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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Reds matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Homer Bailey 05.06.14 at 9:08 am ET
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The Red Sox look to move on from a tough 10-inning loss to the A’€™s on Sunday when they start a two-game home series against the Reds on Tuesday, sending lefty Felix Doubront to the mound to face off against Homer Bailey.

Doubront has struggled in 2014, posting a 1-3 record in six games, all starts, with a 5.70 ERA, up from his career average of 4.70. While Doubront is walking less batters than he ever has, an average of 3.6 walks per nine innings (4.0 average in his career), his strikeout numbers are also down, an average of 6.3 per nine innings, down from his career average of 8.2.

Doubront was solid in his last start, a game against the Rays on May 1, going six innings while giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits, two of them being home runs. He struck out five and walked one. The Red Sox eventually lost, 6-5, but Doubront did not factor in the decision.

While some fans have lost faith in Doubront, Red Sox manager John Farrell has not.

“He’€™s going to keep getting the ball,” Farrell said last week. “We’ve got to keep doing what we can to have those in-game adjustments happen a little more readily, because the work he’€™s following, the routine he’€™s following, all that remains is to be consistent start to start.”

The 26-year-old has not faced the Reds in his career.

Bailey, like Doubront, has gotten off to a rocky start in 2014. After back-to-back very good years, including a no-hitter in both 2012 and 2013, the 28-year-old Bailey has been mediocre, going 2-2 in six starts with a 5.50 ERA.

The Texas native was better in his last start, a May 1 game against Milwaukee, when he went eight innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, striking out four and walking one. The Reds won the game, 8-3, and Bailey picked up his second win on the year.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, felix doubront, Homer Bailey
A.J. Pierzynski on confusion, frustration over home plate rules: ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing’ 05.05.14 at 11:42 am ET
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It was one of the moves made in the offseason that was intended to improve the safety of the catcher and base runner at home plate.

The “Buster Posey Rule” (listed at the bottom of this page) was implemented this offseason to clarify the existing rule that says the catcher cannot block the plate without the ball in his possession or being in the act of fielding the ball.

But what has resulted is mass confusion and misunderstanding of Rule 7.13.

The latest such example came in the top of the third inning Sunday at Fenway Park. With the A’s leading 1-0, Brandon Moss doubled left. Grady Sizemore fielded it and threw to Xander Bogaerts, who fired a strike to A.J. Pierzynski. The Red Sox catcher, in a textbook example of blocking the plate with his left foot, put it down just as he was fielding the ball and blocked Josh Donaldson from reaching the plate. Home plate umpire Mark Ripperger ruled Donaldson out at home.

Was it a legal block? Could Donaldson have bowled over Pierzynski? Could A’s manager Bob Melvin, who lost a challenge on the first play of the game at first base, challenge the play?

“I never know. I don’t think anybody exactly knows exactly what the rule is,” Pierzynski said after Boston’s 3-2 loss in 10 innings. “I know I gave him a lane and when I caught the ball, I just tried to go [at the plate]. It’s so hard because I’ve been taught all these years to keep the guy from getting there. It’s a little different in waiting [to block the plate].

“Donaldson and I kind of laughed about it afterward. He said, ‘Dude, you didn’t give me anywhere to go.’ I was like, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing.’ Even talking to some of the umpires, they don’t even know the [rules] exactly. The rule is kind of up to a lot of interpretation. I told the home plate umpire if they would have reversed it, there was a good chance I would’ve been kicked out of the game. I’m glad they stuck with [the ruling]. Hopefully, we’ll continue to figure this thing out.”

After a 90-second review, the play call stood. Pierzynski was ruled to have blocked the plate legally and Donaldson was out. Pierzynski said the key, as a catcher, is timing, changing the internal clock in your head as the play is happening in a split-second.

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox, Buster Posey rule, Home plate collision
Sunday’s Red Sox-A’s matchups: John Lackey vs. Sonny Gray 05.04.14 at 8:08 am ET
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The Red Sox will conclude their home series against the Athletics on Sunday afternoon, sending John Lackey to the mound against 24-year-old Sonny Gray.

Lackey continues to be one of the Red Sox‘ top starters, owning a 4-2 record with a 3.83 ERA. The 35-year-old is second on the team in strikeouts with 39, with only Jon Lester having more.

The Texas native followed up his 11-strikeout performance against the Yankees on April 23 with an eight-inning clinic against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Lackey lasted eight innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out five on the way to his fourth win of the season.

“I’m trying to be aggressive. I’m trying to work fast,” Lackey said after the game. “I’m trying to get guys in the dugout. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun out there on the field today. I tried to work quickly and get outs as quick as I could.”

Lackey is very familiar with the Athletics, having faced them 34 times in his career. In those 34 starts, Lackey has been dominant, going 19-6 with a 2.90 ERA. Last year, Lackey only faced the Athletics once, pitching seven innings and giving up two runs. The Red Sox and Lackey ended up winning the game.

Gray has been impressive for the Athletics in 2014, posting a team-low 1.76 ERA. He also has the most quality starts (6) and innings (41) on the staff, while striking out the second most (37) and tying for the most wins (4). Gray was impressive last year as well, his first in the majors, going 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA.

During his last start, Monday at Texas, the 24-year-old pitched a complete game, giving up only three hits, walking one and striking out six, giving the Athletics a 4-0 win. Gray has never faced the Red Sox.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, john lackey, Jon Lester, Oakland Athletics
Saturday’s Red Sox-A’s matchups: Jon Lester vs. Tommy Milone 05.03.14 at 8:05 am ET
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The Red Sox will face the Athletics in the second of a three-game series Saturday, sending southpaw Jon Lester to the mound against fellow lefty Tommy Milone.

Lester had been the Red Sox ace through his first four starts, posting an impressive 2.17 ERA but holding a lackluster 2-2 record due to a lack of run support. While the 30-year-old hasn’t received much run support in his last two starts, a combined four runs, Lester has not pitched well, with his ERA jumping to 3.10.

It started with an April 22 start against the Yankees, when the lefty lasted 4 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs (three earned) on 11 hits. He rebounded against Toronto on April 27 by pitching seven innings, striking out seven and walking none, but he did give up four runs on five hits, including a home run. Despite giving up the most earned runs in his young season, Lester thought he pitched OK.

“I felt like I threw the ball better than the four runs [that] are up there,” Lester said after the game. “I can deal with the mistakes. I just hate making good pitches they get rewarded with hits on.”

The southpaw has had a mixed bag against the Athletics, going 4-4 in his career in 12 games, all starts, posting a 4.21 ERA and a WHIP of 1.493. In two starts against Oakland last year, Lester went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out nine and walking nine.

The Washington native has a low strikeout-to-walk ratio against the Athletics, 1.75. His career average is a 2.53, while his ratio in 2014 is exceptionally high, at 5.38 through six games.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, Oakland Athletics, Tommy Milone
After his second solid outing, Clay Buchholz feels he’s turned a corner: ‘It’s been a process’ at 12:24 am ET
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With every pitch, the confidence and strength seem to be building in Clay Buchholz.

That positive trend continued Friday night at Fenway Park has he held one of the more efficient and effective lineups in the American League to a season-low one run over 6 1/3 innings, allowing Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox to put a charge into their own offense in a 7-1 win over Oakland at Fenway Park.

Before his last start in Toronto, Buchholz had been struggling badly with his own internal clock, the timing in his delivery that made him an effective pitcher for the last five seasons. He had been slowing down and losing tempo badly. But, with the help and observation of pitching coach Juan Nieves, something clicked last Saturday north of the border, as he held the powerful Blue Jays to six hits and three runs over seven innings in recording his first win of the season.

Friday night, Buchholz continued to show positive signs across the board. With an increase in tempo, Buchholz simultaneously showed continued arm strength, something by his own admission was lacking in his first four starts. After allowing season lows of three hits and one run, Buchholz went in-depth explaining why he feels he’s turning a corner.

“I felt good,” Buchholz said. “It’s been a process over the last start to this start. As far as arm strength, it seems to be coming along pretty well. I think that was the last phase I was getting through, was getting arm strength fully back and trusting the pitches as I throw them.

“Velocity was up in Toronto. Over the past couple of years and I’ve pitched well there. I felt that was a good starting point for me, be out there and feel comfortable with everything. I’m not saying anything against their lineup because they’re pretty powerful. But I just felt good pitching there. I don’t know why but that was a good starting point for me.”

With his improved rhythm and tempo, Red Sox manager John Farrell can see a much more confident Buchholz on the mound.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, juan nieves
Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Important to temper expectations’ for Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. 04.30.14 at 1:50 pm ET
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ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., John Lackey and his resurgence, which team in the AL East has the highest ceiling and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. haven’€™t gotten off to the most productive starts in 2014, with Bradley holding a .244 batting average and Bogaerts having committed four errors. Despite some growing pains, Olney notes rookies are doing well when framed in the proper context.

“I think it is important to temper expectations for Xander Bogaerts and for Jackie Bradley Jr. this year because they’€™re young players and there are going to be times when they go up and down,” Olney said. “But it is worth nothing that early in the year, Xander Bogaerts has a .378 on-base percentage. I mean, my goodness, you take that out of guys in the middle of their careers, let alone someone on the outset of his career.

“And Jackie Bradley Jr. has an on base percentage today of .344 and eventually it looks like he’€™ll be able to be that guy who’€™s going to be the leadoff hitter, but I know the Red Sox front office is really intent on letting him ease his way on in rather than have to deal with the pressure.”

One of Bogaerts’ biggest problems hasn’t been at the plate but rather at shortstop. Other teams have even started to question if the 21-year-old ever will develop into a solid defender.

“Rival executives have told me that they have some questions about his range going to his left,” Olney said. “And it’€™s interesting, it actually reminds me a little bit of what I’ve heard of [Derek] Jeter even in the middle of his career, where people say, ‘Boy, there’€™s not as much range as some other shortstops, and especially with Derek going to his left.’ But I still think with Xander it’€™s obviously way too early to make a final assessment on what he’€™s going to be.”

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Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, jackie bradley jr., john lackey
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: John Lackey vs. Erik Bedard 04.29.14 at 8:43 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to rebound from their 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday when they return home Tuesday to open a three-game series against the Rays, sending John Lackey to the mound to take on southpaw Erik Bedard.

Despite pitching well, Lackey struggled to get run support in 2013, averaging 3.7 runs per game and ending the season with a 10-13 record. In 2014, however, the 35-year-old has seen his fortunes reversed, receiving the best run support, an average of five runs per game, on the Red Sox staff.

Lackey also has seen his strikeout-to-walk ratio improve since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. In 2013 Lackey had a 4.03 mark, the best of his career, while in 2014 he has a ratio of 4.86.

The Texas native last played Wednesday against the Yankees, lasting eight innings and allowing one run. He struck out a season-high 11 batters while walking no one on 111 pitches. The game was his third win of the season and snapped a two-game losing streak.

Lackey was modest after the game, crediting his performance due to a willingness to give the bullpen, which was overtaxed at the time, a night off.

“I was thinking about trying to give the bullpen a rest,” Lackey said after the game. “We’ve got some guys down there who’ve been worked pretty good the last week or so, and trying to get those guys a little bit of a breather and win a ball game.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Erik Bedard, john lackey, tampa bay rays
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