Red Sox

For Red Sox playoff rotation, who'll be the odd man out?

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For Red Sox playoff rotation, who'll be the odd man out?

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz is the Red Sox Game 2 starter in the American League Division Series, as expected, opposite the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel. Beyond that, there’s a bit of mystery.

A lot seems to hinge on a question of whether or not to start Doug Fister, who doesn’t appear to be a candidate to be on the roster as a reliever, while Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello are.

Starts in Games 3 and 4 are expected to be made by at least one, and maybe two, of those three.

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“Fister would probably be the one that would not be [considered for both the ‘pen and rotation],” manager John Farrell said Tuesday. “The other two, potentially.”

Considering stature alone, it’d be hard to imagine Porcello moving to the bullpen, leaving Rodriguez as perhaps the best candidate for a relief job in the Sox’ eyes.

"You do like the fact of a veteran presence," Farrell said. "Guys that have been in a postseason, guys who seemingly will pitch with more emotional control, or control the running game, or executing a pitch in a key moment, that has maybe a tendency to shine through a little more.”

But maybe the Sox will ignore stature entirely with Porcello because of his propensity for home runs.

Farrell’s dropping hints that Fister will wind up with a start. Using Rodriguez in Game 3 would mean left-handers in three consecutive games. Would that be an issue?

“No, it wouldn't give pause, it wouldn't prevent us from doing anything,” Farrell said. “But again, I think what I tried to explain earlier is [it’s a matter of], what is the best combination of our pitching staff? And how does that play out, and putting certain guys in certain roles? It wouldn't be a shock to see a guy that's been in our rotation finding his way into our bullpen.”

Well, if a starter’s in the bullpen, that would seem to guarantee Fister is in the rotation, based on what Farrell explained Tuesday.

The hesitation to use Fister in relief is understandable. Fister’s a ground-ball pitcher who has had trouble in his first innings of work in his time with the Sox. The first batter he faces carrying a .500 on-base percentage against him this year. In his first inning of work overall, it’s .375.

But the Sox definitely want length in the bullpen, and Fister has relief experience not only this year, but in the past. Fister’s 33 innings in the ‘pen between the postseason and regular season outdo Rick Porcello’s 10 and Eduardo Rodriguez’s one. The matter of adjustment shouldn’t be overlooked.

Rodriguez has high upside with strikeouts. But he also has reverse splits, doing worse against lefties (.808 OPS) than righties (.718 OPS). The Astros are a righty heavy lineup. But, Rodriguez shouldn’t be looked at as a force to dominate lefties.

Rodriguez is also relatively inexperienced, and has been through a lot with his knees, affecting both his mechanics and his confidence in the past. How well would he handle a change?

The Astros are particularly familiar with Fister because he threw 180 1/3 innings for them last year. Granted, he’s changed significantly since then -- but the Astros have access to plenty of video, and also faced him Friday at Fenway Park in a 3-2 Sox loss.

“I think it’s definitely a difference,” Fister said Tuesday of his pitching now vs. 2016. “Whether it’s the movement on the ball, the deception getting back across the body, throwing it from the first-base side of the rubber. There’s a lot of different things. They just saw us last week, they saw me last week, so they have seen me.

“Now it just comes down to execution. I know what they do, I know what they do. It’s like facing [Alex] Bregman. I know he hits the ball inside, and that’s what I gave him for a home run [Friday]. But if I execute my pitch [further inside], I got better luck there.”

Fister said he's fine in whatever role he's asked to do.

With Porcello, the biggest scare is the home run. His rate of 1.68 long balls allowed per nine innings was the fifth-highest in the major. The Astros mash. That would be the greatest reason to get Porcello out of the rotation.

Fister and Porcello both struck out about eight batters per nine this season. Fister walked more (3.79 per nine vs. 2.12) and allowed considerably fewer homers, .90 per nine.

Farrell’s trying to take a holistic approach to his pitching staff. The Sox met Tuesday morning to work through more of the roster, and they need to also deliver the news to individual players.

“The way guys have pitched recently,” the manager said. “The composition of our bullpen, how it supports the entire pitching staff, not just looking at it in two separate segments: rotation and bullpen. I think there’s got to be some complement there. The four games that we talked about during the series [to end the regular season], that gives a little bit of first-hand knowledge and recent knowledge and how we might use guys to the best of our abilities or their abilities to take advantage of that.”

What about ordering, or bringing back Chris Sale on short rest?

Sale could go on three days rest if needed in Game 4 at Fenway Park, but that choice would be “solely dependent” on what happens in Game 1, Farrell said.

As for Game 3?

“There are two scenarios in place that will be revealed at the appropriate time and that means probably more internal discussion is needed here,” Farrell said. “I don't think Game 3 starter is going to hinge upon winning or losing Games 1 or 2.”

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Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

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Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Porcello allowed one hit in seven innings, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi homered, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 9-2 Thursday to avoid a series sweep.

Xander Bogaerts had two RBI for the Red Sox, who had a season-high 16 hits, and finished 6-4 on a road trip through Baltimore, Seattle and Minnesota.

After a first-inning single by Logan Morrison, ending a 0-for-30 stretch against Boston, Porcello (9-3) retired 19 of 20 Twins hitters, including the last 16. Throwing 97 pitches, he struck out five and walked one.

Porcello finished seven innings for the first time in 10 starts since April 29. His best previous start of the season was April 12 against the Yankees, when he allowed two hits and struck out six in seven innings.

Kyle Gibson (2-5) allowed seven hits and two earned runs in six innings for Minnesota, striking out five for his ninth quality start this season. He had only 10 in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Betts hit the first pitch of the fifth inning into the front row of seats in right-center for a 2-0 lead. He finished with three hits and has reached base eight times in his last three games.

The Red Sox were 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position, finishing the three-game series 7 for 36.

Bogaerts' two-run double keyed a three-run seventh against Ryan Pressly. Benintendi hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

OUCH

Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar was hit near the right elbow by Porcello in the first. The major league leader with 32 doubles, Escobar immediately dropped to the ground in pain as a trainer rushed out. After a couple of minutes of consultation, Escobar trotted to first base. Diagnosed with a right elbow contusion, he was removed from the game after striking out in the third and is day to day.

Boston's J.D Martinez hit the dirt to avoid a high inside pitch from Gibson in the top of the inning. Sandy Leon was hit by Gibson in the sixth.

TRAINERS ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz, out since June 5 with left biceps tendinitis, is expected to get on a mound this weekend and throw a bullpen session, according to manager Alex Cora.

Twins: OF Eddie Rosario missed the game with a sore throwing shoulder. He is considered day to day. Since May 1, Rosario is hitting .364 with a league-best 68 hits in that span, including 16 doubles and 13 home runs.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Open a six-game homestand Friday with RHP Steven Wright (2-1, 1.23) scheduled to start against Seattle's LHP Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 2.63).

Twins: Welcome Texas on Friday for a three-game weekend series with RHP Fernando Romero (3-2, 4.17) to face the Rangers' LHP Mike Minor (4-4. 5.35).

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

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Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing a run of starting pitching that included two-time Cy Young winner Corey KluberCarlos CarrascoChris Sale and David Price, the Minnesota Twins could have seen their fledgling playoff hopes fade toward another long summer.

Instead, Minnesota's been rejuvenated by beating some of the best pitching in the American League.

Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler homered to back an effective start by Lance Lynn as the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run and Kepler added a two-run shot off Boston starter David Price (8-5). Brian Dozier added a pair of doubles to help Minnesota win for the fourth time in five games.

The Twins beat Kluber and Carrasco in taking two of three games at Cleveland before returning home and winning the first two games against the Red Sox with Sale and Price starting.

"Yeah, after the game when you acknowledge who's on the mound," Kepler said when asked if Minnesota can take something away from beating the recent competition. "I feel like we go into games and we're kind of blind to who's on the mound and we grind together, which is awesome about this team."

Lynn (5-5) again struggled with command, issuing five walks, but he surrendered just one unearned run and three hits in five innings.

Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters, with Fernando Rodney securing his 16th save in 19 chances.

"If you can find a way to battle every at-bat, wait for something to break, try to build pitch-count when you can, and if you're holding them down as our starting pitching has been doing, you know you've got a chance late," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 22 in the first two games of the series. They've stranded 18 baserunners in the two games and lost for the fourth time in five games.

"Pitching-wise, we've been great," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "I'll take that. If we keep throwing the ball the way we've been throwing we're going to win a lot of ballgames. We know the offense, you know how it is."

Lynn has had an uncharacteristic wild season in his first year with the Twins. He walked at least five batters for the fifth time in 14 starts. But the veteran right-hander has limited the damage and allowed less than three runs in five of his last six starts.

"Command was really not there," Lynn said. "But I was able to make pitches with runners in scoring position and not give up a bunch of runs. With this offense we have, you keep them to one run, we're going to win the games more times than not."

Boston's lone run scored in the second as Lynn couldn't catch first baseman Logan Morrison's high throw to first for the final out of the inning, allowing Mitch Moreland to score from second base on an error charged to Morrison.

"We've been through stuff like this in the past, even this year early on," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said of the offense. "The pitching has been doing great. It's up to us now to come through."

PAYING THE PRICE

Price was hurt by the home run but allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk. He had given up just one home run in his previous five starts and seven total in 14 starts this season coming into Wednesday.

"Not so much that he could hit it like he did, but to keep it fair, that's pretty impressive," Price said of Kepler's home run.

SHOWING SIGNS

Dozier had just one extra-base hit in his previous 13 games while hitting .068. His double off the left-field wall in the eighth plated Eddie Rosario.

Kepler hit his first home run in 22 games and the fifth of his eight this season against left-handed pitching. Kepler was hitting .158 over his previous 21 games with just four RBIs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz is getting closer to having his first throwing session since he went on the 10-day disabled list on June 5 for left biceps tendonitis. Cora said Pomeranz was dealing with soreness in his neck but has recovered.

Twins: Molitor said OF Byron Buxton's first rehab game in Triple-A on Tuesday went well and that his left foot with the broken toe is "in a good place and we haven't said that for about seven weeks or so." There is no timetable for Buxton's return.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will start the series and road trip finale on Thursday afternoon. Porcello pitched six innings and gave up four runs in a no-decision at Seattle in his last start.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (2-4, 3.27) counters for Minnesota. Gibson has allowed five total runs over his last four starts, spanning 26 2/3 innings.

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