Patriots

Buchholz shelled by homers

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Buchholz shelled by homers

BOSTON Perhaps it was the pregame hoopla, or pitching in front of so many former Red Sox players. Or maybe it was the Yankees lineup, which entered the game hitting .276, second in the American League, third in home runs. Or maybe as manager Bobby Valentine said, Clay Buchholz is still building after spending most of last season on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back.

Whatever the reason, it was clear almost from his first pitch a fastball that was up in the zone - that Buchholz was going to struggle Friday afternoon. Buchholz went six innings (plus one batter in the seventh), giving up six runs, five earned, on nine this and two walks with two strikeouts. He suffered his first loss of the season, dropping his record to 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA, as the Sox fell to the Yankees, 6-2, on Fenway Parks 100th anniversary.

He left some balls over the plate. Obviously they got hit, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The wind 19 mph out to center at the start of the game was blowing good. So nothing to take away from those guys but he made some pitches. It was just one of those days.

For Buchholz, it was one of those days hed like a mulligan.

Five of the hits he allowed were solo home runs. The home runs allowed matched a career high (to the Blue Jays on Sept. 29, 2009) and also matched Josh Becketts April 7 outing in Detroit for most homers allowed by a Sox pitcher this season.

Nick Swisher led off the second inning with a home run to left-center. Two batters later, with one out, Eric Chavez hit another, and led off the fourth with his second home run of the game. Alex Rodriquez led off the fifth with a first-pitch home run over the Monster. And Russell Martin hit the Yankees fifth homer of the game with two outs in the sixth.

Buchholz seemed to struggle with all his pitches.

Too many pitches left up in the zone, said one scout in attendance. He had trouble getting over his front side. He left changeups and cutters up and out over the plate. His curveballs were just rolling.

All the home runs except Rodriguezs came in two-strike counts. Two of the home runs Swishers and Martins were on fastballs, Chavezs were on a changeup and a cutter, and Rodriguezs was also on a cutter.

Against a lot of the hitters he was a very competitive and then those home runs out of the windup, no one on, it seemed, they were perplexing, Valentine said. He had a good curveball. His fastball was located down nicely a lot of the time but at least four of the times fastball wasnt located properly. Hes still building. This is a guy who, he didnt pitch all last year and hes still getting his feet underneath him.

I think itll come quickly. It seems its only eight inches or so that he needs to get the ball down a little better but I havent seen it on film and I didnt talk to catcher or pitching coaches about what they were seeing.

Buchholz extended a dubious streak, giving up four or more runs in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. He also ended his career-high 11-game undefeated streak.

Buchholz, though, said he feels 100 percent healthy and does not believe his issues were mechanical.

Its really simple, he said. I made five mistakes today and they hit them.

Anybody can say that any pitch is the wrong pitch to throw if they hit it, but I believe that a couple of changeups that they hit, a couple of cutters they hit and a couple of curveballs, if they werent middle or werent thigh-high they might have still hit them but it might not have been a homer. I think Salty did a good job of calling the pitches. I have to get out there and execute.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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