Red Sox

Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

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Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHOENIX -- It's the All-Star break, and you know what that means: time for first-half grades for the Red Sox.

There's a wide variance here for a first-place team. While there are several players headed for the Honor Roll, some others are in danger of flunking.

Of course, there's time to bring those grades up. Here's hoping there's plenty of homework being down over the break.

Without further ado:

POSITION PLAYERS:

Adrian Gonzalez - A
Simply put, Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox hoped he would be when they
traded for him last December. He leads the majors in a host of offensive categories (RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits, doubles) and has played a superb first base. About the only deficit in his game is speed, of which there is none and accounts for his eye-popping 20 GIDP. Other than that, however, he's been virtually flawless.

Dustin Pedroia - B
For the longest time, Pedroia couldn't seem to get untracked, with a batting average hovering around .250. Then, Pedroia got his ailing knee checked and received an injection and his game began to take off. His defense has been as good as ever and quietly - if such a thing is possible with him - he's become a real stolen base threat (16-of-19).

Jed Lowrie - B
Just when it seemed like he finally make good on his potential, Lowrie got hurt. Again. In April, when no one else was producing, Lowrie hit so well that he took the starting shortstop job from Marco Scutaro and for a month and a half, had an OPS of better than .850. But then he collided with Carl Crawford in late May, injuring his shoulder, and his offense began to spiral. Also troubling: his limited range to his right, even when healthy.

Marco Scutaro - C
Scutaro began the season as the starting shortstop, lost the job, then regained it. He hasn't produced much with the bat, but he's played a solid shortstop. The last season and a half may have revealed that Scutaro isn't necessarily an everyday player, but he is a valuable one. And tough, too.

Kevin Youkilis - B
Like Pedroia, Youkilis started the year slowly but has recently come around. He's second on the team in RBIs and third in slugging while reaching base at a near .400 clip. One negative: his defense, which has been only slightly better than average, a reminder that the transition from across the diamond hasn't been a seamless as some projected.
David Ortiz - A-
No slow start this season, or, for that matter, no struggles against lefthanders. This may not quite be the Ortiz of 2004-2007, but for the Red Sox purposes, it's plenty good enough.

Carl Crawford C-
His first half season has been a mixture of disappointment sprinkled in with occasional high points. He's won a handful of games with walkoff hits but mostly, he's dramatically underachieved. It took him weeks to get his average over .200 and his speed hasn't been much of a weapon. Sidelined with a hamstring pull, Red Sox fans everywhere are asking themselves: "We're going to see a much better player when he's healthy again, right? Right?"

Jacoby Ellsbury - A
If not for Gonzalez, Ellsbury could lay claim to first-half MVP. Whether his first half is the result of a player motivated to put last season and its attendant controversies behind him or simply his skills naturally evolving and maturing doesn't really matter. Ellsbury has developed into an elite center fielder.

J.D. Drew D-
At the halfway point, Drew is on pace to finish with fewer than 40 RBI and recently went more than 90 at-bats between extra-base hits. He looks, frankly, disinterested much of the time, as though he can barely muster the energy to play. His lone saving grace: he remains a good outfielder.

Darnell McDonald - F
It's July and McDonald has 10 hits. Ten. The hope had been that he could provide some righthanded pop. Instead, he's played like an overmatched 4A outfielder.

Mike Cameron - F
Perhaps Cameron can salvage the season - to say nothing of his career - in Florida. For now, however, Cameron, a terrific competitor and teammate, sadly appears to be done.

Josh Reddick - A
Had it not been for a shoulder injury to Ryan Kalish, Reddick likely wouldn't have had this chance to contribute in Boston. But he sure has made the most of it with improved play in the outfield and a far more disciplined approach at the plate.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
On that fateful April night in Anaheim when he couldn't find a pitch that eluded him and literally looked lost, Saltalamacchia was a day or so away from being returned to the minors. After that, he gradually looked less overwhelmed and everything seemed to improve - from his throwing, hitting and handling of the staff. Moreover, as often happens with catchers, it appears as though he's still improving.

Jason Varitek - C
The Sox seem to have stumbled upon just the right amount of playing time for the 39-year-old catcher. He's still streaky at the plate but has plenty of value, not the least of which is his mentoring of Saltalamacchia.

Incomplete: Drew Sutton, Jose Iglesias and Yamaico Navarro.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Josh Beckett - A
The Red Sox had to be wondering what they would get from Beckett after last year's disastrous season - to say nothing of the dread they must have felt over the four-year contract extension that didn't kick in until this season. Now they know - Beckett is, again, one of the league's premier starters. After three seasons of frustration and mixed results, Beckett is an ace.

Jon Lester - B
Lester leads the staff with 10 wins and was three outs away from his 11th when a pulled lat muscle interceded. He might have been a worthy All-Star selection but his season has been inconsistent at times and he hasn't always shown the dominance one normally associates with him.

Clay Buccholz - B-
After a slow start, Buchholz seemed to finally be getting on a roll when back spasms came along and eventually sent him to the disabled lost. Until then, he was good - just not good as he was last season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - D
It may well be that the enigmatic one has thrown his last pitch as a member of the Red Sox thanks to Tommy John surgery. If so, his final season was somehow emblematic of his time in Boston: flashes of brilliance mixed with a heaping portion of underachievement.

John Lackey - F
Sure, there have been a few gems - last Saturday against Baltimore, two weeks ago against the Phillies and two back-to-back starts on the West coast. But too often he's failed to even keep his team in the game, as evidenced by his unsightly 6.84 ERA.

Tim Wakefield - C
For the first few weeks, Wakefield seemed to be a spare part the Sox didn't need. Then, the inevitable injuries struck the rotation and Wakefield re-established his value in a hurry. Key stat: the Sox are 7-4 in his starts.

BULLPEN:

Scott Atchison - C-
Atchison has been the human yo-yo this season, up-and-down from Pawtucket, seemingly on an almost weekly basis. That's a tough dynamic for a pitcher. Still, Atchison hasn't been nearly as reliable as he was in the second half of last season.

Matt Albers - B
Albers was a cheap free agent signing in the off-season, but has far out-performed his more expensive teammtes (Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler). Except for an eighth-inning meltdown against the Cubs in interleague play, in fact, he's been stellar, averaging about a strikeout per inning.

Dan Wheeler - D
If it weren't for Carl Crawford, Wheeler would be considered the team's biggest off-season bust. (What it is with these former Rays?). Relegated to mop-up by his own ineffectiveness, there were weeks where it was easy to forget that Wheeler was on the roster. Of late, though, he's pitched far better, suggesting that a second-half market correction could be in the offing.
Bobby Jenks - D
It hasn't helped his continuity that he's gone to the DL twice in three months. Then again, his conditioning hasn't helped him stay healthy, either, so he probably gets some of the blame. Like Wheeler, there's time to make amends in the second half. But to date, a disappointment.

Daniel Bard - A
If it weren't for a squirrely first few weeks, when Bard seemed to be inventing ways to lose games (chalk-kicking double on Opening Day, suicide squeeze in Cleveland, etc.), he might warrant an A. As it is, Bard has, again, been the Red Sox' best reliever. Three numbers make the case: 1) a WHIP of 0.80; 2) a scoreless streak that dates back to May and 3) stranding 16-of-20 inherited runners.

Jonathan Papelbon - B
As always with Papelbon, the saves can be adventures. And the non-save appearances, well, those can be real thrill rides. But the bottom line is this: it's the All-Star break and Papelbon has blown exactly one save. And his 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio illustrates how much better his command has been.

Incomplete: Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden, Tommy Hottovy, Kyle Weiland, Dennys Reyes, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK -- Back in the Bronx, the big guys delivered.

Greeted by an array of "All Rise" signs in a ballpark that fits their style, Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and made a pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting their deficit to 2-1 in the AL Championship Series.

Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer into the short porch in right field in the second inning against Charlie Morton.

The 6-foot-7 Judge entered in a 4-for-31 (.129) postseason slump that included one home run, four RBIs and 19 strikeouts. The slugger capped a five-run fourth with a laser of a drive to left field off Will Harris and robbed Yuli Gurrieland Cameron Maybin of extra-base hits.

"You see a guy put his head basically through the wall and then dive," Frazier said. "The ground is going to shake when he hits the ground."

Sabathia, almost as big at 6-foot-6, allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. The Yankees stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010 - when Judge had just started his freshman year at Fresno State.

After a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings.

"Just the energy, the fans," Sabathia said. "We can kind of feed off their energy."

New York improved to 4-0 at home this postseason. The Yankees were an AL-best 51-30 at home this season.

"We're somewhat built for this ballpark," manager Joe Girardi said.

Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 for New York in the best-of-seven series on 11 days' rest Wednesday against Lance McCullers Jr.

Frazier got the Yankees rolling, taking an awkward hack at a low, outside fastball and slicing an opposite-field drive over the right-field scoreboard.

"You don't think it's going, just because how unorthodox the swing was," Frazier said.

Judge used his height and long left arm to make a leaping catch with his left shoulder slamming into the right-field wall against Gurriel starting the fourth.

Being a rookie, he politely waited outside the dugout for all the veterans to descend the steps after the third out - as he always does - then capped a five-run bottom half with a laser of a line drive that just cleared the left-field wall.

Then in the fifth, he sprinted into short right for a diving backhand catch on Maybin.

On the first chilly night of the autumn with a game-time temperature of 57, Sabathia relied on the sharp, slow slider that has helped revive the former flamethrower's career.

Pitching with caution to Houston's dangerous lineup, he walked four, struck out five and pitched shutout ball for the first time in 21 career postseason starts. During the regular season, he was 9-0 in 10 starts following Yankees' losses.

"It's weird, me being 37, smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout," Sabathia said.

Adam Warren followed with two hitless innings, Dellin Betances walked his only two batters and Tommy Kahnle finished. Houston had four hits, leaving it with just 15 over the first three games, and is batting .169 in the matchup.

Morton was chased after 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs and six hits: three infield singles, a bloop single to center, a double that Maybin allowed to fall in left and Frazier's homer.

'"'If you were to show me a video of the swing, show the pitch speed and the location, I would have never thought that," Morton said. "That was unbelievable."

A New Jersey native who grew up a Yankees fan, Frazier entered 7 for 18 against Morton with two home runs. With Frank Sinatra's version of "Fly Me to the Moon" as his walk-up music, Frazier hit not-quite a moonshot, driving a pitch just 18 1/2 inches above the dirt 365 feet with pretty much just his left arm. That gave the Yankees their first lead of the series.

Frazier motioned to his family in the stands and looked at his left wrist.

"I'm pointing to them and saying: What time is it? It's my time," he said.

He remembers sitting in the seats at old Yankee Stadium watching Jim Leyritz's 15th-inning home beat Seattle in the 1995 playoffs.

"It's such a cool feeling," Frazier said. "I wish everybody could feel basically what I'm going through."

Houston loaded the bases with two outs in the third on a pair of two-out walks around Alex Bregman's single. But Carlos Correa popped out on a fastball in on his fists.

"I know he likes to get his hands extended," Sabathia said.

Sabathia raised both arms and pointed toward Judge after his catch in the fourth.

"I don't know what got hurt worse, the wall or him," plate umpire Gary Cederstrom was heard to say by one of Fox's microphones.

New York broke open the game in the bottom half. Chase Headley hit a run-scoring infield single - ending an 0-for-28 slide by New York designated hitters in the postseason. Brett Gardner was hit on a leg by a pitch, loading the bases, and Harris came in and threw a wild pitch that allowed Frazier to come home from third.

"Judge did what Judge has done 50-plus times, which is hit the ball out of the ballpark when he gets a pitch to hit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

ALTUVE'S WEB GEMS

Altuve made two fine stops on Did Gregorius, first a backhand stop on his third-inning grounder and then a shuffle pass to Harris covering first for the final out of the fourth after a hard grounder off first baseman Marwin Gonzalez's glove.

APPLAUSE

Girardi, booed by fans after failing to call for a replay in Game 2 of the Division Series, was cheered when introduced.

"It's a reminder of how quickly things can change in your life," he said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino is on track to pitch a Game 6. He was removed after four innings and 62 pitches in Game 2 because Girardi felt he was "underneath" the ball. Girardi said Severino did not need any tests and is OK.

Asked whether Severino was understanding, Girardi said: "I think two days later, yes, a little bit more."

"I asked him if he still hated me, and he said, `no,'" Girardi added.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know who they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE