For the first time this year, Henry Owens has allowed four runs in back-to-back starts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

For the first time this year, Henry Owens has allowed four runs in back-to-back starts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

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– While Deven Marrero could well end up emerging long term as the Red Sox shortstop, any idea that such a turn of events is imminent overlooks his offensive struggles in Pawtucket. Marrero went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Friday. He’s 0-for-13 with five punchouts in his last four games, and in 17 games since July 27, he’s hitting .131/.182/.230, with both his average and OBP the lowest in the International League during that time. The slump has dropped his Triple-A line to .235/.281/.324, a far cry from the .291/.371/.433 line he posted in Portland prior to his promotion.

It’s worth recalling that, a year ago, Marrero struggled after his mid-year promotion to Double-A, hitting .236/.321/.236 in 19 games. By the time he returned to Portland for the start of this year, he was ready to hold his own as a hitter. (His defense is considered a given, as he’s already an above-average big league defensive shortstop.) So, he’ll have to prove himself in similar fashion next year in Pawtucket to open the year. If he can do that, then depending on the Sox’ needs, Marrero could position himself for a midyear call-up. But for an organization that endured lineup vulnerability thanks in part to the struggles of players who were at a very early stage of their transitions to the big leagues, the idea of being patient with Marrero in Triple-A has obvious logic.

– Left-hander Henry Owens allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. It marked the first time all season that the 22-year-old has allowed three or more runs in back-to-back outings (he also permitted four in his previous start on Aug. 10). Though he permitted some hard contact in the form of a pair of homers, Owens did attack the strike zone in noteworthy fashion, throwing 60 of 84 pitches (71 percent) for strikes, getting 12 swings and misses, punching out seven and walking none. In three starts spanning 17 2/3 innings, Owens now has a 4.08 ERA with 21 punchouts and just five walks.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-1 WIN VS. RICHMOND (GIANTS)

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– Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez submitted another dominant outing, his third straight since getting dealt from the Orioles to the Red Sox at the deadline, scattering eight hits (seven singles and a double) while permitting one run over six innings, walking none and punching out seven. Since he joined Portland, he has three straight outings of at least seven strikeouts, having totaled 23 (11.9 per nine innings) while walking four (2.1 per nine innings) and working to a 1.04 ERA.

The 21-year-old has stuff that ranks among the most impressive in the Sox’ starting pitching prospect pool. He sits at 93-94 mph with his fastball, dialing up or down anywhere from 90-97. He shows an above-average changeup and flashes a slider with the potential to be an above-average offering.

– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz continued one of the most impressive offensive stretches of his pro career, going 2-for-3 with a homer (his second in three games) and walk. In 13 August games, the 22-year-old is hitting .356/.434/.600 with seven extra-base hits and, perhaps most strikingly, seven walks, to boost his season line to .294/.323/.426 in 56 games. The walks are striking given that he didn’t walk once in July and had just three walks in his first two months of a season that didn’t start till June (the result of a season-opening stint on the DL).

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 WIN (11 INNINGS) VS. MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

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– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in his Salem debut. For more on why Margot was in position for the promotion, see Friday’s roundup.

– Though he walked six, left-hander Cody Kukuk continued a stretch in which opponents simply haven’t been able to hit his stuff. For the fourth straight start, he allowed two hits, and for the ninth straight, the 21-year-old with a mid- to high-90s fastball, sometimes-wipeout slider and changeup limited his opponents to three or fewer runs. In eight starts since the start of July, he has a 1.98 ERA with opponents hitting .189 against him. He’s punched out 44 and walked 25 in 36 1/3 innings, resulting in a familiar refrain: His stuff is tremendous, and he’s typically his own worst enemy given his control struggles.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 16-4 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)

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– Left-hander Trey Ball saw his string of five straight strong outings hit a pothole, as he got shelled for nine runs (five earned) on five hits, including two homers (the first time he’d been taken deep since July 11). Not only was he hittable in the strike zone, but he struggled to find it, as he matched a season high with four walks allowed and threw just 29 of 56 pitches (51.8 percent) for strikes — one of the worst strike percentages of the year for a pitcher who is typically well over 60 percent in his strike rate. His ERA jumped back over 5.00, reaching the 5.22 mark.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 1-for-3 with a double and a pair of walks, improving to .258/.349/.429 with 39 extra-base hits in 99 games this year. To put that precocious performance in context: Rijo is one of five players who has been on the field for at least 25 games in his age 18 (or younger) season in the South Atlantic League this year. None of the others has an average above .243, an OBP above .299 or a slugging mark above .329. So, his performance suggests the offensive profile of a player who has a very advanced feel for hitting.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-0 WIN AT HUDSON VALLEY (RAYS)

