David Ross celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run. (AP)

David Ross celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run. (AP)

Things are getting at least a little interesting.

The Red Sox continued their most impressive surge of the season, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, this time beating the Royals, 6-0, for a sweep of the teams’ three-game series.

Unlike their seven-game win streak in May — in which the Sox were facing two teams in Atlanta and Tampa Bay who were playing their worst baseball of the season — this doesn’t appear to be a mirage. During the current stretch the Sox have now outscored their opponents by a combined 25 runs.

While all but one of their previous six wins had seen a margin of one-run, this was a rare no-doubter. Riding the arm of Jon Lester and an offensive attack that drove Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura from the game after just 4 1/3 innings, the Sox had the game in control heading into the final four frames.

The hosts scored one in the first inning, two in the third and three in the fourth to put things out of reach for the Royals, who now drop below .500 (48-49).

With the win the Red Sox improve to 46-52 with their next 13 games coming against American League East foes, starting with a four-game set in Toronto.

While the offense was fairly spread out, with Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley all claiming multiple-hit days, the star of the game had to once again go to Lester.

The lefty, who come into the game having allowed either 0 or one earned run to Kansas City in his previous 10 starts (1.60 EA) against the Royals, dominated the visitors. Lester allowed just four runs and no runs while going eight innings to lower his ERA to 2.50. He also struck out eight.

In Lester’s last seven starts he has given up just five earned runs in 55 2/3 innings, striking out 47 and walking eight.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox win:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- David Ross notched his sixth home run, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. It marked the fifth straight game the Sox have hit at least one home run.

- The Red Sox improved to 35-0 when leading heading into the ninth inning, remaining the only team in the majors that has not lost when entering the ninth with a lead. Closing out the ninth for Lester was Junichi Tazawa (one batter, one strikeout) and Edward Mujica.

- Bradley reached base three times (two singles, walk). For the month, the outfielder entered the game hitting .350 with an on-base percentage of .400. Also continuing his surge was Nava, who matched Bradley with a pair of hits and a free pass. The outfielder came into the game hitting .326 since his most recent promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket (June 4).

- Stephen Drew made his presence felt in the field once again, this time diving all out to stab a grounder off the bat of Omar Infante, flipping the ball from his belly to second for a force out to Dustin Pedroia, who completed the eighth-inning double play.

- Holt — playing third base this time — continued to prove himself as one this season’s best leadoff men. Since being inserted in the lineup’s top spot (52 straight games) he has more hits (75) than any other major league leadoff hitter.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- David Ortiz continued his struggles since the All-Star break, finishing the three-game series going 1-for-13, this time stranding seven men on base.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

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– Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a solo homer to center. It was nearly Middlebrooks’ second homer in as many days (he was robbed of a homer by a tremendous leaping catch on Friday).

For now, Middlebrooks will continue to enjoy steady playing time in Pawtucket. But with the crowd that the Sox have on the left side of their infield between the big leagues (Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt) and Triple-A (Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero), teams are closely monitoring the situation to see if the Sox start dealing what seems like surplus inventory from their minor league prospect pool.

– DH Carlos Rivero reached base in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. He is 8-for-12 with two walks in his last three games.

– Right-hander Brandon Workman tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while punching out six. He struggled with his control at times (59 of 99 pitches for strikes — a 60 percent rate) but shut down his opponents by getting a handful of groundball outs to complement his six punchouts.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-3 WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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– Left-hander Henry Owens tossed 6 1/3 innings in which he allowed an uncharacteristic nine hits (two triples, seven singles) and walked one but worked around the traffic to limit the damage to two runs. He punched out six. The outing marked the seventh time in nine outings that the 21-year-old (who turns 22 on Monday) pitched into the seventh inning.

Owens now has a 13-3 record (the most wins in the minors) and a 2.25 ERA in 18 starts this year. He’s been better than his competition in Double-A, and probably belongs in Triple-A. Yet even as he remains caught behind something of a bottleneck in Pawtucket, the Sox have been impressed to see Owens making positive developmental strides with pitch selection and execution that have allowed him to continue to improve even as he’s outperforming his level.

“I’m a big day-by-day game,” Owens explained. “You can always do something every single day to get a little bit better. I literally will have a hard time sleeping at night if I feel like I took a step back — if I had a rough outing, or if I had a rough side I’ll talk to [pitching coach Bob Kipper] or whoever caught me after to figure out what I can do better next time. Of course I’m eager to move up. I’m eager to get to the big leagues. But at the same time, there’s no timetable. I’m just excited to show up to the ballpark every day.”

– Catcher Blake Swihart went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer against highly regarded left-hander Daniel Norris. Swihart now has 11 homers this year, with seven of those coming against lefties. The 22-year-old switch-hitter has a .288/.328/.542 line against southpaws, compared to a .298/.360/.453 line against righties.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-1 LOSS VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Simon Mercedes allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings, pitching well in his first start back in Salem since landing on the DL in early June. The 22-year-old stumbled out of the gate, giving up a pair of groundball singles prior to a three-run homer, but he didn’t allow another run over the duration of his outing while striking out six, walking one and getting a number of groundballs. Mercedes did continue his struggles to control the running game, committing his sixth error of the year on an errant pickoff attempt.

Jantzen Witte, 24, went 3-for-4 with three extra-base hits, clubbing two doubles and a triple. He has 12 extra-base hits in 26 games since his promotion, hitting .283/.339/.444 while walking nine times and striking out on just 12 occasions.

– Catcher Carson Blair went 0-for-4, ending his streak of consecutive games reaching base at 28.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-3 LOSS VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Trey Ball sailed through five shutout innings in just 57 pitches (42 strikes), allowing two hits while striking out four and walking none. The 20-year-old is having a strong month of July, having gone five innings while allowing one or no earned runs in three of four starts this month. After opponents tagged him at a .409 clip in April, a .382 mark in May and a .353 average in June, Ball has held hitters to a .171 average with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 19 innings this month en route to a 3.32 ERA. Reports on his ability to throw his curveball for strikes have been strong, something that has permitted his fastball to play up.

Wendell Rijo went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, adding to what has been his best month since April. He’s hitting .282/.370/.487 in July.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-4 LOSS AT AUBURN (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Ty Buttrey, after tossing four no-hit innings in his first rehab outing with Lowell, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits while punching out two and walking three.

– First baseman Sam Travis went 1-for-4, but his lone hit was a single with a pair of runners in scoring position, both of whom scored. The 2014 second-round pick is hitting .296/.331/.400 overall, but with runners in scoring position, he’s amassed a startling .436/.463/.615 line, with his 20 RBIs tied for 11th in the New York-Penn League.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-1 WIN AT GCL TWINS

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Ryan Lavarnway, in the second game of his rehab assignment while working his way back from a broken hamate, went 1-for-2 with a walk while playing first base for four innings.

Rafael Devers had his sixth multi-hit game in 11 contests since his promotion to the GCL, going 2-for-5 to improve his line to .400/.455/.700.

– Right-fielder Joseph Monge continues to be one of the more impressive performers at this stage of the GCL season. The 19-year-old went 2-for-5 to elevate his line to .309/.433/.527, including .361/.500/.583 in 11 games this month.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

Another player with a terrific compact swing is Mike Carp. However, unlike Holt, is not playing every day. He starts Sunday for Mike Napoli at first base as the Red Sox look to stock the lineup with left-handed bats. Carp is hitting 96 points higher against righties than lefties (.246 to .150) as he makes just his 19th start in 39 games.

“It’s a difficult role and guys that have had success in that role usually have low maintenance swings where it’s a compact swing,” Farrell said. “Jonny Gomes we talk a lot about. Mike Carp is the left-handed version of that. He’s done a very good job of not being in a starting role or getting a bat over a three-to-seven-day span and you insert him, and he puts up a quality at-bat. You begin to empathize with the role they’re in because he’s going to go up against a guy today that throws in the high 90s and hasn’t seen an at-bat since the All-Star break. It’s a difficult spot but because of the way his swing is built that’s why’s he’s able to thrive or perform better than maybe some other guys in that role.

“I think guys appreciate not surprises and we do the best we can given there may be a day when a guy comes in and he would benefit from a day down and you make a change in the lineup that afternoon. But situations like [Saturday] night with Mike Carp or Stephen Drew or David Ross are all well aware of the plan going forward at least a day ahead of time.”

On Shane Victorino, Farrell said the team plans to give him at least one day off a week as he returns to action from his bad hamstring and back.

“We’ll schedule it,” Farrell said. “We’re in a four-out-of-five arrangement right now, with today being the fourth consecutive, with the two in Pawtucket. We’ve got to keep in mind that we’re going to go a week straight of games played on astroturf. So that’s going to have a different effect I would think, physically, on him, and we’ll monitor that day-to-day.”

The Red Sox play four in Toronto followed by three at Tampa Bay before returning home for a homestand against the Jays and Yankees.

As for resting Dustin Pedroia, who’s started 95 of the first 98 games, Farrell says he will be more selective.

“We know he doesn’t like to come out of games,” the manager said. “Coming off the four days we just had off, there might be a time as we get into the next two to three weeks where there might be a day in there. And Brock would be the guy we insert at second base. That Sunday prior to the break, we got Pedey off his feet for the last three innings, I think that’s where we pick our spots with some rest, just at the end of a game to give him a little breather.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura.

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.

For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt 3B

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Carp 1B

Shane Victorino RF

Stephen Drew SS

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jon Lester SP

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Koji Uehara and the Red Sox had news to jump up and down about. (AP)

Koji Uehara recorded his 20th save of 2014 on Saturday. (AP)

July has already seen a number of key trades take place, most recently on Friday, when the Angels acquired closer Huston Street (and a prospect) from the Padres for four prospects. The trade of Street represented the move of one area where the Red Sox potentially could have made some intriguing noise as sellers: Closer.

Koji Uehara, of course, is eligible for free agency after this season. If the Red Sox conclude that they are not in the race, he’d represent a fascinating chip — a player who arguably did as much as anyone to secure a World Series title for the Red Sox last year. A team that feels like it’s one piece away from a title would seem to have every incentive to pursue Uehara.

In this case, however, it appears that the Angels weren’t a match for the Sox on a couple of levels that are revealing about both the state of the trade market for closers and the Sox’ approach to trade chips:

1) The Angels didn’t want a rental player.

The Halos not only acquire the services of Street for the duration of this year, but also hold an affordable $7 million option on him for 2015. The idea that Street could impact the team beyond the final months of this year made a deal more palatable.

‘€œWere it not for the fact we had the ability to control Huston for a year and two months, it would have been far more difficult to justify giving up the type of package we gave up to get him,’€ Angels GM Jerry DiPoto told the L.A. Times.

Uehara would be able to impact a club for just two-plus months before he’d arrive at free agency. Any team that trades for him could not extend the qualifying offer to him, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to net a draft pick as compensation. Teams may be reluctant to give up impact prospects for a reliever who would pitch no more than roughly two dozen regular season innings for them.

2) Multiple industry sources suggested that executive of other teams are being conservative in approaching the Sox about the possibility of selling pieces of their big league roster, given that the team is still sorting out its realistic chances to compete in 2014. The current run of six wins in seven games not only has the Sox more reluctant to sell players who could be helpful this year but also means that the Sox aren’t getting as many phone calls as would a team in clear sell mode.

3) What the Angels gave up wouldn’t have been a fit for what would interest the Red Sox if they decide to sell. The Angels sent a volume of potentially solid contributors (Taylor Lindsey, ranked as the Angels’ top prospect entering the year, may be a slightly above average second baseman, shortstop Jose Rondon likewise profiles as a potential average regular, and the other two players acquired by the Padres are likely bullpen arms), but no one with a significant ceiling who would vault to the top of the Sox’ minor league depth chart in any area. Given the depth of their farm system, the Sox, according to sources, would be more focused on impact than on volume if they were to contemplate a deal involving key pieces.

For now, of course, with the team having crept within 8 1/2 games of first in the A.L. East and within seven games of the second wild card amidst one of its most impressive stretches of the season, the Sox will likely remain in a holding pattern.

That uncertainty could peel away prospective trade partners (who address their needs elsewhere) if the Sox ultimately decide to be sellers. But given that a continued hot stretch against AL East opponents in the coming days could put the team in what seemed an unlikely position to contend just 10 days ago, the Sox appear willing to take that risk in order to give the 2014 team the chance to assert itself as a contender. At a time when the Sox have suddenly started winning one-run games, the team appears more than happy to enjoy the services of Uehara as a shutdown ninth-inning presence who could be an important part of any potential move in the standings.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will close out a three-game series against the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, sending Jon Lester to the hill against Yordano Ventura.

Lester (9-7, 2.65 ERA) has been nearly unhittable for over a month, allowing just one earned run over his last six starts, posting a 1.01 ERA in the process. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who has posted career-highs in ERA (2.65) and WHIP (1.14) this season, continued his torrid pace in his last start July 10 against the White Sox.

Against Chicago, Lester allowed just one earned run over seven innings with zero walks and 12 strikeouts. Lester looked dominant from the get-go, striking out two batters in each of the first five innings of the game.

“I had pretty good command of my fastball to both sides, but I think the biggest pitch was my curveball,” Lester said after the game. “I was dropping it in for strikes and bouncing it, too. When I’m able to do that, I can get some separation from my fastball and cutter. It widens the plate for me. I was able to exploit that today.”

Lester was solid in his last outing against Kansas City on Aug. 8, 2013, allowing three runs (one earned) in seven innings of work in what as an eventual 5-1 Royals victory. In 10 career starts against the Royals, Lester is 6-3 with a 1.60 ERA — which stands as the lowest ERA from an active pitcher with at least seven starts against Kansas City.

Yordano Ventura

Yordano Ventura

Ventura (7-7, 3.22 ERA) struggled in his last start on July 9 against the Rays, surrendering four runs in five innings while throwing 104 pitches in the process. Despite Venture’€™s underwhelming showing on the mound, Kansas City emerged with a win, 5-4.

Ventura’€™s performance was a far cry from his previous start July 4 against the Indians, in which the 23-year-old righty allowed just one run in 8 1/3 innings.

Sunday will mark Ventura’€™s first career appearance against the Red Sox.

Royals vs. Lester (LHP)

Billy Butler (24 plate appearances): .211/.375/.263, 1 double, 8 strikeouts

Alex Gordon (19): .118/.158/.176, 1 double, 7 strikeouts

Danny Valencia (17): .294/.294/.588, 1 home run, 3 RBIs

Raul Ibanez (15): .333/.333/.667, 1 home run, 6 strikeouts

Alcides Escobar (13): .300/.462/.400, 1 double, 3 walks

Eric Hosmer (13): .300/.462/.600,1 home run, 3 walks

Mike Moustakas (9): .429/.556/.429, 3 singles, 3 RBIs

Lorenzo Cain (8): .250/.250/.375, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Omar Infante (6): .333/.333/.333, 2 singles

Jarrod Dyson has one strikeout in three plate appearances against Lester.

Brett Hayes has one strikeout in three plate appearances against Lester.

Salvador Perez has one single and one walk in three plate appearances against Lester.

Red Sox vs. Ventura (RHP)

No Red Sox batter has faced Ventura.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan
Mike Napoli's last three home runs have all given the Red Sox the lead, stretching back to June 23. (AP)

Mike Napoli‘s last three home runs have all given the Red Sox the lead, stretching back to June 23. (AP)

One of the staples of last year’€™s championship season for the Red Sox has once again become a recurring theme over the first two contests of this brief three-game homestand against the Royals: Contributions from up and down the Boston roster.

Whether it be Xander Bogaerts’ and Jonny Gomes’€™ clutch home runs Friday night or Mike Napoli‘€™s sixth-inning go-ahead solo shot Saturday, the Sox are suddenly benefiting from different players stepping to the forefront of individual games en route to wins.

“€œThat’€™s what we did last year,”€ Napoli said after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kansas City. “That’€™s how you win ballgames. It can’€™t just be one guy doing it, so everyone is going to have to contribute and we all know that and we’€™re going to take it one day at a time.”

Comparisons aside, the Red Sox‘€™ recent stretch of clutch hitting has been a key factor in sustaining a run that has seen Boston win three in a row and six out of its last seven games.

With the game deadlocked in a 1-1 score Saturday, Napoli strode to the plate to face off against Royals southpaw starter Danny Duffy, who had only surrendered three hits over his first 5 1/3 innings of work.

After forcing the count to 3-1, Napoli turned on a high fastball from Duffy and clobbered it over the Monster and into Lansdowne Street for his 11th home run of the season, giving Boston a 2-1 lead that it would not yield in the following innings.

“I got into a hitter’€™s count,” Napoli said. “I was 3-1. I was trying to hit something hard somewhere, got a pitch up to handle and I drove it.”

Napoli added: “€œI hit it pretty good. With that wall right there, I know when I hit it, it was probably going to be a home run.”

Seeing the ball sail out of Fenway likely came as of relief to Napoli, who had not hit a home run since tagging Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka for a solo shot June 28 in what was the eventual game-winning run in a 2-1 Red Sox win.

Napoli has had a habit of picking good times for his round-trippers this season. Hi€™s last three home runs — all since June 23 — have given the Red Sox the lead, while three of his last five dingers have proven to be the deciding run in the sixth inning or later for the Red Sox.

After dealing with a short DL stint in late May/early June due to a dislocated finger, Napoli has once again established himself as a productive hitter in the cleanup spot in the Sox lineup.

Napoli has now reached base in 21 of his last 22 games, hitting .303 (23-for-76) with a .436 OBP during that time.

For Napoli, maintaining his status as an offensive force in the heart of the lineup is of the utmost importance for a struggling Sox offense that is 14th in the American League in runs scored.

“I’€™m going to have to be [one of those big bats in the lineup],”€ Napoli said. “œI’€™m going to have to produce, but I’€™m not going to go out there and try to do too much. I’€™m going to stick to my plan: See the ball, hit the ball.”

While Boston’€™s recent numbers over the past seven games (6-1 record, 5.3 runs per game, 2.57 team ERA) might signal the start of a post All-Star break run for the team, Napoli made sure to note that the team’€™s mindset has not changed all season.

“We’€™re going out playing the same way, playing hard. We won a couple one-run ballgames. We haven’€™t won too many of those this year, so we’€™re just going out there and trying to execute and hopefully things start turning our way.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan
Joe & Dave talked to Rubby De La Rosa after the rookie pitcher went seven innings in the one-run win against the Royals at Fenway.

[0:00:45] ... plays we thought there should have been made him. Some miscommunication by Jonny Gomes and and brought -- is that hard to do is it tough to pitch through that when mistakes are made. Know what ...
[0:01:47] ... it was going to be close what was your react to a Mike Napoli. Hit the ball that he hit which I don't think his come down yet it's still traveling out -- some. And I do you know so well against this Knight who were found to hug island though and so. I feel like a little TV you know Romer told the whole missiles does -- -- knowing you also the connection. You know the -- anymore so let's wait for it to put them through fitted them with us you think you'll hear from Pedro Martinez tonight that's for sure. What is Pedro say pointless. No little boy whose job and keep your head up and get -- ...