Red Sox

Drellich: Aggressive Red Sox run into a win, and some validation

Drellich: Aggressive Red Sox run into a win, and some validation

BOSTON — Mookie Betts pulled into second base as Jackie Bradley Jr. made a swim move across home plate, a smooth maneuver that wound up unnecessary. One of the best anywhere, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, didn’t come up with the throw. 

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Bradley would have been out if he had. Instead, an aggressive attempt to score the winning run from first base on a double off the Monster worked and the Red Sox walked off the Cards, 5-4. 

Afterward, third-base coach Brian Butterfield and some coaches happened to hear Betts describe his view of Bradley’s sprint.

“It seems like everybody is saying we’re too aggressive and guys are getting thrown out but the risk-reward,” Betts said. “You’re going to run into some outs, but you’re going to run into something like today. It just shows you that there’s a means to an end, and we’re just going to be an aggressive base-running team.”

Music to Butterfield’s ears.

“We noticed that Mookie said, ‘There’s the means to the end,’” Butterfield said. “We kind of went ‘Oh, play that one back’ — because that’s what we say all the time.”

Butterfield and the Red Sox aren’t changing their overall approach.  They’ve run into more outs than anyone. Privately, conversations have indeed been held to address individual mistakes.

Within the clubhouse, perhaps the Sox do not need outside validation. But Wednesday night’s win, another moment of resiliency overall, showed everyone the other side of the running coin: the good that can come out of stretching a defense.

“I don’t know the inner workings of the Patriots — I want to know,” Butterfield said. “But I trust that they hit on things [that go wrong] and I know that they do. They’re the benchmark for us. They are. They should be for everybody.

“You can bet your bottom dollar that when a kid gets too aggressive, then we say OK, here’s the time that you slow down.”

Before Betts’ winning double, Bradley told Butterfield that he wanted to try for home on a ball off the Monster. 

Well, Bradley didn’t exactly tell Butterfield that. Standing across the diamond at first base, Bradley signaled over to his third-base coach.

“We talk about being engaged on the bases,” Butterfield said. “We have hand signals to remind [them]. Part of our job is reminding the guy before the pitcher steps on the rubber. But, we love it when players are getting Ruben [first-base coach Ruben Amaro] and I engaged by looking at us.”

Bradley was the trail runner with Betts at the plate, the Sox down 4-3 and two out. Chris Young was on second base when Betts roped a hanging breaking ball off the Monster.

“[Bradley is] over at first base and he’s looking at me and I was looking at my lead runner, and I look over at Jackie and he's going — ‘Watch the wall,’” Butterfield said, motioning with his arms the way Bradley did. “He goes, ‘Ball off the wall, you score me.’ Love that. ‘Cause you know he’s going to fight for everything that he’s got on a secondary lead. He’s gonna anticipate and he’s gonna give a great bolt.”

Bradley Jr., was probably getting waved in even without that pre-pitch conversation, Butterfield said. Because the Sox are sticking to their guns, which have at times appeared reckless.

“It’s OK,” Butterfield said of the criticism. “If you have a plan you got to stay with it, you got to do it with conviction.”

Are the Sox trying to be more aggressive compared to last year? Butterfield didn’t give a firm answer. But the way the Sox have played lately, with wins in 12 of 14, they do look like a team with fresh legs. 

“There was a point last year at the midway point where I thought it was electric the way these guys were pushing it, and the way they were giving great effort and they made a lot of stuff happen with their legs,” Butterfield said. “We’re in the middle of August, the dog days of August. 

"We’re in a pennant race and we’ve told the guys that we feel like we’re going that way as far as effort," Butterfield continued, pointing upward. "And we’re noticing some other people that we’re playing, it doesn’t seem like — this is when you get tired mentally. This is when you get tired physically, worn out, banged up. But you got to keep pushing it, and they’re doing a good job at doing that.”

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Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

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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.