Brock Holt

Drellich: Baserunning will be huge element for Red Sox, Astros

Drellich: Baserunning will be huge element for Red Sox, Astros

BOSTON — Friday night’s 3-2 Red Sox loss to the Astros won’t be the first time baserunning comes to the forefront between these two teams.

The Red Sox are indeed on shakier ground heading into the final weekend of the regular season without the American League East wrapped up. But their odds of winning the division are still very high. Same for the Indians winning home field advantage, which means the American League Division Series everyone has expected, between the Sox and Astros, is still the most likely outcome.

Keep your eye on the bases from the very beginning.

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Both of these teams push the envelope, usually to positive effect. The Red Sox entered Thursday with a major league high 80 outs on the bases. The Astros were tied for second with the Yankees at 68. (These do not include steal attempts.)

Brock Holt was thrown out trying to advance to second on a Will Harris curveball in the dirt in the eighth inning Friday night. Mookie Betts was the batter, and put his hand up telling Holt to stay — but Holt had probably already made his choice.

Holt’s read, even if you want to say it wasn’t bad, did not appear good. The ball didn’t trickle away at all. Maybe more important was that his lead was on the shorter side. 

“I thought a very good read on a dirt ball,” manager John Farrell said. “But on a night where we’re struggling to get even men in scoring position, I thought … that’s what he’s trained to do, and there’s no hesitation on his part. I thought he got a great jump and a great read, and it’s a bang-bang play that we challenge. And, you know what, it’s an inch away from being an advancement of 90 feet. So, that is something that is drilled from the first day of spring training, so I have no issue with him off on the read that he got.”

The Sox never call anything a mistake on the bases, so take that into consideration when weighing Farrell’s praise.

Holt’s decision to go isn’t the reason the Sox lost, by any stretch. Their general ineffectiveness at the plate is more concerning. But inside playoff games, every out will be magnified. And the Red Sox might generally have one advantage on the Astros.

The Astros are baseball’s worst team at preventing stolen bases, at 87.6 percent. That’s the highest for any team in five years, since the 2012 Pirates allowed opponents to swipe bags 89 percent of the time.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, this year are the second best at 61.9 percent. (The Indians are tops, at 57.5 percent.)

The Red Sox are also efficient when they steal: their 76.9 percent mark was sixth best in the majors. The Astros’ 70.8 percent was 22nd.

The Astros will likely carry three catchers in the Division Series, including possibly the one who threw out Holt on Friday, Juan Centeno, or Max Stassi. A defensive replacement to limit the Sox run game in late innings may be expected. Often, it's the pitcher's delivery that makes the biggest difference, but Evan Gattis and Brian McCann, the other catchers, are with the Astros for their hitting.

Either way, you have two teams that love to take an extra base, one team that’s not very good at preventing steals and another that’s great at it.

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Pedroia leaves game with nasal contusion after fouling ball off his face

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Pedroia leaves game with nasal contusion after fouling ball off his face

BALTIMORE — Foul balls are known to be dangerous. They’re not usually so dangerous for the batter.

Dustin Pedroia bounced a ball off the plate in the fourth inning Monday night at Camden Yards and the rebound caught him in the face. He immediately spun around and took a few steps away to his right, meeting the trainers in between home plate and the Orioles’ first-base dugout.

Per the Red Sox, Pedroia has a nasal contusion and is considered day-to-day.

Pedroia left the game, holding a shirt to his face, with blood visible on his jersey.

Pedroia’s already dealing with a health situation, managing pain in his left knee. 

His replacement, Brock Holt, immediately doubled and scored in the inning, cutting the Orioles’ lead to 5-1.

The Mets' Wilmer Flores earlier this month fouled a ball into his face without a rebound, directly off the bat.

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Holt, activated, talked to Dale Earnhardt Jr. about long road to recovery

Holt, activated, talked to Dale Earnhardt Jr. about long road to recovery

BOSTON — At least for a day, Brock Holt is back on the big league roster. His road has been long, but more than that, scary.

The Red Sox infielder was activated from the 60-day disabled list as the team’s 26th man for Sunday’s doubleheader vs. the Yankees, after he landed on the disabled list April 21 with vertigo. It took 24 rehab games, with stops and starts in between, before he could come back as he’s dealt with issues of disorientation — which aren't new to him in recent years.

“Earlier, doubts start to creep into your mind,” Holt said. “That first time I tried to rehab, I think I played two weeks worth of games and never felt good in any of them. You start thinking. When you’re down there trying to compete and play and you’re not able to do it, I think there were times when I wondered if I would ever get back to normal or if that was my new normal. 

“But, I would say I had to get talked off the ledge a couple of times from [concussion expert Micky Collins] in Pittsburgh and my wife. They set me back on the straightened path, but it was hard, man. Emotionally, physically, something that obviously I would have rather not had to go through. But, like I said, it’s going to make me stronger and I’m glad to be back.”

Holt spoke to former Red Sox catcher David Ross about the concussions he dealt with in his career.

“I talked to him over the phone a couple of times, and then I saw him in Houston when we went to Houston and talked to him in person,” Holt said. “I talked to Brian Roberts with the Orioles who worked with Micky Collins, and I actually had a conversation with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well, who kind of went through similar stuff as me. I think his was a little more intense. 

“But it was nice talking to those guys, knowing that they got better, and that was big for me: being able to talk to guys who have been through it. You can talk to your training staff, your teammates, my family even, and you can explain how you feel, but no one really knows. …  They’re living normal lives now.”

Holt’s roster move was one of three for the Red Sox on Sunday after a 16-inning loss to the Yankees on Saturday night. (This is a day after Joe Kelly went on the DL with a left hamstring strain and Brandon Workman was recalled, mind you.)

The other moves Sunday:

  • Righty Blaine Boyer went to the 10-day DL with a right elbow strain.
  • Righty Austin Maddox came up from Triple-A Pawtucket.