Boston Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr.

Farrell lays out Vazquez/Ross timeshare

July, 12, 2014
7/12/14
3:21
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HOUSTON -- After a breakout night on Friday from catcher Christian Vazquez, Red Sox manager John Farrell was asked how excited he is to see the rookie phenom play in the second half of the season.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him play on Sunday," Farrell said with a grin before Saturday's game against the Houston Astros.

Farrell laid out his vision for how Vazquez will share time with veteran David Ross behind the plate moving forward. After the Red Sox return from the All-Star break next week, Vazquez will start for three of the five starters in the rotation, with Ross handling Jake Peavy and Jon Lester.

After Vazquez caught Rubby De La Rosa in his major league debut on Wednesday and John Lackey in his 3-for-4, three-RBI performance on Friday night, the rookie has received high praise all around.

"Guys on the mound know he cares and they feel that," Farrell said. "I think that goes a long way."

• While Farrell was prepared to discuss his plans for how the catching rotation will work after the break, he was not ready to lay out his plan for the starting pitching rotation on Saturday. He said those plans might be made available Sunday before he heads to Minneapolis to manage the American League All-Star team.

Farrell, however, did make one thing perfectly clear -- lefty Felix Doubront will remain in the bullpen for the time being.

After opening the season as the club's No. 3 starter, the 26-year-old was moved to the bullpen two weeks ago. Doubront expressed his disappointment with the decision, but Farrell reiterated his stance Saturday, that Doubront will remain in the bullpen.

"That's our plan right now," Farrell said. "The rotation is what it is."

Doubront is 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA. Farrell complimented his most recent relief appearance on Monday against the White Sox, when Doubront pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out one.

• Farrell spoke highly of the importance of the Red Sox defense, particularly in the middle of the field, from behind the plate with Ross and Vazquez, all the way out to the extensive range of Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.

"The center of the diamond is the backbone of your defense," Farrell said. "We've got two catchers that have the ability to shut down a running game."

• After a hot start to the season, rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts is in a major slump.

Over his last 27 games, Bogaerts is hitting .090 and slugging .120 with just one extra-base hit, four RBIs and four walks with 31 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances. It's a stark contrast to the first two months of the season, when he hit .299 and boasted a .452 slugging percentage with five home runs, 17 doubles and 17 RBIs.

Still, Farrell said he's sticking with the rookie.

"What's right for our team, long-term, is to get a productive Xander Bogaerts," Farrell said. "We've done some things here recently in a pinch-hit situation to win a ballgame. That may be the case going forward, but we won't lose sight that we still have confidence and know that he's going to be an impact player. We're working through some things to get there."

Bogaerts will hit sixth on Saturday, when the Red Sox send Peavy to the mound in search of their first four-game winning streak since June 1.

Here's the full lineup:

1. Brock Holt, SS
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Jonny Gomes, LF
6. Xander Bogaerts, 3B
7. David Ross, C
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Mookie Betts, RF

Jake Peavy, SP

Sox offense can't get much worse

July, 8, 2014
7/08/14
1:32
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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.

Bradley did everything he could

July, 6, 2014
7/06/14
10:51
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BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. did everything he could to get his team a win Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

He went 2-for-4 at the plate, including a career-high 11-pitch walk in the fifth, and played a key role in the Red Sox’s seventh-inning rally. He made a superb throw from center on a Caleb Joseph fly out to get Manny Machado -- who was tagging up from third -- at the plate.

And with the game tied in the top of the ninth, Bradley was there once again, leaping just in front of the wall in center to haul in what would have been an extra-base hit by Machado that would have driven in the potential winning run.

A big day for a player recently reduced to a platoon role.

“You want to help out as much as possible,” Bradley said. “When it’s your day to start, you just want to be able to perform and get the job done. If you’re not in there, then do what you can to help the team out later on in the game.”

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJackie Bradley Jr.'s highlight-reel catch in the ninth kept the Sox in the game.
Making just his third start in the team’s last six games, Bradley served as the Red Sox’s spark in a comeback attempt that fell just short. Despite overcoming a five-run deficit, the Red Sox lost, 7-6, in extra innings.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said. “We’re doing the things to get us back in the game. Pitching well, start swinging the bats, getting some runs across the board. Just wasn’t able to finish it off today.”

One could say Bradley’s throw to nail Machado at the plate started the comeback. With Burke Badenhop and Junichi Tazawa each faltering out of the bullpen, the Orioles quickly put together a four-run inning on six singles and showed no signs of stopping. Once Tazawa finally got Joseph to fly out, Bradley came up big with his throw to turn the double play and end the inning.

The play was made all the more sweet after Steve Pearce had barely beaten another strong throw from Bradley earlier in the inning to score the Orioles’ first run of the frame.

“They were both pretty accurate,” Bradley said of the throws. “I was happy to be able to get them on the second time and get some momentum behind the ball. [It] kind of kept the game in order.”

It also added to Bradley’s impressive defensive resume this season. The outfielder now has 10 assists, tying him for most in the league with Cleveland’s Michael Brantley and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes -- both primarily left fielders. Bradley has turned a remarkable five double plays, the most for a rookie outfielder since J.D. Drew had six for St. Louis in 1999.

“I don’t really focus on it,” Bradley said of the achievements. “I just try to make the plays for the pitchers and get the team out of the innings so we can get back up to the bat and swing it.”

Swing it the Red Sox did after that play. The bottom of the seventh was a landmark rally made up of seven hits, six of which were singles, to score five runs and erase a 6-1 deficit. The first of six singles belonged to Bradley, who has hit safely in four straight games and owns a .295 average in his last 13 games.

“The extra work that he’s been doing is starting to pay off,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s starting to reproduce a more consistent swing path.”

Bradley saved his best for last in the form of his catch in the ninth inning. Knowing the ball was going to be over his head, Bradley raced toward the wall in center. As he got close, he leaped and tried to avoid anticipated contact with the wall behind him. The end result was a highlight reel catch, one that got the crowd at Fenway on its feet in appreciation.

“They appreciate the hustle,” Bradley said. “Those type of plays are what keep us in the game and allow us to put forth our best effort.”

Bradley wasn’t the only Red Sox rookie to put forth his best effort in recent memory on Sunday. Third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who entered the game mired in a 0-for-27 slump, went 2-for-5 on the day with an RBI and run scored.

The list of firsts for the struggling Bogaerts runs long: His first multihit game since June 7, his first RBI since June 17 and his first run scored since June 20.

“He gets a bloop base hit the other way [in his first at-bat] that might take a little bit of the weight off his shoulders,” Farrell said. “It was encouraging to see the hard contact to the pull side. Despite yesterday where there weren’t the results, we saw a better approach.”

Two encouraging signs in an encouraging comeback attempt for the Red Sox.

Bottom third of lineup delivers walk-off win

July, 5, 2014
7/05/14
6:50
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BOSTON -- The story of how the Red Sox earned their sixth walk-off win of the season Saturday afternoon perhaps doesn't invoke the glory of those before it.

There were no home run heroics to send the crowd into a frenzy. No easy chances gifted by the Baltimore Orioles that allowed Boston to trot home easily.

Instead, it's a tale of three veteran players who knew what they had to do to get the job done. And they did just that as soon as they were called upon.

[+] EnlargeJonny Gomes
AP Photo/Michael DwyerJonny Gomes beat out an infield hit before coming around to score the winning run against the Orioles.
Entering the bottom of the ninth tied 2-2 and with the bottom third of the order due up against Orioles left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland, the Red Sox, led by pinch-hit efforts from Jonny Gomes and Jonathan Herrera, pushed across the winning run Saturday to take Game 1 of their doubleheader 3-2. It was the team's first walk-off win since June 18 against Minnesota.

"Veteran guys, they know their role," manager John Farrell said. "We had anticipated a lefty being on the mound in the ninth inning so we had some lead time to give them a chance to prepare."

First up to face McFarland was Gomes, who came in to hit for Stephen Drew. As he's done for Boston many times before, Gomes understood that his job as the leadoff man was to get on base, something he had in mind stepping into the box.

"Where we are right now -- whether it's three hits, no hits, getting hit -- it's about touching the dish," Gomes said. "That's where we're at now. Any way possible to have more runs than them."

After watching two pitches from McFarland, Gomes lined a 1-1 two-seamer deep in the hole at short that J.J. Hardy made a valiant effort to get to. However, Hardy wasn't able to get enough on the throw, allowing Gomes to reach first.

"Nothing new on my end, just anything to get on," Gomes said. "He made a great play and I was able to leg it out."

Next up was David Ross, who had gone 0-for-3 in his previous at-bats against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. Understanding that his job was to get Gomes to second, Ross wasted no time, dropping a sacrifice bunt that easily accomplished the task at hand.

With Gomes now at second, Farrell made another move, bringing in Jonathan Herrera to pinch hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. Despite having phenom youngster Mookie Betts available off the bench, Farrell entrusted the job to the veteran Herrera, who's been in such a spot many times before.

"I've been doing this the last few years so I feel pretty comfortable," Herrera said. "I know my role and who I am. I prepare myself every single day."

Herrera took a ball before blooping a broken-bat single over the head of Jonathan Schoop at second base and onto the outfield grass. Racing around third, Gomes, taking no chances, slid into home plate headfirst to score the winning run.

"It's one of those plays where if [Schoop] makes that catch I'd be on 'SportsCenter' with him -- congratulations," Gomes said. "But if he doesn't, that's a win. That's the risk and the reward going into those late innings."

The walk-off hit was the first of Herrera's career.

"It was a great feeling," Herrera said. "It's a really nice feeling helping the team do something to win them games."

[+] EnlargeStephen Drew
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesStephen Drew celebrates after hitting his first home run of the season.
In fact, the bottom third of the order fueled the Red Sox from start to finish on Saturday afternoon. In his three at-bats, Drew went 1-for-3 with his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the second to put the Red Sox up 1-0. Drew entered the at-bat in the midst of a 3-for-42 stretch dating back to June 18.

"[Criticism is] something that I've dealt with my whole career," said Drew of some of the backlash he's heard while he's struggled. "Everybody deals with it. I know my talent, and I knew it was going to be tough coming in. The way I started, I'll keep my head high and I'll come around. All these guys in here, they know as well.

"I put a good swing on it finally and it worked out for me."

Meanwhile, Jackie Bradley Jr. was able to create the Red Sox's second run of the day with a couple of hustle plays. The rookie outfielder was quick out of the box on a line drive to right for a two-out double in the second before taking advantage of a botched play at first by Steve Pearce on a Brock Holt infield single to score Boston's second run. Bradley added a single in the seventh to go 2-for-3 on the day.

The offense, in addition to a key double play in the eighth inning started by Drew ranging to his left, was enough to keep Jon Lester from taking the loss as the ace left-hander tossed eight strong innings allowing two runs, both unearned as a result of three Red Sox errors in the game.

