Mike Trout caught the attention of Red Sox scouts early on in his high school career.</p>
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Bad luck, or bad baseball?



The way things are going for the Red Sox they can’t win for losing, even when they try to do the right thing to end their misery with runners on base.

Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox are desperately searching for answers. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox are desperately searching for answers. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The way things are going for the Red Sox they can’t win for losing, even when they try to do the right thing to end their misery with runners on base.

If there’s one play that sums up the perfect storm of bad luck and bad execution of the Red Sox with runners in scoring position this season it’s what happened to Xander Bogaerts in the fifth inning of Thursday’s latest anemic loss, 3-1, to the Rangers at Fenway.

With one out, Xander Bogaerts worked a walk. Then with Daniel Nava up, he took off for second base. Nava swung and hit it right into the hole vacated by the second baseman covering the bag. One problem: The right foot of Bogaerts. Namely, the bottom of his cleat. The ball grazed it just enough to change direction and by rule, instead of first and third with one out, Bogaerts was immediately out and Nava given credit for a single.

Sandy Leon struck out swinging to end the inning and the Red Sox still trailed, 3-1.

When things go bad.

“I guess you could say that,” Bogaerts lamented. “Again another tough loss tonight. Probably the play there when I tried to steal and that ball hit me. That was probably the game-changer. I never was aware that ball even touched me until when I came back down [in dugout tunnel] and I saw it on the video monitor. It just scratched the bottom of my cleat or something like that. I didn’t know that ball hit me at all.

“I could’ve bet anything I never felt that ball touched me at all. I was pretty surprised they called me out because I didn’t feel anything. But when you look at the video, you see the deflection of the ball but I had no clue that ball touched me at all.”

Bogaerts at least maintained his sense of humor and perspective when asked how for answers to how the Red Sox can break out of a 5-for-53 slump with runners in scoring position.

“If the ball stops hitting us,” Bogaerts said. “That was first and third right there. The baseball field is so big. What are the chances the ball is going to hit me on the bottom of my cleat? Are you kidding me? It’s weird.”

The Red Sox are now batting a measly .234 with runners on. Only Seattle (.232) and Cincinnati (.228) are worse in MLB. Put runners on and it’s even worse. The Red Sox are batting .199 in such cases and only the hapless Reds are worse at .189. Certainly, no one could’ve imagined this for a team that had such an offensive overhaul in the offseason.

At 19-22, it’s all leading to equal parts surprise and frustration.

“Both. I don’t think anyone saw the offense like the way it is right now,” Bogaerts said. “Frustrated, obviously, because you hit the ball hard so many times and it’s right at someone. And today, it’s right at me. I don’t even know how the ball hit me, still.”

Bogaerts is actually one of the few Red Sox with a respectable average at .260 and a decent mark (.276) with runners in scoring position. Does he have any answers?

“You have a lot of great players, a lot of guys with great track records, All-Star caliber guys,” Bogaerts said. “We just keep coming in here and working every day and trusting in ourselves, trusting in our hitting coaches. Even the pitchers are doing a great job. Just keep competing.

“I really don’t think we’re pressing hard at all. [Wednesday] we had so many hard hit balls. Today, I guess you can’t say the same but I don’t think we’re pressing at all.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Clay Buchholz threw his team-leading sixth quality start of the season despite the Red Sox' loss. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz threw his team-leading sixth quality start of the season despite the Red Sox‘ loss. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine any positive from the Red Sox‘ 3-1 loss to the Rangers in the final game of a three-game set where the Rangers took two-of-three from the Sox at Fenway, but there actually was one in starter Clay Buchholz.

The right-hander continued to ride the train that the Red Sox starters have been on of late, going at least five innings and allowing two earned runs in eight straight games, and going at least six innings in seven of those eight games.

Buchholz went 7 1/3 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, while walking two and striking out four. It was his team-leading sixth quality start and third straight.

“[I felt like] I threw the ball well,” Buchholz said. “First inning, Bogey [Bogaerts] tried to turn a double play, didn’t get a handle on the ball.  That guy is pretty quick, so lost him right there and he scored. Other than that a solo home run. If you’re going to give up home runs, a solo home run is the way to go. Surprised the ball got out. Right when he hit it I thought it was going to be off the wall for sure, but it just kept going. Strong man. But yeah, overall I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Mixed pitches. It was unfortunate.”

The Rangers scored two runs in the first — on the same play. With the bases loaded and one out, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts were looking to turn a double play, but Bogaerts couldn’t make the tranfer as he dropped the ball when he went to turn the double play (ruled an error). Two runs scored, the second being unearned and the Rangers took a quick 2-0 lead.

They scored again in the fourth when Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer, giving the the Rangers a 3-0 lead at the time.

Aside from the first inning, Buchholz pitched very well. After the first inning he allowed only three hits — two to Moreland and only one from the second through the sixth. He allowed a lead off single in the eighth, and after a sacrifice bunt, he was removed from the game, his second-longest outing of the season.

“I thought Clay certainly gave us a chance to win this ballgame,” manager John Farrell said. “They score a second run on an attempted double play in the first to give them a 2-0 lead and then a cutter that stayed on the outside of the plate to Moreland is the extent of their offense. Going into the eighth inning, kept his pitch count well in check and through the middle innings I thought he did an outstanding job to get that deep.”

Buchholz finished with 12 swing and misses, per Brooksbaseball.net. This comes after he got 19 in his last start against the Mariners, but 12 is right at his season average of 12.1.

Despite the poor performances from the Red Sox offense of late — averaging 2.32 runs per game in the month of May — the pitching staff has seemingly done a 180 from what it was like in the beginning of the season.

“It was a work in progress for a couple times through, but yeah we know what we have to do,” said Buchholz. “It’s not like we didn’t know what we had to do prior. But made it more of a focus to pitch with intent instead of being afraid to throw a pitch. Throw it and make sure that you throw it to a location that you want to throw it to and be convicted in it and that makes any pitcher better. It’s hard to be convicted in a pitch whenever you’re getting hit around. So that’s the difference. So hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

If you’re left-handed, grab a glove — you might be able to shut out the Red Sox.

Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez

If you’re left-handed, grab a glove — you might be able to shut out the Red Sox.

In what easily goes down as the most mystifying facet of a mystifying season, the Red Sox once again on Thursday night illustrated how hopelessly overmatched they are against southpaws of any shape or size.

This time it was Wandy Rodriguez’s turn. The Rangers lefty began the game 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA, but the Red Sox made him look like Lefty Grove. Rodriguez limited the Sox to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five.

The Red Sox entered the matchup batting just .199 against lefties, and that number dropped after Rodriguez finished with them. He particularly baffled them with a curveball that he used as a two-strike hammer.

The Red Sox also once again showed an inability to take advantage of what few opportunities they created.

They put runners at second and third leading off the fourth and scored just once on a David Ortiz groundout, squandering another run when Hanley Ramirez swung for the fences and instead dribbled one in front of home plate, allowing Rodriguez to erase Dustin Pedroia at the plate.

An inning later, they had a chance for runners on the corners with one out, but Xander Bogaerts was clipped in the cleat by a hit-and-run Daniel Nava single and called out for interference.

That was about it for the Red Sox, who wasted a gutty start by right-hander Clay Buchholz, who lacked fastball command for most of the night, but nonetheless navigated his way into the eighth inning while allowing just two earned runs.

Buchholz made just one real mistake, an 0-1 cutter that Mitch Moreland ripped into the left field seats for a solo homer in the fourth. Otherwise, the Rangers did very little after scratching out two runs in the first.

Two runs was about all they’d need, though, against an anemic Red Sox offense that isn’t just struggling against lefties, it’s struggling against everyone.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Rangers left-hander Wandy Rodriguez toyed with the Red Sox for most of the night, limiting them to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

WHAT WENT RIGHT
— After a rough first that included an unearned run, Buchholz settled down and maneuvered his way through 7 1/3 innings. He struck out four and lowered his ERA to 4.58.

— Bogaerts was about it offensively, stroking a pair of singles and drawing a walk.

— 2B Dustin Pedroia didn’t do anything offensively, but he made a trio of nice plays in the field, diving to smother the final out of the second, turning a strong double play while getting upended in the seventh, and gloving a Prince Fielder smash to end the eighth with runners on the corners.

WHAT WENT WRONG
— Buchholz allowed two runs in the first and the Red Sox eventually dropped to 7-19 when the opponent scores first.

— Slumping Daniel Nava managed one hit, though Bogaerts was erased on interference. Otherwise, he struck out with a runner on in the second and with two on in the seventh, dropping his average to .172.

— First baseman Mike Napoli went 0 for 4 and struck out three times.

— Left fielder Hanley Ramirez swung for the fences with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth, dribbling weakly to the mound and getting Pedroia cut down at the plate.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase
Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

Rarely is there a buzz and an electric atmosphere with a Single-A game, but that has been the case all week with the professional debut of 19-year-old, highly touted Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada with Single-A Greenville.

After he signed a minor league contract that featured a $31.5 million signing bonus on March 12, the Cuban prospect spent a little over a month extra in spring training to get acclimated to the American game and since he hadn’t played organized baseball in over a year.

Sunday night it was announced the second baseman’s professional debut would be Monday and it officially became Moncada Mania.

“We haven’t had somebody in our organization since I’ve been around anyway that has got this kind of attention for their debut,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett said. “He’s handled it really well. I think our job and our goal is to put him in the best position to handle some of those things and something he’s balanced really well.

“He’s handled the attention. He’s handled the extra interviews and things like that that some of the other guys don’t have to do. As far as his very short stint here he hasn’t shied away from the spotlight playing games in a packed ballpark and an electric type of environment.”

Going into Thursday night, Moncada had gone 4-for-12 with three runs scored in three games.

Moncada had spent some time with his new teammates when they were together in Fort Myers.

Infielder Mauricio Dubon was one of the first players Moncada made a connection with in Florida, and Dubon has noticed a big difference in the type of player Moncada is now, compared to back in March when he first signed.

“Oh yeah, he’s way better,” Dubon said via phone Thursday. “I understand it’s spring training and he went a year without playing ball. He looks more comfortable. He’s a great player. He’s a really good player.”

MANAGING THE LOG JAM

Even before Moncada joined Greenville, there were a number of talented infielders with the team — 2014 first-round pick Michael Chavis (third base), 18-year-old International free agent signing Rafael Devers (third base), 2012 International free agent signing Javier Guerra (shortstop), 2013 26th round pick Dubon (shortstop/second base) and 2013 30th round pick Nick Longhi (first base).

Devers leads the team hitting .325, while Guerra is third hitting .299. While Chavis’ average isn’t where he wants it (.219), he’s shown some power with four home runs.

Two of those infielders, three including Moncada, were acquired as International free agents, something the Red Sox have taken full advantage of recent years. Crockett noted how important that market has become for the organization.

“It’s certainly very important both the work that Eddie Romero and the International scouts do as well, Mike Rikard, and the amateur scouts, they are very important for bringing in talent like this,” Crockett said. “I think some it’s one of the most impactful things we can do as an organization.”

Having this many star prospects sharing playing time may get frustrating for some of the players, but they seem to be enjoying it and feeding off one another.

“It’s fun. If you want to be the best, you have to be better than the best,” Dubon said. “It’s fun playing with these guys. It makes you better because they push you and you push them.”

From a developmental perspective, this could hurt as the players might not be playing as much as they would without having the number of talented players that they do, but Crockett explained they would be getting days off anyway, as a way to adjust to most of their first full season’s of professional baseball.

“I think it limits flexibility, certainly, but I think as young players at their first professional season level, guys aren’t playing everyday anyway,” explained Crockett. “Really up until you get to Double-A and Triple-A are guys playing a lot. I think at the A-ball level guys are playing five or six days a week with intentionally getting a couple of days off making sure they are making that adjustment to playing a full season. We feel as the off days we would be giving them no matter who is [with Greenville].”

CHECKING IN WITH CHAVIS

The No. 26 overall pick of last year’s draft isn’t off to the best of starts with Single-A Greenville this year, his first full professional season. Drafted out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, he’s transitioned to playing third base full time — still adjusting, but making strides.

At the plate he has a batting line of: .219/.276/.395, with four home runs in his first 29 games to go along with 18 RBIs. He has struck out 43 times in 123 plate appearances, and Crockett noted he’s working on finding his approach.

“From what we’ve seen, the transition to third base has gone well,” Crockett said. “He certainly has shown some good strides from last year. He played third base as an amateur as well, but definitely something he continues to get more comfortable with. He’s worked really hard on that and looks more confident and relaxed there now when he first came in. Offensively, he has some impressive raw power as well as bat speed and has shown his ability to hit. It’s just a matter of refining his approach at the plate and continue to improve.”

NOT QUITE THEIR TIME

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

Before the Red Sox’ resurgence from the mound, seven straight games the starter has gone at least six innings allowing two earned runs or less, there were some people calling for Brian Johnson or Eduardo Rodriguez to be called up as a way to rejuvenate the rotation.

Those two players aren’t even thinking about potential call ups whenever those may be, which would be their major league debut.

“I don’t really have a mindset on it,” the 6-foot-4 left-hander said last week. “I just worry about pitching, the task at hand. I am worried about my Day 2 side right now. I can’t make any of those decisions. The only decision I can make is getting better on the field every day.”

“You know you have no control over it,” he added. “The only control you have is what takes place on the field and how hard you work.”

Rodriguez, who came over from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade last July, feels the same way.

“I don’t think like that,” he said last week. “I am just thinking about doing my job here. If they give me the chance I get it. If not, I am still here doing what I can.”

The left-hander is 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA through his first seven starts of the year. He said he feels much more comfortable than he did last season just after coming over via trade. Ironically, last season in six starts with Portland he went 3-1 with an 0.96 ERA.

“I am feeling a lot better here,” Rodriguez said. “Last year I was moving. To get here and do my job, working more on my pitches, I feel a lot better.”

Johnson remarkably has had 26 starts since the start of last year allowing one earned run or less. Through seven starts this year he is 5-2 with a 2.65 ERA.

“I have no idea, to be honest,” said Johnson of his stats. “I don’t really worry about too much. Just go out there and have fun.”

3 STARS OF THE WEEK

1. Oscar Tejeda, 3B, Portland — Tejada is on a tear of late, with an eight-game hit streak, including three games with three or more hits. Over the eight games he’s batting .444.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B, Greenville — Despite all the attention surrounding Moncada this week, Devers has stolen some of his thunder, as the third baseman has six hits in his last five games and is hitting .333 in that span, scoring eight runs.

3. Kevin Heller, RF, Salem — Heller extended his on-base streak to 11 consecutive games with a walk Wednesday night. He’s hitting .314 on the year for Salem after hitting just .132 in 13 games in Double-A Portland earlier this year.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Shane Victorino was in the original lineup posted shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, but just a few minutes later a revised one was sent out with Victorino scratched and Daniel Nava inserted to make his third straight start in right field.

Shane Victorino was in the original lineup posted shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, but just a few minutes later a revised one was sent out with Victorino scratched and Daniel Nava inserted to make his third straight start in right field.