|Red Sox-Braves series preview||06.15.15 at 11:01 am ET|
According to manager John Farrell, the Red Sox are “not in a good place right now as a team.” They’re 10 games under .500, have lost six straight following consecutive sweeps and are eight games back of first place in the division and the wild card spot.
“No one expected us to be in this situation, but that’s a reality right now,” Xander Bogaerts said after Sunday’s 13-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Sox have a chance to snap their skid when the Braves roll into town Monday for the first of four games between the teams. The first two contests will be played at Fenway Park, while the latter two will take place in Atlanta.
The Braves may have a losing record in their last 10 games (4-6) and on the season (30-33), but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been performing well. Of their players with at least 15 at-bats in the last week, only one player has a batting average under .320. In addition, during the month of June the Braves have scored the most runs of any National League team with 68 and are second to just the Blue Jays (88) in terms of league-wide scoring. They also have the most hits (145) of any team in the majors during June and the highest on-base percentage at .367, and their team average (.303) is second overall to the Jays, who are just .001 ahead of them.
Atlanta’s issue has been its pitching, but more its relievers than the rotation. The Braves as a whole have the sixth-worst ERA in the league at 4.23. Their starters have a middle of the road, 13th-best ERA of 4.02, but the bullpen has a second-worst 4.64 mark. Atlanta’s relief arms have given up the third-most runs (101) and earned runs (96) in the league and have surrendered the fourth-most home runs to opponents, allowing batters to slug at a third-highest rate of .412, above just Red Sox and Rangers relievers. In its last 20 games alone, the bullpen has an ERA of 5.89 and on the year, no team has allowed more runs (109) or earned runs (100) or posted a higher ERA (5.00) in the seventh inning or later than Atlanta.
“Every aspect of our [offensive] game has been pretty solid,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to keep the opposition from scoring runs.”
|Blake Swihart’s first big league homer spoiled by loss: ‘At the moment it felt great, but now it doesn’t mean anything’||06.04.15 at 11:46 pm ET|
Although Blake Swihart hit his first major league home run on Thursday, he just wished the outcome was a little different.
After 13 total home runs last year between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, the switch-hitting catcher isn’t much of a power guy, but after 75 official big league at-bats Swihart finally got one in the majors.
With the Red Sox leading the Twins 2-0 in the third inning, Swihart, hitting right-handed, crushed a Tommy Milone offering over the Green Monster, a solo shot that gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead at the time.
He became the youngest Red Sox catcher to hit a home run since Rich Gedman in 1982.
“It felt good,” Swihart said. “It has been a long time coming, I guess finally being able to do something on the offensive side to help the team out.”
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, the rest of the game didn’t go as well, spoiling the moment for Swihart in the process. The Red Sox blew a 4-0 lead and allowed eight unanswered runs, committing three errors in an 8-4 loss to the Twins.
“At the moment it felt great, but now it doesn’t mean anything,” Swihart said. “It put another run on the board at that point though, which was important.”
After struggling after first being called up May 2, the catcher is adjusting well, as he has hits in 12 of his las 14 games and had an eight-game hit streak snapped in Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader. For the season, he’s batting .218.
For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the ninth, Joe Mauer laid down a bunt in front of the plate. Catcher Blake Swihart attempted to get the lead runner at third base, but Pablo Sandoval couldn’t catch the low throw allowing Brian Dozier to score the game-winning run as the Twins beat the Red Sox 8-4 at Fenway Park.
Following the error, Trevor Plouffe drove in Torii Hunter for the first insurance run, before two more Twins’ runs crossed the plate in the inning, as Koji Uehara took his second loss in a week with the Red Sox blowing a 4-0 lead. The two teams split the four-game series.
“The best way I can describe it is we made both physical and mental errors in this one, particularly in the second half of the game,” manager John Farrell said. “We had ample opportunities early on to stretch a lead. We don’t get a key hit. We did a good job of giving ourselves a number of baserunners. Steven [Wright] kept the game in check and really has pitched as insistently as he has in his previous starts. And then like I said, physical and mental errors really showed up.”
With the game tied at four in the seventh inning, Junichi Tazawa worked around a leadoff single as an intentional walk to Joe Mauer with two outs paid off, as Tazawa then struck out Plouffe to end the inning. The Red Sox had a chance of their own in the bottom half of the inning, but Mike Napoli was thrown out at home trying to score from first on a bloop single to right.
Taking advantage of sloppy defense (two errors), the Red Sox scored two unearned runs in the second inning off Twins starter Tommy Milone. They then added a run in each of the next two innings, both on solo home runs.
Blake Swihart hit his first major league homer over everything in left field in the third and Dustin Pedroia hit his ninth homer of the year in the fourth.
Red Sox starter Steven Wright deserved a better fate, as the real mistake he made was a three-run home run to Torii Hunter in the fifth. The knuckleballer went six innings allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits with two strikeouts to earn a no-decision. It was his fourth start and he’s gone at least five innings in all of them, allowing three earned runs or less in all four.
SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Kurt Suzuki reached base four games in the win for the Twins. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.
Here’s what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ loss:
|Closing Time: Red Sox hit low point with latest loss to Twins||05.27.15 at 3:39 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — Fifty-seven games into the season and this is not working out, as the Red Sox‘ latest loss reminded us.
The pitcher, Rick Porcello, who the Red Sox designated their stopper — judging by the $95 million committed over the next five seasons — allowed six runs over seven innings and now has an ERA of 5.37. In his last two starts, Porcello has given up 13 runs in 11 1/3 innings.
The three hitters (David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) the team invested in combined $52 million for this season finished off the Sox’ three-game series against the Twins with four hits (4-for-35, .115) and two RBI between them.
Most importantly for the Red Sox, the end result of the struggles was a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins after Paul Molitor’s club’s 6-4 victory over the Sox Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.
The latest defeat pushed the Sox to five games under .500, entrenching their position in the basement of the American League East.
The Red Sox certainly aren’t panicking, but the master plan for how to contend isn’t bearing fruit thus far.
“We’re four games out of first-place so I’m not upset,” Dustin Pedroia said. “I’m upset about the way we’re playing, but if you look at the big picture we’re right there. Everybody can say whatever they want about our team but we’re one click away from being a championship caliber team. But right now we’re a last-place team. So hopefully it comes soon.”
The three games also marked the first time the Twins have swept the Red Sox since completing the feat in June 13-15, 2006 at the old since demolished Metrodome.
“Yeah, everybody here, pretty much everybody is champions,” Ramirez said. “They know how to win. They know how to win. I’ve been here for a month, month and a half, almost two months, and I’ve learned that from those guys. I’m trying to be on the same page, know what I mean? All I care right now is just win. We’re not winning lately, but we’re just going to stay at it every day.”
The only thing keeping the Red Sox competitive in the series finale were a pair of two-run homers from Pedroia.
SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Pedroia. The second baseman finished the series with a team-high five hits after his two homers and now finds his batting average at .290. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.
|‘Utility player’ until 4 years ago, Blake Swihart using baseball knowledge to become successful big league catcher||05.20.15 at 1:38 pm ET|
Just by watching him catch his first 12 games in the majors, you would never know Blake Swihart has only been a full-time catcher for four years.
Growing up, Swihart was a “utility player” and it wasn’t until he was drafted out of V Sue Cleveland high school in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Red Sox that he became a full-time catcher.
“I was always a utility player — I played everywhere, played every position, moved around,” Swihart said.
According to his high school coach for his junior and senior years, Shane Shallenberger, Swihart caught roughly 50 percent of games, usually when pro scouts wanted to see him behind the plate. He threw out 54 percent of potential base stealers in his junior year, and about the same in his senior year.
In his senior year, Swihart hit .602 with 17 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 41 runs batted in and 58 runs scored in 28 games. It also wasn’t until the summer prior to his senior year that he became a switch-hitter — Ryan Kelmer from Albuquerque Baseball Academy’s idea.
“He said I am going to have you hit switch-handed, left-handed all summer, I don’t care if you strike out 100 times, but that is what will get you to the next level,” said Swihart.
The move paid off when the Red Sox selected him No. 26 overall and he forgoed his baseball scholarship to the University of Texas to turn pro.
“Blake is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had,” Shallenberger said when reached via phone recently. “We would play a doubleheader on a Saturday and Blake would go to the cages afterwards to still work on things. He was always looking to take extra ground balls. Catching, he wanted extra work because he knew that was where he was going to be. He was a 4.0 student so obviously it wasn’t just work on the field, he worked off the field in the classroom as well.”
|Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Year after playing high school ball, 2014 first-round picks reflect on turning pro||05.08.15 at 4:33 pm ET|
Last year at this time, Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech were spending their days in high school classrooms, and playing baseball for their high school teams after school.
Now, after both being drafted in the first round by the Red Sox in the 2014 draft, they are professional baseball players getting paid to play the game they love. Both are with Single-A Greenville after spending last summer in the Florida Gulf Coast League.
“We do talk about how crazy it is that this time last year we were playing high school baseball,” Chavis said via phone. “During the summer, my birthday is August 11 and I was talking to him [last summer], and it’s funny we were playing down in Fort Myers together and I was saying last year we were playing in the All-American game against each other when he was on the West squad and I was on the East squad. It’s just crazy looking back at that and we’ve both gone through the travel ball circuit playing against each other. Now it’s a great experience and opportunity for us to play together.”
“It’s a great experience. I am glad I got to come to Greenville, as it’s close to home,” he added. “It’s kind of cool because we had a few days off a couple days ago and I got to go to my high school and play a high school game. It was crazy watching all my buddies playing high school ball and thinking that I am at the professional level. Just a few months ago I was playing high school baseball. It’s hard to wrap my mind around.”
Chavis, an infielder, was drafted No. 26 overall, while Kopech, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted No. 33 overall.
Kopech said being a professional is much different than playing high school and travel ball, but it’s something he’s always wanted to do and had his mind focused on.
“Yeah, it’s a little different,” said Kopech via phone. “Honestly, it’s what I always wanted. It’s what I always expected. It’s fallen into place. That’s how I think of it. It’s a dream come true, don’t get me wrong. It’s exactly what I expected. It’s fun though. I like going out there with good competition and trying to compete. It’s a lot of fun.”
The biggest difference for him now that he’s a professional, is he can’t just step on the mound and throw. He has to have a plan.
“You just always have to have an approach,” Kopech said. “High school hitters you could throw three fastballs, or some you could grow three breaking pitches. You can’t do that in professional baseball. You have to have an approach. Everybody can adjust. If you’re trying to compete and challenge a hitter, you have to be smarter than them.”
Both are having successful starts to their seasons, particularly Kopech. The 6-foot-3 hard-throwing righty is 1-2 with a 3.76 ERA. He’s struck out 17 hitters in 18 2/3 innings. He was also named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week earlier in the year.
Kopech has received a great deal of attention of late for his velocity, as he’s hit 100 mph on the radar gun. The 19-year-old feels the best he’s ever felt.
“Right now is the hardest I’ve ever thrown,” he said. “I am sitting 95-98, 95-99. Really physically I feel better on the mound. Mentally as far as confidence wise, I’ve always kind of had the same approach. I feel just as confident last year as I do this year. That is doing me well right now.”
|Closing Time: Justin Masterson struggles with his control, late rally not enough as Red Sox fall to Rays||05.06.15 at 10:32 pm ET|
Justin Masterson didn’t have good numbers against the Rays before the game, and they certainly didn’t get better after the game.
After entering the night 2-7 with a 6.83 ERA against them, Masterson struggled with his control, walking six batters in just 4 1/3 innings, while allowing four runs in the Red Sox‘ 5-3 loss to the Rays Wednesday night. The Rays took 2-of-3 in the three-game series.
The Rays scored single runs in the third and fourth before scoring twice in the fifth leading to his departure. Masterson did allow a solo home run to Evan Longoria in the fourth inning.
The right-hander finished the night going 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with the six walks and striking out one. It was the sixth time in his career he walked six or more batters with his career-high being seven. His outing was the seventh time out of 28 starts where a Red Sox starter has gone less than five innings and allowed more than four runs.
“He contributed with the base on balls in the fourth and then in the fifth inning,” manager John Farrell said. “Still, the final at-bat that he faces, he puts Butler on the ground twice, with the comebacker double play and the groundball to short. He’s the one guy that he’s got the ability to get two outs with one pitch. In the fifth inning, trying to get through that inning and unfortunately those two runs score on the base hit proved to be the difference.
Mookie Betts crushed a solo homer in the eighth inning making it a one-run game, but the Red Sox couldn’t plate the tying run after loading the bases with one out later in the inning. Pinch-hitter Daniel Nava and Brock Holt each grounded out to first to end the threat.
Tampa Bay picked up an insurance run in the top of the ninth on another Longoria home run, which proved huge as the Red Sox threatened in the ninth, with runners on first and second, but couldn’t do anything with it.
“I think we’re doing a great job creating opportunities, but still the finishing through, cashing in, hasn’t been there,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox scored their first two runs in the second inning. Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart led the inning off with back-to-back doubles. Swihart later scored on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly.
Rays starter Alex Colome, in his second start of the season, went five innings and allowed two runs on four hits to pick up the win.
SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Evan Longoria. Longoria homered in the fourth inning and eighth innings and also walked twice scoring three runs. It was his 14th career multi-homer game. He had gone 90 at-bats without a home run before tonight. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.
Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ loss:
The plan for Victorino is still to get his rehabbing done in Portland on Friday and Saturday, but what happens after that isn’t so clear. If all goes well for Victorino, manager John Farrell said he could meet up with the team when it heads west for a left-coast road swing.
“He’s going to get Friday and Saturday (in Portland) at minimum and if everything goes accordingly, there’s a chance he could, or the plan would be for him to join us in Oakland,” Farrell said. “We’re projecting two left-handed starters against us in those first two games, that might be a continuation of his progression in terms of number of innings on the field, number of at-bats but Friday and Saturday will tell us a lot.”
Victorino was hitting .143/.302/.171 in the 12 games he played with the Red Sox this season, recording five hits and two RBI in 35 at-bats.
On Tuesday in Pawtucket, centerfielder Rusney Castillo collected his first hits since returning from injury on April 29. Castillo was 2-for-4 with an RBI, walk and strikeout against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate. From Farrell’s perspective, the outfielder is only getting better.
“Looks like he’s starting to get a little bit better timing, just through some at-bats,” he said. “It’s been start and stop for him this year with spring training and then, unfortunately, the dive at Pawtucket, but a couple of hits here recently after the first 10 at-bats or so just trying to get in the flow of things, but there’s no restriction on games played or at-bats to be taken.”
If Castillo is to be in the mix in Boston, Farrell is looking for the same things he does with regards to all players looking to be called up: consistency and production.
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
|Why Red Sox’ first win with Blake Swihart behind plate meant so much to rookie||05.05.15 at 11:16 pm ET|
Catchers don’t get win and loss check marks next to their names after games, but Blake Swihart felt like he started his major league career with two L’s.
One of the Red Sox‘ top prospects, Swihart made his major league debut Saturday afternoon against the Yankees after Ryan Hanigan fractured his finger Friday night and the switch-hitter was summonsed to the big leagues.
“First one, after the game I was stressed out just because I wanted it so bad, and that is what it’s all about here is winning,” Swihart said. “I almost took it like it was my fault because I was back there catching because I want to do everything we can to win.”
After resting on Monday, Swihart went out and caught Rick Porcello Tuesday. Despite it being the first time the two had ever thrown to one another — spring training game, bullpen session, etc. — the two worked extremely well and Porcello tossed seven shutout innings, as the Red Sox snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Rays.
“Getting that first one out of the way is very special,” Swihart said.
Porcello went seven shutout innings, while scattering eight hits, not issuing a walk and striking out six.
“It went great,” Swihart said. “The tempo of the game was awesome. The last few days we talked about a game plan that we wanted to do and we went out and executed and like I said, I am still learning these guys, so just trying to do everything I can to help them out.”
|Red Sox pregame notes: Luis Jimenez likely added to roster Monday, Shane Victorino’s return pushed back||05.03.15 at 6:17 pm ET|
After the Red Sox claimed infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers on Sunday, it’s likely the former Milwaukee Brewer gets added to the 25-man roster on Monday.
With Jimenez being added, the team would be able to get back to the standard 13 position players, with the corresponding move likely a pitcher.
“Right-handed utility guy that we like the defense particularly at third if that comes into play,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s also played some second, he’s played some first. Feel like he can play shortstop in a short look. it gives us some more flexibility with Brock [Holt] and Daniel Nava and hopefully the chance to get back to 13 position players.”
Jimenez appeared in 15 games for Milwaukee this season, going 1-for-15 with a run scored and a walk. Both of his starts came at third base (seven total games) and he also appeared defensively at second base once. He’s coming off a career year at Class AAA Salt Lake in 2014, hitting .286 with 21 home runs and 76 runs batted in.
Farrell added Pawtucket utility infielder Jeff Bianchi is coming off an injury, so the need for another utility infielder in the system was there.
With Jimenez added, Farrell noted one of the benefits is it gives Holt more opportunity in the outfield, not having to worry about backing up any of the infield positions.
“It gives us that flexibility, yes,” he said. “I can’t say that that’s the definite approach going forward, but at least it provides the opportunity or the option available.”
Shane Victorino (hamstring) is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday in Toronto, but that won’t happen. The team was never really considering that an option with the new turf and the reported affects of playing there.
He will likely rehab next weekend in Portland — Friday and Saturday for sure, with the possibility of Sunday as well.
“With the schedule both Pawtucket and Portland on the road, we’re probably going to push Vic’s live game at-bats back a little bit later in the week, but it will also allow us to ramp up the intensity and the volume over the next couple of days here at Fenway,” Farrell said. “There’s been a lot of discussion, what would be best, getting three at-bats in the DH role or really ramp up the volume. And we’re going to keep him here. It still allows us to look at the second leg of the road trip as an activation.
“We didn’t really have any thoughts of activating Vic in Toronto because of the turf and the reports of what’s affecting players’ legs and low back with the new turf up there. So we didn’t want to risk that. So that kind of points more toward Oakland provided there are no setbacks.”
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