|Red Sox-Orioles series preview||06.23.15 at 9:41 am ET|
Coming off of a series win vs. the Royals and four wins in their last six games, the Red Sox will look to keep their momentum against the team that began Boston’s season-high seven-game losing streak earlier this month, the Orioles.
The Red Sox sit in the AL East basement at 31-40, 8 1/2 games back of the first-place Rays. When they began their last series with the Orioles on June 9, both teams were fighting to stay out of the division’s cellar. The Orioles emerged with a sweep and sent the Red Sox back to Boston, where they dropped their next three contests to the Blue Jays. Since then, the Orioles and Blue Jays have turned their seasons around, closing to within 2 1/2 games of the division lead, while the Red Sox face the immediate challenge of trying to get back to .500.
“I think we’re remaining optimistic about the team,’” Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen said last week on Dennis & Callahan. “I think nobody’s happy where we’re sitting here today. You know, it’s unfortunate, and we deserve to be where we are. We haven’t played very well on the course of the season.”
Against the Royals this past weekend, the Red Sox took advantage of a depleted KC starting rotation, as both of their wins in the series came against rotation fill-ins. The Red Sox scored 24 runs against the Royals, their highest three-game series total of the season. As a team in the last seven days, they have slashed .328/.379/.552, good for the best team OPS in baseball over that stretch. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the Orioles have been just as good lately, clubbing 14 home runs in their last seven games, second only to the Astros’ 20.
For the season, the Orioles have the fifth-most home runs and score the third-most runs per game in the majors. The O’s have the fifth-highest isolated power in baseball and they start six players with an ISO rating above the league average of .147.
|Joe Kelly on MFB: New pitching coach Carl Willis ‘focused on what your strengths are as a pitcher’||06.16.15 at 12:48 pm ET|
Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the team’s struggles, his own pitching adjustments and his work with NIVEA Men. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.
Kelly talked about the difference in style between ex-pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was fired last month, and current coach Carl Willis.
“Juan was a great guy. He was a good pitching coach,” Kelly said. “He was more focused on scouting reports — what the hitters don’t hit, what this guy does against the slider, what do you do in certain situations. Carl’s been awesome too. He’s mainly focused on what your strengths are as a pitcher. If you’re a sinker guy, you’re not going to go out and throw four-seams at a team and try to beat them that way. He tries to focus on that other aspect of your game.”
Kelly was asked about Adam Wainwright from his time in St. Louis and what type of leader he was. On top of how great he was in St. Louis, he said even this year he sent him video to help him with his mechanics when he was struggling.
“[Wainwright] was the best,” Kelly said. “He’s an on-field pitching coach. It was pretty neat to be a part of. Whenever I struggled or messed up with mechanics, he was always the first one there to help me. Even earlier this year, I gave up 21 runs in 21 innings and he saw a bunch of stuff wrong with mechanics and sent me over a couple of video clips and talked to me on the phone. He helped out a little bit right then and there to get me back on track.”
When asked about his struggles, Kelly discussed his continued role as a student of the game, both about himself and opposing hitters.
“I haven’t had a full year as a starting pitcher in the big leagues,” he said. “So I’m just learning hitters and learning my stuff. Guys with velocity [can be] very easy to hit. I hit a double off of [Jeff] Samardzija at 98. I can do that stuff — it’s not very hard actually. It’s just different kinds of mixes of pitches and locations. It’s more about hitting spots and trying to locate with the fastball.”
With talk of Kelly moving to the bullpen as the Red Sox moved away from a six-man rotation, he talked about his stance on the switch.
“I love starting. I love knowing when I’m gonna pitch,” Kelly said. “That’s where I am right now and that’s where my main focus is. One day, eventually, if that happens in my career, of course I’m going to stay in the game and help get guys out and perform for my team.”
“No, obviously John has all the control,” Kelly said. “As a player, it’s just getting frustrated about how everything’s been going. As a team we’re not playing well and sometimes that gets the best of us. You’ve been trained your whole life to beat the other person, to always win and to always give your best no matter what. So when someone puts it into your game, whether you’re doing good or bad, you’re going to be mad always.”
|Jonny Gomes shows how to play left at Fenway, offers Red Sox hope: ‘You would think it’s going to turn around’||at 8:17 am ET|
If Hanley Ramirez wanted help in how to play left field at Fenway, perhaps he should chat up Jonny Gomes.
The Braves left fielder not only robbed former teammate Dustin Pedroia of a sure double to open the bottom of the fourth Monday night, he explained the intricacies of the position after Atlanta walked away with a 4-2 win at a rain-soaked Fenway Park.
“That’s how you’ve got to play that outfield. It’s extremely risky,” Gomes said. “That exact play right there, you dive for it and get the out. Worst-case scenario, you dive for it and you’ve got the wall right there so it could be a double. Or take the angle and give him the double. So it worked out.”
