Red Sox

Betts blasts three homers, Red Sox crush Angels, 10-1

Betts blasts three homers, Red Sox crush Angels, 10-1

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Shohei Ohtani developed a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand nine days ago during his second start for the Los Angeles Angels.

The rookie right-hander thought it had healed enough for him to pitch effectively when he took the mound again Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd eager to see Ohtani's next incredible feat.

Instead, the blister and the powerful Boston Red Sox were far too much to overcome.

Mookie Betts led off with the first of his three homers, and the Red Sox chased Ohtani after just two innings in a 10-1 victory over the Angels.

Ohtani (2-1) yielded four hits and three runs on 66 pitches before exiting with a blister on his pitching hand. The two-way Japanese sensation couldn't throw his breaking pitches for strikes, and the Red Sox jumped on him, starting with Betts' full-count homer on a low, 97 mph fastball.

"The stuff is there," Betts said of Ohtani. "He's got it all. But our team, we had a good approach tonight. He wasn't able to land that splitter for strikes, and we did a good job laying off it and backing him into a corner where he probably had to throw a couple of pitches he didn't want to throw."

Ohtani has had intermittent issues with blisters during the past few months, and he had a bandage on one of his fingers last week.

"I felt like it would be fine today, (but) in the high intensity of a game, it didn't hold up too well," Ohtani said through a translator. "But I'm not going to be at the top of my game every start. When I don't have my best stuff, I still have to fight through the game."

Ohtani's fastball still hit 99 mph during his first career night start, but the evening began poorly when Betts cracked his 12th career leadoff homer.

Ohtani allowed another single and threw a wild pitch in the first inning. Betts drew the only walk issued by Ohtani during the second inning despite mostly dismal control. Boston scored two more runs on Holt's RBI single and Andrew Benintendi's sacrifice fly.

"That wasn't the same split as his last outing," Boston manager Alex Cora said.

Jackie Bradley Jr.Brock Holt and Betts each homered in the third inning after Ohtani departed, and Rafael Devers homered in the fourth. Betts hit his third solo shot in the seventh inning, matching his career best while Boston's formidable lineup pounded out 15 hits in its fifth consecutive victory.

"You've got to ride the wave," Cora said. "We're playing good baseball, but they don't even know how many games they're winning. They just prepare and execute."

David Price (2-1) yielded three hits and four walks over five comfortable innings as the Red Sox improved to 14-2, extending the AL's best start since 1987 by winning the opener of a three-game series between two clubs off to impressive starts.

The Angels (13-4) are still off to the best start in franchise history, but their seven-game winning streak ended in front of their second-biggest home crowd of the 21st century. The Big A was packed with 44,822 fans eager to see Ohtani, whose impressive opening month has drawn unprecedented early season attention to the Orange County club.

UPCOMING OHTANI

The defeat was a reality check on the mania surrounding the 23-year-old Ohtani, who has said he still has plenty of work to do on the mound and at the plate. He won his first two starts in impressive fashion earlier this month, and he is off to a .367, three-homer start as a designated hitter.

Ohtani and manager Mike Scioscia both said the blister shouldn't affect his ability to swing the bat.

Scioscia also said he's optimistic Ohtani can make his next start on the mound. The Angels have given Ohtani one week between starts so far, which likely would put his next start on the road against defending World Series champion Houston.

ALBERT EJECTED

Albert Pujols got his 2,989th career hit with an RBI single in the third inning, but the Angels' designated hitter was ejected in the fifth after slamming his bat and helmet into the dirt while protesting a called third strike by umpire Vic Carapazza.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Betts was in Boston's lineup for the first time since Saturday, when he injured his foot in a home plate collision. He sat out Sunday, and the Red Sox were rained out Monday.

Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker said his injured right forearm feels considerably better after some rest, but he still hasn't been cleared to throw. He missed several months last season due to a compressed nerve in the same forearm, and he hasn't pitched since March 31 this season.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Rick Porcello (3-0, 1.83 ERA) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start against the Yankees. He has won five straight decisions since last September. He also has thrown a complete game in each of his last two starts in Anaheim.

AngelsTyler Skaggs (2-0, 1.69 ERA) makes the fourth start of his promising season after getting pushed back due to the Kansas City weather. The left-hander hasn't yielded more than two runs in a start this year.

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

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

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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Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has a newfound sense of urgency. A feeling that every move counts and will count, be it at the trade deadline in a month and a half, or when Alex Cora determines his second baseman on a nightly basis.

It's not because these franchises hate each other, because of their steep history. It's because they actually have to best the other, or suffer an unwelcome consequence.

Unlike the early 2000s, both teams cannot enter the playoffs on equal footing. A second-place finish in the American League East will sting. Participating in the Wild Card game for the right to move on to the five-game Division Series will be a stomach-turning experience for one of these two teams.

The upshot presently: even as the Sox and Yanks play teams that are uninspiring, and there are plenty such clubs, there is reason for fans and players alike to stay intently focused. (In the midst of a 162-game season, there will be lapses for everyone.) There is reason to care, in fact, if the ideal lineup or pinch-hit decision is made by Alex Cora, at every juncture. There is reason to care about whether Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has sufficiently helped rebuild the farm system, because it’s a matter of depth options now and via trade.

The Sox can have the best record in the majors in June, or be one win off the pace-setters, and the smallest of details will still matter. “They’re great,” doesn’t cut it. “Is this move optimal to beat the Yankees, the team that can relegate the Sox to a one-game playoff scenario?” is the question to be answered

As trade season arrives, the concept of the marginal win is out the window for both clubs. Or it should be. In divisions where one team is clearly superior, the need to add by trade isn’t always so clear. What’s the difference between 93 wins and 95 wins if you’re heading to the Division Series either way? Is the slight upgrade worth whatever you’re giving up?

The playoffs are always a crapshoot. But the Sox and Yanks are playing to avoid the biggest crapshoot of all in the Wild Card.

Passion between fan bases in the regular season wasn’t lacking 15 years ago. It was greater, obviously. But for different reasons. Second place in the division was usually a matter of bragging rights, rather than actual reward or worthiness. 

We’ve returned to a world where the Sox and Yanks are clearly better than virtually everyone. Were the rest of the AL stronger this year, the Wild Card could be a blessing for the Sox or the Yanks — a chance to make a postseason run that did not previously exist when there were four playoff teams instead of five. 

But the present landscape shows three powerhouses, and two of them happen to be classic rivals in the East. What they do before October means more now than it used to.

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