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Red Sox-Orioles series preview 06.09.15 at 9:26 am ET
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Zach Britton (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Orioles closer Zach Britton has converted his last 10 save opportunities and carries a 1.96 ERA on the season. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

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).

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Read More: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Buck Showalter
Xander Bogaerts makes homework against Tyler Clippard pay off with game-winning hit 06.07.15 at 6:13 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts drives in the tying and go-ahead runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the eighth Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts drives in the tying and go-ahead runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the eighth Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, chili davis, Oakland A's, tyler clippard
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
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Hanley Ramirez rounds third base after crushing a first-inning homer. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez rounds third base after crushing a first-inning homer. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli knows there’s a lot of pressure on Hanley Ramirez to perform. Maybe too much.

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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Read More: Boston Red Sox, hanley ramirez, mike napoli,
John Farrell marvels at switch-pitcher Pat Venditte: ‘That was truly amazing’ at 1:47 am ET
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Pat Venditte Friday at Fenway Park became MLB's first switch-pitcher since 1995. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pat Venditte Friday at Fenway Park became MLB’s first switch-pitcher since 1995. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager John Farrell can certainly appreciate being part of history, even if it means standing in awe of the opponent.

On Friday night at Fenway, Oakland’s Pat Venditte became the first major league pitcher since Greg Harris on Sept. 28, 1995 to pitch with both arms in a major league game.

Then, Harris was with the Montreal Expos and accomplished the feat in the ninth inning of a game against Cincinnati. That was a year after he left the Red Sox, where he pitched from 1989-94.

On Friday, the ambidextrous Venditte was not only pitching from both sides, he was doing so in his major league debut after toiling seven years in the minors waiting for his chance.

Venditte entered the game pitching left-handed. He retired Brock Holt on a grounder to first, featuring an 83 MPH fastball and a slider between 72-76 MPH. Hanley Ramirez followed by grounding a slider into left for a single but Venditte quickly rebounded by getting Mike Napoli to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

“This game is all about helping the team and I just want to come here and be able to do that,” Venditte said after the Red Sox‘ 4-2 win over the A’s. “And if I can do that, that’s all I care about, and whatever attention comes with that is fine. But we’re here to win games. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m pitching with both hands or one, it’s for one effort.

“Tonight, I felt comfortable out there. I was able to get ahead for the most part. I fell behind a couple guys but I felt good out there.”

Venditte had a perfect eighth inning, getting Xander Bogaerts to ground to short and Mookie Betts to fly to right, before striking out switch-hitting Blake Swihart. A very impressive debut for the switch-pitcher. Farrell was jokingly asked why he can’t teach his pitchers to throw with both arms as successfully.

“Our hands are full with one arm,” Farrell conceded. “That was truly amazing tonight. To watch Venditte, it’s a remarkable thing to see what one person’s body is capable of doing. The coordination, even guys in the dugout were marveling. This is a very unique thing and a very cool thing.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB, Oakland A's
Brett Lawrie thinks netting needs to be improved at Fenway, doesn’t blame maple bats 06.05.15 at 11:22 pm ET
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Fenway security officials stand in the unprotected area where a female fan was struck Friday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Fenway security officials stand in the unprotected area where a female fan was struck Friday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

After Friday’s horrific bat accident in the stands behind the A’s on-deck circle, the scrutiny of controversial maple bats is likely to intensify.

But Brett Lawrie, the A’s batter whose bat shattered in the top of the second inning and struck a woman two rows deep in the box seats, sees a much different issue.

“I don’t think so,” Lawrie said when asked about MLB addressing the safety of maple bats. “I just think the netting [needs to be addressed]. I don’t think it’s necessary for the bats to change. You come into a game, you see I don’t know how many foul balls fly into the stands every game and for the most part, everyone is fine all the time, and these things are coming in at 100 miles an hour. And then when one bat flies into the stands at a low [speed], and if you’re not paying attention, it’s just one of those things where it was some bad luck. There’s really no time to react behind the dish.

“I really don’t feel like it’s necessary to change bats or anything like that. It’s just one of those things that’s part of baseball and unfortunately, everything is so close behind there and there’s limited netting. Yeah, it’s really important to be heads up back there.”

“First and foremost, our thoughts and concern and certainly our prayers go out to the woman that was struck with the bat. A scary moment certainly. Our concern is with her and her family,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “All you can think about is a family coming to a ball game to hopefully get three hours of enjoyment and unfortunately, with how close our stands are to the field of action, an accident like this is certainly disturbing. Our thoughts and concerns are with her and her family.”

Lawrie was using a Tucci model maple bat that was sawed off at the handle on a 94 MPH cutter from Wade Miley when Lawrie swung and grounded out. The barrel of the bat helicoptered into the stands, striking the woman and causing severe head trauma and bleeding in the stands.

The protective netting behind home plate at Fenway stops just shy of the on-deck circles on both the first and third base sides. Lawrie pointed to that as his biggest concern for fans as a visiting player at Fenway.

“You’ve got limited netting here in Boston so when you’re behind home plate and you’re along the third base side or first base side, you’ve really got to be heads up for foul balls or anything coming into the stands because it’s so close. There’s really no time to react,” he said.

Lawrie said he’s seen plenty of scary situations of foul balls and bats flying into stands but nothing in his career that approached what happened Friday.

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brett Lawrie, MLB, Oakland A's
Fan leaves on stretcher after being struck by a broken bat, reportedly suffers life-threatening injuries at 8:01 pm ET
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A fan is carted off the field after getting hit in the head with a bat and suffering serious injuries. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

A fan is carted off the field after getting hit in the head with a bat and suffering serious injuries. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a scary moment at Fenway Friday night, a fan was struck and bloodied by a broken bat that flew two rows deep into the stands behind the A’s on-deck circle.

With one out and none on in the top of the second, Brett Lawrie grounded out to Dustin Pedroia. But in the process of the swing, the bat shattered and struck the unidentified woman in the face. The Boston Globe reported that the injuries were life-threatening.

The fan appeared to have a large gash over her left eye.

Emergency personnel responded immediately and attempted to apply a neck brace but the fan was still moving around in obvious pain.

After Josh Reddick grounded out to end the inning, the game was held up for five minutes as the fan was put on a stretcher and wheeled onto the infield warning track and out of Fenway in front of the Red Sox dugout.

There was no immediate update on the condition of the fan from the team.

Boston police spokesperson Rachel McGuire told the Boston Globe that the woman was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. McGuire also indicated that the woman was sitting with her husband and son at the time.

“As soon as I hit it, I had to get out of the box,” Lawrie said. “I was at first base. I saw some commotion kind of behind home plate and whatnot, and then I didn’€™t really know because I was running the bases and whatnot. Then in between innings is when things kind of got serious and realized there was a bit of an issue. Hopefully everything is OK and she’€™s doing all right.”


Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brett Lawrie, Oakland A's,
Red Sox-Athletics series preview at 10:39 am ET
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Stephen Vogt (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Catcher Stephen Vogt leads the A’s with a .308 average, 11 home runs and 39 RBIs. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Coming off of a four-game series split with the Twins, the Red Sox will remain at Fenway over the weekend and welcome the A’s to Yawkey Way. The Sox have lost their last two, including a wretched, error-filled, 8-4 decision on Thursday.

The Sox have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games and lost 11 of 16, placing their record at a woeful 24-31 and earning a cellar-dwelling position in the American League East. On Thursday, Farrell acknowledged that he’s taking things personally.

“Absolutely,” he said after his team’s loss. “That was a poor display of baseball today. Those situations are addressed individually, it’s alerted collectively, and we will continue to do so.”

While the sky is falling on Red Sox Nation, the visitors this weekend, too, have had a disjointed and unsuccessful season to date. The A’s have played to a 23-33 record and sit in last place in both the AL West and entire American League.

However, the A’s are winners of seven of their last 10 games and take a four-game winning streak into the weekend at Fenway. General manager Billy Beane’s squad has a plus-10 run differential this season, seventh best in the AL.

Manager Bob Melvin has been impressed with his team’s performance of late.

“We’re just trying to play good — win as many games as we can,” he said Thursday after his team swept the Tigers. “We’re about trying to climb toward .500, and then worry about where you are in the standings.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Stephen Vogt, xander bogaerts
Red Sox-Twins series preview 06.01.15 at 11:31 am ET
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Trevor Plouffe (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Trevor Plouffe has been the hottest hitter for a productive Twins offense. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

With June upon them, the Red Sox will be more than happy to close the book on the month of May, as they went a disastrous 10-19. To open June, the Red Sox will face the red-hot Twins in a four-game series at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox are coming off of a horrendous road trip, going 1-6 in Minnesota and Texas. The Rangers took three out of four in the Sox’ most recent series, after the Twins made quick work of them with a three-game sweep. Following this stretch, the Red Sox are 22-29 and reside in last place in the AL East.

As has been the case all season, the offense, more than the rotation, has disappointed for the Red Sox of late. They have failed to score more than three runs in four of their last seven games. The Twins shut down the Red Sox bats last week, as Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey combined to allow just three earned runs over their two starts. If not for Dustin Pedroia and his pair of two-run home runs last Wednesday, Phil Hughes would have joined the list of Twins pitchers to stymie the Red Sox.

With the team reeling, manager John Farrell met with five of the team’s veterans before Sunday’s series finale vs. the Rangers. Following an 8-0 shutout at the hands of the Rangers the night before, Farrell reinforced his team’s goals and its dependency upon its leaders.

“There was a group of guys that I had in to talk about a number of things,” Farrell said. “I guess the short version of it would be for us to play with some aggressiveness and some smarts inside the game situation. Without getting too detailed. But it was an opportunity to meet with our veteran group, to reemphasize the importance of the role that they provide to the younger players and how they go about and execute inside the game.”

The polar opposite of the Red Sox, the Twins have snagged seven of their last eight and 20 of 27 during the month of May. The Twins took two out of three from the Blue Jays to close out the month following their sweep of the Red Sox. With a 30-19 record, they own the best winning percentage in the AL as they sit in first place in the AL Central, a half-game up on the Royals.

“All those things you look at that really good teams do, we’ve been able to do this month,” Phil Hughes said after the Twins’ latest win over the Blue Jays on Sunday. “It’s a small sample, and we have to continue this trend, but it’s a positive sign for us.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, kyle gibson, Minnesota Twins, Phil Hughes
Red Sox-Rangers series preview 05.28.15 at 9:23 am ET
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Josh Hamilton (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Josh Hamilton is off to a slow start in his return to the Rangers, recording one hit in his first 11 at-bats. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

To close out the month of May and their road trip, the Red Sox begin a four-game series with the Rangers on Thursday in Arlington, Texas.

For the second time this season, the Sox were swept by their opponent in their most recent series, dropping all three games to the Twins and getting outscored 14-7 in the process. In the first and second games of the series, Boston was unable to plate more than two runs before plating four Wednesday afternoon when Dustin Pedroia hit two two-run home runs. The Sox have scored two or fewer runs in 19 of their 42 games this year and own a 4-15 record in those contests. When crossing the plate three times or fewer, Boston is 5-17. In their last 15 games, the Red Sox have tallied two or fewer nine times with a 2-7 record.

“A lot of early outs, put the ball on the ground, a couple of ground-ball double plays. I’d like to think our approach can be a little bit more concerted, a little bit more concentrated,” manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss. “I think we’re capable of more than we showed here.”

The Sox also made an addition to the 40-man roster, announcing on Wednesday that they had acquired outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Rangers for cash considerations. Peguero, who is a left-handed hitter, doesn’t do much to abate Boston’s woes batting vs. lefties, and makes the outfield picture just a little more crowded.

Thursday will mark Sox pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez’s first major league start.

The Rangers, despite dropping their most recent contest against the Indians on Wednesday, ending a seven-game winning streak, are 8-2 in their last 10 games, tied with Minnesota for the best mark in the American League during that stretch.

“Winning is contagious,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said after his team’s comeback win Tuesday night. “I think all of it plays together. It’s a lot more fun to play when you’re winning games.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, elvis andrus, Mitch Moreland, Prince Fielder
Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox have ‘most fixable problems’ of AL East teams 05.27.15 at 1:49 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox, their status within the American League East and how they can improve. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Last week, with the Red Sox seeming to heat up, Olney said that the team had a great opportunity to take advantage of a relatively weak AL East. Since then, the Sox offense has sputtered and the team has lost five of seven. However, Olney maintains that the Red Sox still have the best chance of any team in the division to turn things around.

“When you look at what they have as their list of potential solutions, it’s just a lot longer than, say, a team like Tampa Bay or the Yankees, where they’re pretty much stuck with the guys that they have, and it’s part of the reason why I think going forward [the Red Sox] have a chance to get better,” Olney said.

While the Red Sox have struggled this season, Olney said, “They have the most fixable problems and the most resources to fix them with,” as compared to other teams in the AL East.

One change Olney recommended is to move the lineup around based on day-to-day matchups rather than each player’s pedigree. The Sox, for example, moved the struggling David Ortiz down to fifth in the order for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games.

“That feels like the first step in what has to happen next in fixing the 2015 team, which is to get away from stature and past records and all that and just get back to picking the best lineup every day,” he said. “If you move Ortiz, who has the most stature on that team, you can probably do a lot of other things as you go.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, buster olney, David Ortiz, Joe Kelly
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