Red Sox

Unlikely heroes lift Sox over Royals, 7-1

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Unlikely heroes lift Sox over Royals, 7-1

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
By Joe Haggerty

KANSAS CITY Its beginning to look like Kansas City was the perfect place for the road weary Red Sox to start catching their breath.

For the second straight night the Sox received quality pitching and steady offense, and for the second straight night the Sox took home a road win this time a 7-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

The victory allowed the Sox to keep pace with the Yankees and remain a game back in the AL East standings.

The Sox offense was paced by a three-run Jarrod Saltalamacchia home run to deep left field on an 0-2 pitch in the top of the fifth inning off Royals lefty Jeff Francis, who will forever be linked to the ill-advised security stop of Dustin Pedroia at Coors field during the 2007 World Series. The three-run bomb by Saltalamacchia means the Sox backstop will also have a ready made line if he ever has a problem getting into the Kansas City ballpark.

Saltalamacchias home run drove the game out of reach, and allowed spot starter Andrew Miller plenty of room to work with.

Miller was simply effective in his first start since July 31 and allowed only three hits and a single run in 5 13 impressive innings before handing the ball off to Alfredo Aceves. The Sox righty finished out the final 3 23 scoreless innings for his second save of the year to go along with eight wins.

Miller and Aceves combined to hold a strong Royals offense to only four hits on the evening and virtually no sniff of offense after threatening early in the game.

Aside from Saltalamacchia and Miller, Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez busted out of an 0-for-14 slump over the last four games with a three hit performance after shaving off his goatee prior to Friday nights tilt against the Royals. The Sox offense pounded out 13 hits and five extra base knocks and served notice that they should be just fine without Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz for the next couple of weeks.

Ryan Lavarnway even chipped in with his first big league hit to right field after leaving the bases loaded in both the first and third innings when it was still a scoreless ballgame.

The Royals actually scrapped for the first run in the bottom of the third frame against Miller, but it was all Sox against Francis and the Kansas City bullpen after the third inning.

Player of the Game: Andrew Miller didnt show any rust despite being out of the Sox starting rotation since July 31, and instead held down a strong Royals offense to three hits and a single run in 5 13 innings of work. Miller improved to 5-1 this season for the Sox and appeared to turn a corner after making some mechanical tweaks to his delivery during a bullpen session with Curt Young several days ago. It may be awhile before Miller makes another start for the Sox, but he gave the rotation a much-needed day of rest while pushing all of the other starters back one additional day.

Honorable Mention: Adrian Gonzalez snapped an 0-for-14 slump with a double in the top of the first inning, and collected three hits to add to his Major League leading total of 172 hits. Gonzalez also spiked his batting average back up to .346 while creating a little bit of space between himself and Texas Rangers slugger Michael Young in the process. Gonzalez said his timing felt a little better in Fridays win than it had in the previous days, but hes still not feeling all the way back to himself quite yet.

The Goat: Jeff Francis will forever be the punch line to one of the great Dustin Pedroia stories of all time from the 2007 World Series, and he once again couldnt get through the Sox offense as a member of the Kansas City Royals. He allowed 11 hits and five earned runs to a Sox offense without Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz, and served up a changeup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia that the Sox catcher took deep over the left field wall.

Turning Point: Darnell McDonald has struggled mightily with his bat this season, but he cracked his first triple of the season in the fourth inning to knock in Carl Crawford as the tying run. The three-base hit ended with McDonald scoring on a Jacoby Ellsbury sacrifice fly, and took away all of Kansas Citys momentum following their first run of the game.

By the Numbers: .378 Jed Lowries batting average against left-handed pitching (31-for-82) this season after collecting three hits in Bostons Friday night win over the Royals.

Quote of Note: I didnt even see where it went. I hit it good and I knew if I hit it to that part of the park it was gonna be gone. I was just running at point I was jogging. Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia talking about his mammoth three-run homer over everything in left field in the fifth frame that put the game out of reach.

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.