Red Sox

Ortiz, Red Sox step up their game against Felix Hernandez


Ortiz, Red Sox step up their game against Felix Hernandez

SEATTLE -- In the previous four games on their current road trip, the Red Sox had scored a grand total of seven runs, never scoring more than two in any one game.

The offensive drought was such that, in the preceding two games, John Farrell had taken to bunting runners over, playing small ball with a lineup that was projected to be among the game's most powerful.

So how to explain the Red Sox knocking around Felix Hernandez for four runs in six innings in a 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners?

"Given the way things have been going,'' mused John Farrell, "four runs is a little bit of an outburst for us.''

That's baseball.

The Sox got solo homers from Pablo Sandoval in the second and David Ortiz in the third. After that, Hernandez self-destructed a bit in the sixth, his final inning of work, when he issued three walks -- all to bottom half of the Red Sox batting order.

(Hernandez appeared to turn his ankle on the follow-through in his delivery, leading some to suggest that that factored into his sixth-inning bout of wildness. But Hernandez himself said that wasn't the case). Of the three hitters Hernandez walked that inning, two came around to score and provided the margin of victory.

"Particularly in the fifth and sixth innins,'' noted Farrell, "we didn't expand the strike zone. David's always swung the bat well against him and Pablo gets a first-pitch fastball that he drives out of the ballpark.

"But I thought, particularly in that sixth inning, when he didn't expand (the strike zone) took some pitches, forced the pitch count to be driven up a little bit and we took our walks when they were there. We had a very good overall approach tonight.''

Ortiz came into the game with a career .361 average against Hernandez and connected on a fastball in the third to give the Sox a 2-1 lead. It was his first homer after a drought of 68 at-bats.

"I don't know, I try to attack everyone,'' said Ortiz, at a loss to explain his success against the ace. "That's part of the game. Some guys get you out easily; some guys, you make it tough on them. I guess I've been a little lucky with my boy King (Felix), because he's not a guy you want to pick out of the bag and be like, 'I want to face him.' You know what I'm saying? His stuff is ridiculous.

"But I'm the kind of guy who likes to swing at strikes. He's one of the guys that I like to be patient with, so that I'm not chasing pitches out of the strike zone.''

Ortiz said he enjoys the challenge of facing a pitcher the quality of Hernandez, and the opposite may also be true.

"I guarantee that my numbers against aces are better than they are against other pitchers,'' said Ortiz, "and it's because they are up more to the challenge, more than anything else. They want to show you why they are so good, why they are aces and they challenge you more than (other) pitches.''

The battle was won by Ortiz and his teamamtes Saturday night, but Ortiz is hardly one to feel cocky about coming out on top.

"He's having a hell of a season,'' said Ortiz in admiration. "That's a guy I would love to have pitching for me.''

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

The Boston Red Sox played at 12:37 p.m. ET on Thursday to get a head start on their weekend trip to Houston.

But travel plans don't always cooperate.

The Red Sox's charter plane bound for Houston from Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday night diverted course and made an unscheduled landing in Detroit.

The diversion was caused by a potential mechanical issue, according to WBZ-TV.

Delta Flight 8884 carrying the Red Sox departed Toronto at 6:18 p.m. ET, a few hours after Boston defeated the Blue Jays 8-2 in their series finale. But the plane deviated from its flight plan and landed at Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport about two hours later.

According to FlightAware, the Red Sox had a layover of several hours in Detroit and finally continued their trip at 10:47 p.m., arriving in Houston just after midnight local time (1 a.m. ET).

The Sox will spend the morning resting up before beginning a three-game set with the Astros on Friday night.

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Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

USA TODAY Sports photo

Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin this week took a fascinating deep dive into baseball's toxic love affair with velocity, the force at the root of the game's decline as entertainment.

With more pitchers than ever throwing at least 95 mph, hitters are left with two choices: marry launch angle with exit velocity in the hopes of leaving the park, or find a new line of work. Pitchers roll off a similarly homogenous assembly line, with one 6-foot-4 reliever after another throwing gas. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

Then there's Ryan Weber.

The 28-year-old baby-faced right-hander did not reach the big leagues on the strength of his arm so much as the dexterity of his fingers. He breaks 90 mph with his fastball about as often as most of us do on the highway.

He's a throwback to a time when baseball made room for pitchers who didn't max out the radar gun, and rotations craved variety: the flame-throwing right-hander, followed by the crafty lefty, followed by the innings-eater, followed by the forkball specialist, etc. . .

That would seemingly crowd out someone like Webber, who instead relies on the precise location of his sinker, changeup, and curveball. And it's not like opportunities have been plentiful for the former Brave, Mariner, and Ray. Since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft by Atlanta, Weber has appeared in only 28 games.

He opened this season as Triple-A depth, and the Red Sox summoned him after injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and David Price thinned the rotation's ranks.

Following three solid relief outings, Weber received the call to start on Thursday against the Blue Jays, where his peculiar set of skills were on full display. Weber reached 90 mph exactly once in 93 pitches. He mostly lived at 86-88 mph with a ton of movement as he worked the corners, stayed out of the middle of the plate, and kept the ball down.

In an age where even accomplished sinkerballers like Rick Porcello feel no choice but to live up in the strike zone, Weber did things his way on Thursday with smashing success. One night after the Red Sox burned through six pitchers in a 13-inning marathon win over the Jays, Weber delivered six innings of one-run ball, limiting the Jays to three hits and striking out four in an 8-2 victory.

"It's different," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Toronto. "It's not that vertical attack, fastballs up, breaking balls down. It's more about pitching east-west and changing speeds. It's like a little bit of old school."

Weber earned his first victory as a starter after spending parts of the last four seasons with the Braves, Mariners, and Rays. If there's one common element to each pitch in his repertoire, it's that nothing is straight. Weber can generate movement to either side of the plate, and he does not let his lack of velocity keep him from throwing front-door two-seamers that start inside to left-handers hitters before zipping back over the corner.

"Just giving the team a chance to win and saving the bullpen was really my main goal," Weber told reporters. "And doing that, I'm excited and proud of what I did."

"Everything felt good," Weber added. "Arm felt great. First win as a starter feels nice."

With Eovaldi making progress in his return from elbow surgery and Price already back in the rotation, the Red Sox hope not to need a rotating fifth starter for much longer. If nothing else, Weber reminded the organization that there's more than one way to be successful, should the need arise again.

"Amazing," Cora said. "He did a good job changing speeds, moving the ball around the strike zone, changing eye level. He can pitch."

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