Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz

BOSTON -- The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees is considered one of the greatest in all of sports.

It's built on incredible moments, amazing comebacks, plenty of bench-clearing brawls, and memorable triumphs and heartbreak. Both sides have experienced it all. This rivalry was at its peak during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

During Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez hit the Yankees' Karim Garcia in the top of the fourth inning at Fenway Park. The benches cleared, but order was quickly restored. In the bottom of the inning, Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens delivered a pitch high and inside on Red Sox hitter Manny Ramirez.

The benches and bullpens emptied again, only this time punches were thrown. The melee escalated when Martinez grabbed Yankees coach Don Zimmer by the head and tossed him to the ground.

The Yankees eventually won that series on Aaron Boone's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 at Yankee Stadium.

In 2004, another epic chapter was written in the history books. On July 24 at Fenway Park, Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo drilled Yankees cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the top of the third inning. Rodriguez had words with Arroyo, before Red Sox captain and veteran catcher Jason Varitek stepped in and shoved his mitt into A-Rod's face, inciting another bench-clearing brawl.

“I knew it would never get any better than that,” Arroyo said in a recent phone interview. “I was 27-years-old and I was seasoned enough in the big leagues where I didn’t feel totally uncomfortable, but I was still young in my career. I knew it was never going to be any better than playing against those guys 19 times a year. It felt like a playoff game every time.

"Things like that dramatize it even more and that was one year removed from the whole Don Zimmer and Pedro Martinez fight, so it was like a heavyweight boxing match all the time, the electricity of a Mike Tyson fight all the time, because you never knew what was going to happen. It was definitely fun to be just in the place, much less in uniform. It was just high drama all the time.”

In October of that season, the Yankees held a 3-0 series lead on the Red Sox in the ALCS, but Boston mounted a historic comeback to win in seven games, before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for the Red Sox's first World Series title in 86 years.

There's been plenty more to add to this rivalry since the '04 season, but the fisticuffs subsided.

In August 2013, Rodriguez was able to play after he appealed a suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. This did not sit well with many players in the majors, including most everyone on Boston's pitching staff. So, on Rodriguez's first trip to Fenway Park after his appeal, Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez with a fastball.

The benches and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown.

This season, with Rodriguez serving a season-long suspension, the rivalry seems a bit different. Red Sox veteran DH David Ortiz believes he knows why.

"People right now still question a lot if the rivalry's still going on just because they're not seeing [fights]," he said. "What people need to understand is that right now there are so many rules and so many suspensions that in case something happens with a guy like myself, and I decide to charge a pitcher, I already know I'm going to miss five games at least, and if I miss five games out of that lineup it's going to hurt us.

"Everybody's trying to stay away from that. MLB is trying to keep everybody away from that. MLB has been doing an unbelievable job when it comes down to sending the right message to the fans and there's so many big suspensions because of that. Plus, another thing I believe, you know how pitchers back then used to get mad and angry when you take them deep, and next thing you know they were hitting somebody on purpose, but that's not part of the game anymore, because you know the minute [MLB] finds out that you hit somebody on purpose you're going to have to pay a fine and be suspended, too. So, there's a lot of different things going on right now compared to what the game was 10 or 11 years ago, and that has confused the fans when it comes down to the rival thing. I believe the fans need to pay attention to that a little more."

Sox offense can't get much worse

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8

BOSTON -- Ten takeaways from Yawkey Way, where the ticket scalpers are wondering if they’ll be eligible to collect unemployment:

10. Pitching and politicking
Impressive enough that Chicago White Sox right-hander Scott Carroll, whose big league debut was delayed until age 29 by Tommy John surgery and hip problems, held the Boston Red Sox to one hit in 6 2/3 innings -- A.J. Pierzynski’s ground-ball single to right leading off the third.

But in the midst of pitching, Carroll also did some electioneering. Inside the brim of his cap, he wrote “Vote for Sale,” in support of Chicago lefty Chris Sale, who is on the “Last Man” ballot for the All-Star Game.

Even the Kennedy machine never pulled that one off.

Carroll was a quarterback at Purdue before transferring to Missouri State. Bonus points if you can name the former Red Sox star who went to Missouri State (it was known as Southwest Missouri State when he attended) before picking up a World Series ring. (Answer below)

9. Penalty kicks, anyone?
The Sox have been shut out nine times this season, which puts them on a pace to be blanked 16 times, which would be their most shutouts since 1990. That team, amazingly enough, went to the playoffs.

Only two teams in Sox history have been shut out more than that -- the 1917 club (23 times) and the ‘74 team (17).

8. A race to the finish?
Well, maybe not the one you were hoping for. After Monday’s loss, the Sox have a double-digit deficit in the AL East for the first time this season, trailing the Baltimore Orioles by 10 games.

But this race is a bit closer:

The 2014 Sox are on a pace to go 71-91. That’s only two games better than the 2012 fiasco (69-93).

7. Signs of frustration, I
David Ortiz grounded out in each of his first three at-bats. He made a right turn to the dugout about two-thirds of the way down the line on the first, pulled up just short of the bag on the second, then barely made it to the base-running channel, bat still in hand, before making another right turn on the last.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Darren McCollester/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz didn't get the ball out of the infield on an 0-for-3 night.
After the game, Ortiz made a quick exit through the media horde, head down, shades in place.

“I think there’s a shared frustration,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We all wear it. We all win together, we lose together. I can tell you this: We didn’t give at-bats away tonight.”

I can tell you this: They gave the White Sox outfield the night off. Of Boston’s 27 outs Monday night, 23 came either via strikeout (5) or ground ball (18). Right fielder Dayan Viciedo did not have a putout all night. Center fielder Adam Eaton had one, left fielder Alejandro De Aza three.

