(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.)

David Ortiz keeps adding to his resume as one of the greatest Red Sox hitters ever. (Getty Images)

David Ortiz keeps adding to his resume as one of the greatest Red Sox hitters ever. (Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — Reality check: The Red Sox offense has been little better than atrocious this year. The team entered Friday with the fewest runs (583) and runs per game (3.81) of any club in the American League. And so, when a player proves capable of delivering run production within that group, it commands notice.

In an otherwise forgettable year, David Ortiz has commanded plenty of notice. The slugger continued to do just that in the Sox’ 5-3, 10-inning victory over the Orioles on Friday night, slamming a pair of homers — his 34th and 35th of the year — and driving in three runs — his 100th, 101st and 102nd of 2014 — to further distinguish his place in Red Sox history.

He now has eight 30/100 seasons with the Red Sox, breaking a tie with Ted Williams for the most such years in franchise history. He is the sixth player ever to produce a 30/100 season at the age of 38 or later (joining Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff and Babe Ruth) His 34 homers are his most since hitting 35 in 2007. He is in the top five in the American League in both homers and RBIs.

On a team that has had a shortage of even average performances to buttress him, Ortiz has remained elite.

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

Mookie Betts, in his first exposure to the big leagues, has proven capable of delivering excitement. Friday night at Camden Yards offered a glimpse of what increasingly looks like a player with game-changing offensive abilities.

Against a pitcher considered one of the top young talents in the game in Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, Betts had three tremendous at-bats in an eventual 2-for-5 game. He drilled a 2-1 fastball for a long flyout to the warning track, about 400 feet from home plate, to open the game, spit on a pair of sliders before smoking a 95 mph 2-0 fastball up the middle for a single in the third and then navigated an 11-pitch at-bat that included six two-strike foul balls (three on splitters, three on fastballs) before ripping a liner up the middle for a single.

But what he did after reaching first in that second single was what truly commanded notice. When David Ortiz lined an 0-2 pitch off the warning track in right, Betts never hesitated. While Ortiz could advance no further than first given the proximity of the right field scoreboard in right at Camden Yards, Betts pushed the envelope with two outs and, though beaten to the plate by the relay throw, kicked the ball out of the glove of catcher Caleb Joseph for a run scored from first.

While most of the Red Sox look like they are running on fumes, Betts is showing another gear. In 31 games since the Red Sox recalled him in mid-August to be an everyday player, he is now hitting .302 with a .391 OBP and .448 slugging mark.

His ability to see a lot of pitches, work counts and impact the game while on the bases suggests that, while the Sox remain in a period of evaluation with Rusney Castillo, they already quite clearly possess a player with top-of-the-order skills. Barring a trade, the Sox will not enter 2015 with the same riddle at the top of their lineup that they encountered in 2014.

– Though he was facing a skeletal Orioles lineup that was without most of its regulars, Allen Webster made his third straight solid start, permitting one run on seven hits (five singles, two doubles) in 5 2/3 innings. He walked just one — the second straight outing in which he issued but one free pass — and struck out three. Over his last three starts, Webster now has a 3.18 ERA with four walks and 10 strikeouts in 17 innings.

– Rusney Castillo offered a bit of a defensive showcase, getting good breaks on a pair of liners in the bottom of the first inning (making one catch on the run and another with a sliding catch just off the ground) and also recorded his first big league assist by throwing out Alejandro De Aza, attempting to score from second on a single, with a one-hop seed to the plate.

– The promising defensive glimpses from Castillo stood in contrast to the performances by other members of the Sox. Daniel Nava failed to haul in a long fly ball to right center, which clanged off his glove for a run-scoring triple. Xander Bogaerts made a bad throw to first on a routine grounder that permitted the tying run to score. Garin Cecchini once again sailed a throw to first (though Allen Craig managed to extend just far enough to bring it in for the out). Craig struggled to hold the bag with his foot.

The struggles of Cecchini and Bogaerts on what should have been routine plays are particularly noteworthy. Bogaerts has been considerably better in recent weeks at shortstop than he was just after shifting back to the position, but still, the long-term possibility of pairing the two of them on the left side of the infield will require considerable defensive improvement from at least one.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .203 with a .271 OBP and .272 slugging mark this year. Christian Vazquez is hitting .217/.278/.268.

Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .203 with a .271 OBP and .272 slugging mark this year. Christian Vazquez is hitting .217/.278/.268.

Yet whereas Bradley’s offensive performance in 414 plate appearances has raised questions about his future big league role, the Sox have a more optimistic view of Vazquez’s offensive performance.

“He’€™s handled different types of pitching well. The batting average, I recognize what it is. He’€™s squared up a number of balls. Sometimes they haven’€™t fallen. I think he’€™s doing a very good job for us in all phases and I wouldn’€™t be, I guess the best way to say it … his batting average, that doesn’€™t concern me right now.”

Asked if he viewed Vazquez as a big league-caliber hitter right now, Farrell didn’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative. He cited Vazquez’s ability to execute in the details of the game, primarily by getting the bat on the ball (whether for sacrifice bunts or situational hitting), in explaining his view.

“Setting aside the batting average, there’€™s the ability to handle a bat. He can execute the small game. He can hit to the situation. He’€™s a very good situational hitter, including being able to sacrifice with great consistency,” said Farrell. “He’€™s probably one of the more, I would say he’€™s one of the more complete hitters that has come to us, setting aside the batting average.”

Farrell said that he could envision Vazquez as his Opening Day catcher — though he noted that having him in such a role in 2015 might depend on the shape of the rest of the roster.

“I think he’€™s ready and capable of handling that [Opening Day starting] role. I think what will be as important is who is paired up with him,” said Farrell. “That’€™s not to eliminate anyone that’€™s here. That’€™s not to suggest who that might be. Christian is, I think, in short order, has gained a reputation around the league to be somewhat of a shutdown thrower with the aggressiveness of his picks, of his throws to bags. Like we said, he’€™s a focal point for a team when they’€™re on offense, to have to contend with behind the plate.”

In terms of that defense, Farrell said that Vazquez is doing “a very good job” behind the plate, something that remains true even as he’s reached a career single-season high for games played (between Triple-A and the big leagues) with 114 and games caught with 100.

He wants to play every day,” said Farrell. :He’€™s adamant about it. He knows when he’€™s not in the lineup, he’€™s respectful of it, but he makes it known that he wants to catch every day. He’€™s showing durability. And again, I know it’€™s in a short window here, but he’€™s answered the bell every time we’€™ve asked.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

BALTIMORE — While some members of the Red Sox are contemplating the end of their season, Rusney Castillo’s baseball season remains in its early stages, a notion made official by Sox manager John Farrell on Friday.

BALTIMORE — While some members of the Red Sox are contemplating the end of their season, Rusney Castillo’s baseball season remains in its early stages, a notion made official by Sox manager John Farrell on Friday.

Farrell said that Castillo, who made his major league debut on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and is back in the Red Sox lineup on Friday against the Orioles, will continue his season by heading to the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rico Winter League. The goal, Farrell said, is to get Castillo (who has a total of 50 plate appearances thus far between the minors and the big leagues) up to roughly 200 plate appearances for the year. He will do so by playing with the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL and then the Caguas Criollos (run by former Red Sox Alex Cora) in Puerto Rico.

The Sox expect that Castillo’s baseball season will conclude by roughly mid-November, at which point he’ll be in position to spend several months building up to his first big league spring training in 2015.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

BALTIMORE — The list of Red Sox firsts continues to expand, as new outfielder Rusney Castillo will get his first start against an American League East opponent while third baseman Garin Cecchini will get his first big league start.

BALTIMORE — The list of Red Sox firsts continues to expand, as new outfielder Rusney Castillo will get his first start against an American League East opponent while third baseman Garin Cecchini will get his first big league start. Castillo went 1-for-4 in his Wednesday debut, while Cecchini is 2-for-3 and has been hit by a pitch in four games this year.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Daniel Nava, RF

Allen Craig, 1B

Rusney Castillo, CF

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Christian Vazquez, C

Allen Webster, RHP

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

For Clay Buchholz, the scenario is a dream.

For Clay Buchholz, the scenario is a dream.

He was the kid from Texas who grew up with that poster on his wall of his baseball idol, the one of the guy the young shortstop-turned-pitcher fashioned his baseball world around. And now — one week from Sunday — Buchholz will get the opportunity to become the last pitcher Derek Jeter ever faces.

“It’€™s a game you try and go as deep as you can to be that last pitcher that he faces. I’€™ve definitely thought about that,” Buchholz said. “You have to take care of everybody else before you get to that point. There is going to be a lot of stuff going on. It’€™s something that’€™s pretty neat to think about.”

Buchholz is scheduled to pitch the Red Sox‘ last game of the season, which just happens to be against the Yankees. It also happens to be the final game for the soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

When Buchholz first stared down Jeter — resulting in the shortstop claiming an infield single during an April 16, 2008 game at Yankee Stadium — such a moment seemed implausible for the young pitcher. (“I was definitely nervous. There were definitely some nerves going on,” he said.)

“He was a guy I idolized growing up, playing shortstop,” added the Red Sox starter, who has faced Jeter 32 times, limiting him to a .276 batting average without any homers. “It was pretty neat being in that stadium and pitching against the Yankees for the first time in your career.

“It was just him. I grew up and there were Yankees hats everywhere. Boston and Yankees. Everybody was either wearing a Boston hat or a Yankees hat where I grew up. He was the guy I watched the most. I liked the way he played the game.”

Getting to Jeter’s final at-bat will be a feat. Other pitchers have such acts in similarly monumental moments and come up short. (Surely, Cleveland starter Bud Anderson wanted to be that guy in Carl Yastrzemski’s last game on Oct. 2, 1983, but instead that fell on reliever Dan Spillner.)

Still, Buchholz is grateful for the opportunity to give it a whirl.

“It’€™s a game to me that’€™s a little bit different in a couple of different ways. But at the same time, it’€™s still baseball. I have to go out and execute pitches and try to get outs,” the pitcher said.

“Things are going to be magnified by a pretty good amount. I’€™m sure I’€™ll have to do a couple of sit-downs about it. I’€™m sort of looking forward to it, actually.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Red Sox open up a weekend series Friday night against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Allen Webster will pitch against Kevin Gausman.

Allen Webster

Allen Webster

In his previous outing last Friday, Webster (4-3, 6.02 ERA) had one of his finer outings of the season. He threw six innings, allowing just two runs in a winning effort against the Royals. Part of the reason for his success against Kansas City was improved control. After walking at least two batters in each of his previous eight starts, Webster walked just one Royals hitter. Manager John Farrell said he liked what he saw from Webster last time out.

“We know this is an aggressive swinging team, and if you pitch to quality locations early in the count, chances are it can work in your favor,” Farrell said after the game.

Webster has pitched into the sixth inning in his last two starts after not making it out of the fifth frame in two prior appearances. Webster has faced the American League East four times this season, but not the Orioles so far in 2014. Against division foes, he’€™s allowed 15 runs in 17 1/3 innings, leading to a 1-2 record.

The right-hander previously faced the Orioles during the last game of the season in 2013, also at Camden Yards. Over three innings in a shortened start, Webster did not allow a run, struck out two and walked three. Farrell was happy with how Webster responded after a tough beginning of the game.

“It was good to see Webby come out and settle down after a rocky beginning of the first inning. He threw the ball very well,” Farrell said.

No current Orioles player has a hit against Webster.

Kevin Gausman

Kevin Gausman

Gausman (7-7, 3.57 ERA) has put together a fine rookie season for the Orioles. The hard-throwing pitcher won his last start against the Yankees last Friday, as he did not allow a run over seven innings. He gave up seven hits but used seven strikeouts to keep the Yankees at bay. He did not factor into the decision, however, because Baltimore did not score until the bottom of the 11th inning.

“He was really good,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his starter after the game. “He had to be, because [Brandon] McCarthy was good, too.”

The 23-year-old is on a streak in which he’€™s pitched at least seven innings and struck out seven hitters per game over his last three starts. He only has one start over his last 10 outings where he did not pitch out of the fifth inning. In all 21 starts this season, Gausman has recorded at least one strikeout.

Back on July 6, Gausman defeated the Red Sox when he pitched 5 1/3 innings and was charged with just one run on five hits. He also struck out seven. David Ortiz drove in the lone Red Sox run with an RBI double that scored Daniel Nava.

No Red Sox hitter on the current roster has more than two career hits vs. Gausman. Ortiz has two extra base hits, a double and home run against the right-hander.

Red Sox vs. Gausman (RHP)

Yoenis Cespedes (6 career plate appearances): .333 average/.333 OBP/.333 SLG, 2 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (6): .000/.000/.000, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (5): .400/.400/1.200, 1 home run, 1 double, 1 RBI, 2 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (4): .250/.250/.500, 1 double, 3 strikeouts

Xander Bogaerts (3): .333/.333/.333

Brock Holt (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk

Will Middlebrooks (3): .333/.333/.667, 1 double

Jackie Bradley has a walk and a strikeout against Gausman in two plate appearances.

Orioles vs. Webster (RHP)

Nick Hundley (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis are both 0-for-2 against Webster in two plate appearances. Steve Clevenger, Steve Pearce and Jonathan Schoop are all 0-for-1 vs. the right-hander.

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano