Red Sox

First impressions: It unravels quickly for Elias

First impressions: It unravels quickly for Elias

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park:

1) So much for Roenis Elias.

Elias was chosen for the vacant fifth spot partly on the basis of how well he pitched in Pawtucket, but mostly because he represented a good matchup with the dangerous left-handed bats in the Mariners lineup.

But no one took into account the right-handed hitters. Franklin Gutierrez alone has a two-run homer, a solo homer and a bases-loaded double, producing six runs in his first three plate appearances.
     
Elias had a quick 1-2-3 inning in the second, but other than that, looked rattled and never settled down.
     
He was returned to Pawtucket minutes after the game and Clay Buchholz will return to the rotation on Wednesday. 

2) There were some signs of life from the bats.
    
The Red Sox banged out three doubles and a homer, and, as was the case Thursday night in the series finale with Baltimore, the Sox had a handful of hard-hit balls that were turned into outs.
     
Hanley Ramirez continued to hit the ball hard, as did Travis Shaw, further evidence that each is rebounding from slumps.
     
But too often, the Red Sox couldn't capitalize. They stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings and finished the game just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

3) David Ortiz's assualt on the record books continues.

For the second straight night, Ortiz smacked a long homer. In the fourth inning, Ortiz hammered a pitch just to the left of the flagpole in center field.
     
It was career homer No. 521 for Ortiz, pulling him into a tie with three Hall of Famers: Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.
     
Ortiz is tied for 19th place all-time. It's likely that he can catch -- and surpass -- two more Hall of Famers in front of him: Jimmie Foxx at 534 and Mickey Mantle at 536. It will take 16 homers for Ortiz to eclipse Mantle, which, at his current pace, seems eminetly doable with 96 games remaining.
     
It would seem that the next man on the all-time list -- Mike Schmidt, at 548 -- is too far for Ortiz to catch.
     
But the fact that Ortiz has as many homers as Williams is a remarkable thing, no?

 

How a quick-thinking Dustin Pedroia made sure Michael Chavis wouldn't lose out on memento of a lifetime

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AP Images

How a quick-thinking Dustin Pedroia made sure Michael Chavis wouldn't lose out on memento of a lifetime

BOSTON - As Michael Chavis approached a small group of cameras awaiting his thoughts on the first home run of his career, a reporter accidentally stepped in his way.

Chavis sidestepped, spun, and tossed a Kobe-esque finger roll at an imaginary rim. We can only assume it swished.

On an otherwise lost night for the Red Sox, who swept in a doubleheader at the hands of the Tigers, Chavis provided one of the few highlights -- a mammoth 441-foot home run over everything in left field that allowed him to fulfill a childhood dream and circle the bases as a big leaguer.

"I felt like I was floating, honestly," Chavis said after a 4-2 defeat in the nightcap. "Just kind of tried not to sprint. I've seen a couple of other guys hitting their first home runs and they sprint because they're so excited. I kind of tried to act like I had hit a home run before and stayed calm in that kind of moment. It was special for sure."

Even more special was the way he retrieved the ball. Whoever corralled it on Lansdowne Street -- a father and son leaving the park, per NESN's Guerin Austin -- gladly turned it over when injured Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia signed a ball and offered it in exchange.

"I need to thank Dustin," Chavis said. "Apparently, he signed a ball so whoever found it would give me the ball and they were very gracious so if they see this, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. It's not going to happen again, so it's really special."

Chavis had the ball in a sock to keep it from being damaged and planned to hand it over to his mom, Dorothy, who led an emotional, enthusiastic cheering section of three or four in the family seats at Fenway.

"Without a doubt," he said. "She earned that ball."

Added Chavis: "Oh, man, I'm sure she was going crazy. After the game, I gave her a big hug and it's always, just, any time she can come out to a game, it's special. Obviously, we travel a lot and she doesn't get to come out as often as she likes but her being here might have been the biggest part, honestly."

Four games into his career, Chavis owns a crucial double vs. the Rays for his first hit, and now a homer. He's floating all right, like Kobe soaring to the rim.

"I'm starting to get more comfortable, more settled in, not to downplay it at all, it was, without a doubt, a special, unbelievable moment I'll remember for the rest of my life, but that first hit was next level," Chavis said. "The moment in the game and me not really being aware, it was just wild. It was a notch below that one, but it's still a life-long memory for sure."

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Remember the Rays series that saved the Red Sox season? It was a mirage

Remember the Rays series that saved the Red Sox season? It was a mirage

BOSTON - You know what they say about momentum -- it's only good until the Tigers come to town for a doubleheader.

So much for Tampa Bay. The Red Sox swept the Rays over the weekend in a taut series that featured solid starting pitching, timely offense, and just enough relief to make the Red Sox finally feel like defending champions after three rocky weeks.

We viewed that result with appropriate restraint, however. The lethargy afflicting the Red Sox wouldn't just disappear over a weekend in St. Pete. Come back to Fenway and keep it rolling. Then we could talk.

One doubleheader sweep later, we mourn the loss of their momentum, which slightly outlived the common housefly.

Serious question: Can someone explain what the hell's going on? The Red Sox returned the core of the greatest team in franchise history, virtually everyone's in their prime and healthy, and yet they're still somehow on pace to follow last year's 108-win machine with a 61-win shipwreck.

No one expects them to finish that poorly, of course, but 15 percent of the season is over and the Red Sox have dug themselves a nice little hole.

They visited Tampa last week trailing in the AL East by eight games, left on Sunday trailing by five with renewed life, and two days later find themselves seven back again. That's called two steps forward, one step into traffic.

"It's disappointing," manager Alex Cora admitted. "Obviously you don't want to lose two."

Problems abound. Ace Chris Sale may have struck out 10 in the opener Tuesday, but still struggled to put people away. The Tigers fouled off a staggering 26 pitches, extending at-bats and limiting Sale to five innings as the Red Sox dropped to 0-5 when he starts.

He didn't take the loss because the bullpen took that responsibility off his hands with four horrible innings of five-run ball, the pivotal blow a go-ahead homer off of right-hander Heath Hembree.

The nightcap told a different story, this one featuring offensive futility. The Red Sox went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and 3-4 hitters Mitch Moreland and J.D. Martinez combined to leave 12 runners on base by themselves (Martinez hit into a double play for good measure).

Rookie Michael Chavis at least provided some life in the eighth with the first home run of his career, a 441-foot shot over everything in left, but rookie reliever Travis Lakins gave it right back in the bottom of the frame and the Red Sox went quietly in the ninth.

Such diversity of despair has been the story of their season. As many different ways as the Red Sox won last season, that's how varied their modes of defeat are now. Each night brings a new spin on the wheel of misfortune.

The postgame clubhouse offered a truly jarring juxtaposition, with veterans who perhaps already feel their season slipping away quietly packing up and getting the bleep out while rookies Chavis, Lakins, and Darwinzon Hernandez held press conferences in varying degrees of exuberance -- Chavis over his first homer, and the other two celebrating their major-league debuts.

Maybe an infusion of youthful enthusiasm is exactly what the team needs. The Red Sox clubhouse is an understandably grim place right now. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, one of the only all-around standouts at the moment, admitted between games that the team would need to play the nightcap with urgency.

The Red Sox played hard, but it didn't matter. That's what happens when you think you have momentum, at least until the Tigers show up for two.

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