6. Signs of frustration, II
Mild-mannered Clay Buchholz, who has shown marked improvement since his return from a forced hiatus, will talk about the home runs he has given up -- two on Monday night, a solo shot by Adam Dunn, a three-run shot by Viciedo in the fourth, both crushed -- but refused to expound on the Sox's offense.

“I’m done talking about the offense,” he said. “It’s not like they’re out there not trying. It’s not working.”

Maybe Clay Buchholz just doesn’t want to rub it in that he has the highest batting average on the team. He had a hit in his only at-bat, in Atlanta, and is batting 1.000.

5. Fan indifference?
What would have been the odds a month ago that prized rookie Xander Bogaerts could walk onto Yawkey Way within a half hour after a game was over and not be mobbed by autograph seekers?

But there was Bogaerts, accompanied by a friend, looking like just another college kid with a back pack, blending into the crowd and walking down the street unbothered. That comes with the territory, apparently, when you’re batting just .107 (11-for-103) since June 4.

Before he left the park, Bogaerts was a postgame visitor in Farrell’s office, but contrary to what you might think, there was no demotion in the offing. Farrell made that clear before the game.

“The one thing we have to do is be consistent with him, and he feels and senses the positive view of him,” Farrell said. “This is a long-term player for us and we’re not going to abandon someone because there are some growing pains along the way.”

Bogaerts had a couple of hits in Sunday’s 7-6 loss, the Monster taking a home run away from him and converting it into a single, but he was 0-for-3 Monday.

4. Bullish on JBJ
Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. had Boston’s other hit, an eighth-inning single off reliever Javy Guerra, and in his previous at-bat drew a walk and stole second. He was the only Sox player to reach second base all night.

[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsAlthough Clay Buchholz gave up two home runs, he can't be blamed for this loss.
In his past nine games, in addition to his highlight reel defense, Bradley is batting .333 (10-for-30), including three doubles. His overall average has climbed to .220; it was .205 on June 23.

“I’d like to see Jackie’s average the last two to three weeks, he’s swinging the bat really well,” catcher David Ross said. “Better at-bats, multiple hits, and he’s obviously a phenomenal center fielder.”

3. Trade winds
The St. Louis Cardinals sent a scout to watch Jake Peavy pitch Sunday. St. Louis, remember, came close to dealing for Peavy before the Sox swooped in hours before the trading deadline. Felix Doubront pitched a couple of innings of scoreless relief Tuesday and should have appeal to teams looking for left-handed help.

2. Dyin’ for Dayan?
Viciedo, meanwhile, was the name floated by yours truly last week as a right-handed power bat the Sox might look at as help not only for this season, but next. The home run was his 11th of the season; the entire Sox outfield has hit a dozen this season, two since June 1.

1. Coming attractions
Will Middlebrooks singled in a run in three trips Monday night in Pawtucket and should be positioning himself for a return soon. Shane Victorino restarts the clock on his rehab assignment Wednesday in Lowell. Rubby De La Rosa has not officially been named to start Wednesday’s game against the White Sox, but he’s lined up to do so. End of Mookie time for now? Stay tuned.

Trivia Answer: The Missouri State alum from the question above? Bill Mueller.
BOSTON -- Part of the collateral damage from the Red Sox's first-half struggles came clear on Sunday, when Jon Lester was the team's lone representative named to the American League All-Star squad (although a second member, Koji Uehara, is in line to eventually pick up a spot).

No David Ortiz, no Dustin Pedroia, who have been regular participants in recent years. Ortiz had been selected nine of the last 10 years, Pedroia four of the last six.

Lester, who earned his third All-Star selection, still talks about the honor with stars in his eyes.

“This is what you want to do as a kid. You watch All-Star Games, you watch the playoffs on TV and you dream about one day hopefully being in that position,” Lester said. “And to live that dream and have that opportunity to go to three All-Star Games, and two World Series rings -- I don’t want to say it’s a dream come true because hopefully I have a few more World Series in me and all the other stuff to go along with it. Everyone in this room dreams about it as a kid.”

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJon Lester earned his third All-Star selection, but teammates David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia didn't make the cut.
The selection of Lester by Red Sox manager John Farrell is easily justified by the numbers.

Lester made a strong stamp on his All-Star resume in May when he fanned a career-high 15 batters in a win over Oakland. He followed that up with seven more strong starts. Since the beginning of June, Lester is 4-1 with an ERA of 1.65, striking out 39 batters in 49 innings and allowing just eight walks. He posted an ERA of 1.98 for the month of June, his best full month in nearly four years.

Currently, Lester ranks seventh in the AL in ERA (2.73) and strikeouts (122), and is tied for eighth in wins (9). Among AL lefties, Lester is second only to Tampa Bay’s David Price in K’s, and third to Toronto’s Mark Buehrle and Oakland’s Scott Kazmir in wins.

Farrell said that Lester and Uehara, who Farrell said is the first alternate replacement, have been playing “All-Star caliber baseball this entire first half of the season.”

“When you look at what Jon’s been able to do in terms of where he stacks up with other starters -- top five or top six in most pitching categories -- he has earned the selection,” Farrell said.

While it’s assumed that Uehara eventually will be added to the AL squad -- several starters are lined up to pitch on Sunday -- the reliever was cautious when approached about the All-Star Game. Asked through a translator if he was surprised about not getting selected initially, Uehara said, “No, not at all,” adding with a laugh, “I have some things to do during the All-Star break myself.”

Ortiz and Pedroia expressed similar indifference despite their popularity in the polls. Ortiz finished third among AL designated hitters with 2.4 million votes, while Pedroia finished fourth among AL second basemen with 1.8 million.

Pedroia laughed when asked about any disappointment, saying “[I’m going to] get some sleep, man.”

Ortiz had several conversations with Farrell about his potential selection, with Ortiz essentially ceding his spot.

“I’m a fan of guys who have had a really, really good first half making the All-Star Game, and there’s a couple guys ahead of me this year at my position,” Ortiz said. “We had a conversation, and [Farrell] asked me how I feel about it, and I said I just don’t feel like taking those guys’ places.

"I don’t think it’s fair to guys like Nelson Cruz and Victor [Martinez] and [Edwin] Encarnacion, who are having unbelievable seasons, they don’t have as many All-Star Games as I have. You just keep it real. They’re having a better season than what I’m having, and they well deserved it.”

Lester named All-Star; Koji likely addition

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
BOSTON -- Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester will be joining his manager John Farrell in Minnesota for the All-Star Game July 15.

Nine-time All-Star David Ortiz, however, will not.

As part of the “Taco Bell All-Star Selection Show” on ESPN Sunday night, Lester was announced as a manager’s decision for this year’s game, his third time making the American League team. Lester was the only Red Sox player announced as part of the initial 33-man roster.

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara is in line to be named to the team as a replacement pitcher by Farrell in the coming days. Farrell indicated a number of pitchers will be replaced because they are scheduled to pitch the Sunday before the break. Uehara has converted 18 of 19 save opportunities this season, posting a 1.30 ERA and striking out 52 in 41 2/3 innings.

After jumping out to a quick lead at designated hitter in the All-Star fan vote, Ortiz eventually lost to Baltimore Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who is tied for the major league lead in home runs (27) and leads in RBIs (71). Ortiz has turned in a strong year at the plate, hitting .261 and leading Boston with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs.

Ortiz was named an All-Star every year from 2004-2008, as well as from 2010-2013.

“There were a couple of conversations that led up to the selection of it,” Farrell said. “Had a chance to talk to David and felt like the four days of rest might be more advantageous to him. And he was a pro about it -- spoke his mind and really had a lot of input into the decision.”

In the midst of a career year, Lester is 9-7 with a 2.73 ERA in 18 starts. His 122 strikeouts are second to Tampa Bay’s David Price among AL left-handers while his ERA ranks sixth in the AL.

“When you look at what Jon has been able to do in terms of where he stacks up with other starters -- in the top five or top six in most pitching categories -- he has earned the selection,” Farrell said.
BOSTON -- David Ortiz is absent from Saturday's afternoon game against the Orioles while he returns from the Dominican Republic, where his daughter Jessica is graduating from high school. Farrell said Ortiz is expected to be back in the lineup for Game 2 of Saturday's day/night split doubleheader.

In his absence, A.J. Pierzynski slides into the designated hitter spot and No. 5 in the batting order. Brock Holt leads off, followed by Daniel Nava at No. 2, Dustin Pedroia third and Mike Napoli cleanup.

"He was gonna miss yesterday's game, but it just happens that it turns into the first game of today," Farrell said of Ortiz. "I fully expect him to be in the lineup tonight."

Meanwhile, left-hander Tom Layne was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and will be the 26th player on the roster added for Game 2 tonight, giving the Sox eight arms out of the bullpen.

Layne, a 2007 draft pick of the Diamondbacks, signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox last November. The 29-year-old has been making a strong case with the PawSox as of late. In 10 relief appearances in June, Layne posted an ERA of 0.84 with six saves, striking out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings and holding opposing batters to a .143 average.

"He's continued what he had in spring training, and that has been very successful against left-handers," Farrell said. "He's had decent ability to get good right-handed hitters out, so he's not solely a situational type of lefty reliever, but the performance has been very consistent."
John Lackey, Jon Lester Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThe Sox hope John Lackey and Jon Lester can shut down the Orioles in Saturday's doubleheader.
BOSTON -- Saturday's forecast calls for no rain, with partial clouds and wind in the afternoon, and with it the Red Sox are hoping they can right the ship once again after one of the most disappointing series of the season.

The Sox returned Monday from a 10-game road trip in which they went 4-6 and promptly got swept by one of the worst teams in baseball, the last-place Chicago Cubs of the National League Central. Nothing seemed to go Boston's way, whether it was having to break up a no-hit bid by Jake Arrieta in Game 1, or stranding 10 runners in a 2-1 loss in Game 2, or just completely blowing up in Game 3, allowing 19 hits in a 16-9 loss to complete the sweep.

And suddenly, any momentum gained from last weekend's series at Yankee Stadium is gone, and the Sox are back at square one, falling nine games under .500 for the first time since May 25. That game, an 8-5 loss to Tampa Bay, was their season-worst 10th straight loss at the time, marred even further by a bench-clearing brawl after Yunel Escobar stole third uncontested with a six-run lead.

Following that loss, of course, the Sox reeled off a memorable seven-game win streak, so perhaps there is hope yet. Either way, some are right to wonder whether the last few days are the low point of the season.

Manager John Farrell is sticking to the weekend's lineup of starting pitchers after Friday's rainout. The Sox will send their top two pitchers to the mound Saturday, with Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA) taking the ball in Game 1 and John Lackey (9-5, 3.62) in the nightcap.

In the season series, the two teams are split at 5-5. Orioles cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz, who ranks second in MLB in RBIs (68) and is tied for first in homers (26), has historically had a good chunk off success against both of Saturday's pitchers -- particularly Lester, against whom Cruz has registered .458/.519/1.000 totals with three homers in 27 career at-bats.

The Sox come into the series not as desperate for offense as it appears -- they totaled 24 hits in their last two games -- but definitely in need of a jolt. David Ortiz has 4 RBIs in his last seven games, including a three-run jack against the Yankees, but otherwise he is 4-for-21 over that span. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia has been heating up of late, going 12-for-24 in his last six games with five RBIs.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Yankees 5

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29

NEW YORK -- So, was there a difference in the Boston Red Sox's offense Sunday night? You bet(ts).

The result: The Sox marked the arrival of Mookie Betts’ major league debut by generating a dozen hits and eight walks, a first in one game this season, and rolling to an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees before a crowd of 48,124.

The Big Picture I: The Sox won the rubber game of this three-game set and finished their 10-game, three-city excursion with a 4-6 record. They are 18-25 on the road, 15-20 in the AL East and trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games.

The Big Picture II: The Jays are 12-15 in June and have lost nine of their past 13 games. Despite a losing record on the trip, the Sox picked up a half-game on Toronto.

Big Picture III: It's worth noting that on June 8, the San Francisco Giants were 9½ games ahead of the Dodgers. Three weeks later, the teams are in a virtual tie for first place.

Mookie mania: Betts did his part, grounding a single in the fourth for his first major league hit, then walking and scoring his first big league run in the sixth. He also was caught stealing and missed a diving attempt at a liner by Ichiro Suzuki that went for a triple.

No less than the prince of the Yankees, Derek Jeter, who at 40 is 19 years older than Betts, tossed the ball from the kid’s first hit into the visitors’ dugout for a memento, while his father and mother, Willie and Diana Betts, and his fiancée, Brianna Hammonds, watched from box seats in the second deck.

Hit-o-rama: But this was a night in which everyone in the Sox's lineup got into the act.

* Dustin Pedroia singled in each of his first three-at bats, giving him six straight hits, hit a sacrifice fly and drew a walk. He scored a run and drove in three, and also stayed in a rundown long enough after being picked off for another run to score.

* David Ortiz hit a three-run home run off Yankees starter Chase Whitley in the third, his 19th home run of the season and 450th of his career, in the third.

* Mike Napoli, who always hits in games John Lackey pitches (24-for-55 on his career), doubled and scored Boston’s first run.

* Stephen Drew singled Napoli home, his second RBI of the season, for the first Sox run.

* Brock Holt walked twice and singled, scoring two runs.

* Jackie Bradley walked and scored, singled, and also threw out Carlos Beltran at the plate when he attempted to score in the sixth with the Yankees down three runs.

* A.J. Pierzynski threw up his arms again in mock celebration when he blooped a hit in the fifth.

Lackey gets a pickup: Lackey was knocked around for five runs (four earned) in five innings, giving up home runs in the fourth to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, but was credited with the win. He is 7-0 in games in which the Sox score four or more runs.

Shutdown pen: Sox relievers pitched two-hit ball over the last four scoreless innings, striking out six. Andrew Miller K’d three in the seventh.

Ortiz carries Red Sox to great escape

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had gone hitless in his first four at-bats Sunday against the Oakland A's with a strikeout, two weak ground outs and one pop fly.

Ortiz looked more like an imposter than one of baseball's most dangerous power hitters. But when he led off the top of the 10th inning of a 6-6 game, the real Ortiz returned, just as his manager and teammates expected.

Ortiz drilled a home run off A's left-hander Fernando Abad over the left-center field fence, putting the Red Sox ahead, and they held on for a 7-6 victory.

"Situations like that, he seems to come through all the time," Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli said. "He's our guy. He's our power guy, he's our hitter. We feed off him. When he goes, we go pretty good. He's huge in our lineup. The things he does are pretty amazing. Especially late in games. He's pretty special."

If not for Ortiz, the Red Sox's short postgame flight to Seattle would have seemed longer than a bus ride to Boston. They had blown a 6-1 lead, giving up three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth when closer Koji Uehara gave up solo home runs to Stephen Vogt and John Jaso, snapping his streak of 31 straight saves.

Ortiz said he put his 0-for-4 start to the game behind him.

[+] EnlargeRed Sox
Lance Iversen/USA TODAY SportsKoji Uehara, who blew his first save of the season in the ninth, gives a hug to David Ortiz after finishing off the A's in the 10th.
"You have to. It's not like you've got to go out there and try to get five hits in one at-bat," Ortiz said. "Whatever happened in the past happened, and you've just got to go up there with a fresh mind and try to do something different. It's not as easy as it sounds, but what can you do after you're 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 and you have another at-bat? You just go up there and fight."

Ortiz lined Abad's 1-0 pitch over the wall, and Uehara pitched a perfect 10th inning as the Red Sox escaped what could have been a nightmarish loss. The Red Sox salvaged the final game of their four-game series against Oakland after losing the first three.

"He does have the knack for the moment and more than anything he stays at rest or at peace mentally in those key spots and doesn't miss his pitch when he gets it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Ortiz.

Ortiz hit a game-tying solo home run Wednesday against Minnesota, and Napoli followed with a walk-off shot in the Red Sox's 2-1 win. Ortiz has 10 career extra-inning home runs.

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who allowed three runs over 7 2/3 innings, said he wasn't surprised by Ortiz's heroics.

"No. Never, never," Lester said. "I've seen it for a long time. That's David. Even when he's kind of off, he's struggling a little bit, he finds a way to pick us up."

Farrell said what made Ortiz's home run Sunday so special was the fact that he has been in a slump.

"I think given the fact he's been working through some things mechanically, it shows that he is human, and I just think it gives us greater appreciation for when those moments like this shine and when he comes through at such an opportune time," Farrell said.

Uehara had allowed only two earned runs in his previous 44 save opportunities, saving 42 of those games. He gave up two earned runs on two swings of the bat in the ninth inning Sunday. As he did Wednesday against Minnesota, when Uehara gave up a 10th-inning home run in a scoreless tie, Ortiz came to the closer's rescue.

"I was relieved and also I knew before that home run that I was going to go in as long as we got the lead, so I was getting myself prepared," Uehara said.

The Red Sox's slumbering offense woke up, racking up 13 hits, including solo home runs from David Ross, Napoli and Ortiz. Johnny Gomes ignited the attack with a two-run single with the bases loaded in the first inning and went 3-for-5 with a run scored.

"Given what's taken place the last three days, I really liked the way we came out and swung the bats early," Farrell said. "Despite the last three days, our guys are still fighting, they're still putting together as best and as tough of at-bats as they can. This was a hard-fought series. It's good to salvage one out of it."

Napoli went 2-for-4 with his eighth home run of the season and stole home in the third on the back end of an unplanned double steal. After Jonathan Herrera got caught leaning the wrong way by A's left-hander Tommy Milone with two outs, he darted for second. When A's first baseman Brandon Moss threw the ball to second baseman Nick Punto, Napoli headed home. Punto's throw was high, and Napoli slid under catcher Derek Norris' tag.

"I saw he got picked off," Napoli said. "I've got to try it. Usually in a rundown you're going to get somebody out. I don't know how I slid like that and avoided the tag. I came in there and did some ninja move to get under the tag."

Boston's greatest escape of the day was yet to come.

Sox lose AL-high 16th one-run game

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Red Sox found yet another way to lose a one-run game Friday night, their American League-high 16th of the season.

This time they were deadlocked 3-3 with the Oakland A's entering the bottom of the eighth inning and had left-handed reliever Andrew Miller on the mound.

Over his previous 27 appearances, Miller had struck out 39 and walked just five. He entered the game averaging 14.28 strikeouts per nine innings, fourth-best among AL relievers. He had been money out of the bullpen, and he struck Brandon Moss on four pitches for the first out.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz singled in Xander Bogaerts to pull Boston even with Oakland at 3-3 in the third inning.
What happened next, no one saw coming, least of all Miller. He hit Kyle Blanks with an 0-2 slider in the lower right shin. Then he hit Alberto Callaspo in the same spot with a first-pitch fastball.

Miller struck out Nick Punto for the second out, but former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp lined an RBI single to right, snapping the tie, and the A's held on for a 4-3 win, their second straight victory over Boston.

Blanks had swung and missed an inside slider for strike one.

"I was just trying to throw a breaking ball kind of to the same spot to Blanks," Miller said. "He chased the first one. I was trying to throw one a little bit lower, get him to chase again. I just went a little too far. And the second one was just a bad yank. That was not even close to where I wanted to get. Just can't afford to hit those two guys in that part of the lineup right there."

Miller said he made a mistake to Crisp, who has been battling a sore neck and didn't enter the game until the bottom of the seventh.

"Fastball away. Hindsight, wrong pitch," Miller said. "It was away, but it wasn't down enough. At the same time, 2-2 pitch, you want to go right after him. Hindsight, I should have thrown a breaking ball or thrown something in. I didn't."

Red Sox manager John Farrell seemed stunned after the game after watching the bizarre eighth inning.

"He hung on to a breaking ball to Blanks, which I thought he swung on the pitch," Farrell said. "And then the first pitch to Callaspo, he clips both runners, puts guys on first and second. He regroups, has an outstanding at-bat against Punto for the strikeout.

"And [we] wanted to keep Coco on the right side of the plate, and a lot of success by Andrew in the past against him. He gets in the middle of the count and a base hit to right field for the difference in tonight's game. I thought, overall, our bullpen did an outstanding job of coming in and making pitches when needed. We left a number of people on base, which is once again the story in this one."

Left-hander Felix Doubront came off the disabled list an made his first start since May 20, when he lasted only four innings against Toronto before leaving with a strained left shoulder. Doubront allowed three runs on two hit over 4 2/3 innings Friday, but one of those hits was a three-run home run by A's third baseman Josh Donaldson in the first inning.

"Bad pitch to Donaldson, I think middle up," Doubront said. "That's pretty much what happened in the first inning. A mistake, and he put a good swing on it.

"Overall, I felt good. I threw my curve very good today, and when I got ahead in the count, I was able to throw it two times in a row and get the hitter out. I just tried to feel my mechanics again and all my pitches. I did good work today."

The Red Sox have scored a combined 10 runs in their past five games, but they almost came up with that elusive big inning in the second inning.

Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. brought two runs in on a sharp single to center with the bases loaded and two outs. Right fielder Brock Holt then hit a line drive to right-center that looked headed for the gap, but A's center fielder Craig Gentry made a diving catch. Then he got up and threw to second to double off Stephen Drew, who had headed to third.

"That's a big play Gentry made," Holt said. "Frustrating on our part. It feels like every time we hit the ball hard with guys on, they make plays like that or we hit it right at them. That's just another instance where that happened, but big play by him. If that gets down it's a double, Drew scores, maybe Jackie scores if it gets by him. Prevented a big inning, for sure.

"Losing in general's pretty frustrating, but we've been losing one-run games. They got a big two-out hit, Coco got a big two-out hit in the eighth and we didn't get the big hit. ... It just seems that's the way it's been going."

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 4, Red Sox 3

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller gave up a tiebreaking run in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox suffered a 4-3 loss Friday night to the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum.

Miller struck out leadoff hitter Brandon Moss, but he hit Kyle Blanks and Alberto Callaspo, putting runners on first and second. After Miller fanned Nick Punto, former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp lined an RBI single to right, snapping a 3-3 tie.

Welcome back: Left-hander Felix Doubront (left shoulder strain) was activated from the disabled list and made his first start since May 20 against Toronto, getting a no-decision. He gave up three runs on two hits over 4⅔ innings, striking out four and walking four.

Digging deep: Doubront dug himself a 3-0 hole in the first inning, giving up a three-run blast to A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. After Craig Gentry hit a leadoff single, Jed Lowrie grounded what looked to be a double-play ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia bobbled the ball and got only the force at second. Doubront walked Yoenis Cespedes, and Donaldson lined an 89 mph fastball to left for his 18th home run of the season.

Quick response: The Red Sox scored twice in the top of the second as Jackie Bradley Jr., who entered the game batting .281 with runners in scoring position, drilled a two-run, bases-loaded single off Brad Mills, who made his A's debut and first start in the major leagues since July 8, 2012, with the Angels.

Give and take: The Red Sox, in search of that elusive big inning, could have scored more runs in the second if Gentry hadn't made a diving catch in right-center of Brock Holt's line drive, then doubled off Stephen Drew at second, ending the inning. Of course the Red Sox might have come away empty if Punto hadn't botched Drew's perfect double-play grounder with one out, flipping the ball low and wide left of second. The Red Sox pulled even with a run in the third when Xander Bogaerts worked a leadoff walk and scored on David Ortiz's one-out single.

Shift buster: Ortiz beat the A's defensive shift for singles in the third and fifth innings, using two different approaches. In the third he hammered a line drive into the teeth of the shift, ripping the ball past a diving Punto to drive in Bogaerts. Then in the fifth with no outs and Pedroia on first, he grounded a single to left through a vacant left side of the infield. What's next, a bunt?

Still streaking: Right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop threw two high-stress but scoreless innings, extending his streak to a career-high 18. He hasn't allowed an earned run for 32⅓ innings, the third-longest such streak in Red Sox history.

Flashing the leather: Holt, who had never played right field professionally at any level before this season, made a diving catch in the sixth inning, robbing Callaspo of likely extra bases off Badenhop, and possibly saving a run. With one out and Blanks on first after a single, Callaspo hit a sinking line drive down the right-field line, but Holt turned on the speed and made the highlight reel play.

Stressful seventh: Badenhop gave up a one-out single to Lowrie, who moved to second on Cespedes' single in the seventh. Donaldson hit a ground ball to Pedroia, but the Red Sox couldn't convert the double play. That was it for Badenhop, who gave way to Miller to face the left-handed hitting Stephen Vogt. Vogt hit a line drive to shallow left, but Jonny Gomes made a running catch.

Doubront to start Friday; Ortiz gets day off

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-hander Felix Doubront will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday and start for the Red Sox against the Oakland A's in the second game of their four-game series.

Doubront will take the place of right-hander Brandon Workman, who is serving a six-game suspension for throwing near the head of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria on May 30.

Doubront went on the disabled list May 21 with a strained left shoulder. In his last rehabilitation start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, he struck out 10 and allowed no hits over five innings.

"I felt great," Doubront said before Thursday's game. "Back in the minors, I was pitching, trying to get my arm speed and repeat my delivery more often and throw my pitches, get ahead in the count and strike somebody out. Get that confidence that I need to come back here. Everything went well."

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Doubront made big strides in his final rehab start.

"His last start was much improved in terms of overall stuff," Farrell said. "There was increased intensity, increased velocity, increased action to his pitches that are going to be required here. And he gets the ball tomorrow."

David Ortiz, who hit a game-tying home run in the 10th inning Wednesday against Minnesota, was out of the lineup Thursday night against Oakland.

"Just with the travel, as late as we got in here last night, not uncommon that he's got a day off where we try to manage his games with the first game on the West Coast," Farrell said. "Fully expect him to be back in the lineup tomorrow."

• Outfielder Shane Victorino (right-hamstring strain) was out of the lineup Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket with "overall stiffness" in his lower back and hamstring but will still likely join the Red Sox while they're on the West Coast, Farrell said. After playing four games at Oakland, they play three at Seattle.

"He went through a full day of treatment," Farrell said. "We're going to go through another day of treatment tomorrow, likely, and everything points to him being back in the lineup on Saturday. We still intend that he will be joining us here on the West Coast. While he's not in the lineup, I can't say it was a setback, but we felt like we needed to get a couple days of work in."

• The Red Sox arrived in Oakland on the heels of an amazing victory Wednesday against Minnesota that Mike Napoli hopes can spark their struggling offense. Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the 10th inning, Ortiz and Napoli hit back-to-back home runs, lifting the Red Sox to an improbable 2-1 win.

"You hope it does," Napoli said. "That's what you look for: sparks to get your guys going. It was definitely a big win for us, and you would hope it would just snowball.

"It was just a crazy, crazy game. We were able to pull it out even though we weren't getting anything going offensively. Pitchers have been picking us up. It's time for us to turn the tables a little bit."

The Red Sox swept the three-game series against Minnesota despite scoring only five runs.

Frustrated Ortiz rails against error call

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
BOSTON -- David Ortiz is not the first player, nor will he be the last, to show his displeasure at an official scorer's call while a game is in progress.

I was in San Francisco in 1993 when Will Clark, a star of the first magnitude at the time with the Giants, became enraged when a pop fly he hit into shallow center field fell between two fielders and was scored an error by the official scorer, Susan Fornoff of the Sacramento Bee.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
AP Photo/Charles KrupaDavid Ortiz struck a celebratory pose after homering in the 10th -- a stark contrast to his tirade over an error call in the seventh.
When he saw the ruling on the scoreboard, Clark threw his hands up in disgust. When he scored from second base, he pointed and yelled at the press box after crossing home plate, and continued his tirade from the dugout. When he took his position at first base the following inning, he gave the "choke" sign to the press box.

Clark was unrepentant when asked about it afterward by reporters, denying what had occurred in clear view, though his manager, Dusty Baker, said afterward the player had apologized to him. Clark was in a slump at the time, striking out six times in his previous 12 at-bats.

"He's frustrated," Baker said afterward. "No one knows the frustration he feels hitting .175, and it's frustrating for us to watch him be frustrated. He apologized to me [for his reaction]. He said, 'Sorry, man.' I told him that don't bother me."

Should the scorer have awarded Clark a hit? It was similar to the ball Ortiz hit in Texas earlier this season that was originally scored an error and changed to a hit, so I'm inclined to say yes.

Did Clark make himself look petty and selfish by making such a public display of anger in a game in which the Giants were winning handily? Of course.

Ortiz did the same Wednesday afternoon. The game was scoreless in the seventh inning when Ortiz hit a sharp two-hopper just to the right of Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. The ball bounced off Mauer's glove and rolled a few feet away. The off-balance Mauer was unable to recover, and Ortiz reached first base safely.

