Patriots

Hanrahan impressed with Fenway after first visit

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Hanrahan impressed with Fenway after first visit

BOSTON Fenway Park is one of the four ballparks in which Joel Hanrahan has never pitched. The new Red Sox closer had never even visited the ancient park before Tuesday. So, as a fan of baseball history, he made sure to work a tour of the park into his itinerary. He started with the home clubhouse, before a trip to left field and a peek inside the Green Monster before taking in the view from topside.

Its a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be, Hanrahan said. Obviously, theyve put some money into it over the years.

I thought, this place is amazing. A lot bigger than I thought it was. Obviously a ton of history here. Got to go up on the top of the monster, see what its like from that angle. I know my wife is going to be begging me to sit out there one day. It looked great. Got to go in the clubhouse for the first time, try to see where my new office is. Im definitely excited. It looks great.

Hanrahans wife, Kim, was born in Virginia but her parents are from the Greater Boston area and shes visited Fenway several times during family visits.

Shes been to one of the Red Sox-Yankees games here before, Hanrahan said. She said its awesome. The environment of a baseball game is completely different than any other place that shes been. So thatll be a fun experience.

Hanrahan, who turned 31 in October and was acquired in a trade with the Pirates in December, will soon get that experience for himself.

But, pitching in the American League East will also be a relatively new experience for him. In his six-season career with the Nationals and Pirates, Hanrahan has compiled a record of 22-17 with 96 saves and a 3.74 ERA in 353 games (11 starts). With the Pirates in 2012 he was 5-2, with 36 saves, and a 2.72 ERA in 63 games, spanning 59 23 innings.

But, he has appeared in just 15 games, spanning 14 23 innings, against AL East teams 10 against the Orioles, one against the Rays, and four against the Blue Jays. In all, he has compiled a record of 2-1 with three saves, a 4.29 ERA, and a .259 opponents batting average.

Hanrahan has heard the skepticism directed at pitchers going from the National League to the American League.

That's fine, he said. You can say that but you have to go back and look. My job is to get three people out in the ninth inning before I give up the lead so I feel like I've been in some big games. I feel like Ive been in some tough spots. I'm not going to go out there and strike out the side every time. That's not the kind of pitcher that I am. I'm going to come after guys and Im going to give up some hits and stuff like that but no matter where you go youre going to have doubters anyway so I just try not to pay attention to that. My job is to go out there and save the victory for the team and if we have a three-run lead and I give up two runs and we win that game, Im going to be the same guy. I'm going to be happy that we won that game and I think my laid-back personality will come back in that. And I like to have fun, too.

While it wasnt striking out the side, one of the signature moments of his career, Hanrahan said, was striking out Adrian Gonzalez, with the Pirates up by two runs and Dustin Pedroia on second base, to end the game on June 25, 2011, when the Sox visited PNC Park. The Pirates took two of three from the Sox in that series, with Hanrahan earning saves in both.

I think they did play the Gonzalez strikeout it on the Jumobotron every time at PNC, Hanrahan said. Every strikeout to me is awesome. In 2011 that was the time that the Pirates, everyone knew their history and we were right there in the middle of it. I think we were in first place at the time, if not second place. That was a big series for us. That kind of showed us that we could play with anybody at the time. So I think that's kind of like one of the things people remember. The fans were into it, the team was into it. It was a 1- or 2-run game I dont even remember the situation. Just for the Red Sox to come into Pittsburgh, we took two out of three from them, so that was one of the moments that the Pirate fans remembered that year.

Hanrahan knows a few of his new teammates. A second-round pick of the Dodgers in 2000 out of Norwalk High in Iowa, he was roommates with Shane Victorino in the Dodgers organization in 2004. He now lives in Texas and has worked out in the offseason with Will Middlebrooks back there. He was teammates with Pedroia on the 2009 USAS World Baseball Classic team. Hes played against Jonny Gomes and David Ross.

Other than that, he said, its going to be one of them things where Im going to need to study up on the program before I go to spring training.

Its also one of the reasons he wont be pitching in the WBC this year: He wants his new teammates and coaches to get to know him. He hasnt had much of a chance to talk with manager John Farrell or pitching coach Juan Nieves. Another reason he wont be in the WBC this year is that he and Kim are expecting their first child in March.

Hanrahan likes what he sees of the Sox bullpen and its possibilities.

Andrew Miller's always been one of those guys to watch for to see what he's going to do, Hanrahan said. I remember watching him as a starter coming up through Florida... big arm. Franklin Morales has another big arm. I feel like Craig Breslow's been getting people out for 12 years now. Koji Uehara's had a great career. Andrew Bailey I think if he comes back healthy he's got a lot of prove this year so he's going to be coming out strong. I'm not sure what the plans are with Daniel Bard but that's another big arm down there. There's a lot of arms that could get the job done at any time.

I was looking at something on the plane where MLB Network had the top five bullpens and I was thinking they might throw us on there but we'll have to work our way onto there. We'll have to work our way onto it but we belong there.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

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