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– Right-hander Kevin McAvoy showed a dominant sinker, eliciting groundball outs from six of the 10 batters he faced while allowing one hit (a single) and one walk in three shutout innings. Of the balls put in play against him in his pro debut, the 2014 fourth-rounder has elicited groundballs on a staggering 71.4 percent of them.

– Outfielder Joseph Monge went 1-for-3 with a double. In 16 games since his promotion from the GCL, the 19-year-old is now hitting .283/.339/.340.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: RAINED OUT VS. GCL TWINS

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. DSL MARINERS

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– Right-hander Daniel Gonzalez continued his dominant season, logging six shutout innings in which he permitted two hits, walked none and punched out three to improve to 9-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last three starts spanning 17 innings with 16 strikeouts and one walk.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

The Red Sox play the third game of their four-game series against the Astros on Saturday night when they send Rubby De La Rosa to the mound against Brad Peacock.

De La Rosa (4-4, 3.21 ERA) is on a streak of three straight quality starts after an exceptional performance against the Angels last Sunday. The right-hander pitched into the eighth inning the day after the Sox exhausted their bullpen in a 19-inning marathon, and remained strong deep into the game. De La Rosa’s only run allowed came on a leadoff home run by Mike Trout that ended his outing. He scattered five hits, walked three and struck out eight for the win.

“We needed Rubby to go deep, and he did,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “He pitched with a lot of poise. He threw three pitches for strikes.” 

After getting torched for seven runs over four innings in Toronto on July 24, De La Rosa appears to have turned the corner, allowing five runs in his last 19 innings. Most importantly, he’s finally shown he can pitch away from Fenway, posting a 1.38 ERA in his last two starts on the road.

De La Rosa should enjoy being back at home, however. The 25-year-old is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts at Fenway this season. He hasn’t faced the Astros since a scoreless inning of relief in Houston last season in which he struck out two. De La Rosa is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three appearances (one start) against the Astros, with the first two appearances coming in 2011.

After giving up 15 combined runs in consecutive starts, Peacock (3-8, 5.25 ERA) bounced back nicely in his start against the Twins on Monday. The righty gave up two runs (one earned) on seven hits over five innings in a no-decision. He walked one and struck out five. 

“When you look at the pitch count, after that first inning you didn’t think he’s made it through five,” Astros manager Bo Porter said after the game. “He found a way to make it through five innings. It was better command, but at the same time it was a lot of deep counts. There was some high leverage to those innings as well.”

Saturday will be Peacock’s second start against the Red Sox this season. If this upcoming start is anything like the last, it’ll be good news for the Red Sox. The 26-year-old got just one batter out before being pulled from the game, forcing the Astros to use five relievers in an 11-0 loss.

Peacock gave up two hits, a walk and a run on a leadoff homer to Brock Holt. He threw 27 pitches for the game. He’s 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in two career starts against the Red Sox.

Astros vs. De La Rosa (RHP)

Dexter Fowler (4 plate appearances): .333 AVG/.500 OBP/.333 SLG, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Carlos Corporan (3): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Jose Altuve and Marc Krauss are both hitless in their lone plate appearances.

Red Sox vs. Peacock (RHP)

Yoenis Cespedes (10 plate appearamces): .333 AVG/.400 OBP/1.000 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 walk 4 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (4): .333/.500/.667, 1 double

Dustin Pedroia (4): .667/.750/.667, 1 walk

Mike Napoli (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (3): 1.000/1.000/1.500, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 1 walk

Will Middlebrooks is 1-for-2 with a double in two plate appearances.

Brock Holt homered in his lone plate appearance.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

It seemed as if everything was in place for a Red Sox victory Friday night.

Clay Buchholz gave his team a chance to win, holding the Astros to just two earned runs over seven innings of work, while Brock Holt‘€™s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh gave Boston a late 3-2 lead.

However, both the lead and the game quickly changed course in the top of the eighth, all due to a head-scratching and bizarre series of defensive mistakes.

With runners on first and second for Houston with two outs, Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez hit a liner that jumped up in front of Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts, looking to end the inning, attempted to get the out at second, but Dexter Fowler beat the force out.

Dustin Pedroia then immediately threw to home in an attempt to nab Gregorio Petit, who was attempting to score on the play. Christian Vazquez caught the ball and attempted to tag out Petit in a rundown, but took an odd angle that allowed Petit to avoid the tag and sneak past the Sox catcher on the basepaths.

“It’€™s a tough play. … [Pedroia] threw the ball to home plate and I was running to the runner to do a rundown and he came on the other side,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez then flipped the ball to reliever Burke Bandenhop at home, who fumbled the throw, allowing Petit to score and tie the game at 3 runs apiece.

“A strange play with two outs,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game. “Fowler, at first base, does a good job of getting to second base in short order, but Dominguez hits a little bit of a humpback liner that Xander’€™s got to lay back on, and if the anticipation might have been where the speed of Fowler doesn’€™t give him a shot at the feed at second base, then does he possibly take the throw across the infield to get Dominguez, who is probably a little bit of a below-average runner.”

“But then I think [Pedroia] makes a heads-up play, even after the safe sign is called, and Christian’€™s aggressiveness to run him back to third base, his momentum takes him inside the third-base line and gives Petit enough room to elude a tag, and unfortunately that’€™s a tie ballgame in that spot.”

After the game, both Farrell and Bogaerts admitted that the whole situation could have been avoided if Bogaerts had attempted to get the final out at first base.

“€œHe was close at second, but, I mean, I could have thrown to first,”€ Bogaerts said. “If that guy didn’€™t make a great move at the play at home plate, he probably would’€™ve been out.”

“Again, when he’€™s got to lay back on it, whether or not he’€™s familiar with the running speed of Fowler,”€ Farrell said. “You can say sitting here, in hindsight, ‘€˜Yeah, take the play across the infield for the putout at first base.’ But his instincts were to go the short way with a feed to [Pedroia].”

The play ended up being costly for Boston, as the Astros would eventually tack on two more runs in the top of the 10th en route to a 5-3 Houston win.

While the 2014 campaign has been filled with its fair share of growing pains for a rookie like Bogaerts, the Sox shortstop admitted that his latest misstep – which played a role in erasing both a 3-2 lead and a four-game winning streak -particularly hurt.

“€œWe’€™re playing great baseball,”€ Bogaerts said. “I think we had a four or five-game winning streak, so for us to lose that way, after that go-ahead base hit, after Vazquez saw the ball go off the dirt and went to second base and Brock got that hit. That was pretty frustrating right there.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

After fouling a ball off his right foot in his second at-bat (third inning), Dustin Pedroia was forced to exit the Red Sox‘€™ Friday night game.

After fouling a ball off his right foot in his second at-bat (third inning), Dustin Pedroia was forced to exit the Red Sox‘€™ Friday night game.

The second baseman left what resulted in the Sox’€™ 5-3 loss after running out a ground ball in the bottom of the eighth inning.

‘€œHe fouled a ball off the right foot. He came out, obviously, he’€™s sore,’€ said Red Sox manager John Farrell. ‘€œWe’€™ll check him in the morning to see, or when he reports tomorrow, to see if he’€™s available. He’€™s a little bit sore after [Saturday night].’€

After the game, Pedroia underwent a Fluoroscan that proved negative. In 2010, he underwent surgery after fouling a ball off his left foot.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Entering Friday night, the Astros had a career record of 0-8 at Fenway Park, while the Red Sox possessed a bizarre mark of 0-14 on actor Ben Affleck

David Ortiz and the Red Sox saw their four-game win streak come to an end. (Getty Images)

David Ortiz and the Red Sox saw their four-game win streak come to an end. (Getty Images)

Entering Friday night, the Astros had a career record of 0-8 at Fenway Park, while the Red Sox possessed a bizarre mark of 0-14 on actor Ben Affleck‘s birthday dating back to 1997 – the same year that “Good Will Hunting” was released in theaters.

Something had to give.

In the end, the Astros were able to come away with the win, as Houston right fielder  Jake Marisnick drove in two runs on a ground-rule double in the 10th inning to give the Astros a 5-3 victory at Fenway Park. The loss snaps Boston’s brief four-game win streak.

Starter Clay Buchholz put together another encouraging outing, holding Houston to seven hits, two earned runs and two walks over seven innings while striking out nine Astros batters.

