

One bright spot for Lester could be that he walked none and fanned eight ‘€” but his K/BB rate during his slump is a far less impressive 1.67.

‘€œI think it was a lot better than the linescore as far as the way the ball came out of my hand, the way I felt my stuff was,’€ Lester said after losing to Baltimore. ‘€œObviously, the results weren’€™t here. As far as command of all four pitches, it was there. It was there.

‘€œThe biggest thing I can control is executing that one pitch at that one time. I did that and they got hits. You’€™ve got to tip your cap.’€

Fister (6-4, 3.21 ERA) is trending in the exact opposite direction. The former Mariner has tossed five straight quality starts, each appearance lasting at least seven innings, including against the Twins Sunday. After opening with five no-hit frames, Fister limited Minnesota to two runs and two hits in 7 2/3.

Lester (0-2, 4.78 ERA) and Fister (1-3, 4.09) own similarly mediocre numbers against their Friday opponent, but neither has thrown against the team they will see Friday since May 2012.

Miguel Cabrera and his 1.381 OPS have wrecked havoc on Lester, while Daniel Nava has seen the most success against Fister, albeit in limited plate appearances.

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Read More: Andrew Bailey, David Ortiz, Doug Fister, Jon Lester
Closing time: Andrew Bailey blows another save as Sox suffer walkoff loss to Tigers 06.20.13 at 10:08 pm ET
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Two days ago, Red Sox manager John Farrell stated unequivocally that, despite his recent struggles, Andrew Bailey remained his closer. After Thursday’s 4-3 walkoff loss to the Tigers, however, Farrell will undoubtedly once again have to answer the question as to whether Bailey deserves ninth inning duties.

On Thursday, the Sox entrusted a 3-2, ninth-inning lead to Bailey. And the closer immediately proceeded to self-immolate, missing the strike zone with four of five fastballs en route to walking Victor Martinez, then leaving a 1-2 cutter too much over the plate to Jhonny Peralta, who crushed a two-run, walkoff homer.

Bailey has now given up homers in four of his last five outings. For the first time in the four games in which he’s blown saves, the Sox suffered a loss, this one of the crushing variety given how strong the performance of both starter John Lackey and the Sox lineup had been to position the team for an impressive road win in Detroit. With Bailey now having just a 67 percent conversion rate in his save opportunities — the worst among AL closers with at least five saves — the questions about his job security will amplify.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— Bailey essentially gave up on his fastball in the ninth inning. After he walked Martinez on five pitches (all fastballs), he threw a fastball on just one of his four offerings to Peralta (a ball), resorting to his cutter on the other three pitches, including the one on which Peralta went deep for the win.

Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and five men left on base, the latest hiccup in a bit of a dry spell for the second baseman. In the week since the Red Sox’ 13-inning marathon with the Orioles June 13, a 5-4 loss, Pedroia is 2-for-21 with more strikeouts (four) than walks (three).

— After David Ortiz‘ home run in the fourth, Mike Napoli hit a ground ball deep in the shortstop hole. Jhonny Peralta came up with it and made a strong, accurate throw to get Napoli at first — by plenty. Replays showed Napoli didn’t run hard out of the box, and whether it was a mere lack of effort or something more — be it his hip condition or remnants of an illness that kept him out of three games late last week — it’s not good news for the first baseman, who has just two extra-base hits this month. He went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, David Ortiz, john lackey, jose iglesias
John Farrell, Ben Cherington take stock of Andrew Bailey’s struggles 06.19.13 at 8:42 pm ET
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The Red Sox claimed a doubleheader sweep against the Rays on Tuesday, yet there remained an element of uneasiness to the team’s victory in the nightcap. While a ninth-inning walkoff from Jonny Gomes gave the Sox a 3-1 win the Game 2, the blown save by Andrew Bailey in the top of the ninth offered some cause for pause by the Red Sox.

Prior to Wednesday night’s contest against the Rays, manager John Farrell praised the work of his middle relievers, heaping accolades upon the work of bullpen arms such as Koji Uehara, Junichi TazawaCraig Breslow and Andrew Miller. But . . .

“We recognize there’€™s still work to be done with guys closing out games,” said Farrell.

The Sox entered Wednesday with nine blown saves, tied for the fourth most in the AL. The team has converted just 13 of 22 opportunities, a 59 percent success rate that is the second-worst in the AL (ahead of only Cleveland).

Bailey is 8-for-11 in save opportunities, with his three blown saves tied for the fifth most in the AL. Of the 15 pitchers in the AL with at least five saves this year, Bailey’s 73 percent conversion rate is worst in the league. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, andrew miller, ben cherington, Craig Breslow
Buster Olney on M&M: Andrew Bailey ‘not looked at as an elite closer’ at 12:48 pm ET
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ESPN baseball columnist Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday, following the Red Sox‘ doubleheader sweep of the Rays on Tuesday.

In Game 2, closer Andrew Bailey surrendered the tying run in the ninth inning before Jonny Gomes hit a two-run walk-off home run. It was Bailey’s third blown save of the year.

“He certainly at this stage is not looked at as an elite closer,” Olney said. “I’m sure that the Red Sox will be asking the internal questions that all teams are this time of year, is: Do we have spots where we can look for an upgrade? What can we go get? But as we talked about in recent weeks, there’s just not going to be a lot out there for bullpen help. Jesse Crain of the White Sox, maybe. Jonathan Papelbon, if the Phillies decide to sell — but you’d be taking on a lot of money and probably reduce flexibility with other part of the team.

“So, you can understand why the Red Sox are giving him a long leash. They needed to work with him.”

The Sox have been boosted this season by their depth, as players have shuttled up from the minors to help when regulars have gone down with injuries.

Said Olney: “It really is, let’s face it, a byproduct of that great trade they made last summer, which is going to go down in history as one of the greatest trades of all-time, the deal they made with the Dodgers. Because the flexibility it gave them to go out and build the depth, on top of what they had in the farm system, to go get two more terrific pitching prospects in the way that they did.

“And if you look at the sport in general, a lot of the teams, the more progressive teams, are looking for that flexibility. A team like the Oakland Athletics, probably the primary reason why they’re winning is because of the flexibility and the depth. That’s what the Rays’ advantage has always been in recent years, because they’ve always had a lot more options, a lot more pitching, and let’s face it, because they’ve had cheaper options.

“So, I agree with you, I think the Red Sox deserve a whole lot of credit for building the depth that they have. And it all started, to me, with the Dodger deal.”

Looking at the American League East, Olney said he expects the Orioles to eventually overtake the Sox for first place.

“I think the Red Sox are certainly better than I thought they would be. I picked them third at the beginning of the year. ‘€¦ I picked the Blue Jays fourth. I know they’ve had a great run; I still have my doubts as to whether or not they can hold it together. The Yankees have far outplayed what I thought, given what they have. I still think they’re headed for a drift. ‘€¦

“Before the year began, I picked the Orioles to win the division. I still think they’re going to. I think they also have a lot of depth in their organization. I think they just have to have some of the young pitchers in their rotation pull it together.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Andrew Bailey, buster olney, Jonathan Papelbon,
John Farrell on Andrew Bailey: ‘He’s our closer’ 06.18.13 at 11:52 pm ET
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It has been an ugly and costly stretch for Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey, though certainly, it could have been worse.

For the third time in four outings, Bailey — who was entrusted with the ninth inning of a game in which the Sox led the Rays, 1-0 — gave up a homer, this one a game-tying shot by Kelly Johnson that nearly wasted the career-best outing by starter Felix Doubront. Bailey avoided further harm, and so the closer’s teammates were able to offer their support in the form of a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-run, walkoff homer by Jonny Gomes. It marked the second time in four outings that Bailey had blown a save only to have the Sox recover to claim a victory.

Still, while the Sox enjoyed an opportunity to celebrate and Bailey expressed his gratitude for the backing of his teammates, his recent struggles represent obvious cause for concern. He’s permitted five runs in his last four innings (11.25 ERA) after yielding just three in his first 18 1/3 frames this year (1.47 ERA).

“They’re squaring up baseballs. I’ve got to pitch better. That’s the bottom line,” said Bailey. “I’m throwing the ball down the middle. I’ve just got to keep grinding through it and focus a little more. I’ll get through it. I’ve been pitching in this league for a couple years now and had success. I’ve got to get back to doing that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Bailey, John Farrell,
Closing Time: Red Sox relievers rebound behind Alfredo Aceves as Sox beat Rays, 2-1 06.12.13 at 10:33 pm ET
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Two nights earlier, the Red Sox‘ bullpen had nearly proved the team’s undoing. While the team recovered to eventually claim a 14-inning, 10-8 victory, Andrew Bailey‘s blown save ravaged the team’s bullpen in a fashion that required a reconfiguration of the roster.

On Wednesday night, there was redemption. In support of an outstanding — if Jekyll-and-Hyde — spot start by call-up Alfredo Aceves, the bullpen delivered the goods in the last three innings, navigating a one-run tightrope en route to a 2-1 win over the Rays in the rubber match of the three-game set.

Junichi Tazawa offered the first line of defense, delivering a dominant 1-2-3 seventh inning that featured two punchouts. Craig Breslow — whose reliable strike-throwing ability may have allowed him to displace Andrew Miller as the team’s go-to left-hander in the late innings — followed by striking out the first two batters he faced in the eighth before yielding a two-out double.

On came Koji Uehara, who authored the game’s pivotal sequence — a three-pitch strikeout of Evan Longoria on three straight splitters (the first two called, the third in the dirt) to strand the game-tying run at second. Bailey came on to record his seventh save in nine attempts in the ninth. Though he had to work around a leadoff single and a stolen base, this time, Bailey shut the door, punching out two in a scoreless ninth.

With the win, the Sox improved to an AL-best 20-12 (.625) on the road while increasing their AL East lead to 2 1/2 games, pending New York’s contest.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— The only reason why Alfredo Aceves was in the big leagues on Wednesday was dire necessity. Yet the right-hander continued to make his case as an invaluable form of rotation depth by delivering an outstanding, six-inning effort to earn the victory. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, daniel nava
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