|Closing Time: Hanley Ramirez (3 home runs) tees off, Drew Pomeranz implodes, and Red Sox beat Giants in wildest game of year||07.20.16 at 10:57 pm ET|
Hanley Ramirez gave the Red Sox a night to remember on an evening Drew Pomeranz hopes to forget.
Ramirez delivered the first three-homer game of his career and made a trio of outstanding defensive plays to overcome an absolute implosion by Pomeranz in his debut as the Red Sox claimed a wild 11-7 victory over the Giants in a possible World Series preview.
With the victory, the Red Sox also moved into sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time since June 4.
“The crowd, that was probably the most electric atmosphere we’ve had this year, and since I got called up,” said third baseman Travis Shaw. “The crowd was into it, they were loud, you could feel the energy tonight. It was different than any other game we’ve played.”
Ramirez put a charge in the place by hitting homers to right, center, and left while driving in six runs. His final homer came two innings after he appeared to vow, “I’ll get you back,” to Giants reliever Albert Suarez, who had drilled him in the fourth. He also made the defensive play of the game, starting a 3-2 double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning of an 8-7 game.
“I never expected this, but it’s a great feeling, it’s a great feeling, especially to end up with a W,” Ramirez said. “This team doesn’t give up. They keep adding runs and runs. We’ve got to continue to score more runs than them.”
This one had a little bit of everything. The Red Sox raced to an 8-0 lead on Ramirez’s first two homers and a monstrous two-run blast by Shaw.
Pomeranz, who was clean through the first three innings, fell apart in the fourth. He failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced and was lifted after allowing a three-run homer to Mac Williamson and a two-run shot to Trevor Brown. His final line read three innings, 8 eight hits, five runs and four strikeouts.
“By tonight, I’ll flush everything,” Pomeranz said. “That’s not me out there.”
|Drew Pomeranz’s knuckle-curve explained — it’s zero percent knuckleball, 100 percent curve||at 6:33 pm ET|
Since the Red Sox acquired left-hander Drew Pomeranz from the Padres last week, we’ve heard a lot about his best pitch. So let’s take this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about the knuckle-curve.
First off, it’s not a knuckleball in any way, shape, or form. It is 100 percent a curveball, with the “knuckle” in the name simply signifying the way it’s gripped.
The traditional curveball is held with the index and middle finger resting horizontally across the ball, which rotates over them to produce spin. With the knuckle-curve, the grip is the same, except the index finger is either pressed vertically against the ball at the fingertip, or tucked back in at the knuckle.
We’ll let Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister explain.
“It’s really just for some guys to feel like they have a more solid pressure against the ball, so it doesn’t slip up out of their finger,” Bannister said. “For some guys, for extra force against the ball, they feel like they can throw it a little harder and still have control.”
The tucked knuckle provides an opposing force to the motion of Pomeranz’s delivery, giving him a tighter grip. Whereas a traditional curve could conceivably fly out of a pitcher’s hand halfway through his delivery, a knuckle-curve isn’t going anywhere.
The grip doesn’t impact movement in any general way. Pomeranz throws a big curve that’s shaped like a 12-to-6, but with more tilt, whereas closer Craig Kimbrel, who also uses the grip, throws a hard curve that moves more side-to-side like a slider.
“You look at Kimbrel or A.J. Burnett or other guys around the league, Cody Allen, that throw the harder curveball, quite a few of them use the fingertip or the knuckle because they feel like they can just hold onto the ball a little firmer and it just gives them a little more confidence to get more aggressive with it,” Bannister said. “They throw it almost with the intensity of a slider, just because there’s a firmer grip there.”
It’s worth noting the existence of a separate knuckle-curve that’s much rarer. Former Phillies right-hander Tyler Green threw a curveball with a knuckleball grip and a fastball delivery in the early-90s, though injuries curtailed his career.
Bannister notes that in the Kansas City area, high schoolers are learning a grip that’s a true knuckler-curve hybrid. He said that fourth overall pick Riley Pint of the Rockies throws the pitch.
“It’s almost like a knuckleball-curveball,” Bannister said. “So it’s got a unique movement to it.”
In any event, when Pomeranz starts throwing his knuckle-curve with the Red Sox, don’t be surprised when it just looks like a really good curveball.
“It just means you’re pushing back into the ball somehow with your index finger vs. just holding it with your two fingers flat against the ball,” Bannister said. “That’s the only difference.”
|Koji Uehara leaves Red Sox game in 9th inning with pectoral injury, return uncertain||07.19.16 at 10:50 pm ET|
The Red Sox shut out the Giants, 4-0, at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, but the victory did not come without a cost.
Interim closer Koji Uehara, thrust back into the role by Craig Kimbrel’s knee surgery, left the game in the ninth after throwing just one pitch to the second batter he faced. He left the game with what manager John Farrell described as a strained right pectoral and will be reevaluated on Wednesday. It’s too soon to say how long he will be out.
“I’m just praying that it’s not that serious,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto.
Uehara entered with a four-run lead because Farrell likes giving him clean innings and didn’t want to have to bring him in with runners on base if another reliever got into trouble. Uehara hadn’t pitched since saving a victory over the Yankees on July 16.
He struck out Brandon Belt leading off the ninth, but threw just one pitch to catcher Buster Posey before motioning toward the dugout while pointing to his chest. He was replaced by Tommy Layne.
“It’s just some soreness that I feel,” Uehara said. “I thought it was just soreness. Muscle soreness. It’s the first time [he had felt it.]”
Uehara added that he “wasn’t surprised” to be pitching in a four-run game.
Joe Kelly, who struck out the side in an inning at Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday, would be a logical candidate to replace Uehara in the pen, with newly acquired Brad Ziegler becoming the closer, though it’s possible Uehara’s injury isn’t serious and he’ll only miss a day or two.
|Angels claim infielder Sean Coyle off waivers from Red Sox, hope history can repeat itself||07.18.16 at 3:19 pm ET|
The Angels claimed infielder Sean Coyle on waivers from the Red Sox on Monday, hoping perhaps lightning can strike again 16 years later.
In 2000, the Red Sox placed infielder David Eckstein on waivers to add WEEI’s own Lou Merloni to the roster. The Angels scooped up the diminutive Eckstein, and a year later he finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting before embarking on a successful 10-year career that included two All-Star Games with the Cardinals and two World Series titles — one with the Angels in 2002 and another with the Cards that saw Eckstein named World Series MVP in 2006.
Listed at just 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, Eckstein overcame size limitations to carve out a nice career. Coyle hopes to do the same. Generously listed at 5-8, 175, Coyle broke out at Double-A Portland in 2014, mashing 16 homers and compiling an .883 OPS.
He has struggled since, however, and hit just .125 at Triple-A Pawtucket this year. The 24-year-old was designated for assignment last week to make room for utilityman Michal Martinez on the 40-man roster.
The odds of Coyle’s career following in the footsteps of Eckstein’s may be low, but the Angels felt he was a worthy gamble to stash at Triple-A, particularly since they lack middle infield depth.
Jon Heyman of the MLB Network was the first to report the move.
NEW YORK — The Red Sox continue to wait.
David Price has had his moments this year. He has looked very good at times.
But he has yet to really dominate an opponent and win a game on his own. Such was the case Sunday night against the Yankees when he once again did just enough to lose in a 3-1 defeat.
Considering that the Yankees pounded Price for 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings, it could’ve been worse. But fact is, the Red Sox gave Price a 1-0 lead in the first on Dustin Pedroia’s solo homer, and he gave it back during a three-run fourth.
“I’m definitely not satisfied,” Price said. “It was a bad fourth inning. Even when I was ahead, I couldn’t execute whatever pitch I was throwing to get an out. That’s tough. They gave me a lead there in the first inning with a home run by Pedey, and I couldn’t capitalize.
“That’s all it takes, one bad inning, one bad pitch. At this level, that’s enough to lose your team a ballgame. That was the case today. Those are always the tough ones.”
|Closing Time: David Price falters, Red Sox bats go silent in loss to Yankees||07.17.16 at 11:39 pm ET|
NEW YORK — If David Price is planning to embark on a dominant second-half run, as he suggested to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford recently, it didn’t start Sunday night.
Once again tasked with protecting a slim lead, Price once again faltered against the Yankees. He allowed three runs in the fourth and generally struggling to put away one of the more pedestrian offenses in the American League in a 3-1 loss that snapped Boston’s six-game winning streak.
“The finishing pitch might not have been there as it was the last few times out for him but still, despite the combination of hits in that one inning, he kept the game very much under control,” manager John Farrell said. “He might not have been as sharp or as powerful as recent times out, but they string together 11 hits, got to go to the bullpen to shut things down and we did.”
Price needed to be perfect to outduel Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. After Dustin Pedroia gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the first, Price struggled right from the start, allowing a line drive to left by leadoff Brett Gardner that Brock Holt snared with a diving catch.
The Yankees peppered Price for 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings, including two each from Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran atop the order.
That said, the Red Sox carried a 1-0 lead into the fourth before Price faltered. Didi Gregorius started things with a one-out single and scored on Starlin Castro’s double to left. Price had a chance to keep the game tied, but after striking out Rob Refsnyder, he allowed RBI singles to Austin Romine and Ellsbury.
Price was lifted with two outs in the sixth after allowing singles to Gardner and Ellsbury, leaving the mound after a disappointing performance that left his ERA at 4.36 and at least temporarily dashed hopes that he’d start the second half the same way he finished the first, with eight strong innings against the Rays.
NEW YORK — Drew Pomeranz woke up one week ago in San Diego, where he was preparing to represent the Padres as they hosted the All-Star Game. Life was good.
Then came the kind of upheaval that would throw most players for a loop with Wednesday’s news that the Red Sox had acquired him to boost their beleaguered starting rotation. For Pomeranz, however, a fourth trade in the last five years felt old hat.
“This is my fifth organization in the last six years, so I’m ready for anything at all times,” Pomeranz said, later adding, “Apparently someone still wants me.”
That someone is the Red Sox, and they need him more than ever. Their fourth and fifth starters posted an ERA over 7.00 in the first half before Eduardo Rodriguez tossed seven innings of one-run ball in a 5-2 victory over the Yankees on Saturday.
That represented a step in the right direction, but Pomeranz is expected to provide more of a leap that way. He’s 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA and ranked second in the NL with a .184 batting average against before being traded to the Red Sox.
He leaves the second-division Padres for the heat of the pennant race.
“Pretty excited to go to Boston,” Pomeranz said. “It’s a great city, great team. They’ve been doing well all year. They’re right there in the race. It’s real exciting to go a team like that. They want to win here, and I want to win, too, so I’m excited.”
He’ll make his Red Sox debut on Wednesday against the Giants, the team he had been scheduled to face on Sunday, which instead turned out to be the day he joined the Red Sox and met his new teammates.
“I can’t really get away from them,” he joked.
The 6-foot-6 left-hander arrives in Boston with some major expectations for how he’ll help boost the rotation. He has never pitched in a big market before, but he says he’s ready.
“I’ve done literally everything there is to do on a baseball field as a pitcher,” he said. “I’m pretty prepared for anything. You could shove me out there in any situation. I’ve done it. I have a routine. I’ll stick to my routine.”
Pomeranz threw a bullpen in front of manager John Farrell and staff on Sunday afternoon. The games start counting for real on Wednesday. Pomerantz is just happy to look around the clubhouse and see so many fellow Tennessee natives, from David Price to Bryce Brentz to Mookie Betts. He played with Steven Wright in the minors. He actually faced Price in high school when the Red Sox ace was an outfielder, striking him out once and allowing a hit.
“That’s the glory of being with five organizations in six years,” Pomeranz said. “You encounter a lot of different people.”
|Closing Time: Eduardo Rodriguez, Sandy Leon lift surging Red Sox past reeling Yankees||07.16.16 at 7:07 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Eduardo Rodriguez was lost for the entire first half of the season. Might he finally be found?
He certainly looked that way on Saturday in a 5-2 victory over the Yankees, pitching seven effective innings and riding a three-run homer from Sandy Leon to a win his best start of the season.
His timing couldn’t have been any better, because he delivered seven innings of one-run ball with his future in the rotation on the line.
“It’s good because they gave me the chance to get back here and do what I do,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve got to say thanks to them to believe in myself.”
The Red Sox ran their winning streak to a season-high six games, while the Yankees dropped their second straight to open the second half, falling two games below .500 this late in the season for the first time since 1995.
This one was about the Red Sox battery. Rodriguez had struggled since injuring his knee in spring training, taking an 8.59 ERA out to the mound in his first start since June 27. His previous start might’ve been his worst, and featured a very public tongue-lashing from second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the mound in Tampa.
Rodriguez was supposed to spend a considerable chunk of time in Triple-A figuring out what plagued his delivery, but he rejoined the Red Sox after just one and a half rehab starts.
He delivered, in part by exhuming the slider he had abandoned for most of the season. He allowed four hits and one run, striking out one and walking two. He also featured a modified delivery out of the stretch with his hands starting higher in an effort not to tip pitches. It seemed to work.
“It was good, because now I’m not thinking about the tipping stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I just throw the ball right where I wanted.”
His only mistake came in the third on a solo homer to Brett Gardner. Otherwise, he controlled the game, inducing grounders and weak fly balls while outdueling former Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia.
|John Farrell will not get credit for managerial moves that helped beat Yankees on Friday||at 12:50 am ET|
NEW YORK — We crush John Farrell when he gets something wrong, and conveniently ignore the decisions he gets right. Take Friday’s 5-3 victory over the Yankees.
With Steven Wright showing signs of fatigue after a three-run sixth, Farrell summoned Brad Ziegler for the seventh. Ziegler needed only seven pitches to escape the frame, leading to an obvious question — why not just send him back out for the eighth?
Farrell had no such plans, however. He instead called upon Robbie Ross and opened himself to a second-guess when switch-hitter Chase Headley led off with a single. There was nothing to fear, as it turned out, because Ross set down Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, and then handed the ball to closer Koji Uehara for a 1-2-3 ninth.
“Given the performance of guys over a long period of time, where they’re best suited, it felt like that was the best combination we had available,” Farrell said.
So why did the moves make sense? A couple of reasons.
For one, the 36-year-old Ziegler spent the first half closing in one-inning stints for the Diamondbacks. He had pitched multiple innings just four times in 37 previous appearances, and those outings take a toll.
“It doesn’t affect me a whole lot in that instance, I can do it, but tomorrow I would feel more sore,” Ziegler said. “I haven’t done it a lot while closing. I’ve done it a couple of times, but I know that’s probably going to come up more here with the role that I’m in, so I’ll do what I can to prepare myself for it.”
Ziegler has also performed better against right-handed batters (.644 OPS) than lefties (.777 OPS) not just this year, but over the course of his career (.556 vs. .763). So giving him right-handers Alex Rodriguez and Starlin Castro made sense. The numbers even supported the matchup with lefty Didi Gregorius, who exhibits reverse splits — he’s hitting nearly 90 points higher (.360) vs. lefties this season.
In the eighth, the numbers were even more pronounced. Ross has dominated lefties (.162 average, .462 OPS, 1 extra-base hit). The eighth featured two lefties (Gardner, Ellsbury) and what turned out to be two switch hitters (Headley, Beltran).
Headley is a better hitter from the left side, so turning him around to bat righty (.646 OPS) favored Ross. Beltran represented the one trouble spot, since he has hammered lefties (.330-1.017), but Farrell trusted Ross, who delivered. The alternative was to call a righty like Matt Barnes, but Beltran is slugging over .500 against them, too.
In any event, Farrell played the matchups perfectly on Friday. Feels like something worth noting, given the scrutiny his moves often face.
|Closing Time: Red Sox open 2nd half on Wright foot with victory over Yankees||07.15.16 at 10:14 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Steven Wright is determined to prove he’s no flash in the pan.
The Red Sox knuckleballer took a no-hitter into the fifth and a shutout into the sixth to lead the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over the Yankees in the first game of the second half.
Wright dazzled the Yankees until running into trouble in the sixth, but by that point the Sox had opened a 5-0 lead on homers by catcher Ryan Hanigan, third baseman Travis Shaw, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“What’s so important to that, you come off of a stretch of days where you’ve been inactive, and the ability to keep a game under control, put up zeroes until we can get an opportunity to score some runs, that’s invaluable,” said manager John Farrell.
The game pitted two teams headed in opposite directions. The Red Sox just acquired left-hander Drew Pomeranz from the Padres in a major deal that bolsters their rotation for the second half. The Yankees, meanwhile, are reportedly holding internal deliberations over whether they should be buyers or sellers come the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
They dropped to 44-45, the first time they’ve been below .500 in the second half since 1995.
The Red Sox looked like the better team on Friday night. Fresh off not pitching in the All-Star Game, Wright set down the first 14 Yankees he faced before Alex Rodriguez beat out a chopper toward third that died on the infield grass with Wright unable to make the barehanded play.
“I felt really good going out there,” Wright said. “I worked a lot with [Tim] Wake[field] before the break on trying to simplify and get my timing back and my rhythm and I felt like today we were able to do that. Hanigan helped me out a lot to make sure I stayed in that rhythm.”
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