Lester was appreciative of the job the bottom of the order did, particularly in the ninth inning.

"That was huge for us to get [Gomes] on and then [Ross] did a good job getting the bunt down," Lester said. "Herrera with the big hit -- that's just a good way to start the doubleheader, especially after two off days. Hopefully we can carry it over to [Game 2]."

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 4, Red Sox 3

June, 21, 2014
6/21/14
1:40
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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 O.co 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.

Buch 'starting over'; Vic taking it slow

June, 20, 2014
6/20/14
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Right-hander Clay Buchholz doesn't know when he'll be activated from the disabled list and rejoin the rotation, but he joined the Boston Red Sox on Friday in Oakland, one day after an encouraging rehab star for Triple-A Pawtucket.

"I haven't been told anything, but obviously this is where I want to be," Buchholz said before the Red Sox's game against the Oakland Athletics. "I want to be here battling with the guys and I feel like whenever I'm right mechanically and everything's tuned in, I give the team a chance to win when I'm on the mound. All the numbers that I had from this year, from the beginning of the year to my last start, I'm going to just forget about them. I'm starting over."

Buchholz went 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in 10 starts before going on the disabled list with a hyperextended left knee on May 28. In his second rehab start Thursday, he allowed two hits, struck out five, walked two and threw 87 pitches over six shutout innings.

"I felt good," Buchholz said. "Everything was good. I was able to carry over some of the stuff I've been working on as far as delivery and mechanics. It worked out well. I was throwing strikes down in the zone and threw all my pitches. That's sort of what I got away from. That's where I wanted to get back to so I felt it was a good step in the right direction.

"I could have thrown 87 the first time out. That was one of the things that I wasn't having to battle with. It wasn't an arm fatigue or arm strength issue. They just wanted me to take my time, to take a couple starts to get up and down, up to five or six innings and I was able to do that yesterday."

Red Sox manager John Farrell said he won't make a decision about Buchholz until the end of his team's four-game series against Oakland on Sunday. John Lackey is slated to pitch Monday at Seattle and Jake Peavy on Tuesday. Farrell said Wednesday's starter is TBA with "multiple options" to consider.

"I think the most important thing is we're getting guys back to us that are healthy and we do have a couple of important decisions coming up," Farrell said.

Jackie Bradley Jr. notched his eighth outfield assist Thursday night in the seventh inning when Oakland's speedy Coco Crisp was cut down at third base. He's tied for second in the major leagues, one behind A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.

The Red Sox rookie leads all major league center fielders in assists. He has the most assists by a Red Sox center fielder since Carl Everett (11) in 2000. Since 1954, only Ellis Burks (15 assists, 1987) and Fred Lynn (11 in 1975) had more assists from center field as rookies.

Bradley is batting just .205, but he said he hasn't let his troubles at the plate affect his defense.

"Two different sides of baseball," Bradley said. "You definitely got to be able to separate them. Me and [Shane] Victorino talk about it all the time. If I don't get hits that day, anybody who hits the ball out to me ain't going to get any hits, either. So that's the mindset you got to go into it with.

"You might not have a good day offensively at the plate, but as long as you can affect the game defensively to help out the team, you're helping."

Bradley went 1-for-2 and doubled off A's left-hander Scott Kazmir in Thursday night's 4-2 loss. That was his 13th double of the season and one of just five Red Sox hits in the game.

"I feel fine," Bradley said. "Just continuously working, trying to get better. I feel good right now. Like everyone says, when things are going good you don't really think about mechanics, and when things aren't going so well people are always trying to think about mechanics.

"It's not necessarily about that. It's about getting back to feeling good and seeing the ball and putting good swings on strikes."

• Outfielder Victorino was out of the lineup for the second straight day for Triple-A Pawtucket during his rehab assignment because of stiffness in his right hamstring and lower back.

"More treatment today," Farrell said. "We're going to get his activity built back up. Hopefully that's tomorrow but if not we'll go day to day with when he's next available. ... We feel that what he's dealing with is not going to keep him out too long. We'll get back out on the field and back to us as soon as we can."

• Outfielder Grady Sizemore, who was designated for assignment Tuesday, cleared waivers Friday, becoming a free agent. Sizemore hit just .216 with two home runs and 15 RBIs in 52 games with the Red Sox as he attempted to revive his injury-plagued career. He hit .133 in June. Now that he has cleared waivers, Sizemore could remain with the Red Sox at Triple-A, but he's free to sign with any team, and Farrell said it wouldn't surprise him if other teams were interested.

"He's a quality player that's still working his way back to regular play and normal strength," Farrell said.

Bradley cuts down a critical run

June, 17, 2014
6/17/14
12:24
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BOSTON -- A quick scan through the box score of Monday’s game could miss the impact Jackie Bradley Jr. had on the Red Sox’s 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. The eye likely would focus on his 0-for-3 showing at the plate, but Bradley’s arm once again was the catalyst to a key defensive play.

In a scoreless tie during the top of the third, Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa issued a one-out walk to Twins No. 9 hitter Sam Fuld, who quickly swiped second to move into scoring position. All it would take, it seemed, was a clean single from leadoff hitter Danny Santana for Minnesota to post the game’s first run.

Santana got his single on a line drive to center. In stepped Bradley to make the play.

“It was one of those plays where at first I thought I was going to be able to make the catch,” Bradley said. “Tried to keep it in front, especially with the game the way it was, pretty close. So I wanted to keep it in front.

“It was a line drive but I didn’t want to hold on to the ball. I wanted to make a throw toward the plate like I’m supposed to.”

