Red Sox

Luis Valbuena's solo homer lifts Angels to 3-2 win over Red Sox

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Luis Valbuena's solo homer lifts Angels to 3-2 win over Red Sox

ANAHEIM, Calif. --The Los Angeles Angels made their five hits count Sunday.

Luis Valbuena hit a tiebreaking solo home run in the seventh inning, Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons also homered and the Angels beat the Boston Red Sox 3-2.

Valbuena hit his ninth shot of the season into short right field to leadoff the inning, rounding out a trio of solo leadoff homers for the Angels.

After failing to win any of their previous seven series, the Angels pulled back within two games of .500 by taking two of three against the Red Sox. The Angels' last series win also came against Boston, taking two of three at Fenway Park last month.

But the underlying issue, getting the offense to consistently deliver and help out a superb defense and lights-out bullpen, is obvious to Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

"We need to get better on the offensive end if we're going to make the push we want to make," Scioscia said. "There is no reason to feel frustrated, there is no reason to feel optimistic. We know what we need to do."

Trout answered Hanley Ramirez's homer to left field in the top of the sixth that gave Boston a 2-1 lead by launching a massive shot to center. It was Trout's third home run in five games and his fifth RBI of the eight-game homestand.

Parker Bridwell (4-1) gave up two runs on five hits in seven innings. Bud Norris earned his 15th save while only giving up a single to Ramirez to start the ninth. Xander Bogaerts hit into a double play to end the game.

Rick Porcello (4-13) allowed three runs in eight innings, his 18th consecutive start where he threw at least 6 innings. He struck out six and walked one.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was concerned with how Angel Stadium can play small on a hot day and those fears came to pass on three occasions.

"Still, we're in a 3-2 ballgame with the go-ahead run at the plate and we don't make it click," Farrell said.

Bridwell retired the first 10 batters he faced and 14 of 15 Red Sox before Sandy Leon singled with two outs in the fifth. Simmons made a sliding backhand grab on Brock Holt's ground ball to short but couldn't get the throw off, putting two runners on. Deven Marrero's line-drive single then fell in front of a diving Ben Revere in left and scored Leon to tie the game at 1.

"We've got to get back to what we showed here early in games the last two nights, which is the use of the whole field," Farrell said.

After hitting the game-winner homer Saturday night, Simmons sent his 11th home run to left-center in the fourth to give the Angels a brief 1-0 lead.

Simmons cleanly fielded six straight balls between the second and fourth inning before his homer and started the double play in the ninth, again confirming his credentials as the team's defensive centerpiece.

His surge in power, however, is what is getting noticed, even if it seems like a non-story to Simmons.

"I'm more surprised I didn't hit more the last couple years," Simmons said. "I know what I'm capable."

PEN PRESENCE

The Angels got 12 scoreless innings from their bullpen over the last four games, allowing just two hits in that span while striking out 13.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia got the day off to rest his sore left knee. ... Rafael Devers, a touted 20-year-old 3B prospect, was called up Sunday and will make his major league debut Tuesday.

Angels: Yunel Escobar was slotted at DH to give Albert Pujols two days off going into a six-game road trip. Valbuena replaced Escobar at 3B, while C.J. Cron got the nod at 1B.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 3.66 ERA) will make his second start since coming off the disabled list because of a right knee injury when the Red Sox open a three-game series at the Seattle Mariners on Monday. Rodriguez went six scoreless innings to pick up the win against the Mariners on May 26.

Angels: RHP Jesse Chavez (5-10, 4.88) has gone seven straight starts without recording a win and will try to end that futility when the Angels open a three-game series at the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. Chavez has allowed 12 home runs in 10 road starts.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press