Red Sox

Sox hope to rebound after historically bad series

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Sox hope to rebound after historically bad series

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON For the third straight game, the Red Sox could manage just three hits against the Rays. The ignominious trifecta served up by the Rays was of historical proportions: It was the first time in Sox history they have been held to three or fewer hits in three straight home games. The last time they were limited to three or fewer hits in three straight games was Sept. 2 -4, 1974, in Baltimore.

The Sox hit just .105 in the three games, going a combined 9-for-86, with just five runs scored, five walks and 22 strikeouts. James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and David Price each held the Sox to three hits. Shields and Niemann pitched complete games, while Price went eight strong. Shields took the Rays only loss, in the first game of Tuesdays doubleheader, despite tossing his ninth complete game of the season, more than 25 teams and five more than any other American League pitcher.

Three three-hitters in a row by the starting rotation, that is outrageous, man. Thats really good stuff, said Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Really good stuff if youre the other team. Not so good when its your team.

There are plenty of possible reasons for the lack of production:

A) The bizarre quirks of an unbalanced schedule that had the Sox on a two-city, seven-day road trip, then flying from Seattle to Boston for three games in less than 28 hours, before hitting the road again for eight more days.

B) The ol dog days of August.

C) Various dings and dents, including right heel bursitis sidelining David Ortiz for the series, Adrian Gonzalez neck still bothering him, Kevin Youkilis back still bothering him, and Marco Scutaros neck still ailing.

D) All of the above.

Were a little beat up, said Sox manager Terry Francona. Weve got some backs that are acting up and flared up. We went through a three-game stretch in about 24 hours where we didnt do much offensively. So, those things change.

Carl Crawford, who went 0-for-9 with five strikeouts, did not want to use being tired as an excuse.

I dont want to say were really tired, said Crawford, who is batting .111 (3-for-27) against his former team with seven strikeouts in eight games. I dont want to make excuses like that. But its definitely been a tough stretch.

August is always tough, a tough month. I dont know if thats really the case but August is definitely always a harder month to play in.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Sox batter with anything substantial to show for the series. He went 3-for-11, with two home runs, a triple, and four RBI, with three strikeouts. His three-run homer in the first game of Tuesdays doubleheader accounted for all the Sox runs in the game.

Guys like Shields, Niemann, and Price you dont expect to go out and score 10, Ellsbury said. You very well could but we knew we had to come in and swing the bats well. Unfortunately we only got three hits I think all three games. But we got to play tomorrow. So, who knows. The bats might come alive.

Were not worried; its just three games, three games out of 162. Thats the mentality you have to have. We could face them again. I dont know what we did at their place. Im sure we scored a lot more runs. But Im not worried about it.

Still, others sense the urgency.

We need to start winning some games, said Dustin Pedroia. We all want to win the division. The Yankees arent going to lose so we got to win, man. Doesnt matter who we run out there. Got to win.

They threw the ball great. All three of those guys did a great job. So we got to go out on this road trip and swing the bats better.

I dont know. If they have the answer let us know. Its three hits and one run, or three runs this couple of games is not going to get it done. So we got to figure it out ourselves.

Ortiz could do little more than sit and watch his teammates' offensive futility.

Its not good, he said. I was getting into my groove of hitting pretty well and all of a sudden you see a team thats struggling hitting. And nothing much you can do about it. Its just not a good feeling.

Like I always say, good pitching can stop good offense. And you got to give credit to those three guys that we have faced the past three games. Theyve been pitching really well and you see the guys trying but like I always say good pitching can stop good offense.

The Sox hope its just a matter getting back on the road and getting back into their groove.

Were ready to go to Kansas City and play hard and get back on track, said Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press