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Red Sox pitching got no help from its defense (USA Today Sports/Winslow Townson).

Costly errors did the Red Sox in on Saturday as a two-error top of the seventh inning resulted in a three run rally for the Cubs.

The Red Sox committed four runs in the game; the last time they did that was three years ago in April, 2014.

“I don’t think it’s a long-term issue,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I think we have good athletes on the infield particularly. Today that one play where you’re looking at two errors on one play is not a pretty thing, but I think it’s more situational in today’s game.”

Defense has suddenly become a problem over the past two weeks as the Sox have made six errors over their past two games, and eight over their past four, and overall 12 of their last ten contests.

The defensive woes on Saturday were highlighted by a play in the seventh inning, when Xander Bogaerts threw to first to complete a would-have-been double play off the bat of Anthony Rizzo, but Ben Taylor didn’t get to the bag in time. Mitch Moreland then threw the ball away into the outfield for the two-error play.

Moreland, a Gold Glover last season, committed his third error of the season after having just two all of last year with Texas.

Kyle Schwarber scored the game-tying run on that play, and the Cubs would eventually take the lead and never look back in the inning.

Bogaerts picked up the first error on the play, throwing the ball to first before Taylor was there.

“You know, in the moment, it looked like Ben was late getting to the bag on the back end of that double play,” said Farrell. “Bogey throws it, tries to lead him there, ends up being behind him, and then we end up throwing the ball around the ballpark.”​

Taylor got a slow jump off the mound to first base after Rizzo hit the ball hard to Moreland, who initiated the double play throwing it to second. Bogaerts hesitated to wait for Taylor, but by then Rizzo was nearly safe and the throw got away.

“That’s a split second decision on his part,” Farrell said of Bogaerts. “It’s easy to say that now when it turns out like it did, but he’s trying to complete the back end of the double play.​”

The Red Sox 15 errors this season are tied for the ninth most in baseball.

“We’re fine,” said Dustin Pedroia of the team defense. “We had that one play that looked like a snow ball fight, but other than that, we’ve been pretty good. We’re a team that shifts a lot and plays in weird spots so I think the guys have done a good job.”

The other two errors came from Marco Hernandez and Steven Wright, while Christian Vazquez allowed a passed ball. Wright’s error came in the first inning when he threw the ball away, and Hernandez allowed a sharply hit ground ball past him at third.

All five runs Wright surrendered were still earned; the only unearned run came from Robby Scott.

Blog Author: 
Marisa Ingemi

The thinking was obvious.

Steven Wright had managed to get through six innings having allowed three runs. He was starting the seventh against the Cubs having thrown 97 pitches, with Miguel Montero — a hitter the knuckleballer had retired his previous to at-bats — leading off.

Steven Wright (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The thinking was obvious.

Steven Wright had managed to get through six innings having allowed three runs. He was starting the seventh against the Cubs having thrown 97 pitches, with Miguel Montero — a hitter the knuckleballer had retired his previous to at-bats — leading off.

With the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, the thinking was most likely to get Wright through Montero, Albert Almora Jr. and John Jay before bringing in left-hander Robby Scott for left-handed batter Kyle Schwarber. The extra work from Wright was deemed important considering the Red Sox were down a reliever due to Matt Barnes’ suspension.

It didn’t work out as planned.

Montero launched Wright’s first pitch of the inning into the Cubs’ bullpen to tie the game, with John Jay following an Albert Almora Jr. pop up with a double. That was that for Wright. That’s when the flood gates opened.

Schwarber singled off of Scott. New reliever Ben Taylor walked Kris Bryant. And then Anthony Rizzo grounded into a force play that also included two Red Sox throwing errors, and the pivotal pair of runs for the visitors. (One of the errors, by the way, was Mitch Moreland’s third of the season, giving him one more than all of 2016.)

It was perhaps the most frustrating inning of the season for the Red Sox, and the pivotal moment in what would be a Cubs 7-4 win over the Sox. (For a complete recap, click here.)

But it also highlighted the inability of Farrell to lean on Wright the way he had been accustomed to for the majority of last season.

Make no mistake about it, the outing was a step in the right direction for Wright. This wasn’t close to the kind of collapse he experienced in his last start, when he followed up three solid innings with a four-run fourth.

At the end of the day, however, you were left with a starter who allowed five runs over 6 1/3 innings and now has an ERA of 8.25. Through his first five starts last season, Wright boasted an ERA of 1.67, having allowed just one home run in 32 1/3 innings.

Wright needs to be better. The Red Sox need him to be better.

Even though David Price took a step in the right direction by throwing to hitters Saturday afternoon, you’re still looking at return date (if all goes well) of closer to June 1 than May 1. And until his return, the Red Sox are going to lean on Wright for not only production, but innings.

Saturday, they found out the knuckleballer might not quite be ready bear the burden in the fashion his team might have hoped.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

David Price continued his rehab progress on Saturday with two innings of a simulated game.

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David Price at spring training (USA Today Sports/Kim Klement).

David Price continued his rehab progress on Saturday with two innings of a simulated game.

“It was a quality work day for him,” said manager John Farrell. “Accomplished what the plan was, which was two simulated innings after he warmed up. Good intensity, so a good day for him. When he walked off he said he felt good, we’ll check and see how things feel tomorrow.”

Price has been on the disabled list since spring training with an elbow injury and suffered a setback a couple of weeks ago, when he was supposed to face live batters. That was finally accomplished Saturday prior to the Red Sox game against the Cubs.

He is now scheduled for a light bullpen on Monday.

“What we’ve tentative put in place is this again in five days with an increase of 15 pitches,” said Farrell. “That’s subject to how he feels physically over the coming days.”

The manager said that Price mixed in a cutter during the simulated game, and there was no radar gun.

There is still no definitive timetable.

“He went through BP progression and first outing was a sim game,” said Farrell. “We’re happy with progress he’s making and will continue to take this week by week.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

— Christian Vazquez is back behind the plate for the Red Sox for the second straight day.

“Recognize where Sandy [Leon] has had success at the right side of the plate, left side has been inconsistent at the moment,” said Farrell. “We’re fortunate we have two quality guys we can turn to. The fact that this is back to back days for Christian, he’s playing well.”

Leon is hitting .180 this season with only three extra base hits.

“He’s been getting quality stuff thrown at him with a good mix of four seamers up and away from him with a good depth breaking ball,” said Farrell. “That’s a tough combination for anybody and he’s had trouble with that sequence against him.”

— Fernando Abad had one of his best outings in a Red Sox uniform on Friday night when he struck out two Cubs in a high leverage situation in the eighth inning.

“I think the one thing he’s done a very good job at, when he first came here he had two changeups, a slow one, the velocity change was sizable but the effectiveness of that pitch was less-than,” said Farrell. “I think he’s done a good job of throwing more consistently the harder changeup, it gives more deception to the hitter and he struck out both guys on it last night.”

In 4.2 innings this season, Abad has given up two runs. Last season, he posted a 6.39 ERA in just 12.2 innings.

“Quality of strikes, and the fact that he’s sharpened up the pitch mix,” Farrell said. “I know he came away from that with a boost of confidence in his own right. You saw the emotion when he came off the mound, good appearance by him.’

— Tyler Thornburg is also closing in on a return.

“The intensity in which he’s throwing up to 120 feet has picked up the past couple of days,” said Farrell. “This has been lengthy, there’s movement forward at this point.”

Thornburg has been on the DL since before the season with a shoulder injury, but it appears he is getting closer in his rehab.

“There’s been some adjustments here recently in the sequence of the warmup and the work and he’s responded favorably to that,” Farrell said. “We still want to get him to 150 feet of long toss or more before he’s on the mound but that day is getting closer.”

Blog Author: 
Marisa Ingemi

For an anxious Fenway Park crowd, it was an added bonus. Joe Kelly would throw a fastball, three seconds would pass and then the radar gun reading would appear on center field big board.

“Ooohh!”

Then came that one pitch to Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

For an anxious Fenway Park crowd, it was an added bonus. Joe Kelly would throw a fastball, three seconds would pass and then the radar gun reading would appear on center field big board.

“Ooohh!”

Then came that one pitch to Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning.

With the count 1-1, Kelly fired another fastball to the Cubs’ left hitter. The ball was immediately pulled on the ground toward the Red Sox dugout. A few seconds passed once again, and then there it was: 102 mph.

“That was sick,” Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez told Kelly from a few lockers away after the game.

It was the fastest pitch thrown in the major leagues this season, and might be the fastest offering ever by a Red Sox pitcher.

Since Pitch FX started tracking such things, the only Red Sox pitcher to reach 102 mph was Daniel Bard, who managed the feat July 30, 2009 against Oakland’s Landon Powell. That pitch was measured at 102.1 mph, the exact same as Kelly’s fastball to Rizzo.

When informed of the feat, Kelly simply said, “Oh, sick.”

The righty went on to say he didn’t have an idea that such an accomplishment had been achieved. “They all feel the same to me,” Kelly added. “I don’t think I’ve ever thrown that hard.”

Then there was the other part of the equation that raised eyebrows — Rizzo actually pulling the pitch.

“They eat, too. They have families to feed,” said Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Normally, a 3-hour, 28-minute, nine-inning game on April 28 would elicit groans from corners of the clubhouse, particularly with another game ready to be played at 4 p.m. the next day.

Not this time around.

Eddie Vedder was part of a raucous Fenway Park crowd Friday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Eddie Vedder was part of a raucous Fenway Park crowd Friday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Normally, a 3-hour, 28-minute, nine-inning game on April 28 would elicit groans from corners of the clubhouse, particularly with another game ready to be played at 4 p.m. the next day.

Not this time around.

The atmosphere at Fenway Park during the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Cubs Friday night wasn’t lost on the players involved, with the sell-out crowd littered with chants throughout what would be a tight game until the end.

“It was like a World Series game,” said Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. “They have a great team and great hitters, good players. we do too. Hope to see them in the World Series.”

“It was awesome, from both sides,” added Red Sox rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi. “You could hear the Cubs fans. You could hear the Red Sox fans. Everything is hyped up. It was a good game. It was fun. We’ll look to put this one behind us and go get them tomorrow.”

At one point, in between Joe Kelly pitches in the seventh inning, the Red Sox and Cubs followers engaged in a back-and-forth shouting match that rivaled any decibel level for any Fenway game.

The adrenaline was evident with some of the radar gun readings, with Kelly reaching a career-high 102 mph at one point. He would end his outing throwing five fastballs at 100 mph or better, while closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t throw a heater under 98 mph.

“It was great,” said Red Sox starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz. “A lot of history between these two teams. A lot of people were excited about getting in here. It’s fun for us.”

“It was a great atmosphere tonight,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “The build-up to this weekend speaks for itself. Given the way that game went, they’re chipping away, getting back into this ballgame, two strikeouts, he’s facing the heart of that order, which is explosive, yeah, it’s a great atmosphere for being in late April.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The pregame was a novelty.

The first inning was somewhat of a revelation.

After all the hugs, pleasantries and how-do-you-dos that came with Theo Epstein, Jon Lester and the rest of the Cubs coming to town, the Red Sox defined their day with something much more important than tales of World Series rings and visiting clubhouse shenanigans.