Bradley did just that, firing a strike back into the infield that first baseman Mike Napoli roped in just behind the pitcher’s mound. With Santana having rounded first, seemingly expecting a throw directly to the plate to hold Fuld, second baseman Dustin Pedroia wisely covered first in order to create a potential rundown. Napoli initially moved toward Santana to apply the tag himself before looking back to notice an overly aggressive Fuld cheating in toward home from third. A throw over to Brock Holt at third sealed Fuld’s fate as A.J. Pierzynski took the throw from Holt and was able to tag him out.

The old 8-3-5-2 for the out. Credit another assist to Bradley, his seventh of the season.

“We played very good defense all around, particularly on that play where Jackie comes in, hits the cutoff man,” Farrell said. “We’re looking at a first-and-third situation and it turns out for us to get an out. And then Rubby did the rest.”

After the out at home, De La Rosa went on to retire 13 consecutive batters on his way to what would be seven shutout innings. And it was all made possible by a play that started with yet another picture-perfect throw from center.

“Jackie’s throwing arm is clearly a weapon,” Farrell said.

With Bradley, no need for a cutoff man

June, 13, 2014
6/13/14
1:31
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BOSTON -- Among his many tools, Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. especially takes pride in his throwing arm.

He works on it daily. He tries to air throws out as far as possible, as he did Wednesday afternoon during pregame warm-ups in Baltimore, reportedly throwing the ball over the right-field fence at Camden Yards and onto Eutaw Street from behind the third-base line.

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBradley caught the ball on the run before slamming into the wall.
As he says, “I’m willing to throw with the best of them.”

So then, in a week dominated by headlines about mystifying throws courtesy of Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, what did Bradley bring to the table in Thursday night’s 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians? How about a play that had some of his peers raving about it after the game.

“I could maybe catch it, but I probably can't make that throw,” quasi-outfielder Brock Holt said. “That was a special play.”

“It probably [would have taken] 16 [hops] for me,” Daniel Nava joked.

Initially thinking that Indians center fielder Michael Bourn got jammed on a ball in the air to center in the top of the seventh inning, Bradley started in toward the plate before realizing he misread the ball. Having to adjust, Bradley sprinted back to the wall to make the running grab on the warning track before colliding into the Green Monster in left-center.

Despite having played for the Red Sox as recently as 2012, Indians third baseman Mike Aviles clearly didn’t get the memo on Bradley’s defense. Having rounded second and still making his way to third as Bradley tracked down the ball, Aviles had to turn around and rush back to first base to avoid the inning-ending double play, an effort turned futile as Bradley unleashed a one-hop throw from the track to first base that Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t think possible from his rookie outfielder.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesJon Lester gives his sign of approval to Jackie Bradley Jr. after the center fielder's impressive catch and throw to first.
“Not from that part of the ballpark,” Farrell said. “To one hop the first baseman when he’s got his back running away from the plate then turn and fire a strike. An impressive play all the way around.”

It was the highlight of an impressive day all the way around the Red Sox outfield as Bradley, Nava and Grady Sizemore each made significant contributions to the team’s win.

In addition to his throw, Bradley went 1-for-3, scored two runs and stole a base out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup. Sizemore hammered a ground-rule double to right field in the first inning for the first run of the game and also made a strong defensive play of his own, leaping to reel in a foul ball as he lightly collided into the right field wall. And Nava, the beleaguered outfielder sent to Triple-A Pawtucket following a brutal start to the season, went 3-for-4 for his second three-hit game since being recalled June 2.

“To his credit, he’s made an adjustment with his set up at the plate,” Farrell said. “He’s putting some good swings on some balls. He’s not lifting the ball as he was early in the season.”

Nava, now 9-for-22 since his return, said the reason for his improved play is a result of simplifying the game.

“I think maybe before I was just focusing on the results rather than the process,” Nava said. “Right now I’m trying to step in the box and be as comfortable as I can, take a good swing on a pitch I think I can take a good swing on and just leave the results as whatever they may be.”

All told, the trio’s contributions loomed large in what was a big win at home for a Red Sox team struggling to stay afloat in the American League. Especially when you consider that Thursday marked the first time the Red Sox have had a three-run lead in a game since their last game at Fenway on June 1.

“RBIs, runs scored -- whether it’s no outs, two outs -- it was just good to get a little breathing room tonight,” Farrell said.
BALTIMORE -- Rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who had started each of the team’s last 17 games, was benched Monday, and it was unclear whether it will be more than a one-game absence from the lineup.

Bradley came into the game batting .203 overall, and is coming off a series in Detroit in which he had two hits but struck out in his other eight at-bats, including three times Sunday. He also had two strikeouts in the team’s last game in Cleveland, making it 10 whiffs in 14 at-bats.

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John Farrell elected to start Grady Sizemore in center field for the 11th time this season, but for only the third time since May 3. Brock Holt, who had four hits Sunday and took a hit away from Detroit’s Ian Kinsler while making his professional debut in left field, was back in left Monday, with Daniel Nava, who is 5-for-13 on this trip, including a three-hit game Saturday, in right.

“I wanted to keep Grady in the mix and I think Jackie needs a little bit of a breather,’’ Farrell said. “You get in this ballpark where there’s not as much ground to cover, we feel like we were able to do that with Holt, Sizemore and Nava adequately.

“And Jackie has had some challenges of late. He’s been working on some things in early BP, a little different placement where his hands are. The strikeouts are probably more than he’s ever experienced and more than we projected. This is a chance to take a little bit of a breather.’’

Bradley has struck out a team-high 65 times in just 187 at-bats, averaging 1 K per 2.8 at-bats. He has taken a called third strike a team-high 22 times, four more than Jonny Gomes (18), and his 43 strikeouts swinging rank second to Xander Bogaerts’ 50, in 38 fewer at-bats than his fellow rookie.

Bradley struck out 75 times in 320 at-bats for Pawtucket last season. He whiffed 31 times in 95 at-bats in his first taste of big-league experience last season, a similar whiff rate to what he is experiencing this season.

Farrell said it was "undetermined" whether Bradley would remain out of the lineup for more than a game.

Rapid Reaction: Tigers 8, Red Sox 6

June, 7, 2014
6/07/14
11:11
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DETROIT -- What was anticipated as a pitcher's duel between Jon Lester and last season's Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, didn't turn out that way on Saturday night at Comerica Park.

Lester was never a mystery to Tigers batters and Scherzer pitched well enough to win with outstanding run support.

The Red Sox lost their fifth straight overall and their fifth consecutive game to Detroit this season.

Odd steal but comeback falls short: Xander Bogaerts stole third in a bizarre fashion with David Ortiz at bat with one out in the ninth. When third baseman Nick Castellanos ran to the right side of the infield for the shift and left third uncovered, Bogaerts took off from second and beat pitcher Joe Nathan to the bag. Boston had already scored in the inning on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly and Ortiz then drove in Bogaerts with a ground out. That brought the Red Sox to within two. Grady Sizemore and Daniel Nava followed with singles but Stephen Drew ended the game with a flyout.

Lester didn't have it: Lester (6-7) retired the game's first two batters easily. But back-to-back doubles by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter's RBI single put the Red Sox behind 2-0 in the first inning. Pedroia made a leaping catch of Nick Castellanos' line drive at second to end the inning. Lester went on to allow single runs in each of the second, third and fourth innings (he gave up solo homers in the third and fourth) and was replaced by Craig Breslow with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth. Breslow got a double-play grounder to end the inning. Lester gave up five runs on 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings with a walk and he didn't strike out a batter. He threw 90 pitches, 59 for strikes.

Scherzer good enough: Scherzer (7-2) wasn't great late but he was dominant in the first three innings and had his strikeout pitch working the whole time. After allowing one hit and striking out five in the first, second and third, he allowed single runs in each of the next four innings. He wound up allowing four runs and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking a batter and striking out nine. He threw 115 pitches, 78 for strikes.

Consistent offense: The Tigers scored in six of the eight innings in which they batted. They failed to cross the plate in the fifth and the eighth.

Pedroia long ball: Pedroia put Boston on the scoreboard with a one-out home run in the fourth. It was his third of the season and made it 4-1.

Major league first: Detroit shortstop Eugenio Suarez got his first major league hit, leading off the fourth inning, and it went over the fence. His first career homer came on Lester's first pitch. That stretched the Tigers' lead to 5-1.

Rookie distinction: Castellanos was 3-for-4, including a solo home run. It was his third consecutive three-hit game. He is the first Detroit rookie to have three hits in three straight games since 1980, according to baseballreference.com.

Bradley Jr. comes through with RISP ... again: Red Sox Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.'s batting average may be hovering around the Mendoza line, but he's been pretty good with runners in scoring position this season. His two-out RBI single in the fifth, which pulled Boston to within 5-2, gave him a RISP average of .300 (15-for-50). Among Boston regulars who have played the entire season, that mark is second only to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who is at .333 (16-for-48).

Drew contributes offensively: Drew got his first hit and first RBI in his return to the Red Sox with a two-out run-scoring single in the sixth.

What a difference a win streak makes

June, 1, 2014
6/01/14
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BOSTON -- When asked about the difference a week or so has made for the Boston Red Sox, catcher A.J. Pierzynski approximated it to be “about six wins.”

After dragging themselves from the doldrums of a 10-game skid, the Red Sox have now amassed a six-game winning streak, following Saturday night’s 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. With it, they become the first Major League team since the 2004 Baltimore Orioles to have won six straight after a losing streak of 10-or-more games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The last time the Red Sox had a losing streak of more than 10 games, followed by a five-game winning streak, was in 1994 -- the same year Butch Hobson was fired as manager.

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJackie Bradley Jr. was hit in the nose with the ball and slammed his face into the wall while trying to catch a Kevin Kiermaier blast in the eighth inning.

Through the whirlwind upswing, the Red Sox have intertwined a mix of anxiety and exhilaration -- chalking up back-to-back walk-off wins, including Friday night’s extra-inning victory over the Rays. Perhaps more importantly, the Red Sox didn’t allow emotions to get the best of them entering Saturday’s affair. After seeing their managerial depth chart challenged by the ejections of three coaches in Friday’s contentious duel with Rays ace David Price, things settled down.

Granted, Saturday's game was still a black-and-blue affair. There were two hit-by-pitches -- Mike Carp again was plunked (albeit on an errant 72 mile-per-hour curveball) and Tampa catcher Ali Solis took one off the nose (after a Rubby De La Rosa wild pitch in the dirt). Jackie Bradley Jr. bore the biggest lick of the night, taking a ball to the nose after crashing head-first into the left-center field wall trying to corral a Kevin Kiermaier blast -- which went for an inside-the-park home run.

But, like Bradley Jr., the Red Sox emerged no worse for the wear.

“I asked them how close I was to [the ball],” Bradley Jr. said of his close encounter with the Green Monster. “That was the first thing I thought of.”

Entering Saturday’s action, the biggest question surrounding first pitch was the specter of retaliation and whether the umpiring crew would fire the opening salvo, warning the teams before a pitch was even thrown.

The war of words continued before the game, as Price criticized David Ortiz’s edict of “war” against the Rays -- comparing it to when NFL tight end Kellen Winslow infamously proclaimed he was a solider while at the University of Miami in 2003. Also, Farrell again voiced his belief that Price should have been ejected during Friday night’s game.

Despite that hot air, it was business as usual at the ballpark. No warnings were needed by the umpires, and everyone behaved.

“We met with the umpiring crew before the game, just with the chance to talk about a couple of things and that was it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

[+] EnlargeRubby De La Rosa
AP Photo/Michael DwyerIn his first Major League start since 2011, Rubby De La Rosa was in command throughout, striking out eight and walking none in seven shut-out innings.
The Red Sox moved on and continued to stockpile the W’s, as De La Rosa turned in an impressive performance, taking the turn of Clay Buchholz (now on the disabled list). In his first Major League start since 2011, De La Rosa was in command throughout, striking out eight and walking none in seven shut-out innings.

Brock Holt and Bradley hit their first home runs of the season (Holt’s first career) and even the bottom of the order produced. Jonathan Herrera was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI while making a spot start in place of Dustin Pedroia at second base.

“I don’t think we ever lost sight of the team we could be,” said Holt, who’s reached base safely in 10 of the last 12 games. “I know nobody obviously wants to lose 10 in a row. To come out, I think that David Ortiz home run in Atlanta put a little jolt in us and kind of told us we can come back and win this game. And when he did that, kept rolling from there.”

Pierzynski insists it’s still the same ballclub, however.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a magic potion or a formula,” he said. “Nothing’s changed. Guys have been going about it the same way, the difference has been winning games. We’ve been pitching better and getting hits when we need them.”

Gomes sparks Sox; Lackey baffles Braves

May, 29, 2014
5/29/14
1:06
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BOSTON -- When the Boston Red Sox were attempting to win the World Series in October, manager John Farrell took the scouting reports, statistics and matchups and tossed them all in the garbage when it came to deciding whether to put Jonny Gomes in the lineup.

The manager went with his gut and it worked.

Gomes started 11 games during the 2013 postseason and the Red Sox went 10-1 with him in the lineup. His teammates fed off his energy and persona.

[+] EnlargeJonny Gomes
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJonny Gomes had another productive effort Wednesday as the Sox won three straight for the first time this season.
This season, the Red Sox have struggled and recently endured a 10-game losing skid. Despite facing back-to-back right-handers in the past two games, once again Farrell thought it best to dismiss the matchups and start the right-handed hitting Gomes.

"He's one of the players that makes others around him better," Farrell said. "The way he talks the game, the confidence in which he speaks. And he goes out and backs it up with somewhat of the body language and the energy that he displays every night. He doesn't take anything for granted, he's had to work for everything that he's received throughout his career. It's a guy that plays on the edge and you feel it when he's standing in the batter's box or the way he interacts with everybody in the clubhouse."

On Wednesday, Gomes went 2-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored to help the Red Sox to a 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. It was Boston's third consecutive win, the first time this season the Red Sox have won three in a row.

"It's always a compliment when he puts me in the game, or puts me in the lineup in the beginning," Gomes said. "I don't think I'm playing out of my shoes right now. I'm just trying to do what I can to generate some runs and help this ballclub win. [Being called] a spark plug is a compliment, but I'm not one to ever applaud hustle or ever applaud playing the game right, because I think everyone should and that's what I try to do every single day is playing the game right."

Gomes believes in the pitch-to-pitch, game-to-game mentality. Everywhere he has played, his teams have enjoyed success. It's a role he's mastered, and the Red Sox are reaping the benefits of late.

"Tomorrow's not a guarantee for me," he said. "I just run it out there and anyway I can generate a run on the board and hopefully take one off on defense is all I'm trying to do."

Gomes added, "It can be exhausting at times, but I've done it for a while to where every pitch, every at-bat is not so much pressure, but I put a lot on it and have a lot of pride in it. Even if I do play sparingly I want to get in there and try to affect the game somehow."

As poorly as the Red Sox played during that recent skid, they've been opportunistic in the past few games. Starter John Lackey, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., all contributed to Wednesday's victory.

Lackey worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only eight hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. With the win, the right-hander improved to 6-3 in 11 starts this season. It was the third time this season Lackey has registered at least nine K's.

"He was great, he just had command. Keeping the ball down, making pitches when he had to, commanding multiple pitches," said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "When John does that he's pretty tough, especially in this park with the wind blowing in."

This season has been an eye-opening experience for rookies Bogaerts and Bradley. But with more playing time, both are showing signs of becoming more consistent. On Wednesday, Bogaerts went 3-for-4, including a double, a walk and a run scored. He has reached base safely in 10 of his last 11 games. Bradley went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI.

"We're trying to win the World Series again, we're not trying to just run it out there," Gomes said. "They're on a roll right now and we've got to continue to put some weight on their shoulders and they've got to carry it as well."

Added Gomes, "It's a pretty veteran team, but at the same time the young guys are really young. You've got to let them fail, you really do. You need to let them fail and get themselves out and if they can't that's when you come in. You succeed and fail on your own."

Within the Red Sox clubhouse there's a feeling that the recent losing skid never existed. Ask players about it, and they'll brush it off as if it didn't happen. The players believe they can easily win 10 games in a row, too.

