Commentary

Morales' gem a temporary reprieve

Updated: August 6, 2012, 8:00 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine might have received a stay of execution with his team's marginal, 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins to snap a four-game losing skid Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

If the Red Sox were swept by the Twins, especially with the Texas Rangers coming to town for the next three games, would you have been surprised if ownership decided to pull the trigger and relieve Valentine of his managerial duties with 53 games remaining in the regular season in hopes of salvaging something?

[+] EnlargeFranklin Morales
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireFranklin Morales worked six strong innings and allowed only one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
There have been too many disconnects in 2012, and the Red Sox have been in the basement of the AL East for the majority of the season. With Sunday's victory, the club remains one game under .500. Sure, injuries have been a major reason for some of the pitfalls, but certainly not all of them.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry attended Saturday's devastating loss, in which the Twins erased a two-run deficit and scored four runs in the top of the ninth en route to a 6-4 win over Boston. Reportedly, Henry met with Valentine after the game. An email to Henry seeking confirmation of the meeting was not returned.

Subpar starting pitching has been an issue for the Red Sox. Without the performances of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, this club's season would ostensibly be over. Instead, Boston is trying to stay in contention for the wild card.

There have been few bright spots this season, but there were a couple on display during Sunday's win over the Twins.

Left-hander Franklin Morales, who was pulled out of the bullpen and made only his sixth start this season, was simply masterful in his spot start for the ailing Josh Beckett. Morales worked six solid innings and allowed only one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He threw a total of 106 pitches (63 strikes).

"I felt pretty good today," Morales said. "I tried to make my pitch and throw strikes. I tried to take the hitter out and let our team score some runs. I feel pretty good today."

He has a 3.06 ERA with 35 strikeouts in his six starts and has held opponents to one run or fewer in three of those outings.

"It was a good situation for me," he said. "I needed to throw my pitch and I felt good concentration and I know the team needed to win. I just tried to do what I needed to do and do my things."

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After spending the majority of this season in the bullpen, and with his last start coming on July 13, Morales was able to last despite the long layoff from the rotation.

"I'm not thinking too much about that," he said. "I'm thinking inning by inning, and hitter by hitter."

When asked if he wanted to stay in the rotation, Morales said he realizes that's not his decision.

"I'm here for the team, to help the team in any situation the manager needs me and try to get the hitters out," he said.

Beckett, who was pulled from his last start in the top of the third inning last Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers due to back spasms, has played long toss the past two days and will throw a bullpen session on Monday in preparation for his start on Wednesday against the Rangers.

Valentine said after Sunday's game that he did not know whether Morales would return to the bullpen or stay in the rotation.

"I like him as a starter, we know that," the manager said. "Right now I don't think we have to do anything with Franklin and make any total determination. We have a tough Texas team coming in right now, our bullpen is a little wobbly and we're a guy short out there and all that good stuff. We'll play it by ear."

Morales' teammates appreciated his effort.

"It was awesome. He was great," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's been great. He can do both, which is a huge plus for our team. He threw the ball great and we needed that."

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireAnother bright spot for the Red Sox on Sunday was Carl Crawford's continued production. He went 3-for-5, including a double, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base (above).

"It's real impressive considering that he went from the bullpen to starter, back to the bullpen again," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "He's been up and down every night. Even last night he knew he was starting today, but he still had his cleats on just in case. For the guy to have the mentality like that and to be able to turn a switch and be able to pitch a gem like he did today, it's awesome."

Another positive aspect from Sunday's game was the continued contributions from outfielder Carl Crawford. He went 3-for-5, including a double, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. He's batting .333 (12-for-36) with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs in his past nine games. Crawford also celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday.

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"Happy birthday, Carl," Saltalamacchia said when asked about his teammate's performance. "We knew he was going to start swinging the bat. It's impressive for him to be out as long as he has and jump right into the big leagues and hit like he has. It just goes to show you what kind of talent he's got and his ability. It's a spark to the lineup that we need."

Also, Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning. It was his 11th homer of the season.

It wouldn't be a typical Red Sox day without a bit of discouraging news for the club. Red Sox DH David Ortiz said he might receive an injection on Monday for his right Achilles strain because he's still sore and the pain won't go away. This means the likelihood of him returning to the lineup on this homestand is slim at this point.

The upcoming three-game series against the Rangers is crucial. If the Red Sox get swept, would you be surprised if there were some big changes by later this week?

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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