Red Sox

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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Yankees star closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19

Yankees star closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19

The New York Yankees will be without their star closer for the foreseeable future.

Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing "mild" symptoms, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters Saturday, via the Associated Press.

The 32-year-old closer threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, but Boone said no other Yankees players or personnel will be forced to isolate due to Chapman's positive test.

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Chapman's "right-hand man" and trainer tested negative for COVID-19, according to ESPN's Marly Rivera.

Chapman, who is the first New York player known to test positive for COVID-19, has no timetable for a return. Under Major League Baseball's guidelines, a player who tested positive must test negative twice within a 24-hour period and not exhibit any symptoms for a 72-hour period.

The Yankees begin their 2020 campaign in less than two weeks against the Washington Nationals on July 23. They're expected to be serious World Series contenders, and Chapman -- a six-time All-Star who was named the 2019 American League Reliever of the Year -- is a big reason why.

The Boston Red Sox' first series against their AL East rival begins July 31, and it's much too early to tell if Chapman will be back with the Yankees before then. But it's clear that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect teams as they gear up for the 2020 season.

Why Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke 'really liked' fake crowd noise at Fenway Park

Why Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke 'really liked' fake crowd noise at Fenway Park

The Boston Red Sox experimented with fake crowd noise during Friday's intersquad scrimmage at Fenway Park, offering a preview of what the gameday experience might sound and look like once the 2020 MLB season gets underway.

The system is far from perfect and will continue to be tweaked, but so far, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is a huge fan.

"I liked it a lot," Roenicke told reporters Friday. "Some real noise that will get better with the timing of it. But I think even the noise with nothing going on is really good. So they're experimenting with the loudness of it, what the natural crowd would sound like early in the game and what it would be when things are tied and there's excitement in it.

"I thought it was great. I think the players all liked it. At times it was a little loud, and they were experimenting with that. The players said it was a little harder to talk to each other on the field. But as soon as they dropped it back down, it was in a place that was good. I think it's going to create a lot of energy, so I really liked it."

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A totally silent stadium atmosphere would allow teams to hear what the opponents were saying and make strategy tougher, so Roenicke likes that his players and staff can communicate without the entire conversation being heard by everyone in the area.

"It's nice on our part to be able to have conversations and not have the other side hear it," Roenicke said. "And at times it's nice for us to make comments and not have the players hear what you're saying. If we're discussing, maybe, taking a starting pitcher out of a game. There's sometimes comments you make that you'd rather the players not hear that, so it's a benefit to have that noise there. And I've also noticed with these masks on, I don't have to cover my mouth when I'm talking at times, worried about the camera being on me, so that's a real good thing."

One thing the league will try to accomplish is making the crowd noise work for both teams. A scenario where only the home team benefits isn't going to work.

"It will vary from ballpark to ballpark," Roenicke explained. "I'm sure (the league) will have somebody here -- I guess I could say policing it -- making sure, for one, that it's fair for both sides. I'm sure we won't try to get carried away with the things we do. We were discussing it today, Tom Werner was out here, and we were making sure -- it can't all be just positive noise just for the home team. There has to be some kind of noise for the visiting side or when things go bad on our side, because really what happens is the crowd doesn't make a noise whether it's good or bad.

"So trying to make sure we don't do anything that's so one-sided that it's ridiculous, and no one wants it that way. I think that's got to be policed around the league. But everybody's got the opportunity to change those noises and get it to a place where they think it's going to help their team."

The fake crowd noise might be needed for the entire season. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently announced that the state's pro sports team can begin hosting games but without fans. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said late last month that he's "hopeful" fans will be able to attend games at Fenway Park this season, but he's not sure if it will happen at all.