Red Sox

Red Sox notes: Unfamiliarity hurts Lester

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Red Sox notes: Unfamiliarity hurts Lester

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON - Jon Lester faced an unfamiliar team, and in turn, saw uncharacteristic results.

Entering Saturdays game against the Milwaukee Brewers, a 4-2 loss for the Red Sox, Lester had pitched against four of their batters. Ironically, they were not the ones to do damage.

Lester gave up three homeruns (including back-to-back shots) in the first three innings to Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and George Kottaras, none of whom he had faced before. He had only given up a total of eight homeruns in his previous 13 starts since also surrendering three on Opening Day against the Texas Rangers.

Its sometimes throwing against teams you dont really know, especially early on when youre trying to feel them out, figure out what their game plan is against you and obviously they were very aggressive, he said. We made the adjustment later and started to get some outs."

Lester settled in after the third, pitching five scoreless innings and finishing the night with eight strikeouts.

Even though he has given up 14 homeruns this season, matching his entire season total last year, Terry Francona was still pleased with how he settled into the game.

His stuff is every bit the same as its always been, said Francona. And again, he ends up going eight innings, gives up four. We scored two and were saying he really battled back and did a great job.

Carl Crawford was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring he suffered running to first base on Friday. While he looks forward to returning, he knows he has to be patient with this injury. It is only his second stint on the DL his entire career and Crawford doesnt want to spend any more time there than he has to.

Hamstring injury, you dont want to mess around with that, he said. You see a lot of guys try to come back too early and then they mess it up and end up being out even longer. We just want to make sure when I come back, I stay there.

If his recovery goes as planned, Crawford would be able to play on the road the Astros, a series the Houston-native has been looking forward to playing in.

Definitely wouldnt want to miss that series, he said. Were cutting it close, thats for sure. Hopefully things will get better soon.

Adrian Gonzalez was assessed an error for dropping a foul ball during Rickie Weeks first-inning at bat, which resulted in a homerun. I just dropped it, Gonzalez said. It was a ball that I should have had and I dropped it. The ball came back a little more than I anticipated and I didnt feel a lot of wind. The ball just came back a little more than I thought and made me kind of have to drop the glove a little bit for the catch and I just dropped it. Its one of those things I wish I had it back.

David Ortiz has extended his home hitting streak to 12 games, dating back to May 19. This is his longest hitting streak at Fenway Park since he spanned a career-high 15 games in 2007.

Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks became a statistical oddity in the first inning when Adrian Gonzalez dropped his foul pop and Weeks hit the next pitch for a home run, thus becoming an unearned run as the lead-off hitter of a game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Weeks is the first batter since the Expos' Warren Cromartie on July 4, 1979, to lead off a game with dropped foul then hitting a home run. Cromartie did so off the Cubs' Bill Caudill after third baseman Steve Ontiveros dropped Cromarties foul fly.

Saturdays paid attendance of 38,175 was Fenway Parks largest of the season.

The Red Sox will pay tribute to the Boston Bruins for winning the Stanley Cup prior to Sundays game. Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged Francona, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers at the start of the Bruins Stanley Cup parade and celebration Saturday morning.

Thank goodness I called him, Francona joked, or Id be left out.

Bobby Jenks, on the DL with back tightness since June 8, made 45 throws Saturday on flat ground.

Dr. Lewis Yocum is expected to examine the MRI of Jed Lowries left shoulder early in the week. Lowrie was placed on the DL Friday with a left shoulder strain.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCamerato

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox fall to Indians for third straight loss, 6-3

Red Sox fall to Indians for third straight loss, 6-3

BOSTON - Rookie Shane Bieber took a shutout into the seventh inning, Melky Cabrera homered for the second straight game and the Cleveland Indians beat the Red Sox 6-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of AL division leaders.

Yan Gomes also homered for the Indians, who have won nine of 10 and the first two of the four-game series at Fenway Park.

Boston, with the best record in the majors, has lost three in a row for just the second time this season.

Bieber (7-2) went 6 1-3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

Down 5-0, Boston scored three times in the seventh. Brad Hand got his 25th save as the Indians improved to 15-4 in August.

Nathan Eovaldi (5-5) had been 2-0 in four starts for the Red Sox since coming over from Tampa Bay in a trade at the deadline.

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Drellich: Why Cora's bullpen plan didn't make sense Monday

Drellich: Why Cora's bullpen plan didn't make sense Monday

BOSTON -- A huge division lead is a strange bird to navigate, rookie skipper or otherwise. Alex Cora's bullpen management seemed caught in between on Monday night.

There are two basic forces at play for a manager in any game, be it in April or August: play to win that contest, or play for the future.

In the Sox’ position as the best team in baseball, the future has naturally started to garner attention, both in terms of player rest as well a new wrinkle tied to the calendar: information for the playoff roster. (We’re mainly talking about the pitching staff.) 

That’s why Drew Pomeranz last week, on Wednesday, was left out to dry in a winnable game in Philadelphia, while Matt Barnes and Tyler Thornburg were held out because of workload concerns. The Sox lost that day, but there were understandable goals achieved.

On Monday night with Terry Francona across the way, Cora’s balancing fell short. Not because the Sox lost, but because the moves he made didn’t really fit either goal.

Warning: Nitty gritty details follow. Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Indians is ultimately a blip on the radar. The Sox' first consecutive losses since July were overdue. Cora’s still a top Manager of the Year candidate.

Everything ties back to a two-run home run Rick Porcello allowed to No. 9 hitter Greg Allen in the seventh inning, on Porcello’s 100th pitch. That shot broke a 3-3 tie and scored what proved the decisive runs for Cleveland.

“Not trying to take anything away from him but, I think even I could’ve hit that one pretty hard,” Porcello said. “It was not a good pitch, and it came at the worst possible time.”

There was a reliever, Barnes, warm in the ‘pen at the time of the homer. But before we get to Barnes, let’s start here: How was either the future or the present helped by leaving Porcello in?

He does not need the work. Arguably, the opposite. The righty, a quietly strong presence all year, has thrown the 15th-most pitches in the majors this season. From the beginning of 2015 through the present, he ranks fifth in regular-season pitches thrown. 

In short, his workload has been huge.

Before the game, Cora was asked about Chris Sale’s health. The manager spoke of the importance of keeping guys fresh generally.

“We’ll make sure he’s okay,” Cora said. “And this is not only for Chris, but for the whole pitching staff. We want them to be trending up in September. I don’t want them to be trending down. Obviously September 1 is a huge day for everybody here [when rosters expand and help arrives].

"I don’t want them to go mid-September and the stuff is trending down. It should be the other way around.”

Porcello had already allowed two home runs Monday night. He’s allowed more long balls overall lately: 12 in his last 9 starts, after surrendering 10 in his first 17.

The reason for the dingers is unclear. But, at the least, a little extra rest couldn’t hurt.

“I can’t tell you in particular why there are more home runs being hit off me now than in the past,” said Porcello, who led the majors in homers allowed last year. “I think definitely part of it is missed location. That’s the first one you look at. Give guys the opportunity to put the barrel to the ball, usually you’re pitching in the middle of the zone. That’s the biggest factor. 

“You have to continue to make adjustments. There are so many things guys have now as far as iPads in the dugout, scouting reports, percentages on pitches thrown, what you like to throw.”

We can break down Porcello’s adjustments another time. After the game, Cora’s explanation for leaving Porcello in was simple.

“We thought the matchup was good,” Cora said. “Man at first, and with the stuff he was throwing, we felt comfortable with it. He just hung a changeup and we paid the price."

Allen had already lined out twice off Porcello, one time with an exit velocity of 96 mph. But either way, letting a pitcher go a third time through the order is almost always playing with fire

Now, it's notable that the Red Sox have had more success facing hitters a third time this year than any other team, with the lowest opponents’ average and slugging percentage entering Monday. That could be luck, that could be great pitching, or both. But past success does not eliminate present risk.

Barnes is the best reliever the Sox have behind Craig Kimbrel. Barnes was the fresh arm, and definitely the better choice to get the Sox out of the inning with a tie.

If winning was what mattered most.

Cora appeared to assume that Allen likely would only reach via a single or walk, not an extra-base hit. The next batter after Allen was Francisco Lindor, an MVP candidate and Cleveland's leadoff man.

“If [Allen] gets on, single, walk, whatever, Barnesy was in the game for Francisco because of the fastball up, breaking ball [combination], and obviously he faced him three times already,” Cora said. “So that was that.”

But let's say Allen didn't homer. A double could have put the Indians ahead as well. And at that point, what would the logic be in having Barnes warmed up? To keep the deficit from growing?

That would have made more sense than not using Barnes at all, which is what happened. Porcello gave up the homer, stayed in for Lindor, got out of the inning, and Barnes never pitched.

However, Barnes continued to warm as the Sox batted in the bottom of the seventh, joined by Thornburg. The idea, it seemed, was to use Barnes in the top of the eighth if the Sox took the lead or tied the score.

Warming Barnes and Thornburg, the double-barrel action with a deficit, suggested Cora really wanted to win Monday's game. Odd, though: Neither Barnes nor Thornburg could pitch in Philadelphia on Wednesday, and now they can both warm while trailing? If that’s how strongly Cora felt, Barnes should’ve had the seventh.

The future can't be what was driving Cora's thought process, because then he wouldn't have warmed up both Thornburg and Barnes that way with three more games remaining between these teams in as many days. The Sox are in a stretch where they play 10 straight games without an off-day. Barnes hasn't been short of work recently. He threw 22 pitches on Sunday against the Rays and 15 against them Friday.

Information wasn't the motivating factor, either. If it were, Barnes never warms. Thornburg is given the seventh-inning jam in relief of Porcello.

The Sox know what they have in Barnes: An improved, late-inning force. Thornburg, though, is still working his way back from a long injury recovery. Using Thornburg in a jam in a 3-3 game in the seventh could have been a worthwhile test.

Instead, Barnes and Thornburg will be more limited the rest of the series. Their usage (and non-usage) was not tailored to either the present or the future. Neither was the choice to let Porcello finish off the seventh.

But hey, at least Pomeranz threw a 1-2-3 ninth.

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