Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 14th inning double propelled the Red Sox to victory. (AP)

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 14th inning double propelled the Red Sox to victory. (AP)

Just win, baby.

The Red Sox could not have a concocted a much uglier formula for victory. After the first three batters of the game collected hits, the Red Sox went just 3-for-40 over the duration of the game (with the first two of those hits being of the infield variety). They blew a save in the 11th inning. They spoiled another rally by grounding into a double play.

Yet the White Sox kept handing Boston opportunities, issuing 15 free passes, and while it wasn’t pretty, the Sox managed a slow-motion rally that featured sacrifice flies in the eighth, ninth and 11th innings before Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s two-out, two-run double in the top of the 14th finally against White Sox position player Leury Garcia — making his first pro pitching appearance on the mound — propelled the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory.

The star of the victory was the Red Sox bullpen, which allowed one run over the final eight innings. The win permitted the Sox to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2012.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– The bullpen had an outstanding night. Craig Breslow struck out a pair in 1 1/3 scoreless innings, throwing 11 of 13 pitches for strikes and showing good action on his complete pitch mix. Junichi Tazawa retired both batters he faced. And Andrew Miller was dominant, throwing two innings and allowing just one hit while punching out three. That group had the Sox positioned to win before Edward Mujica uncharacteristically issued a leadoff walk in the 11th that burned him, coming around to score with two outs for a blown save. But Chris Capuano followed Mujica’s inning with 2 2/3 innings in which he permitted just one single while striking out three to earn the victory. Burke Badenhop came on to retire the last batter of the game for the save.

– For the first time in 2014, the Red Sox received an extra-base hit from their first batter of the game, as Dustin Pedroia led off the game with a double. The double to left was of course doubly significant for Pedroia, given that it punctuated the idea that he can play through his left wrist inflammation while still being able to impact the ball. It was Pedroia’s fourth double of the year. He later collected an infield single and walked twice, his first free passes of the 2014 season.

– The Red Sox finally scored a first-inning run, becoming the last team in the majors to do so, when Xander Bogaerts‘ single scored Pedroia. It was the first RBI of the year for the Sox’ shortstop, who reached base five times, adding a pair of walks and a pair of hit by pitches to his hit. Bogaerts is now hitting .264 with a .391 OBP. Adding to the firsts, Bogaerts swiped his first base of the season.

– Clay Buchholz kept the White Sox off balance for most of the night, until shortstop Alexei Ramirez homered against him in the sixth (the only extra-base hit permitted by the Sox starter in the entire game). Though Buchholz needed 31 pitches to navigate through the elongated first inning, he managed to deliver six innings in which he permitted three runs (two earned) on six hits while walking two and striking out six. It was his second straight outing of six innings and two earned runs allowed.

However, he appeared to tire down the stretch. His fastball — which had reached as high as 93 mph in the first four innings — lost steam in his fifth and sixth frames, with Ramirez going deep on an 88 mph offering.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The usual: The Sox were 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a circumstance in which they are now hitting .184 this year. Even as the White Sox tried gamely to give the game away, walking 15 batters (including six combined in the eighth and ninth innings), the absence of hits left the Sox once again scratching their heads about missed opportunities.

– The impact of injuries on the Red Sox defense was underscored with an unearned run in the first inning. Daniel Nava — pressed into duty at first with Mike Napoli recovering from a dislocated finger — could not corral a pickoff attempt at first, permitting a runner to enter into scoring position. Then, after Buchholz induced a two-out grounder that should have ended the inning, third baseman Ryan Roberts — playing the position typically occupied by Will Middlebrooks — bounced the throw, and Nava couldn’t catch or block it, permitting an unearned run to cross the plate. While the error on the run-scoring play was rightly charged to Roberts, Nava’s inability to handle a bounced throw represented the second costly instance of that shortcoming in as many days, with Mike Carp having been unable to handle a game-ending throw from Xander Bogaerts. Napoli, in all likelihood, would have been able to block the throws, if not pick them to record the outs.

– The fifth through ninth spots in the Red Sox lineup combined to go 1-for-26.

Edward Mujica, given a save opportunity in the 11th inning (on his final day as fill-in closer with Koji Uehara working his way back from shoulder stiffness), could not secure the victory. He issued a leadoff walk — a rarity for a pitcher with one of the best strikeout-to-walk rates in baseball history — that came back to haunt him when a weakly hit grounder up the middle with two outs found an avenue to plate the game-tying run.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
We discuss the Red Sox early season woes with manager John Farrell, as well as his views and faith in MLB's new instant replay system, and the continuity in the Sox outfield.

[0:00:36] ... still missing a couple with the flu bug. I'm including whether defenseman Kevin Millar and -- are cow ski hopefully they'll be back tomorrow is good news the good news you know start to Friday as ...
[0:02:14] ... I wonder why. Alex talked a manager of the Boston Red Sox John Farrell has brought to you by our belly insurance. Town fair tire and Mohegan Sun John joins us on the AT&T hotline hey ...
[0:02:45] ... -- ready yet afternoon here aren't. I joked earlier I think that Tony La Russa wants to I'd date you or at least adopt you. He's going honor are raving about your conversation that you came out of the conversation saying. I stand by what I said in New York just give us a sense of out of what you're thinking about the replay system and the parts of the conversation with Tony La Russa that you can share with us. You know what our I think first and foremost I have always been I'm in favor ...
[0:04:31] ... get -- somebody monitoring certain that cropped up would -- you welcome Mike Napoli situation last night with a dislocated finger. -- he -- today but fiscal coach not fracture I had no ligament issues so ...






With left-hander John Danks on the mound for the White Sox, the Red Sox send out a lineup with Dustin Pedroia hitting leadoff.

With left-hander John Danks on the mound for the White Sox, the Red Sox send out a lineup with Dustin Pedroia hitting leadoff. It’s Pedroia’s first start since Saturday (due to a sore left wrist), with the second baseman having pinch-run for Mike Napoli Tuesday night.

With Napoli out of the lineup, Daniel Nava gets the start at first base. Moving up in the order is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who will hit second. The Red Sox have yet to score a first inning run this season.

Here is the Red Sox’ lineup:

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Jonny Gomes RF

Grady Sizemore LF

A.J. Pierzynski C

Daniel Nava 1B

Ryan Roberts 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Clay Buchholz P

For all the matchups, click here

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Appearing on the Dale and Holley Show, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Mike Napoli, who injured his left ring finger while sliding head-first into second base Tuesday night, is still day-to-day.

Appearing on the Dale and Holley Show, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Mike Napoli, who injured his left ring finger while sliding head-first into second base Tuesday night, is still day-to-day. Farrell noted Napoli‘s finger has no fracture or ligament issues and will be day-to-day (sitting out Wednesday night’s game) while he waits for the swelling to go down.

Farrell also said Dustin Pedroia, who hadn’t started since Saturday due to a sore left wrist, will be in the leadoff spot Wednesday night. Pedroia underwent a cortisone shot Monday and re-appeared in the ninth inning Tuesday when pinch-running for Napoli.

Koji Uehara was scheduled to throw a bullpen Wednesday, with Farrell saying the closer continues to progress from a sore right shoulder.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Red Sox are 5-9 after dropping three straight games, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox in frigid Chicago. Coming off last year’s World Series title, the Red Sox have been hurt by injuries and their inability to make key plays.

“I think it’s a combination of both,” Olney said. “When you start with [Dustin] Pedroia‘s situation, you go from there. That’s obviously a concern. I talked to David Ortiz over the weekend and he talked about the effort to get his timing back. The offense, which was so dominant last year, just hasn’t gotten on a roll yet, obviously. One of the Red Sox players mentioned to me over the weekend, ‘We’re still trying to find our identity.’

“The good thing is that the rest of the division is pretty much in the exact same boat. So if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, you might not necessarily be feeling great about what’s happening now. But you look at the Yankees, their infield situation is a complete mess. Tampa Bay’s rotation is in tatters. The Orioles have rotation issues. Toronto, as you know, a lot of questions about their rotation. Given the range of problems you might have, at least if you’re the Red Sox, you’re probably feeling better overall about your situation than some of the other teams are.”

The Red Sox have lost their last two games by one run (3-2 to the Yankees and 2-1 to Chicago), putting a spotlight on their offensive woes.

“Going into their game on Sunday night, their offense, which outscored every other team in baseball last year by 57 runs, ranked 17th in runs scored,” Olney said. “That, day in and day out, gives them so much margin for error. It did last year. They have to get that going.”

Even if Pedroia does not miss any more time with his wrist injury, it could be a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes if he has to play through a problem.

“I’m going to be really curious to see how he does going forward. I’ve talked to so many players through the years ‘€¦ how troublesome wrist injuries can be for a hitter. And sometimes they just don’t go away during the year. Because what it really needs in a lot of cases is out-and-out, flat-out rest. And he’s not going to have an opportunity to do that.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who made a throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, allowing the winning run to score: “Offensively, in general we’ve seen the patient at-bats of the last year, and I think they feel really good about that. It is interesting, in talking with some of the people in the organization, they feel like Xander, offensively, as calm as he is on defense, that’s more of something where he really works at it, in terms of his effort and his desire to be great being kind of a grind for him. And I don’t even mean that as a negative. I think it’s just a question of the offense probably comes easier for him. ‘€¦

“He’s such a young player, and I do think that as he makes this transition into an everyday shortstop in the big leagues, probably his age reflects more on his defense than on his offense. But I can tell you, everyone I have talked to, they feel like, OK, he’s going to make mistakes, but they think that he can be a guy who’s going to be over the course of a season someone who can help them.”

On the Red Sox’ reported four-year, $70 million lowball offer to Jon Lester: “After my conversation with some of the Red Sox people over the weekend down here in New York, it is going to be important for the Red Sox ownership to put at least a representative offer out there for Jon Lester early in the year. I don’t think that, based on the responses I was hearing, if Jon Lester ultimately said, ‘You know what? That’s not enough. I’m going to go test the market the way [Max] Scherzer is,” I think the players would get that, and they’d be OK with it if he left under those circumstances. But if he leaves with the Red Sox firing a $70 million bullet at him — or, let’s say, nuance it, let’s say [$]80 million or [$]85 million — if it’s not in that middle ground we’re talking about, I think they’re going to have some unhappy people in the organization. ‘€¦ I think it’s going to be really important for them to at least ante up to a point where the players can say, ‘OK, you gave it a shot.’ ”

On MLB’s early issues with instant replay: “I like replay. I think it’s an important step. I think the fact that they unrolled it without really testing it, not having it in spring training, guaranteed that we were going to have some of this trial and error happen in front of us, rather than in some sort of a testing ground. I don’t like particulars of it, but I think big picture they’re moving in the right direction. And I also understand the frustration of some of the managers, wondering about the inconsistency.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
Right-hander Brandon Workman will start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

Right-hander Brandon Workman will start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. (AP)

A brief look at the limited activity in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

Brandon Workman will make his first start for Pawtucket on Wednesday. The PawSox face some frigid early season conditions today in Rochester.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)

Glenn Jordan of the Portland Press-Herald wrote an excellent feature on Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon, who is returning to Portland two decades after playing there while in the Marlins system.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-2 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Jamie Callahan, coming off a dominant start in which he struck out 11, could not back up that performance. The 19-year-old has allowed five runs on eight hits (three doubles, five singles) while striking out just one and walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He threw just 39 of 74 pitches (53 percent) for strikes. After he walked just 2.6 batters per nine innings last year, Callahan has issued 10 walks in 12 innings (7.5 walks per nine innings) so far in his first full season, and opponents are hitting .333 against him in the early going.

– Right-hander Sergio Gomez made a strong piggyback appearance in relief of Callahan, allowing one run on six hits (five singles and a double) and a walk in 4 2/3 innings while punching out six. The skinny 20-year-old, one of the top performers in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League in 2012 and the advanced short-season New York-Penn League for Lowell last summer, has 16 strikeouts and five walks in 12 innings as a piggyback starter so far this year.

Wendell Rijo went 0-for-3 but drew a walk. The 18-year-old has reached base in all 10 games he’s played this year, and ranks third in the South Atlantic League with a .452 OBP. Teammate Kevin Mager, a 24-year-old who went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks on Tuesday, leads the league with a .488 OBP.

Jantzen Witte, a corner infielder who played first on Wednesday, was the lone member of Greenville’s lineup with multiple hits, going 2-for-4. The 24-year-old is amidst a four-game hitting streak in which he’s 8-for-17 with four doubles and four walks, good for a .471/.571/.706 line.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
It has been a frustrating season for Red Sox manager John Farrell thus far. (AP)

It has been a frustrating season for Red Sox manager John Farrell thus far. (AP)

The popular line coming out of spring training was that the only really hiccup throughout the 1 1/2 months of getting ready for the regular season could be traced to a fishing knife.

Ironically, the owners of the little bit of drama in Fort Myers — Jake Peavy and his cut finger — have been the least of the Red Sox’ worries during their 5-9 start. Peavy has been the team’s best pitcher to date, compiling a 1.93 ERA over his first three starts.

But almost immediately the concerns started cropping up. While injuries — starting with Shane Victorino‘s hamstring pull the last day of spring training — will be the main focus when trying to identify the issues, there has been plenty of images through the first two weeks of games where nowhere to be found when making the 2013 club so successful.

So, besides injuries, what else is exactly wrong with the world champs?

LEADOFF SPOT

Problem: It is true that a leadoff hitter will only be guaranteed one occasion per game in which he kicks off an inning. But there is something to be said for setting the tone. No tone has been set for these Red Sox. Without Jacoby Ellsbury, they wanted to prioritize their leadoff hitter getting on base. That hasn’t happened. The hitters atop the Sox’ lineup have a combined .292 on-base percentage, fourth-worst in the majors. They have also scored just five runs, the majors’ second-fewest. And get this: the Red Sox are the only team in baseball that hasn’t scored a run in the first inning this season.

Also of note: Not only does the Red Sox’ leadoff spot have the second-worst OPS in baseball, but it’s also where their No. 2 hitters rank (.496).

Solution: Stick Dustin Pedroia in the top spot and see what happens. He’s not averse to the dynamic, especially when Victorino returns. It might also pave the way for a slightly different approach by pitchers, which could give some momentum for the second baseman’s walk total. (He doesn’t have a free pass this season.) It should also be noted Pedroia has swung at the first pitch just five percent of the time this season, fourth lowest in the bigs. There would also be the increased opportunity for Pedroia to run, which he has always been hesitant to do with Ortiz hitting behind him. When all are healthy, it would present an order of Pedroia, Victorino, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Grady Sizemore, Xander Bogaerts.

FINDING SOME WALKS

Problem: Remember when the Red Sox found themselves not taking the proper patient approach last season? Usually there would be a quick correction. That alteration hasn’t happened yet. The Red Sox currently find themselves in the lower half of American League with 41 free passes. Strangely, the Sox are still taking a fair amount of pitches (4.01 per plate appearance, fourth-most in the AL). They also swing at the first pitch only 22 percent of the time (fourth-fewest), despite A.J. Pierzynski’s rate of swinging at the initial offering 45 percent of the time (his highest rate since ’02).

Solution: The players seeing regular playing time who could most likely up their walk total are Pedroia (0 walks), Grady Sizemore (3), Daniel Nava (3) and David Ortiz, who has four. The increased patience might also cut into a double play total that is currently the most prolific in the major leagues (17).

EFFECTIVE BASERUNNING

Problem: Much was made of how efficient the Red Sox’ basestealers were a year ago, clocking in at 86 percent. This year they have the second-worst stolen base percentage in the majors, going 4-for-8. After 14 games last season, the Sox success rate stood at 70 percent (12-for-17). The good news is that Red Sox baserunners have only been gunned down twice trying to take an extra base

Solution: Other than re-acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury, this is one that is just going to have to run it’s course. While the Sox still have good baserunners, replacing Ellsbury with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sizemore really is a downgrade in the speed department. Perhaps the biggest step forward they can make in this department is just getting Bradley Jr. and Sizemore more confident to take the extra base (they are currently a combined 3-for-3).

SOME PRODUCTION AT THIRD BASE

Problem: While many will correctly identify the absence of Victorino as a huge hole for the Red Sox, not having a productive Will Middlebrooks has also been a challenge. Middlebrooks appeared to be evolving in a run producer early in the season before tearing his calf muscle four games into the season. The combination of Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Roberts has resulted in a subpar .605 OPS at the position. (Then again, five of the Red Sox’ nine positions have combined OPS’ of under .700.)

Solution: This one is going to require patience. Middlebrooks is still a ways off, having not even run yet. While they will call this a Grade 1 strain, it is basically a tear. And the third baseman learned his lesson from last season when he tried to return from back problems too early. If it does linger, however, — or if such a problem surfaces later in the season — the Garin Cecchini (hitting .310 with a .727 OPS with PawSox) conversation should gain steam.

SITUATIONAL HITTING

Problem: The Red Sox’ inability to get runners in is no secret. They are hitting just .194 with runners in scoring position, and .188 in such situations with two outs. But one under the radar issue that has popped up has been a lack of production from the Sox’ pinch-hitters. They are currently 1-for-10 with no walks and five strikeouts. Last season, this was team that saw their pinch-hitters total a major league-best .359 on-base percentage, along with seven homers.

Solution: Continuity. With the injuries, finding the right guy at the right time has been challenging. The Red Sox rotated a lot of guys in and out last season, but usually those guys had an idea of when and where they were going to be needed. Due to ailments, the lineup structure has been somewhat unpredictable, putting a dent in some players’ comfort zones.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford