|On 7-game skid, Red Sox have ‘no time to be down in the dumps’||05.22.14 at 9:36 pm ET|
When you’re the defending World Series champions and you lose seven straight, there’s some patience and latitude given. But after Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays, the urgency of a turnaround is becoming more and more apparent in the Red Sox clubhouse.
“There’s no time to be down in the dumps,” A.J. Pierzynski said after the Red Sox completed just the second 0-6 homestand in their 114-year history. “There’s a long way to go, over 100 games to go, so there’s plenty of time to turn it around. We just need to do it [Friday]. We can’t waste any more time. [Friday] is a new day in Tampa and hopefully we go down there and play well, win the series. That starts [Friday].”
Manager John Farrell echoed those sentiments and added that John Lackey – Friday’s starter at Tampa Bay – needs to step up and pick up a starting rotation that was shelled during the series sweeps at the hands of the Tigers and Blue Jays.
“Everyone in our uniform is aware of what’s taking place currently,” Farrell said very matter-of-factly, in a business tone devoid of any panic. “We have to remain positive in our daily work and our approach. The guy that takes the mound [Friday] night, John Lackey, we’re going to look to him to set the tone and stabilize things.”
David Ortiz, one of the hottest hitters in the American League when the Red Sox were 20-19 last week, went hitless in four at-bats Thursday, extending his hitless streak to 17 at-bats and capping a 2-for-22 homestand that included four walks.
‘It’s just one of those times where we go through a bump in the road and you just have to bounce back tomorrow and execute better,” Ortiz said, speaking to both individual and team struggles.
What’s his take on the attitude in clubhouse after a seventh straight loss?
‘I don’t know, but I can tell you about mine and I am going to come back tomorrow and kick some ass,” he said.
|A.J. Pierzynski on Red Sox offense: ‘It’ll turn, and when it does, someone’s going to pay’||at 12:01 am ET|
Red Sox players, coaches and management are all fully aware of the ugly numbers concerning the team’s offense, especially with runners in scoring position. During the three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers, they were 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
During Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays, they were 3-for-14. In the first seven innings Wednesday night, they failed in their first four chances, dropping them to 4-for-37 before getting two hits in their final two chances in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays.
But sometimes when things are bad, you need to have the utmost confidence in your own abilities and those of your teammates when the statistics tell another story, an ugly one at that.
A.J. Pierzynski has been around long enough to feel comfortable with confidence in the face of the struggles that come with a six-game losing streak. Pierzynski himself was 0-for-11 on the homestand before lining a single to left-center to open the sixth inning. He raised his arms in exultation as he trotted down to first base. He would later single in the eighth inning as part of a three-run uprising that fell just short of wiping out a 6-1 hole.
“The bottom line is we keep getting guys on base, eventually we’re going to get hits,” said Pierzynski, who singled again in the ninth with two outs before being forced out at second to end the game. “We have too many good hitters, too many good players and too many guys who have done it for too long for it to stay like this. I think that as long as we have the opportunity, keep getting guys on base and keep having the at-bats, the people here are grinding it out, man.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone here is trying. Nobody has changed anything. Everyone is working their tails off. It’ll turn, and when it does, someone’s going to pay.”
|John Farrell defends his strategy to create offense: ‘We’ve got to trust everyone in the lineup’||05.21.14 at 12:19 am ET|
If ever there were a game that was a microcosm of a season for a team then Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Fenway Park served as just that for the 2014 Red Sox – the team that couldn’t hit in the clutch.
The Red Sox had their first two runners reach base in the eighth and ninth innings, with a chance to cut into a tenuous three-run Toronto lead. The Red Sox of 2013 would have capitalized on those chances. The Red Sox, so far in 2014, produced exactly zero runs and lost for the fifth straight time, falling to a season-low four below .500 at 20-24.
Call it desperation or frustration, Red Sox manager John Farrell, trailing 7-4 in the eighth, decided to take the bat out of the hands of Brock Holt and asked him to bunt runners over to second and third. He succeeded in the mission but the Red Sox lost the battle when David Ross, who has struck out 20 times in 48 at-bats this season, fanned again for the second out. Jackie Bradley Jr. popped out to second base to kill that rally.
