Red Sox

Banged-up Red Sox lose to Jays, 6-4, snapping winning streak at six

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Banged-up Red Sox lose to Jays, 6-4, snapping winning streak at six

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist.

"We'll get it looked at further tomorrow," Betts said. "I'm not really that concerned. Everything will be fine. Couple of days ago, I took a swing and felt it. It's just that point of the season."

Nunez sparked Boston's offense after he was acquired from San Francisco in late July. The utility infielder is batting .321 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 38 games with the Red Sox.

"Day to day at this point," manager John Farrell said. "I don't have a clear indication of when he'd be next available."

Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz (16-6) had his shortest start of the season, giving up five runs and seven hits in two innings. He had lost only once in his last 18 outings, holding opponents to three runs or fewer in 16 of those games.

Betts drove in two runs, going over the 100-RBI mark for the second consecutive season. Andrew Benintendi had a pinch-hit solo homer.

Boston's loss assured AL Central champion Cleveland of home-field advantage in a best-of-five Division Series that will begin Oct. 5. The Indians' opponent has not been determined yet.

Ryan Goins hit a solo homer and Teoscar Hernandez had a two-run double for the Blue Jays. Brett Anderson (2-2) allowed three runs in five innings.

It was Donaldson's 22nd homer since the All-Star break, most in the AL.

"I think what happened is he's healthy now," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "At the beginning of the season he lost six weeks, seven weeks. I don't know what it was. But to be where he's at, he shows what kind of hitter he is, what kind of player."

Roberto Osuna got three outs for his 38th save.

Toronto slugger Jose Bautista was ejected by plate umpire Chad Fairchild after getting called out on strikes.

Coming off an 8-1 road trip that helped them maintain control of the AL East, the Red Sox fell into an early hole.

The Blue Jays chased Pomeranz with four runs in the second to take a 5-2 lead when Hernandez and Donaldson each hit a two-run double.

"My velocity has dipped a few times but it's come right back when I need it," Pomeranz said. "I really didn't have a chance to get settled in with the short outing."

Donaldson homered about a third of the way up a light stanchion in left-center in the first.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Nunez fouled off a pitch his second time up and went to the ground in pain. He finished the at-bat with a lineout to third, but barely got out of the box and was unable to put much weight on his knee. ... Betts grabbed his left hand in pain after a bloop single and pointed at it while talking with a trainer.

MOOKIE'S MILESTONES

The 24-year-old Betts has 101 RBIs and 98 runs scored this season. Last year, the right fielder drove in 113 and scored 122. The only other Red Sox player with multiple 100/100 seasons before turning 25 was Hall of Famer Ted Williams from 1939-42. "It's pretty cool anytime your name can be amongst him," Betts said.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ (9-11, 3.64 ERA) is set to pitch the second game of the series Tuesday night. He lost his last start Thursday after winning the previous three.

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (17-7, 2.75) takes his major league-leading 300 strikeouts to the mound. Sale appears to be in a close race with Cleveland ace Corey Kluber for the AL Cy Young Award.

Red Sox score three in ninth inning to top Rays, 4-1

Red Sox score three in ninth inning to top Rays, 4-1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox didn't need much offense to win their fourth straight game Wednesday night.

The 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was accomplished with six strong innings from David Price and a three-run ninth sparked by an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts. The Rays, who have lost 9 of 12 to the Red Sox this season, contributed an error, a wild pitch and a passed ball to the big inning.

"That's us coming together as a team," said Mookie Betts, whose three-run homer won Tuesday night's game. "Today we had great pitching. I don't think there were many good swings on [Price's] pitches. He did everything today."

Price pitched three-hit ball, allowing a run while striking out nine. Joe Kelly (3-0) got the win and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 15th save.

It was 1-1 when Bogaerts got up to bat in the ninth after a throwing error by shortstop Willy Adames. Bogaerts doubled into the left field corner off Alex Colome (2-5) to drive in J.D. Martinez. After a wild pitch, Eduardo Nunez drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Boston tacked on another on a passed ball.

"You know it's my fault in the ninth making that error," said Adames, who was playing only his second major-league game. "It's a tough for me with that error and getting the L for the team."

Adames had thrown out Nunez at the plate after a two-out double by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth, preserving a scoreless tie.

The Rays did not get a runner into scoring position until the sixth, when C.J. Cron doubled off the center field wall, their third and final hit. That hit drove in Denard Span, who had led off the inning with a walk.

Price, who had won his two preceding starts, left after throwing 90 pitches in six innings.

"The last inning was a high-leverage, stressful inning and we felt good with the six," explained manager Alex Cora.

Christian Vazquez got Boston on the board in the sixth, singling off starter Chris Archer and later scoring when Hanley Ramirez bounced into a bases-loaded double play.

Archer has won only one of his last 20 starts against Boston. He gave up one run, four hits and three walks in six innings, striking out six.

The game featured eight hits and 24 strikeouts, including four in a row by Rays reliever Jose Alvarado.

11-MAN BULLPEN DAYS

With the loss of RHP Jake Faria to an injury and Wednesday's call up of LHP Vidal Nuno, the Rays are down to two starting pitchers on a 13-man staff, setting up the possibility of "bullpen days" for all three of the upcoming weekend games against Baltimore.

"I imagine we'll be revisiting Sergio [Romo] starting again," manager Kevin Cash said. "Maybe he'll start all three games this time."

Last weekend, Romo became the first pitcher since 2012 to start on consecutive days.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: A decision will be made on the status of 2B Dustin Pedroia (recovering from left knee surgery) after Thursday's game at Triple-A Pawtucket. Pedroia could be activated for this weekend's series at Fenway Park.

Rays: Faria went on the 10-day disabled list after straining his left oblique Tuesday night, and the Rays expect him to miss at least two months. ... C Wilson Ramos, who left Tuesday's game early with a left hand contusion, was available but did not start. ... RHP Nathan Eovaldi (loose bodies in right elbow) gave up eight runs on 10 hits in four innings in his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Durham. Eovaldi is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday.

UP NEXT

RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 2.43 in 13 careers starts at Tropicana Field) will pitch for Boston in Thursday night's series finale. Rays LHP Blake Snell (2-3, 4.13 in in six career starts against the Red Sox) has given up two runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Can Red Sox replace Carson Smith's style internally?

Can Red Sox replace Carson Smith's style internally?

Entering Tuesday night, opposing hitters had swung and missed at Joe Kelly’s changeup 82 percent of the time.

Last season, he barely threw the pitch, at about 2 percent. Now, per BrooksBaseball.net, Kelly’s using the change more than 9 percent of the time.

Carson Smith’s shoulder injury creates obvious “next-man-up” scenario for the Red Sox bullpen, just as any injury to a significant player would. It's likely that no matter how excellent Kelly or Matt Barnes or Heath Hembree are going forward, the Sox will need to add a reliever midseason if they want to make a deep run into the postseason. 

MORE RED SOX

There's also the Red Sox debut of right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg, who has been rehabbing at Pawtucket, on the horizon. 

Nonetheless, with Smith down, there are opportunities for Barnes, Kelly and Hembree to not only step up into bigger roles, but perhaps to evolve stylistically as well. Just a tad.

Smith was a sinker-slider pitcher. Kelly, Barnes and Hembree rely more on power fastballs. Outs are outs and remain the bottom line, but part of what made Smith appealing was that different look he offered.

“It’s awful what happened, really,” Barnes said recently. “We’re all praying for him and hoping that it’s not too bad that he can come back and do fine . . . It definitely hurts. He was throwing really well the last month. He was a guy who’s dominant against righties and adds a different feel than the other righties we have in the bullpen. We got a good group down there. We’re fortunate that we have some depth: guys that have pitched in a lot of different roles over the years and are really comfortable in any role.”

Indeed, over the winter, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski pointed to Smith as something of a separator amongst his righty relievers. None of the Sox relievers should change just for the sake of it. Their effectiveness is what matters most.

Kelly, though, might be most effective if he transitions a little. His stuff might allow the most wiggle room and he's very willing to experiment, be it with timing mechanisms or otherwise. 

https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/boston-red-sox/podcast-how-make-people-miss-100-mph-interviews-joe-kelly-and-brian-bannister

One of the perplexing things about Kelly has been how hard he throws and how few swings and misses his high-90s (and sometimes triple-digit) fastballs garner. Enter the changeup, as well as his slider and curveball. Kelly’s not throwing his breaking balls more than he used to overall, but they’re both creating more swings and misses in 2018. 

There hasn’t been an uptick in ground balls, as one would expect with a sinkerballer such as Smith. Still, as Kelly’s secondary stuff seems to take on better life, his identity need not be wrapped up so much in that fastball and whether or not it gains swings and misses.

As they move on without Smith, Sox relievers are comfortable in varied roles.

"It’s based on the conversations we have with [pitching coach Dana Levangie]," Barnes said of usage. "If you look at kind of the way things have played out the last three weeks to a month, we have an idea when I'm going to pitch based on the lineup, innings, scores of games. So, in a sense, we might not be the typical, old-fashioned [build where] you have your set eighth inning, you have your set seventh inning, and that kind of role. But there is definitely a role that we kind of each understand."

From there, if one of them can distinguish themselves slightly in terms of approach — Kelly seems the best candidate — a little variation could go a long way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE