|Xander Bogaerts wins battle with ‘really funky’ Carter Capps||07.07.15 at 11:17 pm ET|
The bottom of the seventh, down two runs and the bases loaded and two out. It’s the situation every big league hitter would salivate over.
But when a 6-foot-5 crow-hopping righty is throwing 100 mph on the mound, that excitement can wane just a bit. Just ask Xander Bogaerts.
Even after his rare three-run single propelled the Red Sox to a 4-3 win over Carter Capps and the Marlins Tuesday at Fenway, he admitted that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to focus in and get the job done.
What makes Capps so unique is that after beginning his windup with his right [back] foot on the pitching rubber, he jumps forward in the middle of his delivery and his right foot is about two feet in front of the rubber when he fires the ball to the plate. There has been plenty of debate among those paid to observe the game for Major League Baseball as to whether it’s a legal delivery.
But MLB has ruled that Capps’ delivery, while unorthodox, is legal. Bogaerts was just trying to track Capps’ pitches at the plate to see what he was dealing with. He was lucky that Capps couldn’t find the plate and fell behind 3-0 before taking a strike and fouling off three straight pitches of at least 97 mph. Capps then threw a 99 mph fastball on his eighth offering to Bogaerts, who singled to right-center, scoring Travis Shaw, Ryan Hanigan and Mookie Betts.
“That’s really funky,” Bogaerts said. “I never faced that guy before. I’ve seen him a few times on TV pitching against other teams. I mean you don’t know to expect until you’re up there hitting. I was kind of tracking the first pitches. I’m lucky enough he threw balls so I could see him pretty good and then I put a good swing on the last one.
“A lot of guys would want to hit with bases loaded, for sure, but I’m not sure too many against that guy. Funky delivery, throws hard but we came out on top today.”
|Tony Sipp explains why he didn’t want to walk David Ortiz: ‘He’s not the same Big Papi’||07.05.15 at 6:30 pm ET|
David Ortiz has built his reputation on putting fear in opposing pitchers with his clutch power hitting late in games.
But with one out and none on and the Astros leading 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, fear was not on the mind of lefty Tony Sipp, who was brought in by Houston manager A.J. Hinch to face Ortiz.
“I got ahead. I was just trying to go right at him, do anything but walk him,” Sipp said. “I got the 1-2 slider and it started backing up on me. I couldn’t get the one that was sharp that looked like a strike and then [would] fade out of the strike zone. That’s why he kept fouling off and he was a little disappointed because he was missing some of my mistakes.
“Right there at the end, I threw a ball that was a little bit too low and walked him. That was the last thing I wanted to do, was walk him. He’s not hitting the best right now so I wanted to at least make him put it in play. If he’s swinging the bat well, then it’s not a bad thing to do, to walk him. But right now, he’s not the same Big Papi.”
Ortiz is hitting just .228 this season, but still with 14 homers and 41 RBIs, and an OPS of .744.
Sipp’s frustration was compounded when he gave up the go-ahead and game-winning home run on a splitter to Hanley Ramirez.
“It was down but just not out [outside] like I wanted,” Sipp said. “He put the swing that I want him to put on it but he caught it out front and had enough pop to get it over the wall. I think that’s just how it goes. Sometimes they’ll hit a good pitch. He’s pretty good and caught a good pitch. Location wasn’t bad, just down the middle.”
If Sipp watched Ortiz circle the bases, he could plainly see Ortiz pumping his fist around second base, adding more salt to the wound.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball well,” Sipp said. “I got ahead of both Big Papi and Hanley but I just couldn’t put them away.”
|John Farrell says ‘time will tell’ if Xander Bogaerts has earned his way onto A.L. All-Star team||07.04.15 at 5:55 pm ET|
Is Xander Bogaerts All-Star worthy?
It’s a question that may not have seemed very likely in the first two months of the season but as the game approaches July 14 in Cincinnati, the Red Sox shortstop has certainly put himself in the conversation when the reserves are announced on Monday evening.
Bogaerts, hitting again in the No. 3 hole in the order in front of David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, went 2-for-4 Saturday in a 6-1 win over the Astros. He is 9-for-18 with four RBIs in a modest four-game hitting streak. He is also batting .351 with 21 RBIs in 32 games since the end of May.
But perhaps most importantly, he’s been the most consistent offensive player in a batting order that desperately needed consistent and productive parts. It’s why John Farrell felt comfortable moving him up from seventh to fifth to eventually third in the order, when Dustin Pedroia went down with his hamstring injury.
Bogaerts is hitting .302 this season, with respectable slugging (.416) and on-base (.340) numbers. He’s also looked much more steady at shortstop, which was no small feat considering his struggles in 2014 that played a role in moving to third base to take over for Will Middlebrooks when Stephen Drew landed back on the scene in Boston.
“I would hope that he gets some recognition for the first half that he’s had,” Farrell said after Saturday’s game. “He’s been a very consistent performer for us and has grown a lot from a year ago, both defensively and offensively. Whether or not that reflects or is acknowledged through an All-Star appearance, time will tell that one.”
“Absolutely I think Xander’s going to make the All-Star team,” added outfielder and teammate Mookie Betts. “He’s been playing great from the beginning of the season. I wasn’t there to see him develop. All I know is this Xander. This is all I’ve seen. For him to continue to do this for so long, I don’t know why he wouldn’t be in the All-Star Game.”
|John Farrell reminds Mookie Betts that ‘overaggressive’ baseball is not sound baseball||at 12:57 am ET|
Mookie Betts has shown more often than not, in his first full season with the team, that he is not just a highly-skilled player with multiple tools, but a smart one as well. Friday night, he did not show those qualities in a brutal 12-8 loss in 10 innings to Houston at Fenway Park.
Down a run with one out in the bottom of the eighth and the Red Sox threatening against Astros reliever Pat Neshek, Betts thought he had a good enough lead from second base to take off for third on his own.
Astros catcher Jason Castro fired a bullet to Luis Valbuena that caused Valbuena to lose balance over the bag. But not before the Houston third baseman caught the ball and snapped his glove down to easily nab Betts for the second out. Xander Bogaerts walked and David Ortiz put a perfect swing on a tailing outside fastball from Neshek to drive it off the Monster for a game-tying double. But it should have been the go-ahead and eventual game-winning double.
With Xander Bogaerts at the plate, why in the world was Betts stealing?
“I had a sign, it was a tough at-bat for a righty, I was trying to force something and I shouldn’t have,” Betts admitted. “I was trying to put points together pretty much and didn’t have the right points. In hindsight you can always make the right decision. If I’m safe it’s a great play, since I’m out it’s terrible, so you just have to live and learn from it.
‘Obviously, I know I messed up. The game continues. You’ve got to cheer on Bogey, have to forget it.”
“Overaggressive,” Red Sox manager John Farrell lamented. “Ill-advised. Overaggressive. We sacrifice him to get into scoring position because Neshek is under is under 1.15 seconds in his unloading times [to the plate]. Overaggressive decision on his part to attempt to steal.”
|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.”
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