Aaron Hill

Friar: When situation is big, Sox hitters come up small

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Friar: When situation is big, Sox hitters come up small

The Red Sox squandered another chance to move into first place when they lost 2-1 Monday in San Diego, their second one-run loss to a last-place team in as many days.

Not something to be expected from a playoff-contender -- a statement that’s become synonymous with the 2016 team.

Monday’s frustrations were a little different than Sunday's, yet they still centered around the offense.
 
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For starters, the Red Sox were exposed once again as being a team that relies heavily on the bottom of the order. They are one of the few teams to have strong hitters at almost every spot but they lose some of that edge in National League parks, where there's no DH and the pitchers have to bat. So on Monday, when light-hitting catcher Bryan Holaday and pitcher Drew Pomeranz were in the Nos. 8 and 9 positions, the lineup had a distinctly different feel . . . not to mention most veteran pitchers aren't yet intimidated by rookie Yoan Moncada, who was hitting seventh.

In addition, the Sox once again couldn't deliver a big hit in key situations.

Trailing 2-0, Chris Young, pinch-hitting for Holaday, led off the top of the eighth with a home run. The next batter, pinch-hitter Aaron Hill, doubled, giving Boston the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run at the plate with no outs.

When Dustin Pedroia advanced Hill to third with an infield groundout, the Sox were poised to tie the game with almost any kind of contact. Not just a hit, but even a groundball or a fly ball. 

But they didn't get it. Sandy Leon, pinch-hitting for Brock Holt, struck out. So did the next hitter, Xander Bogaerts. Hill was stranded at third and the Sox wound up losing by that 2-1 score.

As much as Red Sox hitters preach making solid contact every at-bat, that was a scenario where they simly needed to put the ball in play . . . and they didn't. One could argue Monday’s eighth inning was more frustrating than the bases-loaded struggles Boston’s had all year,  given there wasn’t a double-play threat.

“On days where we’ve come up a run short, there’s opportunities throughout the course of a ballgame that can change the storyline,” Farrell said after the loss.

And he couldn’t be more right.

The Red Sox lead all of baseball with 499 extra-base hits, but are 7-39 when they score four runs or less.

Further proof that they’re a team that slugs it out, but doesn’t play small ball.
 
Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar

 

 

Major league call-up 'definitely a surprise' to Yoan Moncada

Major league call-up 'definitely a surprise' to Yoan Moncada

OAKLAND -- Yoan Moncada's trip through the minors was a relatively brief one. After signing with the Red Sox at the age of 19 in February of 2015, he reached the big leagues in less than 19 months, bypassing Triple A along the way.

But as Moncada somewhat sheepishly revealed on his first day in the majors Friday, he thought the trip was going to be even quicker.

"When I first came to the U.S.,'' said Moncada through a translator, "I thought you signed and right away, you go to the big leagues. But soon I realized it wasn't that easy. You have to go to the minors. I had to stay focused to do what I had to do and stayed the course.''

Moncada, who was not in the lineup Friday night but will be in the starting lineup Saturday, tried to call his mother in Cuba Wednesday night after Portland Sea Dogs manager Carlos Febles gave him the news of his promotion, but she didn't answer.

(Moncada did get into the game in the bottom of the seventh, taking over at third base while Travis Shaw shifted to first. In his first major league at-bat in the top of the eighth, he walked and scored from first on Shaw's double to right. An inning later, he came up again and struck out)

By the time he reached her Thursday morning, it was old news. She had already heard, but Moncada was still trying to process it.

"I felt very happy and proud,'' he said, "It was definitely a surprise to me. But she was very excited and the family was excited. That's what you come to the country for -- to play baseball and hopefully make the majors.''

As the Sox did with Andrew Benintendi - who, like Moncada, jumped from Double A to the majors -- the Sox thought it best to give Moncada a day to acclimate himself. And there were some fine points to go over, too.

"There was a little bit of a dress rehearsal (earlier in the afternoon),'' said John Farrell, "and a walk-through, particularly with our overshifts and the responsibilities of the third baseman. So he spent some time with (infield instructor Brian Butterfield), walking through placement on the field, some of the terminology that he'll be (exposed) to for the first time here. And it will be a day for him to just sit and watch a game."

Going forward, the Sox plan to have Moncada playing against most righthanders, with Aaron Hill playing against lefties. Hill, too, could come off the bench as a defensive replacement in late innings.

Where that leaves Travis Shaw is uncertain, but Shaw's second-half slump leaves him fighting for playing time.

"He's not a forgotten guy, I will tell you that,'' said Farrell of Shaw.

Moncada has limited experience in the U.S. at third, having played just 10 games at third at Portland after shifting from second last month.

But as Moncada and Farrell both emphasized, Moncada actually played more third than anywhere else in his native Cuba, so the position is hardly new to him.

"The only difference I see (between third and second),'' Moncada said, "is the double play is a different dynamic. It's more about reaction, as opposed second base where it's more agility-based.''

"Granted, this is a quicker pace and (higher) level,'' acknowledged Farrell. "But he wouldn't be here if we didn't think he could step in and contribute. We feel like he can step in and give us some impact with the bat, particularly against some righthanded pitching.''

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

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Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:

QUOTES:

"After we got him an inning (Tuesday) night because he hadn't pitched in six days, we were not going to with the quick turnaround and get four outs from him,'' - John Farrell on whether Craig Kimbrel was available for the eighth inning.

"Taking three weeks off in the middle of the season is not easy for anybody. And the biggest thing with my shoulder is just trusting that it's strong and healthy.'' - Steven Wright on his struggles since coming off the DL.

"In a situation like that, you know they're going to try to get you to roll over on a double play. That's his job. For me, (my job) is to see the ball deep and put a good swing on it.'' - Aaron Hill, who had been 0-for-20 before singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth.

 

NOTES:

* The win was the Red Sox' 29th come-from-behind win of the year.

* The Sox improved to 13-3 against left-handed starters

* Hanley Ramirez became just the third Red Sox hitter since 1930 to erase a three-run deficit with a two-out grand slam

* Ramirez has knocked in 33 runs in his last 28 Fenway games.

* Dustin Pedroia enjoyed his fourth game with three or more hits in his last five games.

* Pedroia is 18 for his last 24 at Fenway.

* Jackie Bradley has a .941 OPS at home this season.

* Mookie Betts has reached safely in each of his last 19 games.

* Betts has 11 outfield assists this year and three have come against Tampa Bay

* Each one of Xander Bogaerts' last nine homers have come with two strikes.

 

STARS:

1) Hanley Ramirez

Trailing 4-1, the Red Sox got a grand slam from Ramirez to give them their first lead of the game in the fifth. He later walked and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had been scuffling and dropped back down to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, but broke out with a single, homer, double and two RBI.

3) Aaron Hill

Hill played a fine game at third defensively, and snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an opposite-field, run-scoring single to snap a 6-6 tie.