Red Sox

Drellich: Farrell, Red Sox weather constant trouble to win A.L. East

Drellich: Farrell, Red Sox weather constant trouble to win A.L. East

BOSTON -- From nasty weather in the finale to a season full of injuries, between an airplane ambush and stolen signs in the dugout, the Red Sox’ division title was more a lesson in recovery than a tutorial in excellence.

After 161 games and a throwback scare from the Yankees, the standings are a reward for crisis aversion as much as dominant play.

“We don’t make anything easy,” said Mookie Betts, who homered in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Astros. “But I think that’s why it’s fun for us.”

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You never banked on this: John Farrell is the first manager in team history to win three American League East titles. His Red Sox have also captured the East twice in a row, another first in Sox history. 

But this year’s team stands apart from Farrell’s previous division winners.

In 2013 and 2016, the Sox were coming off last-place finishes. The '13 club took the division lead comfortably before the final weekend, propelled by a recovering city in the wake of the Boston Marathon. Last year’s team was an offensive juggernaut, anchored by the mostly unstoppable David Ortiz.

This year’s group drove full speed over potholes with a damaged suspension for six months and somehow never broke down. It can't be said that everything was handled perfectly or well, but in the aggregate, it was handled well enough.

"I think [Farrell has] done a great job," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "It’s a tough job. Managing is a tough job, period. I think it’s a tougher job here than maybe anywhere else. The scrutiny you receive. Being in the game as long as I’ve been in the game, I’m amazed somewhat at the scrutiny aspect of it. 

"And then when I look at the names behind his desk, the number of pictures and how few guys have stayed a long time. It just shows you it’s a tough job. He’s done a great job. He’s a tough guy. He’s a smart baseball man. He’s got a good staff around him, too."

In Ortiz’s absence, there is one player who fits that mostly unstoppable mold: Chris Sale. In his eighth season in the majors and first Boston, the Sox ace is going to the postseason for the first time.

"I'm 28 years old, so about 23 years,” a champagne-drenched Sale said of how long he envisioned being a part of a celebration like Saturday’s. “This has been a long time coming. I'm enjoying this about as much as anybody. A lot of hard work went into this. It's a long season. We had a lot of guys put everything they had on the field the entire season. To have this right here, it's the best.”

But little else about the Sox qualified as unstoppable, or constant, outside of Sale and Craig Kimbrel. 

The personnel in the bullpen evolved over time, yet the performance was consistent throughout. David Price went down, Doug Fister arrived. The home runs left, Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers arrived, and enough offense came through to power the Sox to 93 wins, matching last year’s total. That’s borderline stunning, given the drop in offense.

Now Price is re-emerging from two significant injury layoffs in grand fashion. He had a pair of gigantic seventh-inning strikeouts Saturday, including a threat-ending punchout of George Springer with the bases loaded and the Sox ahead 5-2.

“It was a turbulent year, but he is one hell of a pitcher,” Sox owner John Henry said of Price. “It was 2008 when he came in and shut us down from the bullpen [with the Rays in the postseason]. Maybe we'll see that again this year. I think we will.”

Henry said he was never really worried about this year’s group losing the division down the stretch. There's a more confident man than many in Boston. 

“We would really have to blow it," Henry said, "and I didn't think we would.”

But the Yankees’ run at the end was just another in a long list of troubles the Sox endured.

How Farrell handled Price, how Farrell and Dustin Pedroia handled the dust-up with the Orioles at the start of the year -- all that gives way now to thoughts of Pedroia playing through pain, and Farrell, Manager John himself, taking a place in the Sox’ record books.

“You know what, I haven’t really given it a whole lot of thought where [this year] stacks up with others, and I don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to it,” Farrell said.

Farrell was being duly modest, deferring to his players. But, there really hasn’t been too much time to give it any thought. There's been much too trouble along the way.

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Moreland's grand slam helps Red Sox keep streak going with win over Athletics, 7-3

Moreland's grand slam helps Red Sox keep streak going with win over Athletics, 7-3

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Even with slugger J.D. Martinez getting a rare day off, the Boston Red Sox had more than enough power in their lineup to keep the best start in franchise history going.

Mitch Moreland hit a grand slam, Jackie Bradley Jr. added a three-run homer and the streaking Red Sox won their eighth in a row, beating the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Friday night.

Boston extended the best start in the franchise's 118-year history, improving to a major league-leading 17-2. The Red Sox have won 17 of 18 since losing to Tampa Bay on Opening Day.

"They're doing something special, let's be honest," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "There's a lot of people watching the team now and there's a lot of people talking about the team. You can't help it. You flip the channels and they're talking about what's going on."

Hundreds of Boston fans decked in red showed up at the Oakland Coliseum. They saw Moreland hit the fifth grand slam by the Red Sox this season - they didn't hit any last year.

Eduardo Nunez had three hits and scored while Hanley Ramirez singled twice for the Red Sox.

"Everybody in here is doing the same thing and it's showed all year how well we've played," Moreland said. "Everybody's stepped up and done something to help the team win and that's the reason we're where we're at."

Jed Lowrie matched his career high with four hits for Oakland. Lowrie, who doubled in a run in the first, leads the majors in hits (32) and RBIs (22). The A's had won four in a row.

"Just a consistent routine and taking good swings, putting together good at-bats every time up, every day," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

Moreland homered on the first pitch from reliever Emilio Pagan in the sixth. Mookie BettsAndrew Benintendi and Ramirez opened the inning with three consecutive singles off starter Kendall Graveman (0-4) before Moreland's towering shot to right.

This is the first time the Red Sox have hit five slams before May 1.

"In that situation I'm just trying to go up and get a pitch up in the zone," said Moreland, who has homered in each of his last four games at the Coliseum. "It just happened to be a slider that kind of popped of out of his hand and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Bradley homered off Graveman in the second inning, his second in four games.

The power surge by the Red Sox was timely on a night starter Drew Pomeranz failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his season debut. Activated off the disabled list earlier in the day after recovering from a strained forearm, the left-hander struck out seven but allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Hector Velazquez (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win. Boston also got a lift from Matt Barnes, who retired four batters and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

CREW CHIEF REVIEW

Chad Pinder hit what appeared to be a two-run homer off Pomeranz in the first inning but first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled it foul after a few moments of uncertainty. Crew chief and home plate ump Brian Gorman called for a review and the foul call stood. Pinder struck out to end the inning.

LEFTY ISSUES

The A's dropped to 1-6 in games started by left-handed pitchers. Boston will also start lefties on Saturday and Sunday.

GRAVEMAN'S DAY

Graveman, Oakland's opening day starter, pitched into the sixth and allowed six runs on seven hits. He has allowed seven home runs this season, tied with Cole Hamels of Texas for most in the majors.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Martinez was given a planned day off. Martinez has been Boston's hottest hitter over the past two weeks while going 13 for 22 (.591) with four home runs. ... LHP Bobby Poyner will make at least one more rehab start before the team decides whether or not to activate him off the DL. Poyner has been out since April 12 with a strained left hamstring. ... RHP Marcus Walden was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Pomeranz.

Athletics: RHPs Chris Bassitt and Josh Lucas were recalled from Triple-A Nashville. LHP Daniel Coulombe was optioned down.

UP NEXT

Boston's Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) faces Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA) in matchup of lefties at the Coliseum on Saturday. Sale has yielded three runs and struck out 31 over 22 innings this season. Manaea has been Oakland's most consistent pitcher, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his four starts.

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Betts, Benintendi lead sizzling Red Sox past Angels, 8-2

Betts, Benintendi lead sizzling Red Sox past Angels, 8-2

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With a homer-happy lineup and a lights-out pitching staff, the Boston Red Sox have been mowing down their opposition since the day after opening day.

Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels were the latest contenders who could only applaud Boston's formidable start.

Mookie Betts hit his second leadoff homer in three games, Andrew Benintendi homered and drove in three runs and the Red Sox completed a dominant sweep of the AL West leaders with an 8-2 victory Thursday night.

J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers also drove in runs during the seventh consecutive victory by the major league-leading Red Sox, who have won 16 of 17 since losing on opening day. Boston outscored the Angels 27-3 over 27 innings in the series, batting .371 while pounding out 43 hits.

"We're playing quality baseball," said Alex Cora, the first manager since 1900 to win 16 of his first 18 games in his debut season with a club. "We're pretty good right now. We're pitching and we're playing good defense, and we're driving the ball. That's a good team (in the Angels' clubhouse). For them to score three runs against us, we're on a good roll."

It's more than good: It's historic.

Eduardo Rodriguez (2-0) pitched six innings of three-hit ball as Boston extended the best start in the 118-year-old franchise's history. Boston's 11 homers off the Angels are the franchise's most in a three-game series since 1977.

"We're having fun, and usually when you do that, you play quite well," Benintendi said.

The second-year slugger acknowledged that the Red Sox aren't overly excited about their first three weeks, however. Benintendi noted that several of the hard-hit balls that went for homers in Anaheim's pleasant weather wouldn't have done the same in frigid Boston.

"What do we have left, 150 games maybe?" Benintendi asked. "We hold ourselves to high standards, and we just try to go out and play well."

Betts opened the series with a homer off Ohtani and went on to a three-homer game. Betts added another homer off Nick Tropeano (1-1) in the series finale, giving him six this season - the same number as Mike Trout.

Chris Young homered for the Angels, who started the season 13-3 before running into the Boston buzzsaw. The 11 homers also matched the Angels record for home runs allowed in a three-game series.

"We didn't swing the bat to help (Tropeano) too much," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had to make a lot of pitches with his back against the wall. Give those guys credit. They had a great series."

Zack Cozart had an RBI single for Los Angeles in the second inning, but Boston reclaimed the lead in the fourth with RBI hits by Martinez and Devers.

Young hit his first homer for the Angels in the fifth. The veteran outfielder spent the previous two seasons with the Red Sox.

But Benintendi hit his first homer of the season and Devers added an RBI single in the sixth. Benintendi added a two-run single in the ninth.

Tropeano yielded seven hits and five runs in his second start of the season.

NO SHO

Ohtani went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts as the Angels' designated hitter in his first action since taking his first career loss on the mound Tuesday. Although he's still batting .324, the two-way rookie struggled while moving up to sixth in Scioscia's lineup.

THREE FROM NINE

Shortstop Brock Holt, Boston's No. 9 hitter, had his first three-hit game since Aug. 29, 2016.

UMP INJURED

Plate umpire Jerry Layne left in the bottom of the first inning after a foul ball from Trout hit him on the right elbow. Layne doubled over in obvious pain while trainers attended to him, and first base umpire Greg Gibson moved behind the plate when the game resumed after a long delay. The 59-year-old Layne, a major league umpire since 1989, had deep bruising in his elbow but no broken bones, according to X-rays.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia will travel to Boston to be with the team next week, but he's not close to returning from offseason knee surgery.

UP NEXT

Red SoxDrew Pomeranz makes his season debut in the opener of a weekend series at Oakland. The left-hander strained his forearm in his first start of spring training, but has made two rehab starts in the minors to prepare for the beginning of his second full season with Boston.

AngelsAndrew Heaney (0-0, 5.40 ERA) makes his second start of the season when Los Angeles opens a weekend interleague series against San Francisco. The left-hander has never faced the Giants, and he missed the first 14 games of this season with inflammation in his pitching elbow.

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