The official scorer, Bob Ellis, after viewing a couple of replays, charged Mauer with an error. When the inning ended, according to several reporters watching, including Kyle Brasseur of (I'd gotten up to use the restroom), Ortiz could be seen yelling at the press box, making a thumbs-down motion several times to indicate his displeasure with the call.


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Unlike Clark, Ortiz owned his reaction, but also defended it.

"I thought people were supposed to have your back at home, and it never happens," he said. "It's always like that. I've been here for more than a decade and the scorekeepers here are always horrible. This is home, man.

"I always look like the bad guy, but they always end up changing it."

The "changing it" comment was a reference to the scorer's call in Texas.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, like Baker, downplayed the scene. He, too, cited frustration, noting that Ortiz has been struggling of late, which is true: Ortiz's average is down to .246, its lowest point since he ended the 2009 season batting .238.

"He's in a stretch where he's working on some things mechanically at the plate," Farrell said. "Certainly there is some frustration that comes to the surface. You get a chance to talk to him once things calm down. David is a competitor as we all know, and an ultimate competitor. He's working through some things right now."

Ortiz felt justified in venting.

"I've got to make it clear," he said. "It's not my first rodeo, man. You know how hard it is to get a hit, man?"

Was scorer Kelly wrong in not awarding Ortiz a hit? He made a judgment, based on his understanding of what "normal effort" entails, and in his view Mauer could have made the play with normal effort and thus deserved an error. Ortiz disagreed, vehemently, and sure, he may have had a point. A game rarely goes by in which players, reporters, broadcasters and fans at home don't disagree at least once with a scoring decision. That is the nature of judgment calls.

But because this is not Ortiz's first "rodeo," he knows there's a protocol in place in which a player can request that MLB review a scoring decision. That's how Ortiz got the play in Texas to be reversed. A scorer is not going to reverse a call because a player is railing at him from the field.

Sure, Ortiz is in a slump. But given how much difficulty the Sox were having generating baserunners -- they had one hit through the first nine innings -- if he had the team's best interests ahead of his own, he would have been content to have reached first base. Imagine if a pitcher threw his hands up in the air every time a hit was awarded when he thought it should have been an error, putting his ERA ahead of the situation at hand. Deep down, Ortiz knows that. And while other Sox players have complained -- privately -- that Fenway scorers are not even-handed, surely Ortiz must know it's not the scorer's job to "have his back," either.

Three innings later, he hit a game-tying home run, one batter before Mike Napoli's walk-off smash, which helped defuse what would have been a much bigger issue if the Sox had lost.

But in that one brief moment in the seventh inning, Ortiz let his frustration get the better of him (think punching a dugout phone in Baltimore) and that made Big Papi look small.

Ortiz .246 average lowest since '09

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
BOSTON -- A few random observations headed into a three-city, 10-game trip that could vault the Red Sox back into contention in the AL East or turn this into a true bridge year to better days ahead:

* David Ortiz has had only one game in 15 games this month in which he has had more than one hit. He’s batting .182 (10 for 55) in June entering play Wednesday, and his overall average of .246 is his lowest this deep into a season since he finished the 2009 season with a .238 average, lowest of his career. Ortiz batted .218 in his first 106 games that season, then .294 the rest of the way.

* Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. actually has a higher batting average this month than fellow rookie Xander Bogaerts. JBJ is batting .195 (8 for 41), Bogaerts .190 (11 for 58). There’s an even bigger gap in on-base percentage: Bradley is at .313, Bogaerts .238.

* A.J. Pierzynski remains the only Sox player batting .300 or better (.315) with runners in scoring position. Dustin Pedroia is at .222, Mike Napoli .208, and Bogaerts is batting just .145 ( 9 for 62).

* For all the deserved fanfare greeting Brock Holt’s debut in center field, the Sox still need Bradley to start hitting. Holt can’t be expected to provide anywhere near the kind of defense Bradley gives the team at a position that simply is too demanding for Holt not to be exposed eventually.

* Sox stat guru Jon Shestakofsky notes that Holt becomes just the second Sox player ever to make starts at first, third, left, center and right in a season. Jack Rothrock in 1928 is the other. Rothrock played all nine positions that season, even pitching a scoreless inning. But Rothrick did not start at all those positions.

* I’ll admit I was ready to write off Edward Mujica a couple of weeks ago, but he was a different pitcher in Tuesday night’s save, hitting 94 on the gun and striking out two of the three batters he faced. Manager John Farrell said that was probably the best velocity he has shown all season, and acknowledged that Mujica responds to the adrenaline of the ninth inning. But he still has to demonstrate he can be effective in the setup role.

* David Cameron of FanGraphs listed his early selections for the AL All-Star team, and he has only two Red Sox players on his roster: reliever Koji Uehara and third baseman Xander Bogaerts as a reserve. No David Ortiz, no Dustin Pedroia, no Jon Lester or John Lackey. His second basemen are Robinson Cano of the Mariners and Brian Dozier of the Twins; his DHs are Edwin Encarnacion of the Jays and Victor Martinez of the Tigers.

* The Sox player with the highest WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is Pedroia, and he is tied for 54th with Chase Utley at 2.1. Last season, the Sox had three players in the top 30 in the majors in WAR: Pedroia, 16th at 6.47; Shane Victorino, 23d at 6.14; and Jacoby Ellsbury, 29th at 5.75. Ortiz last season ranked 26th in offensive WAR at 4.44; Ortiz so far this season is 167th, at 0.67 (DH performance is weighted for the position).

Ortiz delivers much-needed blast

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9

DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox finally got the big hit they needed on Sunday night.

David Ortiz's three-run homer off Joba Chamberlain with one out in the ninth inning gave Boston a come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

The win snapped the Red Sox's five-game losing streak and averted a series and season sweep at the hands of the Tigers, who won the first five games between the teams this season.

“We needed a win,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We had so many opportunities that we couldn't capitalize on, then David Ortiz gets the three-run homer in the ninth.”

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the third against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, but got only one run out of it. That came on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly, which gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Ortiz ended the inning by striking out on a 3-2 pitch.

[+] EnlargeOrtiz
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportDavid Ortiz receives congratulations from Dustin Pedroia after his go-ahead home run in the ninth.
The Sox missed out on another opportunity in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. to get out of it.

Boston had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Brock Holt's one-out triple, but with the infield pulled in, third baseman Nick Castellanos made a diving stop on a Xander Bogaerts grounder and threw him out at first. Ortiz then flied deep to center against lefty reliever Phil Coke, who was brought in to face Ortiz (now 2-for-19 against Coke).

In the eighth, Coke struck out Bradley with runners on first and second to end the inning.

But when Ortiz stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth, Holt on second and Pedroia on first, he was looking for one thing from former Yankees reliever Chamberlain: a slider.

Ortiz got one that hung out over the plate and sent the 1-1 pitch deep into the right-field stands for his 14th home run of the season.

“You just have to fight,” Ortiz said. “Lately, I think I've made a career of hitting balls right at people. But that's baseball. You just have to fight through it.”

The clutch homer made a winner of John Lackey, who improved to 7-4 with eight solid innings.

“We've seen so much of that,” Lackey said of big home runs by Ortiz. “We think it's a possibility every time he hits. He lives for those situations. You almost expect it.”


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The big right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. He threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.

“I threw the ball pretty good. Getting to the eighth inning against this club is an accomplishment,” Lackey said. “And we were able to pull it out.”

Koji Uehara retired the side in order in the ninth for his 12th save.

Chamberlain (1-3) took the loss. He gave up three runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout.

First baseman Mike Napoli returned for the Red Sox on Sunday after being on the disabled list since late May due to a sprained finger on his left hand and made an immediate impact. His line homer into the right-field seats leading off the sixth inning tied the game 2-2. It was Napoli's sixth home run of the season, the first off Sanchez since Napoli hit one against him at Comerica Park in last season's ALCS. Napoli was 3-for-4 with a walk and even stole his first base of the season.

It's safe to say Napoli's presence in the No. 5 spot behind Ortiz was felt.

“They wouldn't have thrown the ball near the strike zone [against Ortiz in the ninth] if Mike wasn't standing on deck,” Lackey said.

Farrell said that Napoli's presence in the lineup also helped the Red Sox drive up Sanchez's pitch count.

Despite getting only two runs and six hits in six innings off of Sanchez, the Red Sox made him throw 112 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven.

With Napoli back, Holt made his professional debut in left field. He continued his hot hitting by going 4-for-5, but he also made an outstanding running, twisting catch in left of Ian Kinsler's long drive to end the third inning. Holt made the catch on the warning track near the fence while running toward the fence and the left-field line.

“Unbelievable” Ortiz said. “That's a guy who's never played left field before. He's very athletic.”

An error by Bogaerts at third on Austin Jackson's grounder in the seventh gave Detroit the opportunity to take the lead. The miscue put runners on first and second with none out. One out later, Eugenio Suarez's line single to left brought home Nick Castellanos to make it 3-2.

But Bogaerts made amends in the bottom of the ninth, making a diving stop on hot smash by Castellanos to get the second out and leaping to snare a liner by Jackson to end it.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 5, Tigers 3

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8

DETROIT -- David Ortiz's three-run homer in the top of the ninth turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and the Red Sox held on for the win at Comerica Park on Sunday night, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Ortiz drove a 1-1 pitch from familiar foe Joba Chamberlain deep into the right-field stands with one out in the ninth.

The win averts a sweep in the three-game series and a sweep in the season series against the Tigers, who won the first five meetings.

A bulldog as usual: John Lackey (7-4) pitched eight innings to earn the win. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. Lackey threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his 12th save. Chamberlain (1-3) took the loss.

Napoli's back: Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, who returned on Sunday after being on the disabled list since late May due to a sprained finger on his left hand, made an immediate impact. His line-drive homer into the right-field seats leading off the sixth inning tied the game 2-2. It was Napoli's sixth homer of the season, and the first home run off Sanchez since Napoli hit one against him at Comerica Park in last season's American League Championship Series. Napoli was 2-for-3 after walking on a 3-2 pitch in his first at-bat back and even stole his first base of the season.

Suarez comes through again: Detroit shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who recently was called up from Triple-A Toledo, put the Tigers ahead 3-2 with a seventh-inning single after tying the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the third. He homered on Saturday night for his first major league hit.

This left-field stuff is easy: Brock Holt, who was playing the first game of his professional career in the outfield, made an outstanding running, twisting catch in left of Ian Kinsler's long drive to end the third inning. Holt made the catch on the warning track near the fence while running toward the fence and the left-field line. Holt also was 4-for-5 at the plate.

Cabrera leaves game: After a two-out single in the sixth inning, Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera was removed from the game with left hamstring tightness and replaced with Don Kelly. Cabrera appeared to be laboring while legging out a double and then scoring from second on Victor Martinez's single in the fourth. Cabrera is day-to-day.

Wasted opportunities: The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the third against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, but got only one run out of it. That came on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Ortiz ended the inning by striking out on a 3-2 pitch. The Sox missed out on another opportunity in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. to get out of it.

Boston had a chance to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Holt's one-out triple. But with the infield pulled in, third baseman Nick Castellanos made a diving stop on Xander Bogaerts' grounder and threw him out at first. Ortiz then flied deep to center against lefty reliever Phil Coke, who was brought in to face Ortiz (now 2-for-19 against Coke). Coke struck out Bradley to end the eighth with runners on first and second.

High pitch count: Despite getting only two runs and six hits in six innings off Sanchez, the Red Sox made him throw 112 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven.