Red Sox

Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

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Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Kyle Weiland, the Red Sox rookie right-hander who had just 19 major-league innings heading into game one of Mondays doubleheader against the lowly Orioles, was giventhe unenviable task of being asked to do what veteran starting pitchers have been unable to do: Stop the September bleeding.

But like most of the other Sox pitchers this month, Weiland was unable to put a stop to the September collapse the Sox are in. After falling, 6-5, to the Os who entered the game with the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst overall the Sox are now just 4-14 this month. In their last 15 games they have suffered six one-run losses.

Their once comfortable lead over the Rays for the wild card is down to just 1 games. The Sox entered September with an AL-best record of 83-52 and a 1 -game lead over the Yankees. They now trail New York, who beat the Twins Monday afternoon, by 5 games for the division lead.

In 18 games this month, starting pitchers have gone just 86 innings, averaging less than five innings a game. They have given up 68 runs (61 earned) on 100 hits and 43 walks with 75 strikeouts and 13 home runs. The starters have posted a combined 6.38 ERA while pitching just three quality starts.

Weiland, who was returning to the mound on short rest after throwing 61 pitches in Thursdays loss to the Rays, took the loss, dropping his record to 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA. He went 4 23 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The three home runs he gave up were one shy of the Orioles single-game high this season. He left with the Sox trailing, 6-2.

Weiland went through the first seven batters in the Orioles lineup smoothly with four strikeouts, not allowing a runner on base. But when left fielder Darnell McDonald lost two consecutive fly balls in the sun, the game quickly unraveled for Weiland.

Kyle started out really keeping his pitches down, with movement, missing some bats, manager Terry Francona said. Then the second time through the order we didnt help him because we lost a ball, then Mac couldnt catch the second one. Then he got up with too many pitches, fastball, breaking ball. Couple of them left the park.

So its kind of a different once through the order than the second time through the order.

Weiland said the two balls lost in the sun, putting runners on second and third with one out, did not cause him to lose focus.

No,he said. Thats stuff that I kind of expect in the game of baseball. Some things are going to go your way, some things arent. You cant help that the sun is right behind home plate, and obviously both sides are having trouble with it. So you cant think about that stuff. Its my job to go back out there when stuff like that happens and pick up my teammates because nine times out of 10 theyre going to pick me up more than Im going to pick them up. So its definitely something that pitchers try to really step up when stuff like that happens topick up guys because theyre saving us all the time.

But the loss the Sox first to the Os at Fenway this season -- can hardly be blamed on Weiland

Darnell McDonald was in left field, a late addition because Carl Crawford was scratched shortly before game time with a stiff neck. He had the unfortunate luck of trying to field the two balls in the sun. The first, a Nolan Reimold drive was ruled a hit, despite falling out of McDonalds glove. The next batter, Josh Bell, was given a two-base error. Both runners eventually scored in the inning, giving the Os a 2-0 lead.

The first one was a tough sun, McDonald said. I lost it in the sun. I saw it off the bat and after that I didnt see it. The second one I got there and took my eye off it at the last minute and didn't make the play. Its a situation where I feel terrible putting my team in the hole like that. But you got to bounce back and play the game. It was a tough day for me. It was terrible out there today. Youre paid to play baseball. I was ready. It was just one of them days whereI didnt make the plays.

McDonald led off the bottom of the third with a home run, his sixth of the season, cutting the Sox deficit in half. But the bats could not get the job done today. The batters, despite 12 hits in the game, were just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Sox had an opportunity to add another run in their two-run fifth when David Ortizs drive down the right field line appeared to be fair but was ruled foul. When Ortiz eventually flied out to center, Dustin Pedroia was stranded on third base, his third triple of the season.

Very frustrating, Ortiz said. Nothing we can do but come back the second game and try to hit the ball fair. Its a mistake that happened. You got to deal with it.

I guess the reason why we have umpires down the line is so they can read the ball better because from distance sometimes it gives you some trouble and . . . that reviewing thing I think it was good for home runs and things like that. But I guess a situation like what happened today you should give it a shot because were trying to win a baseball game and its not the right call.

But there was plenty of blame to go around.

We need to pitch better, we need to hit better, we need to play better D, Pedroia said. We need to do everything better, so when youre losing you can point fingers at everybody. We just got to go out there and play hard and play winning baseball. We do that, theres not a team in the world that can beat us. So we got to play better.

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

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.