Houston starter Dallas Keuchel got off to a good start against the Red Sox lineup, striking out four and only surrendering an infield single through the first three innings.

Boston was finally able to get on the board in the fourth inning, as Yoenis Cespedes laced a slider from Keuchel into the Green Monster seats for a two-run homer, giving Boston a 2-0 lead.

Houston left fielder Robbie Grossman almost single-handedly helped the Astros get back into the game, collecting an RBI single off Buchholz in the fifth before jumping on a first-pitch cutter from the Sox starter in the seventh and driving it into the right-field seats for a solo home run, knotting the game at two runs apiece.

Boston would quickly regain the lead in the bottom of the seventh, as Holt singled home Christian Vazquez to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead, but a bizarre defensive breakdown involving Xander Bogaerts, Vazquez and reliever Burke Badenhop in the eighth allowed the Astros to once again tie the score, 3-3. Vazquez, who was attempting to tag out an advancing Gregorio Petit at home, received a throwing error on the play after botching a throw to Badenhop at home, allowing Petit to cross the plate.

The game would remain tied until the top of the 10th. After Craig Breslow allowed the first three Houston batters to reach base with no outs, the Astros capitalized, as Marisnick lofted a 2-0 fastball from Junichi Tazawa into right field that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring two and giving the Astros a lead that they would not renounce.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 55-66 on the year.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX 

– Bogaerts did not do much to help Boston’s offense Friday night, putting forth an 0-4 showing while leaving three men on base.

– While Jackie Bradley Jr. looked like he was ready to break out of offensive malaise by collecting hits in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, the Boston center fielder took a step backwards Friday, striking out twice en route to an 0-3 showing. Bradley has struck out in 20 of his last 41 at-bats.

– Dustin Pedroia was unable to replicate his 3-for-5 performance Thursday, finishing the game 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- While he may not have earned the win Friday night, Buchholz continued to bolster his impressive track record against the Astros. In three career starts against Houston, Buchholz is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA. Two of Buchholz’s four career double-digit strikeout performances have come against the Astros.

– Holt finished the game 2-for-5, extending his hit streak to nine games in a row. After struggling through a 3-for-35 slump from July 22 – Aug. 1, Holt has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games with a .264 average (14-for-53).

– It appears that Cespedes’€™ shin is doing just fine. After leaving Thursday’€™s game in the eighth inning after fouling a pitch off his leg, Cespedes returned to his productive ways Friday, crushing an 0-2 offering from Keuchel into the Green Monster seats in the fourth for his 20th home run of the year – his first career dinger at Fenway Park.

Cespedes -€“ who has now slugged three home runs over his last five games -€“ has driven in 10 runs in 12 games with Boston.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Allen Craig‘€™s eventual return to the Red Sox lineup draws closer and closer.

The right fielder has only played in one game with Boston after being acquired on July 31 in a trade-deadline deal with the Cardinals that send Craig and Joe Kelly to the Red Sox for John Lackey.

In his debut with the Red Sox on Aug. 1, Craig tweaked his ankle in his final at-bat while attempting to run out a grounder at first. Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Friday’s game against the Astros that he expects Craig to begin an assignment down in the minors within the next few days.

“€œWe’€™re hopeful that he goes out on a rehab assignment early this coming week -€“ possibly as early as Monday,” Farrell said. “€œHe came out of yesterday’€™s work of full BP, some running in the outfield, in good fashion. He’€™ll go through three more days of work prior to heading out.”

– Catcher David Ross, sidelined since Aug. 2 with a plantar fascia tear, continues to improve after taking part in a variety of baseball activities over the last few days.

While Farrell said that it’€™s looking more and more likely that Ross will not need to take part in a rehab assignment, he added the veteran catcher still has some big milestones to reach before he is able to return behind the dish.

“We’€™ve still got to get some steps accomplished with David,” Farrell said. “He’€™s set to catch a bullpen or two today. He started to do a little bit more running yesterday and came out of it feeling OK, so he’€™s making adequate progress as well.”

Other Red Sox Notes:

– Despite exiting Thursday’€™s game early after fouling a pitch off his shin in the seventh inning, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes is still penciled into the Sox starting lineup, batting fourth. Farrell said that Cespedes, who has driven in eight runs in 11 games with Boston, showed up at the ballpark in much better shape Friday.

