Red Sox

Pedroia finishes what Saltalamacchia starts in 7th inning

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Pedroia finishes what Saltalamacchia starts in 7th inning

BOSTON -- The difference in Tuesday night's 5-1 Red Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

The rally started with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And it ended with Dustin Pedroia.

With two outs in the seventh, the Red Sox trailed 1-0 and had only three hits against the Blue Jays.

Then Saltalamacchia ripped a 1-0 fastball the other way, off Jason Frasor, and it ended up in the Monster Seats, tying the game at 1-1.

"He's playing a confident brand of baseball, because he believes in himself," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win. "And he's a talented player. I haven't seen him get down on himself -- I just told him during the game -- I haven't seen him get down on a pitcher. Some things that might have haunted his past, seem to be gone. And he's just playing the game of baseball. He looks good doing it."

It was the beginning of a two-out rally that helped the Red Sox to their eighth win in the last 10 games. The finishing touches of that rally came four batters later, when Pedroia broke a 1-1 tie by ripping an 0-1 sinker -- with bases loaded -- up the middle that scored the eventual game-winning runs, and gave Boston a 3-1 lead after seven innings.

"I think it means a lot, the way we did it," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win. "With Dustin getting the two RBI's with the bases loaded. It seems like it's been so long since he's been in that opportunity late in the game, where he could win the game. And it presented itself, and he drove the runs in. That really gives us strength."

Since returning from a thumb injury for which he was given a day off last Friday, Pedroia seems to be getting back to his usual self.

"Obviously in baseball there's times when you're going to come through and there's times when you're not going to come through," said Pedroia afterwards. "When I dont, I dont get too upset. When I do, I dont get too happy."

Pedroia's teammates were pleased to see him come through in the clutch once again.

"Dustin, you know when he comes to the plate, he can do some damage," said Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles. "He's shown that over the course of his career. And it just so happens, this year we have a lot of guys doing it as well. So i think every night you never know who's going to be the hero. And that makes the game intriguing for us. You never know who's going to be that guy that's going to step up and get the big hit. We know Pedey's done it so many times. And he's going to do it a lot more times from now until the end of the year. So is Papi, so is Gonzo. I mean, it just makes it fun."

Saltalamacchia and Pedroia weren't the only ones doing all the work in that seventh-inning rally that won the Red Sox Tuesday night's game. After Saltalamacchia's solo home run that tied it up, both Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava pinch hit with two outs.

Kalish -- the lefty -- kept the rally alive with a double to right field on an 0-2 slider -- against the left-handed Luis Perez.

"I told Kalish before the game, when he wasn't playing, that he's saves all his hits for the big opportunities," said Valentine. "So when the inning started, I lined him up that way. Of course, with two outs, I'm also thinking that Daniel Nava's going to be able to lead off the next inning, if Kalish makes an out. So it's not like I was praying for it. But, I wasn't afraid."

Kalish doubled, and then the pinch-hitting Nava was hit by a pitch. Then they loaded the bases after a Mike Aviles walk.

"Kalish battling with two strikes against a left-hander in a pinch-hit opportunity, and he got a double," said Valentine. "Those are big plays.

"Mike Aviles' at-bat to walk, to get Dustin up to the plate, is a big play," he added. "It's not one of his forte's, in case you haven't noticed."

"It was pretty fun," said Aviles. "I was looking for a pitch, something that I could drive into the outfield. And I took two terrible swings. I just told myself that, make sure his sinker starts at the belt, because anything below the belt, it was just going to fall down."

After falling behind 1-2, Aviles took three-straight balls to set Pedroia up for the clutch hit.

The Red Sox added two more in the eighth on an Adrian Gonzalez RBI double and a Will Middlebrooks RBI sac fly, but the seventh inning battle with two outs will be what stands out on this night.

"Everyone stepped in and played great," said Pedroia. "Weve had some injuries but guys have stepped in and theyre producing like the guys that got hurt. So its big for us."

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.