Because Gomes was playing in and because he certainly wasn’t afraid to lay out on the wet grass, he was able to time his dive for the ball.
“I actually found myself diving a bunch here because a normal fence is about 340 feet down the line, play about 60 feet in front puts you at about 280,” Gomes said. “But 310 here, 40 feet in front, you’re playing at about 270 feet, which a lot of people don’t realize when that ball gets on you hot, it’s kind of like that one. You’re diving all over the place.”
“Losing sucks flat out, at any level, any organization,” Gomes said. “I’ve played on some good teams, some bad teams. I’ve been there before. It’s not ideal but play this game long enough, you’re going to have stretches like that.
“You look at that team on paper, it’s a dangerous team. You would think it’s going to get turned around. I’d roll my dice with that roster. With that being said, I don’t wear that uniform anymore. Outside of ‘hang in there,’ I don’t have much input. I’m focused on the Braves.”
|A.J. Pierzynski recalls 2014 when ‘it was all blamed on me’ and insists ‘there’s no hard feelings’||06.15.15 at 11:26 pm ET|
The irony of the current situation the Red Sox find themselves in is not lost on A.J. Pierzynski.
The former Red Sox catcher, released last July 16 before being signed by St. Louis ten days later, returned Monday with the Braves and went 2-for-4 with an RBI in a 4-2 win over the Red Sox. The loss was Boston’s seventh straight and dropped them a season-worst 11 games under .500 at 27-38.
It was Pierzynski who was the target of anonymous criticism inside the Red Sox clubhouse after his departure. There were those who suggested his negative attitude was a reason for the 2014 team heading south and falling out of contention early in the summer.
This year, despite a massive overhaul, that collapse is happening even sooner. Pierzynski told WEEI.com after Monday’s game that he’s not reveling in Boston’s current misery.
“Yeah, we went through it last year and it was all blamed on me, which I thought was funny,” Pierzynski said. “They have good players over there and they have good people over there and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Pierzynski is referencing, of course, Red Sox sources inside the team’s clubhouse that told Rob Bradford that the veteran catcher was a bad influence.
But aside from a little humor, Pierzynski chose the high road on Monday night.
“There’s no hard feelings between me and the Red Sox organization,” Pierzynski said. “I think people are expecting me to come in and [criticize]. But I have no hard feelings. Things just didn’t work out the right way last year. And I ended up in a great place, in St. Louis and a chance to go the playoffs and that’s what it’s all about.”
Pierzynski joined another former Red Sox player, John Lackey, in St. Louis. The Cards beat the Dodgers in the NLDS before falling to Pablo Sandoval and the Giants in the National League Championship Series.
“I thank the Red Sox and I thank the people here that supported me, the fans that were nice to me and look forward to playing here again [Tuesday],” Pierzynski said.
While the Red Sox could not be colder, Pierzynski is red-hot, batting .341 (14-for-41) with eight runs and five RBIs in his last 12 games this month.
|Craig Breslow activated from paternity leave, Travis Shaw optioned, Robbie Ross recalled, INF Jeff Biachi DFA’d, Luis Jimenez signs in Korea||at 7:20 pm ET|
The club activated lefty reliever Craig Breslow from paternity leave and optioned infielder Travis Shaw.
Breslow, 34, was placed on paternity leave on Friday. He has no record and a 4.03 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 relief appearances for the Red Sox this season. His 22.1 innings pitched rank third in the Boston bullpen and 12th among AL left-handed relievers.
Shaw, 25, went 0-for-1 as a defensive replacement at first base yesterday after being recalled for his second career major league stint prior to the game. The left-handed batter is hitless in three at-bats over two career major league games, also on May 8 in Toronto. In 56 games for the PawSox this season, he has hit .256 (54-for-211) with eight doubles, two triples, five home runs, 26 RBI, and 22 walks, appearing in games at third base (30 games), first base (22), and left field (3).
The Red Sox also recalled left-handed pitcher Robbie Ross Jr. from Triple-A Pawtucket. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, infielder Jeff Bianchi was designated for assignment. Ross was made active in time for the series opener against the Braves.
|John Farrell: ‘We’re not in a good place right now’||06.14.15 at 6:07 pm ET|
If John Farrell is concerned about job security, he’s not showing it.
Following another abysmal loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, dropping the Red Sox to a season-low 10 games under .500 at 27-37, the Red Sox manager continued to show support and complete belief in his team that they can turn things around.
The Red Sox sent their most reliable pitcher to the mound in Eduardo Rodriguez hoping to end a five-game skid. But thanks to a pair of shoddy plays in a windy, sun-baked right field and a questionable non-double play call at second base, the Blue Jays exploded for six runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth for a 10-0 lead.
The Red Sox battled back to make it 10-5 on a three-run homer from David Ortiz in a five-run fifth but could get no closer in a 13-5 embarrassment that gave Toronto its 11th straight win.
“Today, we got beat up but looking back at the energy inside the game, the energy is there,” Farrell said. “We didn’t handle every ball cleanly. That goes without saying. We get a ball in the following inning after the six runs that’s an aggressive call-off by [Alejandro] De Aza, coming in from right field, where Xander is camped under it. It opens up the door for a couple more consecutive hits and a four-run inning. So, it’s a ten-run hole we’re in.
“Still, we continue to battle back. David with a big three-run homer to cut [deficit] in half. We kept clawing back into this. Yeah, we’re not in a good place right now as a team. But it’s not because we’re not giving effort. We’re not executing completely.”
|Curt Schilling on D&C: Eduardo Rodriguez ‘something special’||06.10.15 at 10:03 am ET|
ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the Red Sox and the talent of Eduardo Rodriguez. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Rodriguez has three impressive starts under his belt following the six scoreless innings of work he put in Tuesday night against the Orioles. Schilling has been very impressed with what he has seen from the young left-hander.
“You’re looking at a guy who, for me, I thought he was by far the most talented player swapped at the deadline last year. He’s just something special,” Schilling said.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 loss and Rodriguez got a no-decision despite his continued success on the hill. According to Schilling, Rodriguez should not be concerned with the lack of run support he received.
“If you’re focused and you’re trying to win a game, you’re pitching to the score as a young player,” Schilling said. “These are the games you need to pitch when you’re young. You need to learn how to pitch in the 1-0 games or the 2-1 games. Then you start to understand, you take the ball, you go out there and realize the leadoff hitter could be the winning run.”
“You can’t let players manage themselves. … The thing that makes him John Farrell and the thing that makes him respected around the league is communication. That’s a conversation. If you don’t want to put him up there and you feel like he’s overmatched, you have to have that conversation,” Schilling said.
Injuries to catchers Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan early in the season forced the hand of the Red Sox and made it necessary to bring Blake Swihart to the big leagues sooner than expected. Schilling stressed the peril of bringing young catchers to the major league level too early because of the multitude of responsibility placed on that position.
“As a pitcher, I was always very selfish from the standpoint of, ‘I don’t care if you go 0-for-4 and punch out four times on 12 pitches, I need you focused behind the plate.’ And that’s hard. Short of probably relief pitchers, I think that is the most dangerous position in the game to have a player in the big leagues prematurely,” Schilling said.
|Red Sox-Orioles series preview||06.09.15 at 9:26 am ET|
Coming off of their first series sweep of the season over the Athletics, the Red Sox will carry their momentum to Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles.
With a 5-2 record, the Red Sox have had a stellar opening to June after a miserable May. They sit at 27-31, sandwiched between the Orioles and the Blue Jays in fourth place in the underwhelming AL East. Despite their losing mark, the Red Sox are just 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Yankees.
Though not the best measure of success, the Red Sox had the best series of their season against the cellar-dwelling Athletics this past weekend. Wade Miley and Joe Kelly each turned in quality starts that resulted in wins. Meanwhile, the bullpen was lights out, allowing just one earned run in nine innings of work. Then the Red Sox bats came alive Sunday, scoring seven runs in the eighth-inning to rally for a 7-4 victory.
The Red Sox have been unable to sustain momentum this season, but they have a great opportunity this week to string together some wins against an Orioles team that is 4-6 in its last 10 and sits in last place in the AL East. The O’s are coming off of a series win against the Indians but dropped three out of four against the Astros to open June. Though they hold a narrow edge over the Red Sox with a 4-3 record in seven meetings this season, the O’s will face a much-improved Red Sox rotation this week.
Similar to the Red Sox, the Orioles’ major problem is their underperforming rotation, which ranks 23rd in the majors with a 4.16 FIP, worse than the Red Sox’ 4.11 mark. Baltimore pitching has fallen victim to the long ball this season, as the O’s give up 1.1 home runs per nine innings, the fourth-worst mark in the majors. The Orioles also struggle to keep runners off base, as they allow 3.2 free passes per nine innings. This walk rate plus home run prevention problems adds up to a team prone to giving up runs in bunches.
Though their offense has fallen short compared to recent seasons, the Orioles still have the characteristic big boppers that helped them to a 96-66 record last season. Led by Chris Davis, of 53 home run fame in 2013, the O’s own the seventh-best isolated power offense in the majors. Three of their regulars have hit nine home runs this season: Davis (12), Manny Machado (9) and Adam Jones (9).
|Xander Bogaerts makes homework against Tyler Clippard pay off with game-winning hit||06.07.15 at 6:13 pm ET|
Nothing symbolized Sunday’s dramatic rally from 4-0 down in the bottom of the eighth better than the at-bat Xander Bogaerts put up against Oakland closer Tyler Clippard.
Just like the Red Sox, who started the inning down four runs, Bogaerts found himself in a nasty 0-2 hole against the A’s righty when he, like his teammates, began to chip away.
Bogaerts fouled off two fastballs from Clippard to fall behind two strikes before he really went to work. He took two straight pitches out of the strike zone sandwiched around a throw to first to keep Mookie Betts close. After Betts stole second to put runners at second and third, Bogaerts fouled off another pitch.
All the while, Bogaerts didn’t change his strategy. A lot of batters would be defensive in this situation, down 4-3 with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Foul off pitches until you get a fastball you can drive. But Bogaerts, along with hitting coach Chili Davis had a better idea.
“I was not looking for a fastball that whole at-bat and he threw me a lot [of fastballs],” Bogaerts said. “I just fouled them off, stayed alive. I was looking for a changeup since pitch one and he threw me one right there.”
Why wasn’t Bogaerts looking fastball?
“He has a good changeup and he tends to throw at least one in every at-bat,” Bogaerts said. “On the 2-2, I fouled one off right next to the dugout. Chili looked at me like, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ We always talk about it. It doesn’t matter if you foul off a ball, you’ve got to try to pull it the next time. Just stay on it and he threw me what I was looking for. It was actually a really good pitch by him. I was just waiting on it and put a good swing on it.”
Clippard tipped his cap to Bogaerts for hanging in and executing on a changeup that he couldn’t have put in a better place.
“Threw a changeup down and in. I got it there. It was probably four inches off [the plate] in,” Clippard said. “Normally, when guys get to that pitch, all they can do is hit it foul. He did a good job of staying inside that pitch running into him and kept it fair and hit it off the wall. I wasn’t mad about the execution.
“He took some poor swings on my fastball throughout that whole at-bat. I felt like I did a good job of reading his swing up until that last pitch. Probably should have thrown another fastball but in hindsight it’s always easy to say. It is what it is. I’m just trying to get him out any way I can. I’m trying to get him to chase my pitch and he put a good at-bat together after that and stayed inside the changeup.”
Bogaerts admitted afterward that while he got the pitch he wanted, he knows he just as easily could have headed back to the dugout with the third out of the inning and the Sox still down a run.
“[Usually] a strikeout. I went back and saw that [on video],” he said. “I can’t guarantee you that I would do that again if I got that pitch.”
Things seemed somewhat dim heading into the bottom of the eighth. The Sox had managed just five hits in seven scoreless innings against Oakland starter Kendall Graveman.
“I remember just looking at the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth, 4-0,” Bogaerts recalled. “Just trying to think how we can get some runs. That was probably the biggest win for us this year, for sure.”
|Mike Napoli on the pressure on suddenly hot Hanley Ramirez: ‘I don’t think that’s too fair’||06.06.15 at 10:44 pm ET|
But the way the slugger has been playing the last 10 games, there are positive signs the investment in Ramirez is starting to really pay off.
Ramirez crushed a two-run homer in the first inning Saturday and had three hits to lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the A’s at Fenway. In his last 10 games, nine starts, Ramirez is batting .368 (14-for-38) with three homers. He has at least two hits in six of his last nine starts, lifting his average to .272 on the season.
Ramirez was signed for four years and $88 million in the offseason to do what he did in the first month of the season and what’s he’s done in the last 10 games since Texas.
“He’s a superstar so there’s a lot expected out of him,” Napoli said after Saturday’s win. “There’s pressure on him every day to come through every single time. I don’t think that’s too fair but I think he’s up to the task and wants to come through. He works hard and takes it serious and wants to get the job done.
“We all have confidence in him. He’s a great player. We’re going to need him.”
Ramirez acknowledged that responsibility Saturday with a smile after the game in front of his locker.
“I try to control what I can control right now,” Ramirez said. “Just go to the cage and do my work to be ready for the game and go out there and compete every day. Sometimes, you just have to go out there and let it go.
“It’s a long season. Pretty much everybody in here is a champion and everybody knows how to play the game and what we need to play better.”
Ramirez has apparently found something else, his comfort zone in the lineup. After batting .257 in 45 games as the club’s cleanup hitter behind David Ortiz, Ramirez batted third for the fifth time Saturday. His 3-for-5 effort raised his average to .400 (8-for-20) with two homers in the three hole.
Ramirez also acknowledged something else Saturday: He can lead offensively but he can’t do it all by himself. Yes, he shot a 430-foot missile of a homer to the tarp in center and set the tone offensively. But it was Ramirez who paid props to starter and winner Joe Kelly and the bullpen that held on for win.
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