Why did Farrell choose the bunt option instead of letting the hot Holt swing away and continue the rally?
“Knowing that our top-of-the-lineup is coming up in the ninth inning, just trying to cut the deficit by one or possibly by two with a base hit,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to trust everyone in the lineup. Despite Brock having good at-bats tonight, we felt that’s what the situation called for. [I] didn’t want to turn a three-run deficit over to Janssen. Any way we could to try to chip away and cut into some runs, they’ve been a premium to come by and we’re looking for anything we can to scratch out a run.”
In the ninth inning, Dustin Pedroia opens with a single to left. Shane Victorino grounds a single up the middle against closer Casey Janssen. The situation: David Ortiz up as the tying run. After fouling off one pitch and driving another 420 feet foul down the right field line, he struck out for the first out. Mike Napoli grounded into a game-ending 5-3 double play.
|Torii Hunter fully expects to face Red Sox in playoffs again this October: ‘We’ll see those guys in the postseason’||05.19.14 at 1:20 am ET|
Torii Hunter is one of the most forthcoming players in all of baseball. And after he homered in his team’s 6-2 win over the Red Sox Sunday night, completing Detroit’s first Fenway sweep in 31 years, Hunter didn’t hold back.
He said the three-game sweep, in which the Tigers outscored the Red Sox, 13-3, doesn’t come close to erasing the heartbreak he felt last October on the same field when the Red Sox won in six games, advancing to the World Series. The last three days mean nothing more to the veteran outfielder than a preview of what is to come again in October.
“It means nothing,” Hunter told WEEI.com. “I’ve been around too long. That means nothing. This is regular season. Those guys are veterans over there. They know how to play the game. No matter what, they’re still the champs. No matter if we come in right now and beat them during the season, they’re the champs. You have to beat those guys at the end of the year and in the postseason. So, we’ll see those guys in the postseason. I know they’re going to be there. They have a veteran ball club over there and they know how to play the game.”
With the win, the Tigers improved to a major league-best 27-12, stirring memories of 1984 when the Sparky Anderson-led Tigers opened 35-5 on their way to their last World Series title. The Tigers have won six straight and 11 straight on the road, their longest since a 17-gamer in the first month of that magical 1984 season.
“Right now, we’re hot,” Hunter continued. “It’s just like if you face Oakland (28-16) right now, they’re hot. It’s going to be a battle. For us, we’re hot, it’s a battle. If Boston was hot when we came in here, it would’ve been not good for us. That’s the way baseball is. There’s no statements. They’re the champs.”
The Red Sox were shutout on Friday night by Max Scherzer, limited to one run by Rick Porcello on Saturday and scored just twice off former Red Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez Sunday night, who was making his first start back from a blister in late April.
“Our pitching has been pretty good,” Hunter said. “Porcello has been pitching pretty well all year. Anibal is just coming back but he’s a really good pitcher. Scherzer, you know him. Max is a really good pitcher. [The Red Sox] had to face those guys and they’ve been pitching pretty well. And fortunately, our offense has been pretty good, too, the last couple of weeks. It was tough. It was a tough series. You don’t buy into that we’re trying to pay these guys back. We’re not making no statement. I’ve been around too long and that’s not true. That’s media-driven and maybe some fans but nothing to do with the players.”
|Tuesday’s Red Sox-Reds matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Homer Bailey||05.06.14 at 9:08 am ET|
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.
“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.
|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|
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.
|Sunday’s Red Sox-A’s matchups: John Lackey vs. Sonny Gray||05.04.14 at 8:08 am ET|
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.
|Saturday’s Red Sox-A’s matchups: Jon Lester vs. Tommy Milone||05.03.14 at 8:05 am ET|
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.
|After his second solid outing, Clay Buchholz feels he’s turned a corner: ‘It’s been a process’||at 12:24 am ET|
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.”
|Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Important to temper expectations’ for Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr.||04.30.14 at 1:50 pm ET|
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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