“He fouled a ball off his shin,” Farrell said. “He was starting to limp around. He doesn’€™t want to relent to coming out of the game, you have to take it out of his hands. But he came in today ready to go and he’€™s back in the lineup today.”

– Catcher Christian Vazquez‘€™s great play behind the plate has drawn praise from many, including Farrell. When asked, Farrell said that the team is confident in Vazquez’€™s ability to make the right plays on defense, especially when it comes to making risky throws in an attempt to throw out base stealers.

“€œWe turn him loose,” Farrell said. “We give him the green light, if you will, to be aggressive. I think [PawSox manager] Kevin Boles has done a good job of monitoring that and maybe some situations where they’€™ve had to pull him back a little bit. We’€™ll remind him, in those one-run games, particularly if we’€™re up a run, maybe to temper some of that aggressiveness rather than give 90 feet or potentially two bases if it’€™s a throw down the right-field corner. But the one thing he’€™s shown in his throws behind runners or his trips to the mound or his game calling, the instincts are very, very good for a young player.”

– Despite Vazquez’€™s talents on both defense and offense (12 RBIs in 22 games), Farrell said that the rookie catcher’€™s solid debut has not given the team incentive to not rush Ross off the DL as soon as possible.

“Once [Ross] went on the 15-day DL, it was a minimum of that many days, so he’€™s likely to be right at that 15-day mark – 15, 16 days -€“ until he’€™s ready to come back. Christian’€™s play really hasn’€™t affected the total number of days missed by David.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

The Red Sox announced their first eight official international amateur signings of the year, headlined by a pair of right-handed pitchers who rank among the most impressive in this year’s class.

The Red Sox announced their first eight official international amateur signings of the year, headlined by a pair of right-handed pitchers who rank among the most impressive in this year’s class. Both Anderson Espinoza and Christopher Acosta represent pitchers with the arsenals to suggest potential big league starters, with the projectability to suggest the possibility of pitchers capable of making a considerable impact in a rotation.

The Sox regard the pair so highly that they were willing to blow past their allocated pool of approximately $1.9 million to do so. The team has signed Espinoza for $1.8 million and Acosta for $1.5 million. Not only will the team pay a 100 percent tax on its overage beyond the recommended bonus pool, but it will likewise punt on the opportunity to sign any international amateurs to bonuses in excess of $300,000 in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing seasons. That decision underscores the high regard in which the Sox hold Espinoza and Acosta, along with other players who have either signed or whose agreements are expected to become official once approved by Major League Baseball in the coming months.

Anderson Espinoza: RHP, Venezuela

16 years old, 6-foot-1, 165 pounds

Considered perhaps the best 16-year-old international amateur in this year’s class, Espinoza is a strike-thrower who works fast, shows good feel for pitching and was ultra-competitive in games. He features an advanced three-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup.

Christopher Acosta: RHP, Dominican Republic

16 years old, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

Acosta was also viewed as one of the top arms in this year’s international amateur class, with a heavy 88-92 mph that has considerable movement from his low three-quarters arm slot. Like Espinoza, he’s a strike-thrower who shows a feel for how to use his three-pitch mix. His changeup grades as above average, while his slider flashes potential.

Roniel Raudes: RHP, Nicaragua

16 years old, 6-foot-1, 160 pounds

Jhosmer Cortez: RHP, Nicaragua

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 160 pounds

Raudes and Cortez are the Sox’ first signings out of Nicaragua in recent years. Both are 16 with lean, projectable frames and quick arms. Raudes has a mid-80s fastball and a very good breaking ball with formidable mound presence. Cortez has a mid-80s fastball with sink from a three-quarters arm slot; hitters simply couldn’t square up the offering.

Nicolo Clemente: RHP, Italy

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 170 pounds

Clemente is believed to represent the Sox’ first signing in Italy. He’s a six-footer with a quick arm.

Luis Colmenares: LHP, Venezuela

16 years old, 6-foot-0, 175 pounds

Colmenares came on late in the signing season, showing an 87-88 mph fastball and athleticism. While he’ll likely enter the system as a starter, his likeliest long-term projection is as a reliever.

Elwin Tejeda: 3B

16 years old, 6-foot-2, 155 pounds

A lean, athletic third baseman who shows an advanced feel for hitting, squaring the ball up and using the whole field. He has an average arm at third, good hands and solid game makeup.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier