David Ortiz, Red Sox will have peace of mind this offseason thanks to the slugger's contract extension. (Getty Images)The actual words, "I told you so," never came out of David Ortiz's mouth, but they might have well have.



ROB BRADFORD

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(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 m

Daniel Nava rounds the bases after hitting his sixth-inning grand slam Sunday. (Getty Images)

Daniel Nava rounds the bases after hitting his sixth-inning grand slam Sunday. (Getty Images)

(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.)

It is no mystery what these last two weeks will be all about for the Red Sox. It’s the same thing they’ve been about since the end of July.

It’s time for what players that are left on this Red Sox roster to offer the right kind of impressions heading into the next games that will count, the ones starting the 2015 season.

Sunday, in the Red Sox’ series-ending 8-4 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, it was Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts who continued to make their cases.

Nava gave the visitors the lead for good with a sixth-inning grand slam, coming with the effects of food poisoning still lingering. It was just the outfielder’s second non-Yankee Stadium home run of the season.

“Just the situation of the game,” Nava told reporters regarding his first-pitch homer. “I’ve faced that guy before. He’s got good stuff. It wasn’t necessarily that I was swinging at the first pitch. I was looking for a pitch in the zone to hopefully drive. It didn’t have to be a baseball. I knew he had a slider and a changeup as well. I wasn’t sitting on a particular pitch. It was just in the zone, and fortunately I got that.”

Since returning to the Red Sox for good — when he re-entered the lineup on June 4 in Cleveland — Nava has resembled the same player the organization fell in like with a year ago. During that stretch, the switch-hitter has hit .304 with a .375 on-base percentage.

Nava’s slugging percentage is down from ’13, totaling four homers and 18 doubles. The lack of punch is the reason his OPS has taken a hit from the impressive .831 mark of a year ago.

But there is a reason Nava continues to earn playing time, even with the emergence of Mookie Betts and the additions of Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo (who is expected to join the Sox Tuesday). As Sunday exhibited, he has continued to show he can be a valuable player on a winning team.

The same can officially be said about Bogaerts.

Bogaerts teamed with his fellow 21-year-old, Betts, at the top of the batting order to total five hits in nine at-bats, each scoring a pair of runs. The shortstop went 3-for-4 with four RBI.

In the 16 games he’s played since returning from his concussion, Bogaerts is hitting .359 with a .998 OPS (the best of any regular shortstop over the stretch).

“Maybe it was a good time to reflect and get away from the game for a bit after all the struggles I was going through, that’€™s what I think helped a lot,’€ Bogaerts told reporters regarding his concussion-induced time off.

“Well, what he and Mookie are doing at the top of the order has been impressive,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “For the age they are, the stage in their career they are, it’s very impressive to see two young guys of that age performing as they are, as consistently as they are. Mookie with some excellent baserunning, but those two guy at the top of the order have done an excellent job.”

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

- David Ortiz had to leave KC early, but he is expected to be back with the team before it plays again.

Farrell explained after the win that Ortiz was forced to leave in the seventh — with Christian Vazquez coming on to pinch-hit — due to a family emergency. The manager noted that the designated hitter was expected to be back with the Red Sox before their series-opening game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

- The Red Sox played the role of spoiler fairly well during their four-game stretch against the Royals, taking three of four while bumping KC out of first-place in the American League Central.

“No, no, no,” Royals manager Ned Yost quickly responded when asked if his club could afford such a series against a team with the record of the Red Sox.

The Royals are currently 1 1/2 games in back of the Tigers in the AL Central, although they currently own the second wild card spot (1 1/2 games behind Oakland, and one game in front of Seattle).

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Jonathan Papelbon‘s uneasy relationship with Philadelphia fans was amped up Sunday.

Jonathan Papelbon argues with umpire Joe West after being ejected for making an obscene gesture. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon argues with umpire Joe West after being ejected for making an obscene gesture. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon’s uneasy relationship with Philadelphia fans was amped up Sunday.

The Phillies closer was ejected by umpire Joe West after apparently grabbing his crotch on the way back to the dugout after blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Marlins. Papelbon executed the act while being showered with boos from the Citizens Bank Park crowd.

Here is a glimpse of the incident (courtesy @CorkGaines):

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After being ejected, Papelbon confronted West, going chest-to-chest with the veteran umpire until West ultimately grabbed the closer’s jersey and ushered him away. (Click here for video of the Papelbon/West confrontation.)

Earlier this season Papelbon invited Phillies fans to boo him.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Joe & Dave talked to the Sox rookie shortstop, who hit a 3-run homer in the 8-4 win.

[0:00:54] ... theory of hitting taking a firmer hold on all lot of the Red Sox in -- recently that. Eight on the swing early in the county -- there to do damage I'm gonna do. Chris Iannetta Jackie Bradley also. On CN investigated Kansas and I feel more aggressive hitter. On the petroleum and it's always been about really well -- if there's so many argue balls out in the middle Brooks this is I'm always simply enough on you know I'm not. We got one to put that they're falling today but hopefully. He can get a mistress who you know but it does and how by Daniel -- first pitch Grand Slam I think it's kind of fed depicted -- you know he's the only guy takes one or two strikes and -- just grin off of Jerusalem that I guess they put too much ability they -- -- -- -- -- And you're really busy today -- ground balls there it was that when you were expecting in the hours before the game you thought maybe you'd beaded busy. Not at to be honest euphoric gamer wanted so. There was no repeat this a lot of a lot of this the hill with water. I get those with a down affected civilians so that's what it you had -- -- -- yeah I got a lot of ground balls but it won't fly ball house react to this. Was -- a congratulations on another outstanding day event this ruling and hot ...



Joe & Dave talked to the Sox rookie shortstop, who hit a 3-run homer in the 8-4 win.

[0:00:03] ... have a home run we almost one handed that to get the Red Sox back in the game. Well I mean are worried there was a base hit to right field because. That's inefficiency to -- as out of bounds -- just want to let it travel a bit more about. He's doing it again you have to more in the middle schoolers greater we look very very comfortable at the plate you feel that -- -- I mean Jonathan is is strongly you know ...
[0:00:54] ... theory of hitting taking a firmer hold on -- lot of the Red Sox -- recently that. -- on the swing early in the count -- pitch there to do damage I'm gonna do. -- that ...
[0:01:33] ... they -- -- -- -- And you were really busy today -- ground balls there it was that when you were expecting in the hours before the game you thought maybe you'd beaded busy. Not an -- to be honest before a game I wanted so. There was no -- -- -- a lot of -- -- with -- I get those with -- down as I did civilians so that's what it you had eight out -- yeah I got a lot of on balls maybe it won't fly ball house react to this. Was in a congratulations on another outstanding day you've been -- his swing and a hot -- great ...





The Red Sox will conclude their three-game series with the Royals on Sunday afternoon. Joe Kelly gets the start against the left-handed Jason Vargas.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

After winning his first game in a Red Sox uniform on Sept. 2 at Yankee Stadium, Kelly (3-4, 4.14 ERA) pitched well against the Orioles last Monday at Fenway Park. Despite taking the loss, Kelly struck out six and allowed three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was just better, silencing the Boston bats.

“I made some good pitches today when I had to,” Kelly said after the game. “I didn’t make terrible pitches. The other guy threw a hell of a ball game. He’s been pitching like that all year. When you face a guy like that, letting up one run would have beat us today.”

Since joining the Red Sox rotation at the non-waiver trade deadline, Kelly has just one start in which he did not get past the fourth inning, which was almost a month ago against the Astros. Sunday’s game could pose some problems for the right-hander, however.

Kelly has struggled pitching in both day games and on the road in 2014. On the road, his ERA is 4.53 — over one run higher than it is at home. In four starts during the day this season, opposing batters are hitting at a .286 clip, which has led to a 5.96 ERA.

It also will be key for Kelly to make it through the first two innings unscathed. He’s been charged with 21 runs combined between the first two frames of the game. The second inning has been particularly unkind to Kelly, as he has an ERA over eight in the inning. But by the third time hitters face the right-hander in a game, their batting average is just .176.

Kelly has not pitched against the Royals this season, but he has faced them three times throughout his career. He threw one inning in relief last year against them and made two starts against Kansas City in 2012. On June 22, 2012, Kelly threw six innings and allowed three runs at Kauffman Stadium, earning his first career major league win.

Nori Aoki, who played a majority of his career with the Brewers, has the most at-bats and best of any Royals player against Kelly, as his .538 average is tops on the team.

Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas

Vargas (11-8, 3.25) is putting together a fine season during his first year with the Royals. He his coming off a loss, however, getting roughed up against the Tigers for four runs in 5 1/3 innings last Tuesday. He gave up three runs in the first two innings, and was hurt by the home run ball, with Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez both connecting for homers.

But other than a hiccup against Detroit, Vargas has been strong over the past month. The last time he did not pitch at least five innings was on Aug. 2 against the Athletics. Since that start, he’s pitched at least five innings and has struck out no fewer than three hitters in a game. By season’s end, he projected to have a 3.38 ERA, which would be the best number he’d have to finish a major league season.

The left-hander’s last appearance against the Red Sox was in September of 2012 back when he pitched for the Mariners. He went seven innings and gave up just one run in the win at Safeco Field.

Mike Napoli, who was not with the Red Sox the last time they faced Vargas, has feasted off the lefty. He has four home runs and two doubles in 32 at-bats against him.

Red Sox vs. Vargas (LHP)

Mike Napoli (38 career plate appearances): .375 average/.474 OBP/.813 SLG, 2 doubles, 4 home runs, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts

Yoenis Cespedes (26): .240/.269/.640, 1 double, 3 home runs, 5 RBIs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Jemile Weeks (24): .238/.333/.286, 1 double 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (13): .250/.308/.333, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Will Middlebrooks (6): .000/.000/.000, 4 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (6): .200/.333/.800, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 walk

Allen Craig (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk

Catcher David Ross is 1-for-2 with a home run against Vargas.

Royals vs. Kelly (RHP)

Nori Aoki (17): .538/.647/.769, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 3 doubles

Alex Gordon (6): .333/.333/.333

Eric Hosmer (6): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jarrod Dyson (5): .200/.200/.400, 1 double

Alcides Escobar (5): .500/.600/.500, 1 walk

Omar Infante (5): .250/.400/.250, 1 walk

Mike Moustakas (5): .750/.800/.1.500, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Billy Butler (4): .250/.250/.250

Salvador Perez (3): .667/.667/1.667, 1 home run, 2 RBIs

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

Typically, player development is individual. Ordinarily, the significance of wins and losses in the minor leagues are secondary to what happens to individual prospects as they work to move closer to the big leagues. In contrast to what happens at the highest level, a 4-for-4 is a bigger deal than a defeat.

Typically, player development is individual. Ordinarily, the significance of wins and losses in the minor leagues are secondary to what happens to individual prospects as they work to move closer to the big leagues. In contrast to what happens at the highest level, a 4-for-4 is a bigger deal than a defeat.

But there are exceptions. There are times when the idea of winning becomes primary, even for players for whom a Triple-A postseason run represented a two-week delay of a potential September call-up.

On Saturday night, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox followed their nail-chomping, 13-inning, 4-2 win over Durham in an elimination game with another victory, this one a wire-to-wire 4-1 win over Durham in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals. The victory marked Pawtucket’s second International League championship in three years, an accomplishment that offered a reminder that the greatest achievements on the field are experienced collectively rather than individually, a notion made clear in the rush to the middle of the infield after right-hander Miguel Celestino’s 95 mph fastball was popped up to center, where it settled into the glove of Rusney Castillo.

This is what it is to care about winning in the minor leagues:

Some player notes from the game:

– Right-hander Keith Couch, one of the most consistent starters in the Red Sox minor league system over the last four years, was dominant. In just the second Triple-A start of his career, and his first since a spot start with Pawtucket in 2013, he allowed just one hit (a single) and two walks (he also hit a batter) in 6 2/3 shutout innings while striking out four and recording 11 groundball outs.

Though he missed time this year due to elbow soreness, Couch produced consistent excellence this year, going 9-2 with a 2.78 ERA with Double-A Portland and in Saturday’s playoff start. He doesn’t have outrageous stuff, but he pitches, with a two-seam fastball, slider and changeup that permit him to work efficiently and effectively. He gets lost in the shuffle of Red Sox starting pitching prospects because he doesn’t have any wipeout pitches, but he understands his craft in a way that suggests he will find his way to a big league opportunity. And on Saturday, he produced a career highlight in earning his first Triple-A win.

– Ryan Lavarnway was behind the plate for Couch. Not only was he the signal-caller for the win, but he also went 2-for-4 with a homer to conclude a five-game series in which he was 10-for-22 with a homer, two doubles and two walks, good for a .455/.500/.682 line that earned the 27-year-old series MVP honors.

– Rusney Castillo went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk, concluding a solid Governor’s Cup run in which he hit .278/.381/.389 with two doubles and three walks in four games. In 10 games with Sox minor league affiliates, the 27-year-old is hitting .297/.381/.405 with four doubles, five walks and seven strikeouts, with the reasonable strikeout total standing out for a player who had gone a year and a half without playing in competitive games, suggesting strong hand-eye coordination that could help ease his transition to the big leagues for next year.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini concluded a season-ending stretch in which he looked like a doubles machine. The 23-year-old went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. In eight postseason games, he’s hitting .303/.333/.424.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier