(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy you should have cared,’€ looking beyond the final score ‘€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€” fo

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy you should have cared,’€ looking beyond the final score ‘€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€” for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

KANSAS CITY — Just about everything Red Sox-related Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium proved to be uninspiring for the visitors in their 7-1 defeat to the Royals.

Starter Rubby De La Rosa struggled. The offense was shut down by KC hurler Jeremy Guthrie. And even Matt Barnes, the rookie who had left such a positive impression in his major league debut hit a bump in the road while pitching the eighth inning (2 runs, 3 hits).

But then there was Steven Wright.

The knuckleballer did what he has done since joining the Red Sox, turn in a stellar performance. This time the outing included Wright throwing three shutout innings in which he allowed three hits while not walking a batter.

In three big league outings this season, Wright has allowed just one run over 12 innings (all in relief), striking out 12 and walking just one. This follows 100 innings in the minor leagues (between both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket), where he totaled a 3.42 ERA, striking out 72 and walking 23.

Suddenly, the 30-year-old has become an interesting option for a hardly-defined 2015 pitching staff.

“It’s definitely a little mechanical, the adjustments I’ve done over the course of the year,” Wright said. “But a lot of it is mental. Last year I was pitching away from contact, more swings and misses. This year I want …  every time I throw it, I want them to put in play, minus a couple times. Maybe 0-2 I’ll try to get a swing and miss but for the most part every time I throw a pitch I want it to be right down the middle and maybe they’ll mishit it.

“I definitely feel more comfortable than I was last year. I still have a lot to learn with the pitch but what I’ve done this year compared to what I’ve done last year I think I’m definitely going in the right direction.”

Wright does have some elements working against him when vying for a spot on the ’15 roster. He is a knuckleballer, so the potential of uncertainty is going to hover no matter how good he pitches. The righty also will still have one option remaining for next season, opening the door for another stint in the minors.

The focus continues to be on the likes of De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Joe Kelly, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman finding spots in the Sox’ ’15 rotation. But, judging by Wright’s showing of late, maybe another name should added for consideration.

“I just want to be on the team. That’s what my ultimate goal is, to be in the major leagues,” Wright said. “I want to do whatever I can to do to make it a hard decision for them. And then whatever the situation is, I can’t control where they send me. All I can do is make sure I’m prepared when I go out there and be as effective as I can. I definitely don’t try to think about it. Whatever happens, happens.”

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SATURDAY’S GAME:

- De La Rosa may be the latest young Red Sox starter to be riding up on his innings cliff.

After his four-inning, five-run stint, De La Rosa has thrown a total of 156 innings (between the minors and majors), 46 more than his professional high of 110 1/3 innings in 2010. It should also be noted that the righty is also two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery.

While De La Rosa had labored somewhat through his previous three outings, Saturday night seemed to present the most lackluster picture. He didn’t allow a walk of home run, but still gave up six hits to the light-hitting Royals while striking out only two.

“Every time he walks to the mound is a good test, regardless of the number of innings pitched in a given year,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We are limiting his innings pitched, but we don’t want to shut him down. There’s some benefit to be had by continuing his work routine through the end of the season.

- Mookie Betts got his major league debut at second base out of the way, fielding both ground balls hit his way. The Sox leadoff hitter did go hitless for just the third time his last 14 games.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

KANSAS CITY — With Dustin Pedroia out for the season after undergoing hand surgery, and Brock Holt still recovering from a concussion, Mookie Betts will begin his stint at second baseman for the

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

KANSAS CITY — With Dustin Pedroia out for the season after undergoing hand surgery, and Brock Holt still recovering from a concussion, Mookie Betts will begin his stint at second baseman for the Red Sox Saturday night.

Betts, who came up through the minor leagues as a second baseman before transitioning to outfield just before his call-up earlier this season, will leadoff against Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Here is the Red Sox lineup with Rubby De La Rosa taking the hill for the visitors:

Mookie Betts 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Yoenis Cespedes LF

Daniel Nava RF

Mike Napoli 1B

Jackie Bradley CF

Will Middlebrooks 3B

Christian Vazquez C

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez impressed in his Triple-A debut. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Evidently, Rusney Castillo is not afraid.

With Triple-A Pawtucket’s season down to its final strike, Castillo lined a 1-2 fastball up and away to right-center for a game-tying run in the top of the ninth inning, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie that ultimately translated to a 4-2, 13-inning victory for the PawSox that forced a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals against Durham (box).

Though Castillo went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts, he did not allow a previously poor game to snowball to the point where his pulse quickened in his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, instead going with a heater and lining it to a part of the field that he’s shown a penchant for using in his earliest days playing baseball. The Red Sox will hope that the contest offered the first demonstration of Castillo’s ability to contribute in meaningful situations, to be a winning player who can turn a crowd in an opponent’s park from frenzy to despondency.

As Castillo (who played all 13 innings on Friday) works to get physically ready to join the Red Sox in the big leagues, he is now 3-for-14 in his three games against Durham. Certainly, he made his third hit of the series count, giving the PawSox an opportunity in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Saturday.

Here is a look at Castillo’s crowd-silencing hit:

– One evaluator on Eduardo Rodriguez, the 21-year-old left-hander whom the Red Sox acquired at the trade deadline for left-hander Andrew Miller: “Steal of the trade deadline…I know Miller is doing great in Baltimore, but this kid will make that trade look real bad.”

Rodriguez made his Triple-A debut on Friday after 35 Double-A starts (in the Orioles’ and Sox’ systems) over the last year and a half. He matched a season-high with seven innings in which he allowed six hits (a double and five singles) while walking two and punching out six. He threw 63 of 104 pitches (61 percent) for strikes, including seven that resulted in swings and misses.

In eight starts since joining the Sox, Rodriguez is 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 12 walks in 51 innings, with stuff as impressive as the results. Rodriguez has regularly touched as high as 96 mph in his outings, working comfortably at 92-94 mph. He has a changeup that grades as a 60-65 on the 50-80 scouting scale (meaning well above-average), and his slider flashes the potential to be a plus pitch.

Here’s a look at his six strikeout offerings, one of which came on a heater, three that came on sliders and two on changeups:

Ivan De Jesus Jr. had been enduring a poor playoff run. The recently acquired utility player (who came from the Orioles in exchange for Kelly Johnson) was 0-for-5 on Friday and 3-for-21 in the playoffs before he delivered a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the 13th for the PawSox that represented the difference in Pawtucket’s 4-2 victory. The 27-year-old represented an unlikely candidate to go deep. He has never hit more than eight homers in a season, and has just 38 homers in 995 professional games.

Ryan Lavarnway went 4-for-5 with a double and a walk, his first four-hit game since June 2012. He’s 8-for-18 with a pair of walks in the Governor’s Cup Finals.

– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 2-for-6 in the win. After a challenging first exposure to Triple-A in which he hit .210/.260/.285 in 50 regular-season games, the tremendous defensive shortstop has enjoyed a solid postseason performance, hitting .280/.333/.320 in seven playoff games.

– Though Bryce Brentz went 1-for-7 with four strikeouts, the 25-year-old made a game-changing impact in the field, throwing out a runner attempting to score from second at the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning. Brentz showed off the strong arm that made him a pitching prospect out of high school, while catcher Blake Swihart showed off his hands by short-hopping the throw and applying the tag.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will play the third game of their four-game set with the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. Rubby De La Rosa will get the ball and pitch against Kansas City’€™s Jeremy Guthrie.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

De La Rosa (4-6, 4.01 ERA) had trouble last Sunday commanding his pitches against the Blue Jays. As the Red Sox attempted to earn a home sweep over their division rivals, De La Rosa weaved in and out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

In the fifth inning, however, De La Rosa couldn’€™t escape trouble, as Toronto slugger Jose Bautista crushed a three-run home run over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. De La Rosa’€™s day was finished after he gave up the three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.

De La Rosa said after the game that the 2-0 pitch to Bautista that landed near the MassPike was part of his command problems.

“Yeah, I missed that pitch,” De La Rosa said of the home run. “I tried to throw it away.”

Prior to his start against Toronto, the right-hander threw 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball on the road against the Rays, but he did not factor in the decision. De La Rosa’€™s month of August was an improvement after an abysmal July when he had an ERA close to six. Though he had a higher 1.76 WHIP, his ERA for August was 4.13.

He’€™s pitched well at Fenway Park this season, but De La Rosa has not had as much success on the road in 2014. His ERA is more than a run higher — 4.57 on the road compared to 3.47 at home — and his batting average against is .294 away from the confines of Fenway.

One of De La Rosa’€™ best starts this season came against Kansas City in late July. In seven innings, he allowed one run and five hits over seven solid innings. He walked four batters, but he worked around the major jams.

Guthrie (10-11, 4.54 ERA) had one of the worst outings of his season during his previous start on Monday. Against the Tigers, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and six earned runs in the loss.

He’€™s gotten off to a rocky start in September, but that came after Guthrie completed a good, six-start month of August. In 40 innings, he allowed just 40 hits and 16 earned runs, pitching to the tune of a 3.54 ERA. He finished the month with a 4-1 record — the best he’€™s finished any month this season.

Guthrie hasn’€™t pitched against the Red Sox this season, but he made one start at Kauffman Stadium against Boston in August of last year. He allowed 10 hits and five runs over six innings in the loss. Will Middlebrooks had the best game of any current Red Sox player with two hits and an RBI.

David Ortiz and Mike Napoli have had Guthrie’€™s number throughout his career. Ortiz has three home runs and eight extra-base hits against the right-hander, and Napoli has posted a .316 average in 21 plate appearances.

Red Sox vs. Guthrie (RHP)

David Ortiz (48 career plate appearances): .317 average/.396 OBP/.659 SLG, 3 home runs, 5 doubles, 9 RBIs, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks

Mike Napoli (21): .316/.381/.737, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Jemile Weeks (9): .500/.556/.750, 1 triple

Allen Craig (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 strikeout, 1 RBI

Will Middlebrooks (6): .333/.333/.333, 2 RBIs

Daniel Nava (5): .250/.400/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Yoenis Cespedes (3): .000/.000/.000

David Ross (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Royals vs. De La Rosa (RHP)

Omar Infante (5):  .250/.200/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI

Billy Butler (4): .500/.500/1.250, 1 home run, 1 RBI

Jarrod Dyson (4): .333/.500/1.000, 1 triple, 1 walk

Alex Gordon (4): .333/.500/.333, 1 walk

Mike Moustakas (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk

Nori Aoki (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Alcides Escobar (3): .000/.000/.000

Eric Hosmer (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Raul Ibanez (3): .333/.333/.333

Salvador Perez (3): .000/.000/.000

Josh Willingham (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Jayson Nix was hit by a pitch in his one plate appearance against De La Rosa.

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy you should have cared,’€ looking beyond the final score ‘€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€” fo

(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy you should have cared,’€ looking beyond the final score ‘€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€” fo

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

(For the final month of the regular season, ‘€œClosing Time’€ will be called ‘€œWhy you should have cared,’€ looking beyond the final score ‘€” at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘€” for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

KANSAS CITY — This was undoubtedly Allen Webster’s shining moment as a major league pitcher.

Not only did the Red Sox starter get out of a significant three-start rut — allowing just two runs over six innings in the Sox’s 4-2 win over the Royals Friday night — but he did so with something significant on the line. Webster, the pitcher who has had uneven results throughout his eight previous starts (6.47 ERA), was in control throughout almost all of his 83 pitches.

The difference this time around, besides the simple fact there were better results, was Webster’s command. For the first time this season, he walked just one batter, staying ahead of the struggling KC lineup throughout the night.

“A higher percentage of strikes tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his pitcher. “I thought he was ahead in the count a little bit more frequently, and he had a very good changeup against some left-handers to slow them down. With the exception of the one changeup that stayed up to [Eric] Hosmer (a two-run homer), he was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone.”

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT FRIDAY’S GAME:

- Rusney Castillo finally has his ticket to the big leagues.

The Cuban outfielder actually postponed his arrival with the Red Sox thanks to a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth inning of the Pawtucket Red Sox’ International League championship series against Durham. The hit sent the teams into extra innings, where the PawSox ultimately claimed a 14-inning, 4-2 win.

The victory forced a fifth and decisive game, while also pushing Castillo’s arrival time with the Red Sox to Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

- While Castillo will undoubtedly add to the Red Sox’ overall team speed, the presence of players like Mookie Betts, Jemile Weeks and Yoenis Cespedes has noticeably changed the dynamic of Farrell’s club.

Not only did Cespedes became the first player to attempt a stolen base against Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura in the righty’s first 176 innings, but the Sox outfielder was successful. The execution may have led to a surprised pitcher, who threw a 98 mph fastball into the ground on the play, allowing Betts to come in from third.

Cespedes also forced a throwing error from third baseman Mike Moustakas thanks some hard running down the first-base line. Weeks (2 doubles) and Betts chipped in by combining for three runs while consistently putting pressure on a shaky Kansas City defense.

- Koji Uehara finally returned to the mound, and returned to his old form in the process.

The Red Sox reliever, who hadn’t pitched since Sept. 4 after going on a horrific run of six straight subpar relief appearances, came on and tossed a perfect eighth inning with the Sox holding a two-run lead.

Uehara got Nori Aoki to fly out to left field, Omar Infante swinging on a third strike, and Alex Gordon via a line-drive to right. He threw a total of 15 pitches, 12 of which were strikes.

“We’re hopeful the remainder of the season will be on an upward trend for him,” Farrell said. “But the first time back, it’s important for him to come back and have a positive outing. It might not have been the lowest of leverage situations, but he was the one who was available. We know he’s always going to throw strikes. A very encouraging night for him.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

On Wednesday night, Triple-A Pawtucket stood one inning from a commanding 2-0 lead in the Govrrnor’s Cup Finals against Durham. But a ninth-inning blown save served as a prelude to an extra-innings loss, and now, after a 4-3 loss in Durham on Thursday (box), the PawSox must win consecutive games in the park of Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate to win the best-of-five International League championship.

Among the prospect performances by the PawSox, there was little of note. Left-hander Henry Owens capped a brilliant 2014 campaign with an anticlimactic performance that bore resemblance to much of his work in eight year-ending Triple-A starts. He gave up just three hits in four innings, but included among those knocks were a pair of extra-base hits.

After a largely dazzling year in which pitching into the seventh became a commonplace occurrence for him, Owens finished the season with back-to-back four-inning outings in the International League playoffs in which he permitted a total of eight earned runs in eight innings with six walks and 11 punchouts. Certainly, he was hit harder in Triple-A (where 19 of the 43 hits he allowed (44 percent) went for extra bases, including five for homers in 46 innings) than Double-A (30 of 89 hits (34 percent) for extra bases, with six homers in 121 innings), but it’s unclear whether that reflected the stiffer competition or the fact that Owens flew past his previous innings high of 135, jumping up 24 percent to a total of 168 between Double-A, Triple-A and the All-Star Futures Game. Owens did show the ability to get swings and misses in Pawtucket, with 10.8 punchouts per nine, but he finished the year with a cumulative 4.89 ERA in Triple-A.

That mark does little to detract from his upside or even his floor. An evaluator from an NL team who saw Owens recentl suggested that the quality of his fastball and his outstanding changeup make him a near certainty to be a solid rotation contributor; at times when he commands his curveball, he looks like a strong mid-rotation starter, with the upside (depending on whom one asks) of a No. 3 or No. 2 starter. At 22, he’s built his innings to the point where he’ll be in position to contribute through a full big league season next year.

Just three years removed from high school, Owens is in the advanced stages of his minor league development — but there will be more development in front of him for 2015. He has given himself an outstanding foundation to take the final Triple-A steps next year, remaining on track for a potential big league ETA of the middle of next year.

Owens did not dominate Triple-A as he had Salem and Portland, but the fact that he was in position to compete there at his age said plenty about where he’s come in a very, very short period of time.

Other performances (and non-performances) of note:

Rusney Castillo got a day off after playing nine innings in back-to-back contests on Tuesday and Wednesday. He’ll be back in the lineup on Friday.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 1-for-4 with a double. He has 14 extra-base hits in 32 games in August and September; he had just 17 extra-base hits in the prior four months.

– Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. The 22-year-old has hits in all four of his playoff games, showing the ability to produce in the face of a career-high workload. Swihart has now played 114 regular season and postseason games this year after appearing in 108 last year.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier