The Red Sox will begin their final homestand of the season against the Rays on Tuesday night. Clay Buchholz will pitch against Tampa Bay’€™s Alex Cobb.

Buchholz (8-9, 5.29 ERA) was roughed up in his last outing last Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. In four innings, the right-hander allowed six hits and four runs in the loss — his first defeat in six starts.

The Pirates got to Buchholz in the first inning with a Gregory Polanco home run. After a Mike Napoli error in the second, Pittsburgh used four consecutive hits to add three more runs. Neil Walker added the final run off Buchholz with a solo home run in the third.

“He made some mistakes against some good hitters. Ran into some hittable counts and they took advantage of him,” pitching coach Juan Nieves said of Buchholz after the loss.

Buchholz finished the first half of the year with an abysmal 5.42 ERA and a 4-5 record. But in four starts before the one against the Pirates, Buchholz had a 3-0 record and a 2.10 ERA. One of those appearances included a six-strikeout shutout against the same Rays team he’€™ll face Tuesday. Buchholz used pinpoint accuracy with his fastball to dominate the Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug. 31.

“He was hitting all the spots, every pitch,” catcher Christian Vazquez said. “He was painting every pitch. He was pitching to his best, and it was easy for me.”

The start in Florida was Buchholz’€™s only start against the Rays this season. Over his career, Buchholz has handled Tampa Bay’€™s top hitters, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, well. In 36 at-bats, Zobrist is hitting just .111 against Buchholz, while Longoria has seven hits in 41 career plate appearances.

Alex Cobb

Alex Cobb

Cobb (9-8 2.82 ERA) has been a bright spot in a down year for the Rays. In his previous start, though, he took a hard-luck loss against the Yankees last Wednesday. He allowed three runs over six innings of work but came away on the wrong end because the Tampa Bay hitters could not come through.

The right-hander has stepped up over the last two months in the wake of the David Price trade to the Tigers. After a 1.49 ERA month in August, Cobb has a 1.77 ERA and .084 WHIP in September. His 2.82 ERA is the best of any Tampa Bay pitcher with at least 10 starts this season.

Cobb’€™s only start against the Red Sox came during Buchholz’€™s complete game. The 27-year-old pitched well, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings, but took the loss. Vazquez and fellow rookie Mookie Betts drove in both runs.

Cobb has pitched well against most of the current Red Sox hitters, as the offense has a combined .236 average against Cobb. Daniel Nava, however, has a .294 average in 18 plate appearances against the right-hander.

Rays vs. Buchholz (RHP)

Ben Zobrist (42 career plate appearances): .111 average/.238 OBP/.139 SLG, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (41): .189/.268/.270, 3 doubles, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts

Matt Joyce (30): .280/.367/.360, 7 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 RBIs, 2 doubles

Jose Molina (27): .320/.333/.360, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Yunel Escobar (24): .158/.304/.316, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 1 strikeout

Desmond Jennings (20): .235/.278/.294, 1 double, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Sean Rodriguez (15): .231/.214/.308, 1 double, 1 RBI, 4 strikeouts

David DeJesus (14): .364/.500/.455, 1 double, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

James Loney (11): .111/.273/.111, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Brandon Guyer (4): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Kevin Kiermaier (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout

Logan Forsythe (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Red Sox vs. Cobb (RHP)

Daniel Nava (18): .294/.333/.353, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

Yoenis Cespedes (16): .125/.125/.125, 4 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (15): .250/.400/.417, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (14): .125/.500/.125, 1 RBI, 6 walks, 1 strikeout

Will Middlebrooks (13): .167/.231/.167, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jemile Weeks (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Jackie Bradley (5): .200/.200/.400, 2 strikeouts, 1 double

Ryan Lavarnway (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout

Mookie Betts (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI

Xander Bogaerts (3): .667/.667/1.000, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Brock Holt (3): .333/.333/.333, 2 strikeouts

David Ross (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Christian Vazquez is 1-for-2 with an RBI against Cobb.

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

Dustin Pedroia will be needed by the Red Sox in 2015 and beyond. (Getty Images)On Monday Dustin Pedroia got his stitches out.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


Mookie Betts has seemingly found a home at the top of the Red Sox batting order. (Getty Images)There is no uncertainty when it comes to Mookie Betts' first-inning at-bats. He knows the drill.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


BALTIMORE — When the dust settled following the Red Sox‘ drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big

Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox' most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox‘ most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — When the dust settled following the Red Sox‘ drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big leagues for their potential to contribute in 2015. By and large, the results have been uninspiring, with two notable exceptions who led the Sox to a 3-2 victory in Baltimore on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mookie Betts went 0-for-3 with a walk. As manager John Farrell observed on Sunday morning, “Last night might be the first game in a while he hasn’t been on base twice in a game. Getting back to the on-base, that is still a major factor and he’s doing that.”

