Red Sox

Red Sox notes: Unfamiliarity hurts Lester

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Red Sox notes: Unfamiliarity hurts Lester

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON - Jon Lester faced an unfamiliar team, and in turn, saw uncharacteristic results.

Entering Saturdays game against the Milwaukee Brewers, a 4-2 loss for the Red Sox, Lester had pitched against four of their batters. Ironically, they were not the ones to do damage.

Lester gave up three homeruns (including back-to-back shots) in the first three innings to Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and George Kottaras, none of whom he had faced before. He had only given up a total of eight homeruns in his previous 13 starts since also surrendering three on Opening Day against the Texas Rangers.

Its sometimes throwing against teams you dont really know, especially early on when youre trying to feel them out, figure out what their game plan is against you and obviously they were very aggressive, he said. We made the adjustment later and started to get some outs."

Lester settled in after the third, pitching five scoreless innings and finishing the night with eight strikeouts.

Even though he has given up 14 homeruns this season, matching his entire season total last year, Terry Francona was still pleased with how he settled into the game.

His stuff is every bit the same as its always been, said Francona. And again, he ends up going eight innings, gives up four. We scored two and were saying he really battled back and did a great job.

Carl Crawford was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring he suffered running to first base on Friday. While he looks forward to returning, he knows he has to be patient with this injury. It is only his second stint on the DL his entire career and Crawford doesnt want to spend any more time there than he has to.

Hamstring injury, you dont want to mess around with that, he said. You see a lot of guys try to come back too early and then they mess it up and end up being out even longer. We just want to make sure when I come back, I stay there.

If his recovery goes as planned, Crawford would be able to play on the road the Astros, a series the Houston-native has been looking forward to playing in.

Definitely wouldnt want to miss that series, he said. Were cutting it close, thats for sure. Hopefully things will get better soon.

Adrian Gonzalez was assessed an error for dropping a foul ball during Rickie Weeks first-inning at bat, which resulted in a homerun. I just dropped it, Gonzalez said. It was a ball that I should have had and I dropped it. The ball came back a little more than I anticipated and I didnt feel a lot of wind. The ball just came back a little more than I thought and made me kind of have to drop the glove a little bit for the catch and I just dropped it. Its one of those things I wish I had it back.

David Ortiz has extended his home hitting streak to 12 games, dating back to May 19. This is his longest hitting streak at Fenway Park since he spanned a career-high 15 games in 2007.

Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks became a statistical oddity in the first inning when Adrian Gonzalez dropped his foul pop and Weeks hit the next pitch for a home run, thus becoming an unearned run as the lead-off hitter of a game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Weeks is the first batter since the Expos' Warren Cromartie on July 4, 1979, to lead off a game with dropped foul then hitting a home run. Cromartie did so off the Cubs' Bill Caudill after third baseman Steve Ontiveros dropped Cromarties foul fly.

Saturdays paid attendance of 38,175 was Fenway Parks largest of the season.

The Red Sox will pay tribute to the Boston Bruins for winning the Stanley Cup prior to Sundays game. Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged Francona, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers at the start of the Bruins Stanley Cup parade and celebration Saturday morning.

Thank goodness I called him, Francona joked, or Id be left out.

Bobby Jenks, on the DL with back tightness since June 8, made 45 throws Saturday on flat ground.

Dr. Lewis Yocum is expected to examine the MRI of Jed Lowries left shoulder early in the week. Lowrie was placed on the DL Friday with a left shoulder strain.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCamerato

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

TORONTO -- After six home runs in his last seven games, it seems Mookie Betts' isn't impressing his teammates anymore.

"We don't care about Mookie, we care about the Bruins," Hanley Ramirez joked in the locker room after Betts' latest offensive outburst helped the Boston Red Sox snap their season-high three-game losing streak with a 4-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Betts homered twice and drove in three runs as the Red Sox improved to 6-1 in one-run games and got their 18th win of the season, tying the franchise record for victories before May 1.

While the Red Sox outfielder has reached base in each of his last 19 games against the Blue Jays, he said he feels he is starting to tap into the power side of his game.

"I think so. A lot of learning with the new hitting [coaches], and with [new teammate] J.D. [Martinez], just putting things together," he said. "Actually learning how to use my strength versus going off ability."

Betts got the Red Sox on the scoreboard with leadoff homer in the first -- his third such shot of the season and 14th of his career --over the left-field fence. He then put the Red Sox in front for good in the seventh, taking reliever Danny Barnes (1-1) deep over the right-field wall for his eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot that also drove in Brock Holt.

Alex Cora said it is games like this that has Betts keeping the very best of company in the major leagues.

"They're special," the Red Sox manager said. "The Trouts, the Altuves, the more at-bats they get the better you feel about it,"

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, throwing a season-high 106 pitches.

One night after giving up a walk-off home run to Curtis Granderson, closer Craig Kimbrel worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the season.

Though Boston has now won all of Rodriguez's four starts this season, after the recent losing skid, the left-hander was more than happy to give credit to the guy who jump-started the offense.

"We needed something like that, somebody to get us in front and do it like he did it today," he said.

However, Yangervis Solarte wasn't handing out much credit after the game. The third baseman's sixth home run of the season into the second deck of left field in the sixth inning gave Toronto its only lead of the game at 3-2.

"I think [Rodriguez] got lucky a couple of times and we didn't take advantage of it," he said. "I think we made the adjustment a little bit. But I think he got lucky more than us getting beat."

Aaron Sanchez lasted six innings for the Blue Jays, giving up just three hits and two runs, while striking out a season-high eight.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts might be in the Boston lineup Friday, but lost his chance for another rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket's game rained out on Wednesday and the team off Thursday. Manager Alex Cora said Bogaerts would visit the doctor before making a determination on his availability. He has been out since fracturing his ankle on April 8.

Blue Jays: 3B Josh Donaldson should be ready to begin a rehab assignment later this week, according to manager John Gibbons. The former AL MVP has been out since April 10 with right shoulder inflammation. ... SS Troy Tulowitzki has been cleared to begin light baseball activities, according to a team spokesperson. Tulowitzki, currently on the 60-day DL after having bone spurs removed from both feet during spring training, will be monitored and re-evaluated after four weeks.

OUTRIGHT THIEVERY

With steals of both second and third base in the seventh inning by Andrew Benitendi, the Red Sox have now converted 20 of their last 20 stolen-base attempts against Toronto.

NOT O-K?

The Red Sox struck out 10 times and has now done so in each of their last four games, after reaching that mark just two in their first 19 contests.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Just missing leading off the bottom of the first with a home run, Steve Pearce instead decided to make a play for second as the ball caromed off the left-field wall. But with left fielder Benitendi making a good, one-hop throw to second, only a nifty hook slide around the tag of Eduardo Nunez prevented the out.

A FOUR-GONE CONCLUSION?

Despite posting a 13-0 record when plating four or more runs, the Blue Jays dropped to 1-9 when scoring less than four.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 1.86) takes the mound for the series finale looking to improve on his 4-1 record with a 0.96 ERA in seven appearances in Toronto.

Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32) is looking for his first win against the Red Sox since June 5, 2016, after going 0-1 against them in four starts last season.

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Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

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Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

If the Red Sox really believed in Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon long term, would Blake Swihart still be here? 

Swihart is static. There’s an idea of what he can be someday, but he’s not presently growing as a bench player. Whether his future lies with the Red Sox, then, appears to depend entirely on others: Leon and Vazquez. At some point, one of the trio needs to be moved, be it during the season or in the winter at latest.

Less than a month into 2018, Swihart is getting even fewer opportunities than anticipated. Manager Alex Cora didn’t use Swihart in the field during blowouts to start the road trip: not behind the plate, not at third base, not in left field. Some at-bats at DH were Swihart’s pittance as the Red Sox trounced the Angels.

Cora’s going out of his way to get most everyone playing time, but Swihart’s mostly spectating.

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“We’re in such a good groove on the mound, and you don't want to break the rhythm,” Cora said in Anaheim. “It’s a tough one. It’s one I’m fighting on a daily basis, and I’m trying to keep the communication there. But as a player, as a utility guy back in the day, sometimes I had great days. Some days I didn't want to see the manager. I know that. If there's a day I look and he doesn’t want to talk to me, I understand. I’ve been in his shoes before.”

Now, Cora doesn’t control the roster, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski does. And the roster overall is doing just fine with Swihart in limited use. But there must be some sort of plan if Swihart’s going to continue in this non-role for an entire season. There has to be a pay-off for the Red Sox, considering Swihart’s trade value isn’t getting any better. What else could the Sox be thinking about, aside from uncertainty in Vazquez and Leon? (Simply hoping and praying for a better trade offer for Swihart doesn't sound reasonable.)

“I’m fighting the situation, but it’s not like we’re feeling sorry,” Cora said. “He’s part of this group and he’s important. There’s more that comes into the equation and he knows that, the way the game goes he has to be ready. A pinch-hit appearance, to run. … He has to stay sharp. He’s playing for the Boston Red Sox and he’s a part of this team.”

For now. Another five months this way sounds crazy. But maybe that’s what the Sox need to make up their minds.

Again, the evaluation at this point isn’t about Swihart. You can’t evaluate a player who is not playing. But the Sox know he has upside. The choice centers on Leon and Vazquez, whose receiving skills are lauded and appreciated by the pitching staff, but whose bats may be too weak to justify their tandem beyond this year. Or for even the length of this year. 

The Sox’ .439 OPS from their backstops was the worst in the majors entering Wednesday. They were hitting a combined .179.

Cora on WEEI’s Dale and Keefe on Wednesday that the Sox are not considering Swihart behind the plate, as of now. The Sox offense may be able to power them through 2018 without Leon or Vazquez hitting well. Perhaps with Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz looking at free agency (and at least the potential for David Price to opt out), the Sox feel 2019 is a time they could more easily work in Swihart and live with presumed growing pains behind the plate.

Cora says Swihart has handled everything well.

“Excellent,” Cora said. “Some guys, there are guys who can suck the air out of the clubhouse because of their situation, but he's the other way around. He’s catching bullpens and taking ground balls at second. … He’s showing up early. You have to give him credit, because it’s not easy.”

Credit is nice. An opportunity is what he needs. Swihart cannot earn one on his own unless one of the two catchers in front of him gets hurt or squanders his own.

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