|Peter Gammons on D&C: Potential trade partners show most interest in Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller||07.21.14 at 11:15 am ET|
Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ outlook and the potential scenario of Jon Lester leaving Boston in free agency. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Red Sox have made it interesting of late, winning seven of their last eight games and possibly putting a temporary halt to talk of them adopting the role of “seller” in 2014.
When asked how many games the Sox would need to win over a 10-game span in order to get back in the race, Gammons said the division’s mediocrity limits the sense of urgency.
“I would say six or seven, just because the Orioles are on the West Coast and I don’t think they’re pulling away from anyone right now with their pitching problems. That temptation of always being within distance of first place, and it’s fortunate that they’re in the worst division in baseball, because if they were in the American League West, they would already be selling. But they’re not, they’re in the American League East, where Baltimore can go lose 15 out of 25 at any time and Toronto’s pitching isn’t that good.
“They actually can keep thinking, ‘We have a chance.’ I know this: Tampa Bay really thinks it has a chance. Now their pitching has come back together again, I talked to people in Seattle who thought they were very close to a deal for Ben Zobrist and they said the Rays pulled back the last couple of days because they want to take it right down to the last 48 hours before the deadline.”
“I talked to a general manager in the market for a closer yesterday who said when he talked to Ben [Cherington] that he seemed disinclined to even discuss it. That they think they’re going to bring [Uehara] back next year and build around him and let him go pitch the ninth inning again. … I was told that, by far, the player the they’ve had the most calls on is Andrew Miller. I find it really hard to not give him the [$6 million-$7 million] that it’s going to take [to re-sign him] because that’s what the premier seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guys get, and I think he’s really close to the point where he can close.”
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Jon Lester vs. Yordano Ventura||07.20.14 at 8:05 am ET|
Lester (9-7, 2.65 ERA) has been nearly unhittable for over a month, allowing just one earned run over his last six starts, posting a 1.01 ERA in the process. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who has posted career-highs in ERA (2.65) and WHIP (1.14) this season, continued his torrid pace in his last start July 10 against the White Sox.
Against Chicago, Lester allowed just one earned run over seven innings with zero walks and 12 strikeouts. Lester looked dominant from the get-go, striking out two batters in each of the first five innings of the game.
“I had pretty good command of my fastball to both sides, but I think the biggest pitch was my curveball,” Lester said after the game. “I was dropping it in for strikes and bouncing it, too. When I’m able to do that, I can get some separation from my fastball and cutter. It widens the plate for me. I was able to exploit that today.”
Lester was solid in his last outing against Kansas City on Aug. 8, 2013, allowing three runs (one earned) in seven innings of work in what as an eventual 5-1 Royals victory. In 10 career starts against the Royals, Lester is 6-3 with a 1.60 ERA — which stands as the lowest ERA from an active pitcher with at least seven starts against Kansas City.
|Mike Napoli preserves Red Sox’ hot stretch with clutch round-tripper||07.19.14 at 11:47 pm ET|
One of the staples of last year’s championship season for the Red Sox has once again become a recurring theme over the first two contests of this brief three-game homestand against the Royals: Contributions from up and down the Boston roster.
Whether it be Xander Bogaerts’ and Jonny Gomes’ clutch home runs Friday night or Mike Napoli‘s sixth-inning go-ahead solo shot Saturday, the Sox are suddenly benefiting from different players stepping to the forefront of individual games en route to wins.
“That’s what we did last year,” Napoli said after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kansas City. “That’s how you win ballgames. It can’t just be one guy doing it, so everyone is going to have to contribute and we all know that and we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Comparisons aside, the Red Sox‘ recent stretch of clutch hitting has been a key factor in sustaining a run that has seen Boston win three in a row and six out of its last seven games.
With the game deadlocked in a 1-1 score Saturday, Napoli strode to the plate to face off against Royals southpaw starter Danny Duffy, who had only surrendered three hits over his first 5 1/3 innings of work.
After forcing the count to 3-1, Napoli turned on a high fastball from Duffy and clobbered it over the Monster and into Lansdowne Street for his 11th home run of the season, giving Boston a 2-1 lead that it would not yield in the following innings.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Royals, the Red Sox had only scored two runs over starter Rubby De La Rosa‘s last four starts, equaling out to an unsightly 0.73 run support average.
Boston was able to double that run total on Saturday night, and while two runs isn’t much, it was enough for De La Rosa, who spun seven brilliant innings of one-run, five-hit dominance en route to a 2-1 Red Sox victory.
Boston has now won two-straight series while also earning their first series victory against a team over .500 since the team took two out of three games from the Yankees on June 27-29. Boston’s last eight wins at home have all been decided by one run.
De La Rosa has now allowed three runs or less in five of his seven starts on the year while improving his ERA at home to 1.53 in four starts (4 earned runs/26 innings).
The game remained knotted at 1-1 until the sixth inning, when Mike Napoli took a 92 mph fastball from Royals starter Danny Duffy and deposited it over the Green Monster to give the Sox a one-run lead.
Shane Victorino, playing in his first game with Boston since May 23 after battling hamstring and back injuries for almost two months, was solid at the plate, going 1-for-3 while showing no limitations both in the field and on the basepaths.
With the win the Red Sox move to 45-52 on the year and have now won six of their last seven games.
Shane Victorino‘s message to the media prior to Saturday night’s game against Kansas City was both simple and direct:
He is not going to be the savior for this team.
However, he can certainly play a big part in a second-half turnaround for the Red Sox.
“I’m not the guy, I’m not the answer,” Victorino said. “I’m not the guy that’s going to carry the load, but I’m going to try to be as good as I can be and help this team win.”
The 33-year-old outfielder was called back up to Boston Saturday after being sidelined since May 24 with a hamstring injury. Victorino — who hit .242 with one home run and 10 RBIs in just 21 games with the Red Sox this season – had a long and frustrating road back to the big leagues, suffering multiple setbacks with both his hamstring and his back injury while rehabbing in Pawtucket.
After being on the shelf for almost two months, Victorino acknowledged that he was excited to finally be back out patrolling the Fenway outfield going forward.
“It’s what it’s all about,” Victorino said. “You work hard, you try to do what you got to do to get back as quick as you can. Unfortunately, there were some setbacks, but I’m here, I’m at this point where I worked hard to get back to where I’m at. As I said, I’m just going to continue to work hard and try to be the best player I can be and go out there and do what I can to help make this team better.”
Victorino played six games with Triple-A Pawtucket over an almost month-long stretch following his hamstring injury. The ailing outfielder was shut down from June 24 through Wednesday due to multiple hindrances to his rehab, but after playing a total of 16 innings over Wednesday and Thursday’s games with the PawSox and showing no physical limitations, Victorino was ready for the call back up to Boston.
|Red Sox pregame notes: Mookie Betts sent down to Pawtucket; Will Middlebrooks to get more at-bats in Triple-A; Rubby De La Rosa excelling in rehab-free season||at 6:59 pm ET|
While the return of Shane Victorino would seem to be good news for most involved with the Red Sox, the same likely can’t be said for youngster Mookie Betts, who was optioned down to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room on the roster for the veteran outfielder.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said prior to Saturday’s game against the Royals that he was impressed with Betts, who posted a line of .235/.278/.382 in 10 games with the Red Sox, but also noted that the 21-year-old outfielder/infielder needs more seasoning and regular playing time elsewhere.
“I thought he managed his at-bats well,” Farrell said. “I thought he showed very good presence, or at least composure, for a guy who’s flown through our system. He’s a work in progress defensively, particularly in the outfield and he’ll continue to get exposure in center and in right field in Pawtucket while also playing some second base, so that’s the plan going forward for him defensively.”
Farrell acknowledged that it is unclear what the future holds for Betts in terms of finding a home on the diamond, as the established second baseman has seen most of his time in the Sox outfield this year due to both injuries and Dustin Pedroia holding the position for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t know that there’s a clear-cut answer to that right now,” Farrell said of Betts’ expected long-term position. “I think there’s going to be a number of things that contribute to that final positioning -- how the bat plays, how he further develops defensively, if it’s a good that potentially moves around to a number of positions. I wouldn’t rule that out, but to sit here today and say, ‘Mookie is going to be at this position for the next 10 years,’ I don’t have that answer or that crystal ball.”
|Xander Bogaerts shows signs of life at the plate with clutch performance against Kansas City||at 1:51 am ET|
There seemed to be only one emotion conveyed on Xander Bogaerts‘ face as he rounded the bases following his fourth-inning home run Friday night:
After trudging through a miserable 14-for-121 slump that sapped his average from .304 on June 3 down to .235 on July 13, Bogaerts finally broke through his six-week downturn in a major way, blasting a timely two-run home run and reaching base a total of three times en route to a 5-4 Red Sox victory over the Royals.
It seemed as if the Red Sox were on their way to another disappointing defeat Friday night, trailing Kansas City by a score of 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning before Bogaerts stepped to the plate.
With Daniel Nava leading off first base, Bogaerts turned on a 85 mph cutter from Royals starter James Shields, depositing the 1-1 offering into the center field bleachers for his seventh home run of the season, cutting the deficit to just one run.
It was Bogaerts’ first home run since June 13 against the Indians, snapping a career-high 89 at-bat homerless spell. That same home run against Cleveland also marked the last time that Bogaerts had gotten an extra-base hit before Friday’s contest.
“That was pretty good, the inside of the ball,” Bogaerts said after the game. “I was trying to hit something the opposite way, my bat just rolled over a lot of stuff and that’s a bad feeling. But I’ll take that every day.”
Bogaerts, whose round-tripper helped pull Boston right back into the game , was the first of two home runs in the inning, as Jonny Gomes lofted a sinker from Royals southpaw Scott Downs into the same area of the bleachers for a two-run, pinch-hit home run that would give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that they would not relinquish.
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