"Obviously, it wasn't ideal," Gomes said of the losing skid. "No one truly had their head in the sand, no one was ready to throw in the white towel on the season, by any means. It was just a rough patch, but this team does a pretty good job of turning the page, cleaning the slate once we leave these double doors here, and likewise on a win. What we did tonight doesn't matter tomorrow. We'll clean the slate and get back to work tomorrow."

Bradley lets hair loose, hopes bat follows

May, 17, 2014
5/17/14
6:29
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BOSTON -- The month of May has been nothing but unkind to Red Sox rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

However, never did the struggle seem more real than in the clubhouse before Saturday night's game against the Detroit Tigers.

"This isn't working!" Bradley exclaimed to several clubhouse attendants watching him as his teammates took the field for batting practice.

What's the "this," you may wonder? Getting his baseball cap to fit on over an afro that Bradley unleashed for the first time in public Saturday afternoon.

"It's [John] Lackey's day on the mound," Bradley said to explain why he let his typically braided hair loose. "He wanted it out last start; I told him I would do it this start for him. What the cowboy wants the cowboy gets, be careful what you wish for."

The afro has been a project nearly two years in the making as Bradley admitted that his last haircut was back in mid-June 2012, before he represented the Salem Red Sox in the Class A All-Star game. Since then, the 24-year-old has primarily kept his hair in cornrows until finally budging at the request of Lackey and his other teammates.

"They wanted me to do this for a while now, I kind of just shunned it off a little bit," Bradley said.

After getting his hat to stay in place, Bradley was asked about another hurdle he may face if he chooses to continue rocking his new look -- getting a helmet to stay on over his hair.

"I haven't gotten that far yet," he said.

For the time being, it appears Bradley won't get there Saturday night, as Red Sox manager John Farrell opted to give the rookie outfielder the night off as a way to catch his breath. Since the start of May, Bradley has hit .128 in 14 games while striking out in more than a third of his at-bats (17 K's in 47 ABs). Following Friday night's game in which he went 0-for-3, Bradley remarked that he felt "lost" at the plate.

"I saw the comment that he made," Farrell said. "I think anytime a player speaks that candidly about what he's feeling, there's an opportunity to give him a little bit of a breather and take a game in and catch his breath, so to speak. It's not uncommon for players to go through the peaks and valleys we've seen, but this is someone that, in my view, felt like throughout April was really making some strides with his approach. And yet, in this month, things have kind of turned a little bit.

"We're not down on his abilities, but I think we've got to recognize when some of that confidence gets a little bit shallow, we've got to give him a chance to rebuild it."

Bradley maintains that his confidence has yet to waiver during his May struggles and that he'll continue to "weather the storm" so long as he gets the chance to play every day while figuring things out. Is there any hope that perhaps the afro could serve as a catalyst toward getting himself and the team going offensively?

"Yeah, take whatever you can get," Bradley Jr. said. "Definitely trying to win, and if this sparks something, I guess I'll have to bring it out a lot more often."

JBJ, 3-for-25 in May, at season-low .204

May, 10, 2014
5/10/14
12:46
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BOSTON -- Rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. enters Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers batting a season-low .204 after striking out all three times he faced Rangers ace Yu Darvish on Saturday.

Bradley's batting average has dropped 40 percentage points since the start of May, a month in which he is batting just .080 (3-for-25) with 10 strikeouts in eight games.

The Sox as a team are so far batting just .227 this month. Will Middlebrooks is batting .148 (4-for-27), Shane Victorino .207 (6-for-29) and Xander Bogaerts .208 (5-for-24). Even Mike Napoli, who has been the team's most reliable hitter early, is batting just .182 (4-for-22) this month, though he has drawn 10 walks.

Victorino, who also struck out three times against Darvish on Friday night, so far has batted exclusively from the right side this season. He is batting just .229 (8-for-35) against right-handed pitchers.

Lots to digest, tough to swallow

May, 4, 2014
5/04/14
9:25
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BOSTON -- There was plenty to digest after the Boston Red Sox dropped the series finale to the Oakland Athletics 3-2 on Sunday. Here is a sampling:

1. Take one: This game was a dream for those who like to analyze in-game decisions and the nuances of managing a baseball team at the highest level. In the end, most of the analysis revolved around the inability for Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to get down a bunt on two separate occasions.

Bradley was at the plate in a 2-2 game in the seventh. There were runners at second and third and one out. Manager John Farrell called for a safety squeeze, hoping to get Xander Bogaerts in from third with the go-ahead run, but Bradley’s bunt resulted in an easy out at first and no advance by the runners.

“I got the bunt down, I just didn’t get it where I wanted it,” Bradley said.

So where did you want it?

“A little away from the pitcher. Anywhere but the pitcher,” he said.

Unfortunately for Boston, A’s lefty Fernando Abad pounced on the bunt while Bogaerts froze and Dustin Pedroia followed with a grounder to third to end the threat.

Farrell discussed the many factors going into the decision to have Bradley bunt. Abad’s presence had plenty to do with it, and it wasn’t quite time to bring one of the big bats off the bench.

“It’s not a suicide squeeze, it’s a safety squeeze, but if it’s in the intended area ... We felt like with the running speed of [Bogaerts] at third, we get it to the right area it’s a very difficult play to defend,” Farrell said. “Left on left in that situation. [Mike Napoli] was available but not looking to go there because of the way the wind was playing in the outfield. A tie game, still felt like outfield defense was at a premium. That was the call left on left.”

[+] EnlargeMiddlebrooks
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsWill Middlebrooks reacts after being tagged out at third by Josh Donaldson in the 10th inning.
2. Take two: After Will Middlebrooks led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and moved to second on center fielder Coco Crisp’s error, Bradley was in another situation to move a runner up 90 feet. He fouled off the first bunt attempt, then pulled the bat back on a called strike to fall behind 0-and-2 and force Farrell to remove the bunt sign.

Farrell again discussed what he hoped would occur.

“Get the tying run 90 feet from home plate and then we’ve got a lot of things coming,” he said. “Pedey’s had a lot of success against [Oakland reliever Jim] Johnson. [Shane Victorino] has swung the bat well against him. We’re in the meat of the order with two shots and a guy 90 feet away.”

Even with the bunt called off, Bradley did his best to try to move up Middlebrooks by bouncing one to the right side. Give credit to A’s first baseman Daric Barton for pouncing on the chopper and firing across the diamond to nail Middlebrooks, who slid in headfirst and appeared to jam his shoulder on the play.

3. Middlebrooks’ take: The Sox third baseman said his shoulder is fine: “Just kind of zinged me. I’m fine. I’m not hurt.”

As for the play that erased him from the bases, Middlebrooks was just trying to make something happen.

“Trying to make a hustle play, trying to advance on that. Knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “I was breaking off the bat so I didn’t know if it was to his right, to his left, right at him. Unfortunately it was right at him, but I had to take that chance at that point in the game to get to third base with one out.”

4. The winning run: None of this would have mattered much if Oakland had not scored a run against suddenly struggling lefty Chris Capuano in the top of the 10th, when Farrell was forced to make some more tough decisions.

He had already used up closer Koji Uehara in the ninth. The A’s had left-handed hitter Eric Sogard and then Crisp -- a switch hitter who has slightly worse career numbers versus lefites -- due up to begin the frame. Sogard was hit for, but Capuano got that out and retired Crisp. At that point, Farrell was just hoping for one more out from his reliever, even with lefty killers Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson the next two hitters in the lineup.

It didn’t work.

Lowrie crushed a double to left-center and Donaldson was intentionally walked. Oakland manager Bob Melvin went to Alberto Callaspo as a pinch hitter, but Capuano lost him on a 3-and-2 pitch. Lowrie then scored on Yoenis Cespedes’ infield hit against Burke Badenhop.

“We’re sitting in a two-out situation, they’ve got their best right-handed hitter at the plate,” Farrell said. “We looked to manage the inning and get that final out. With Callaspo, that 3-2 changeup puts our backs against the wall in a bases-loaded situation.

“Final out was tough to come by.”

Farrell removed Capuano in the middle of an at-bat Saturday, but stuck with him despite difficult matchups in this one. One wonders if Badenhop could have been brought in a batter or two earlier to turn Lowrie around or go after Donaldson. However, the fact that Uehara and Junichi Tazawa were already used up, and that fellow right-hander Edward Mujica was unavailable, meant that Farrell needed to squeeze every out he could from each guy in the event the game carried on. Badenhop was the last righty remaining.

5. Sensing a theme here: It seems as if every loss for the Red Sox involves frustrating moments with runners on base, as was the case Sunday, when they went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had the notable failures in the seventh and 10th innings.

[+] EnlargePierzynski
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesA.J. Pierzynski points toward the Sox dugout after tying the game with a solo homer in the seventh.
It is perhaps the most basic of the many ugly numbers in this department, but Boston is now hitting .222 with runners in scoring position on the year.

6. There were some positives: John Lackey did what he could to keep the Sox in it, allowing two runs in six innings in his third straight solid start.

“He gave us everything he had,” Farrell said. “They did a good job of running the pitch count up. I thought today was a much different strike zone to which to pitch to, and his pitch count climbed a little bit, but a quality start. Gave us an opportunity to win here today.”

Melvin was not pleased with the strike zone given to Jon Lester on Saturday, feeling it was too wide. It sounds like Farrell found Lackey a bit squeezed.

7. Start me up: Lackey, Lester and Clay Buchholz combined to thwart what was the best road offense in the league entering the series. The trio allowed three runs on 10 hits in 20 1/3 innings against Oakland, striking out 24 in the process.

The strikeout-to-walk ratio of Boston’s starters is now at 2.89. The last time the Sox finished with a better mark with its rotation was in 2002 (2.97).

8. Always in the mix: At least that’s the way it seems for Farrell when he looks at the play of catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose solo homer in the seventh forged a 2-2 tie on Sunday.

“Came at a big time to tie things up. He’s been swinging the bat well,” Farrell said. “When we’re able to put some runs on the board A.J. is seemingly in there somewhere and that came at a big time today.”

Pierzynski is 13-for-35 (.371) with two home runs, two doubles and two of his three walks in his last 10 games.

9. Can’t get over the hump: Since falling to 2-3 on April 5, the Sox have had eight chances to return to .500, Sunday being the most recent. They are 0-8 in those affairs, losing by one run in four of them and in extra innings twice.

10. It doesn’t get easier: Sure, Oakland leaves town and there are four off days in the next 15, but once this homestand ends Wednesday, Boston will enter a challenging portion of the slate. From May 9 through June 29, the Red Sox play 38 of 58 games on the road, including visits to Texas, where they often struggle, as well as Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees. Also included in the run is the club’s first West Coast trip, involving four games at Oakland (Boston is 12-28 there since 2005) and three at Seattle.

Buckle up.

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