Red Sox

Facing injuries, Sox buckle down

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Facing injuries, Sox buckle down

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY As the injuries pile up for the Red Sox and the dog days of August begin to weigh down heavily on key players that are still healthy, it takes a little bit of everything to keep the Boston train rolling.

It requires Herculean performances by great players like the One Man Gang act pulled off by Dustin Pedroia on Thursday night, and sometimes it takes gobs of contributions from unexpected places like the ones put forth across the board in Friday nights 7-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Playing in the middle of a stretch of 14 out of 17 games on the road without two of your marquee players is a time for a baseball team to show the clichd buzz words that are always getting tossed around: character, toughness and resolve. The Sox have had all of those in the last two games since getting owned by the Tampa Bay Rays starting staff earlier this week, and theyll need it to continue.

Its tough losing Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but one of the great things about the Red Sox is that we have enough good players who can pick up the slack, said Josh Beckett.

The Sox have basically spit on the notion of curling up into a pity-filled ball by putting up back-to-back wins while keeping pace with the Yankees, and some even chastised the doubters after the game was over.

You guys already ready to hit the panic button? said one Red Sox player in jest to a group of reporters following the victory. Weve got a long way to get.

The Sox continue to get excellent performances all across the board like spot starter Andrew Miller and jack-of-all-trades reliever Alfredo Aceves combining to hold the Royals to four hits and a single run. Miller hadnt started a game for the Sox since July 31 and could have been excused if he was a rusty, out-of-sorts mess on the mound, but instead the lengthy lefty was on point with his delivery and fastball command.

You do well and you can say you were fresh. You struggle and you say you're rusty," said Miller, who made two relief appearances for the Sox following that last start. "Fortunately, I was able to say I felt fresh tonight.

The win makes Miller 5-1 on the season and also gives Aceves eight wins and a pair of saves during a season when hes owned the Julian Tavarez will do anything out of the bullpen role for Boston.

Given the injuries in the rotation, the Sox would already be in deep trouble if both hurlers hadnt gone high and above expectations for this season. Aceves and Miller are a combined 13-2 this season for the Sox, and might just be viewed as the difference should the Sox finish above New York when the standings are final.

Its a lot to ask. Normally when you bring a guy out there in the sixth inning hes not going to finish the game, said Francona. But he goes out there and puts up zeroes, and is efficient enough where he can stay out there and save the bullpen.

The Royals decided they werent going to let Pedroia beat them for a second straight night and twice intentionally walked the slugging second baseman when trouble was brewing for the Sox offense. It seemed like it might work when Jed Lowrie couldnt make Kansas City pay despite singling in both instances, and Ryan Lavarnway left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings of the game.

Instead it was a pair of underperforming outfielders that got things going in the fourth inning when Carl Crawford (hitting .248) and Darnell McDonald (hitting .170) both unloaded for extra base hits and ended up producing the tying run. One inning later it was Lowrie and Lavarnway getting on base and Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming through with the three-run bomb way over the left field fence on an 0-2 changeup from Jeff Francis.

All that matters is that we won, said Gonzalez. In football during a season when theres only 16 games then every game matters, but here youre going to through spans where you dont feel good and when you feel great. You need to keep yourself as even as you possibly can.

Its a deep team. We dont depend on just one or two guys. Salty has been unbelievable since the first month and weve got a really good lineup one through nine. Its not just one through four here. You take a couple of guys out, and a couple of other guys step up.

Sure Adrian Gonzalez had three hits to bust out of an 0-for-14 slump, Jacoby Ellsbury managed a run and an RBI and Dustin Pedroia was on base three times despite going hitless in the game, but it was the unsung heroes in the lineup that managed to pull them through on a nondescript Friday night in Kansas City that will be long since forgotten when the excitement of October baseball arrives.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

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.