Red Sox

Sox playoff plan appears to have Fister in rotation, E-Rod in bullpen

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Sox playoff plan appears to have Fister in rotation, E-Rod in bullpen

HOUSTON — The Red Sox have taken the conservative route with their rotation, pushing Eduardo Rodriguez to the bullpen — most likely, anyway. The important thing is that all five starters are available to them if need be, and that John Farrell operates with a short leash.

Doug Fister and Rick Porcello are penciled into starts for Games 3 and 4 in the American League Division Series, with Rodriguez moving into the bullpen.

There’s a caveat on Game 4, however. For one, Chris Sale could come back on short rest. How many pitches he throws Thursday — and whether the series dictates a need for Sale on short rest — will play into that choice.

Porcello is also the long man for Games 1 and 2. If the Sox need to use him, Rodriguez would then be in line for the start in Game 4.

But Rodriguez has another role, that of Robby Scott. His absence from the roster was the biggest surprise when it was put out Thursday morning, because he was the lead lefty in the ‘pen all season. Austin Maddox, a righty who did very well in September, made it instead.

But the Astros have a mostly right-handed lineup, and the Sox needed to carry length in their bullpen beyond David Price, necessitating all five starters to be on the roster — including the lefty E-Rod.

“There might be one spot inside the lineup, whether it’s [Josh] Reddick or whether it’s [Brian] McCann, just felt like the need to have multi-innings,” Farrell said, “just felt like that was the better way to go at this point.”

One thing to note: A fastball-changeup pitcher, Rodriguez has actually been better against righties in his career (.704 OPS) than lefties (.785 OPS). Against the Astros, who mash lefty starters typically, that may be just what the Sox want.

Rodriguez’s upside is greater than Fister’s. That’s a legitimate gripe, for those who would prefer to see E-Rod start over Fister, or even Porcello.

Why Fister over Porcello for Game 3?

“The later action to the staff,” Farrell said. “A little bit more consistent sink, a little bit more separation between sinker and curveball, that’s probably what it came down to in addition to some performance and recognizing that guys have pitched well in certain spots. And there’s been some challenges mixed in for both.”

Fister, Porcello and Rodriguez all have a worrisome implosion factor. The experience Fister and Porcello have as veterans probably made the Sox feel they were better off giving them starts, and turning to Rodriguez in relief if need be.

“When left-handed starters are on the mound for us, the [Astros] lineup becomes pretty distinct,” Farrell said. “Top part of the order being all right-handed, bottom half we felt like left-handers are better suited to go through. And that’s not necessarily a situational left-hander in that spot, because of turning the switch-hitters around: [Marwin] Gonzalez, [Yuli] Gurriel, to me, who takes better swings against right-handed pitching. That’s where that was factored in.”

Rodriguez’s strikeout stuff probably would play better in relief than say, Fister’s ground-ball style. But, the same thing that makes you worry about Rodriguez in a start — inexperience — doesn’t exactly disappear in relief. He has one career inning as a reliever in the majors, although he was prepared to be a reliever last year as well.

The important thing is the Sox have the ability to turn away from one of their starters quickly. If Fister or Porcello has a rough game, Farrell has the ability to go E-Rod quickly.

Overall, the Sox bullpen had a dramatic makeover at the end of the season. Maddox made his case in September, with one run allowed in 13 2/3 innings. He struck out 12 and walked two in the month. Carson Smith made the roster as well, with  Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes out. Barnes threw more relief innings than anyone.

Smith, Price, Maddox, Joe Kelly, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel, and E-Rod make up the seven-man bullpen, which is an eight-man group if you include Porcello.

On the position-player side, veteran Chris Young did not make the roster, which is not a surprise given his struggles this year. Rajai Davis is the lone dedicated back-up outfielder and pinch-runner.

Nonetheless, the conversations with people like Chris Young and Matt Barnes, who contributed all season, weren’t easy.

Both Deven Marrero and Brock Holt made it, as expected. The Sox need infield coverage with Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez both battling knee injuries. Holt also gives the Sox a lefthanded bat off the bench.

“If we weren't in a situation to need the extra infielders, he would be hot,” Farrell said. “I can respect his thoughts and opinions and desire to be on this roster, and I respect him as a person and as a player. But I felt like what our team needs was to have the coverage defensively on the infield.”

Nunez was the DH on Thursday in place of Hanley Ramirez and is expected to be the DH on Friday in Game 2 as well, with Ramirez playing first base against Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel.

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Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

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AP Photo

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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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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