He resumed doing so on Sunday in noteworthy fashion. Betts led off the game by jumping on a 90 mph fastball from Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez in a 1-2 count, launching it well over the fence in left-center for a solo homer to give the Sox a lead they would never relinquish. He later added a single, with his 2-for-5 game improving his line for the season to .285 with a .362 OBP and .389 slugging mark, including a line of .293/.379/.431 in 15 games since taking over as the leadoff hitter, a role to which he may be laying fairly secure claim for 2015.

The reason why that early offense held up was because of another strong outing from right-hander Joe Kelly. Kelly allowed just two runs on three hits while walking three and punching out five. The outing was Kelly’s fifth straight of six or more innings, and continued to underscore why the Sox view him as a source of reassurance for the rotation next year. He showed mid-90s velocity that elicited both swings and misses and some timely groundballs, while getting swings and misses on his changeup and showing a useful curve. In his last five outings, Kelly has a 3.94 ERA. Between his stuff and his apparent competitiveness on the mound, along with the suggestions of a somewhat reliable ability to delivery six to seven innings, Kelly gives the Sox a second defined rotation piece — along with Clay Buchholz — for next year.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SUNDAY’S RED SOX GAME

– The Sox won, while the Twins and Cubs both appear headed towards losses. Assuming those results hold, the Twins will remain in position for the No. 5 pick in next year’s draft (with a record 1 1/2 games worse than the Sox), while the Sox’ “advantage” over the Cubs for the No. 6 pick would stand at one game.

– Rusney Castillo extended his career-opening hitting streak to four games by going (for the fourth straight game) 1-for-4. He also stole the first base of his career.

David Ross crushed a solo homer well over the fence in straightaway center field, his seventh of the year.

– Garin Cecchini, serving as DH, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, the first time in his big league career that he’s reached base multiple times.

– Edward Mujica continued to give the Red Sox some comfort with their late-innings options for next year, converting his fifth straight save attempt with a scoreless ninth. He’s allowed two run in 9 2/3 innings this month.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

BALTIMORE — Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was removed from Sunday’s game prior to the bottom of the second inning due to neck stiffness.

BALTIMORE — Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was removed from Sunday’s game prior to the bottom of the second inning due to neck stiffness. Bogaerts grounded out in his lone plate appearance and played one inning in the field (catching an inning-ending liner in the bottom of the first) before he made his departure.

Bogaerts is hitting .237 with a .659 OPS in 140 games. He is the eighth player in Red Sox history, and the first since Tony Conigliaro in 1966, to play 140 or more games in a season before turning 22.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

BALTIMORE — The open audition for spots in the 2015 Red Sox rotation are wrapping up, with two pitchers having concluded their late-2014 cases and one more being a chance to make his.

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

BALTIMORE — The open audition for spots in the 2015 Red Sox rotation are wrapping up, with two pitchers having concluded their late-2014 cases and one more being a chance to make his.

John Farrell outlined the rotation for the final week of the season, which will feature Anthony Ranaudo, Clay Buchholz and Allen Webster pitching against the Rays, followed by the possibility of knuckleballer Steven Wright on Friday against the Yankees, with Joe Kelly and Buchholz logging the final two games of the year. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman will be available in the bullpen for the final week of the season, while Wright would be making his first start of 2014 and his second in the big leagues.

At one point, it appeared that De La Rosa had secured a spot in the Red Sox’ rotation for 2015, but his seven-start stumble to the finish line (7.16 ERA with an opponents’ line of .355/.405/.514) has raised some questions about whether his future is in the rotation or bullpen. When he pitches down in the strike zone, he shows the ability to compete as a starter, but the 25-year-old ended up having an increasingly difficult time doing that as the year progressed, with his nine-hit, six-run, four-inning effort against the Orioles having featured the right-hander pitching up in the strike zone, and getting hit hard, with his fastball. He still tops out in the mid- and high-90s, but the Sox have seen his average velocity tailing off at a time when he’s now up to a career-high 160 innings, up roughly 45 percent from his prior career peak.

De La Rosa is out of minor league options, and there’s no question he has a major league arm. But his future role is still unsettled, with the ability to evaluate his performance over the final weeks of the season complicated somewhat by his innings plateau.

“As much as we wanted to continue to start him, to not shut him down, he’s at an innings threshold or an innings amount right now that’s been a sizable jump over last year,” said Farrell. “There’s been some extremely positive signs inside his year’s work, and yet there’s still quite a bit of development left to do.”

Workman, who is 1-10 with a 5.17 ERA, suffered his 10th straight loss in Pittsburgh last week, but produced a solid effort, logging five innings and allowing three runs (two earned) while striking out six.

Wright, meanwhile, now has a 3.38 ERA with 18 strikeouts and just two walks in 16 innings spanning five appearances. Among all the Red Sox starting candidates — De La Rosa, Workman, Ranaudo, Webster and now Wright — he’s shown the most consistent ability to get swings and misses and throw strikes, putting him in position for the possibility of a look against the Yankees on Friday.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will finish their series with the Orioles on Sunday afternoon, as Joe Kelly will pitch against Miguel Gonzalez for the second time this month.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Kelly (4-4, 2.28 ERA) was victorious in his outing against the Royals last Sunday Kauffman Stadium. He gave up four runs in the second inning, including a three-run home run by Eric Hosmer, but he recovered to pitch six innings and did not allow a hit after the one bad frame. A three-run home run from Xander Bogaerts and a grand slam from Daniel Nava paved the way for Kelly’€™s win.

Manager John Farrell liked the way Kelly came back to pitch effectively after a rough second inning.

“He had a five-hitter span where they did a pretty good job of getting into some fastball counts, and I think after the second inning he and David [Ross] clearly made an adjustment by using his curveball a little bit more,” Farrell said. “He’s got such electric stuff that he settled in and pitched a solid six innings for us.”

Over his past four outings, Kelly has pitched at least six innings and has not been charged with more than four runs in a single start. Though he did not record a win through his first two months with the Red Sox, the right-hander has posted a 2-1 record with a 4.74 ERA in three September starts.

His only loss in the month, however, came against the Orioles. Kelly gave up three runs over six innings on Sept. 8. He didn’t get any help from the Red Sox defense, which committed three errors. The Red Sox bats did him no favors either, as they were shut out by Gonzalez in that one.

Miguel Gonzalez

Miguel Gonzalez

Gonzalez (9-8, 3.28 ERA) pitched 6 1/3 innings that day, allowing six hits but no runs. He and the rest of the bullpen teamed up to shut out the Red Sox in the Baltimore win. The pitcher said attacking the Red Sox hitters was a key to victory.

“Staying positive and staying aggressive every time I go out there and not do too much,” Gonzalez said after the start. “Especially like today, it was a big zone. I thought we made some good plays behind me. Everybody they did their job.”

In his last start against the Yankees last Saturday, Gonzalez took the loss after he allowed three runs in six innings of work. The Yankees used a three-run second inning in which Gonzalez allowed a Brian McCann solo home run and a Chris Young steal of home to beat the Orioles.

Despite getting optioned twice to Triple-A, Gonzalez has put together a fine season when he’€™s been with the major league club. Since the All-Star break, he’€™s compiled a 2.12 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He’€™s been even better in September with a 1.27 ERA and a 2-1 record in three starts.

Daniel Nava has some of the best career number of any Boston hitter against Gonzalez. The switch hitter has a .385 average in 13 at-bats. Will Middlebrooks is the only hitter with a home run against the right-hander.

Red Sox vs. Gonzalez (RHP)

Daniel Nava (15 career plate appearances): .385 average/.467 OBP/.462 SLG, 1 double, 2 walks, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Mike Napoli (8): .143/.250/.143, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk

David Ortiz (8): .000/.250/.000, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Xander Bogaerts (7): .143/.143/.143, 3 strikeouts

Yoenis Cespedes (6): .400/.500/.400, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Will Middlebrooks (6): .333/.333/.833, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 1 strikeout

David Ross (5): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Brock Holt (4): .250/.250/.250

Mookie Betts (3): .500/.667/.500, 1 walk

Jackie Bradley (3): .667/.667/1.000, 1 double

Ryan Lavarnway (3): .000/.000/.000

Orioles vs. Kelly (RHP)

Nelson Cruz (7): .500/.571/.500, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Alejandro De Aza (4): .250/.250/.250

Adam Jones (4): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Nick Markakis (4): .000/.500/.000, 1 walk

Ryan Flaherty (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI

Caleb Joseph (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Steve Pearce (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 RBI

Jonathan Schoop (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Steve Clevenger is 0-for-1 in one plate appearance.

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano