Red Sox

LeBlanc dominates as Red Sox fall to Mariners, 1-0

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LeBlanc dominates as Red Sox fall to Mariners, 1-0

SEATTLE -- Despite having a fastball that doesn't reach 90 miles an hour, Wade LeBlanc effectively shut down one of the best lineups in the American League.

LeBlanc pitched into the eighth inning and Nelson Cruz had an RBI single as the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 Saturday night.

LeBlanc gave up just two hits and struck out nine over 7 2/3 innings. After a single by Mookie Betts on the opening at-bat of the game, he retired the next 22 batters until Eduardo Nunez singled with two outs in the eighth.

"What a changeup he had today. That has been his bread and butter his whole career, but today was probably the best one we've seen all year," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He knows his craft very well and when he gets on a roll like that, he just keeps riding it."

LeBlanc (3-0) wasn't a part of the Mariners starting rotation until the first week of May. But since replacing an injured Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation, LeBlanc has shined for the Mariners. He's posted a 2.06 ERA in nine starts and Saturday's gem was the best of the lot.

A near-capacity crowd at Safeco Field saluted LeBlanc with a standing ovation as he left the field after Nunez's single.

"That's a really neat moment. Guys that throw 86 (mph) don't really get standing ovations really often," LeBlanc said chuckling. "I definitely wanted to kind of take them in and show my appreciation for it."

Alex Colome got pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to pop out to end the eighth, and Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the ninth for his 27th save.

It was LeBlanc's first start of more than seven innings pitched since his first outing of the 2011 season with the San Diego Padres. His nine strikeouts were also his most since striking out 10 against the Los Angeles Dodgers that same season.

"He reminds me of that guy on the wall over there," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said gesturing toward a photo of Jamie Moyer. "LeBlanc was outstanding. Back-door cutters, front-door sinkers and mixed up his breaking ball halfway through the game, all on the edge of the strike zone."

LeBlanc had a little help from Dee Gordon at second base with diving stops to rob Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts of base hits.

The Mariners needed LeBlanc's stellar outing as they struggled to get a lot going against knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Wright (2-1) held Seattle to just one run and five hits with two walks and four strikeouts over seven innings.

Three singles - all to left field - off Wright in the third inning gave the Mariners their early advantage. Gordon reached with one out while Mitch Haniger and Cruz each singled with two down.

"We got just enough off of a really tough knuckleballer," Servais said. "Our guys are not used to seeing that and he was really good. The ball was dancing everywhere. He threw a lot of strikes with it.

"Our guy was just a little bit better."

It snapped Wright's string of 25 1/3 scoreless innings, which topped the stretch of 25 scoreless innings by Oakland's Daniel Mengden for the longest in the majors this season.


The Mariners signed first-round pick Logan Gilbert earlier in the day. The right-handed pitcher from Stetson University posted a 2.52 ERA while going 11-1 with 157 strikeouts and 23 walks in 15 starts. His 157 strikeouts lead NCAA Division-I baseball this season.


Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz played catch in the outfield on Friday and is expected to do so again on Sunday. Manager Alex Cora said Pomeranz still felt stiff from his left biceps tendinitis but that they didn't feel it was anything serious. "He was moving around better today," Cora said.

Mariners: RHP Juan Nicasio threw a live bullpen session prior to Saturday's game. Nicasio is expected to be activated from the disabled list during Seattle's upcoming series in New York. He's eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday after having fluid buildup in his right knee.


Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (8-1) has won each of his last five starts and hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since May 15. He's posted a 2.15 ERA over 29 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts over his last five outings.

Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (7-3) has pitched at least six innings in each of his last five starts, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.77 ERA over that span.


Eduardo Rodriguez unveils new slider and has an unlikely pitching coach to thank -- Dustin Pedroia

Eduardo Rodriguez unveils new slider and has an unlikely pitching coach to thank -- Dustin Pedroia

BOSTON - Eduardo Rodriguez spent spring training under the watchful eye of his rotation-mates, including Cy Young Award winners Rick Porcello and David Price, as well as perennial contender Chris Sale. They spent mornings on back fields honing E-Rod's new pitch, a slider he hoped to incorporate into his repertoire as a complement to his fastball and changeup.

Sale owns the best slider in the game. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez even got in the fun, offering pointers on how he might grip it.

"If it works, I'll throw it," Rodriguez said in February. "It's spring training. Doesn't hurt the numbers on the back of your baseball card."

Fast-forward two months to Wednesday night, and suddenly Rodriguez's slider was no longer a theoretical offering, but a legitimate one. He threw 16 in an 11-4 victory over the Tigers, only two of which ended up in play. The pitch featured good action down and in to right-handed hitters and gave the Tigers something else to ponder as E-Rod carried a no-hitter into the fifth before settling for six innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He struck out seven and walked three.

So, who gets the credit for this new pitch? Sale? Price? Pedro?

Try Dustin Pedroia.

It sounds crazy, but Rodriguez recounted a conversation the two had in the dugout over the weekend in Tampa.

"Hey, do you want to throw a really nasty breaking ball?" Pedroia asked.

"Yeah, bro," Rodriguez replied. "I've been battling to throw a breaking ball since I got here in the big leagues, since I was in the minor leagues."

Rodriguez laughed while relaying the exchange.

"He told me to throw the ball like this and hold it like that, and two days ago I started throwing it with my knee over there, and it's funny, because the first time I threw that kind of breaking ball was today and it was working," Rodriguez said. "So I've just got to say thanks to him."

This begs so many questions. Did Pedroia actually teach him the grip?

"The grip, he showed me the grip, and I started doing it two days ago, and I told him, bro, I'm going to throw that today, and you tell me how it is, and I think it worked pretty good," Rodriguez said.

How does Pedroia know how to throw a slider?

"I don't know," Rodriguez said. "He just told me that he was throwing that when he was in school. He just told me how to throw it and I've got to say thank you to him."

Is it a slider or a curveball?

"I don't know," Rodriguez said. "Whatever you want to call it. Just something that goes right where I wanted."

This is the Rodriguez the Red Sox have been waiting to see. They've won his past three starts, and even though his ERA remains an unsightly 5.88, that's seven runs lower than it stood after his first two starts, losses to Seattle and Oakland that saw him surrender 12 runs in eight innings.

"You guys know I'm hard on him, but everybody is because we know how good he can be," said manager Alex Cora. "It's good to see him compete at this level this way and we expect him to do that every time he goes out there, to go deep into games, and dominate."

Who knew? All it took to put him over the hump was an assist from an unlikely pitching guru.

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Red Sox did something for first time this year in win over Tigers that could hold key to their entire season

Red Sox did something for first time this year in win over Tigers that could hold key to their entire season

BOSTON - If the Red Sox need a team song, Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy" wouldn't be a bad choice.

They're singing the blues AND paying their dues, and their 2019 season sure as bleep hasn't come easy.

On Wednesday, they cruised past the Tigers in a game that was harder than it looked. They took command behind an outstanding start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and early offense from Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.

Still, given the opportunity to blow things open early, they instead did what they've done all year, which is grind like a millstone. When Matt Barnes loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, the Tigers even brought the go-ahead run to the plate.

Barnes escaped and the offense finally exploded in the bottom of the frame. The scorebook will show a safe 11-4 victory. 

Reality tells a slightly different story, one that has repeated itself throughout this vexing young season.

A year after going 38-17 in blowouts decided by at least five runs, the Red Sox are now 1-5.

"I feel like we hadn't had a night like that this season," Martinez said. "For us to do that tonight I think is a good sign. We were kind of talking about it, joking about it today in the cage. We were like, 'This is the first night we've actually had it like this.' Last year, it felt like we had a lot like these. This is the first one. It's good."

He's not exaggerating. It's actually instructive and borderline amazing to break down their previous nine wins.

How many of these sound easy?

  • They trailed 6-2 in the eighth inning of their first victory, vs. Seattle on March 29, before Mitch Moreland's pinch three-run homer won it in the ninth.
  • Tied at 3 in the ninth with Oakland five days later, Mookie Betts squibbed a double off the third base bag that allowed the Red Sox to escape.
  • Their only other victory on the season-opening road trip came in Arizona, where Moreland's solo homer in the seventh provided the margin in a 1-0 victory.
  • A day after dropping their home opener, the Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays 6-5 in the ninth. They loaded the bases vs. closer Ken Giles and Rafael Devers won it with a chopper over a drawn-in infield.
  • A pair of victories over the woeful Orioles didn't even qualify as stress-free. On April 12, the Red Sox led 3-2 in the seventh before pulling away in a 6-4 victory that still required closer Ryan Brasier to finish things off after Tyler Thornburg served up a two-run homer in the ninth.
  • Two days later, the Red Sox found themselves clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth before Xander Bogaerts blasted an insurance three-run homer that provided the final margin in a 4-0 victory.
  • And finally, here's all you need to know about the weekend sweep in Tampa: all three games were tied in the eighth inning. The Red Sox won them by a combined total of four runs.

Nothing stresses a team like close games, and that's about all the Red Sox seem able to play. Just as a manager will pull a pitcher after a particularly taxing inning despite a relatively low pitch count, teams need a breather, too. If every game is a grind, the mental toll will accumulate.

We tend to focus on close wins, but easy ones help players survive a season.

"It's very important," Betts said. "Sometimes, you just want to sit back and chill and coast and know it's one of those things where you don't necessarily want to do it, but then it's also one of those things where sometimes you want to just coast through a win and today was one of those times. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

That's how the Red Sox went about their business in 2018. They followed brutal losses with easy wins. The most notable example came in the Division Series. They dropped a tense Game 2 vs. the Yankees and followed with a 16-1 drubbing in Game 3 that featured the first postseason cycle in history from Brock Holt.

Stress? What stress? The Red Sox could use many more nights like Wednesday, the kind that end with that peaceful, easy feeling, to quote some other '70s rockers.

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