Red Sox surrender 8 in 8th, lose to Cubs

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Red Sox surrender 8 in 8th, lose to Cubs

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- "They said the world was going to end today?" a rueful Terry Francona said Saturday night. "It felt like it in the eighth inning."

Hard to argue from a Red Sox point of view.

In one of the ugliest innings of this (or any) season, the Sox gave up five hits and two walks, committed two Little League errors, and allowed the Cubs to score eight runs in the eighth inning, turning a 3-1 Boston lead into a 9-3 Cubs victory at Fenway Park.

Francona said the team had decided before the weekend to rest Daniel Bard on Friday and Saturday -- "We've been leaning on him too much recently" -- and thus the eighth inning, which is normally Bard Time, was entrusted to Matt Albers. Albers failed to retire any of the six batters he faced (and in fact allowed all of them to score) and newly acquired Franklin Morales wasn't a whole lot better (two hits, two runs).

"The rest will do Bard a world of good," said Francona. "It didn't do us a world of good tonight."

The Sox had built their lead on the strength of a two-run homer by David Ortiz in the fourth inning and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth. But they squandered chance after chance to increase the lead -- they stranded 11 runners through the first seven innings and were their usual putrid selves (1-for-9) with runners in scoring position -- and left themselves vulnerable for the type of comeback the Cubs mounted in the eighth.

And that comeback was aided by Albers, who allowed back-to-back singles, back-to-back walks, and a two-run double to the first five batters he faced; shortstop Jed Lowrie, who dropped a popup hit by the sixth and final batter Albers faced and allowed another run to score; and third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who flubbed a throw on a rundown from catcher Jason Varitek that resulted in two more Chicago runs, turning a 5-3 game into a 7-3 game.

As a result, the Sox missed a chance to move into first place in the A.L. East, as they couldn't capitalize on Tampa Bay's loss to Florida.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was 0-for-3 heading into the eighth inning, but he played a key role with two hits in Chicago's eight-run rally. His first -- a single after Darwin Barney had led off with a single -- set the table, putting runners at first and second with no outs for the 4-5-6 hitters. And his second, a double over the head of left fielder Carl Crawford, drove in Kosuke Fukudome with Chicago's final run.

Castro now has 61 hits, third in the major leagues, and lifted his average to .326.

HONORABLE MENTION
Hard to "honor" someone from a team that lost 9-3, but Alfredo Aceves qualifies. Thrust into the rotation by the injuries to John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, he worked five strong innings in his first start of the season, allowing only three hits and one run. He did his job, departing after 86 pitches and handing the bullpen a 3-1 lead.

"He gave us a little bit more than we could have asked for," said Terry Francona. "He gave us a good chance to win the game."
THE GOAT
Who else? Poor Matt Albers saw his ERA jump from 1.56 to 4.15 with a 0-inning, 3-hit, 6-run, 2-walk disaster.

"Obviously I knew with Bard down tonight I was probably going to have the eighth inning and it worked out great, we had the lead to that point," said Albers. "I just didnt do my job."

With Bard unavailable, the Sox, who had already used Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill earlier in the game, were down to two pitchers -- Franklin Morales and Jonathan Papelbon -- behind Albers. So when the inning (very quickly) started to unravel, Terry Francona felt he had little choice but to stick with Albers.

"We only had Pap and Morales," Francona said. "If we were fortunate enough to tie the game in the eighth and bring in Papelbon for the ninth, if they'd used Morales in the eighth there's nobody else behind Papelbon. That's why Albers had to get them out."

Except he didn't.

TURNING POINT
It was still close at 5-3 when Darwin Barney came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. He hit a fly ball to J.D. Drew in medium-deep right field, and the runner on third, Alfonso Soriano, went about a third of way down the line and decided not to test Drew's arm. However, the runner on second, Jeff Baker, thought Soriano was going, so he tagged and headed to third.

Catcher Jason Varitek took Drew's throw and saw both Soriano and Baker near third base. He fired the ball to third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who only had to tag Soriano and get the Sox out of the inning trailing by only two runs.

But Youkilis botched the throw. It went off his glove and into left field, allowing both Soriano AND Baker to score. A 5-3 game had turned into a 7-3 game, and the Sox were done.

BY THE NUMBERS: 47
The number of pitches thrown by Matt Albers and Franklin Morales during the Cubs' eight-run rally in the eighth.

QUOTE OF NOTE
"The eighth inning really unraveled. We dropped balls, we threw them away . . . it just got a little bit ugly." -- Terry Francona, slightly understating Chicago's eight-run eighth.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk,

 

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth that can’t just be blissfully ignored.

The pound of flesh Roger Goodell extracted from the Patriots in the form of Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension is starting to hurt.

Friday night, we watched the less-than-ideal quarterback rotation between Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo unfold. 

Garoppolo completed a 17-yard dart to Aaron Dobson on his first throw of the night. He completed eight of his next 14 for 40 yards – an ugly yards per attempt average of 3 – took a sack, threw a would-be pick and had a fumble. He looked skittish, indecisive and a thousand miles away from being in total command.

The Brady suspension was designed to punish the Patriots and it is.

Garoppolo played three ineffective series at the start of the game. He got the hook after that and the predictable power surge that came when Brady was on the field instead of the guy who – on this night – couldn’t get anything done was almost tangible.

Garoppolo’s first pass went to Dobson went for 17? Brady dialed up the same player and the play went for 37. Three of Brady’s six incompletions were drops (one was a near pick) and his 33-yard touchdown throw would have given every quarterback in the league except maybe Aaron Rodgers inadequacy issues.

I asked Garoppolo earlier in the week about trying to take command of the team while still remaining deferential to Brady’s status as TFB, future Hall of Famer. Garoppolo admitted it was tough.

How can it not be when the reminders are everywhere, including the pregame exit from the locker room and the trot onto the field. 

Brady is the leader. Jimmy is the long-term substitute. Substitutes don’t have it easy.

There is no solution for what’s going on. It is the ultimate, “Is what it is…” scenario. Can’t do anything about it, so everyone’s got to deal with it.

For Brady on Friday night, that meant staying apart from pretty much everyone for most of the first quarter.

When the Patriots offense was on the bench, he stood with arms folded and jaw set staring onto the field with the occasional glance up at the replay board or over at the area where Garoppolo, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and rookie Jacoby Brissett were going over plans.

When the Patriots offense took the field, Brady retreated to the bench and sat alone. There were two interactions during the first three series came when strength coach Moses Cabrera went to Brady and clapped him on the shoulder pads then rubbed his head as Brady sat on the bench. The other came when Brady sidled up to Brissett and asked him to play catch.

This is not open hostility. This is not Brady trying to undermine Garoppolo. But anyone expecting to see Brady putting an arm around Garoppolo every time he came off the field and publicly lend an ear to Jimmy isn’t getting that. Who knows, maybe Garoppolo doesn’t want that, maybe Brady thinks it’d be counter-productive, maybe McDaniels wants there to be one voice in Garoppolo’s ear during games. The fact is, it’s not cozy.

And you shouldn’t expect it to be. Brady is a quarterback who – while still at the height of his powers – is being forever reminded that the party for him is almost over.

Belichick himself did it the day he drafted Garoppolo. Consider again what was said: 

“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out,” Belichick said during the 2014 draft when Garoppolo was taken in the second round. “I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position. We know what Ryan [Mallett’s] contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

Age? Contract? Rather be early at that position than late?

Brady’s best method for combating speculation about when he’d be put out to pasture has been to own his position with peerless play and turn in – in my opinion – the best Super Bowl performance a quarterback’s ever had.

Not only is Brady miles away from being ripe for the picking, the only reason Garoppolo’s playing at all is because of a BS investigation and punishment that turned Brady’s life upside down and besmirched his name.

Garoppolo taking Brady’s reps, taking Brady’s team for a month is the punishment for Deflategate. Watching Jimmy G. play is the punishment Brady was handed. No wonder he’s standing with arms folded and jaw set.

If you simply look at the dynamics between players of Brady’s ilk and their would-be successors you realize that expecting Brady to go merrily along and show no signs of agitation is absurd. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana and Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. In each, the incumbent wasn’t real keen on wet-nursing the new guy.

Garoppolo’s case is a little different, though. He has no illusions about being better than Brady (that little 25-for-25 day from Brady in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month probably helped put that to bed). 

Garoppolo just wants to come in, play well, do his job and not step on any toes. He’s not looking to create a quarterback controversy. But he can’t afford to be deferential anymore or concerned about how the legend in his shadow feels or how he feels about the legend in his shadow.

He just has to go play. Something that Brady – very soon – won’t be able to do.
 

Rookie Cyrus Jones sets up Patriots well with 60-yard punt return

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Rookie Cyrus Jones sets up Patriots well with 60-yard punt return

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – We can say “it’s only preseason” as much as we want, but the truth is that – at least for the Patriots – the preference is to win these games.

That was made clear by Bill Belichick when talking about rookie Cyrus Jones’ 60-yard punt return late in the third quarter.

“In the end, that was probably one of the key plays in the game,” said Belichick. “The field position gave us a chance to tack on that extra touchdown which, as it turned out, we needed.”

Jones first credited his teammates for getting him room to operate. “It was definitely great blocking and a deep punt so they were pretty separated and not really in cohesion with their coverage,” he explauned. I was able to make one cut and get upfield and play off my blocks.”

Jones eventually broke away from his cadre of blockers near midfield and looked to make a few Panthers miss late in the return. It didn’t work out. But the end result of the drive was a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter.  

“You always wanna score but anytime you can make a big play and get the offense down there and in good field position in a great spot it feels good.,” he said. “The touchdowns will come. I’m just gonna focus on fielding the ball and try to make a play and get upfield.”

Jones has worked hard to fine-tune his punt-fielding skills in camp. A flurry of muffs early in practices seems behind him and it’s clear the Patriots would like to see him seize return duties from Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who probably don’t need the collisions at this stage of their careers.

Belichick is high on Jones’ ability.

“If you can just get them started, most guys can make some yards on their own with the run skills and Cyrus certainly shows the ability to do that,” Belichick explained. “He’s done it and he did it tonight. In the other games as well, he’s always made a couple guys miss and he just couldn’t get enough space to get started so I thought the vice guys [the outside blockers on the punting teams’ blockers] did a good job of keeping them off him all day and letting him get a chance to get started. It was a good run but really good blocking by the return team as well.”

Belichick also slipped in some praise for the punt coverage work Friday night. That facet of special teams was not good in the preseason opener against the Saints.

“I thought we covered kicks well,” he pointed out. 'This is probably the best coverage game we’ve had, again, against a good team, a physical hold-up team and [Ted] Ginn is obviously a good quality returner so that was a good test for us.”

Jones, meanwhile, continues to play quite a bit in the regular defense as the third corner.  

How has it gone so far?

“I’m still gaining comfort,” Jones said. “That will come more and more as I get acclimated to the speed of the game and the precision of these offenses and trusting my coaching and be as prepared as I can. It’s just like anything. The more experience, the more you see, the more you’re out there, the more comfortable you’ll become.”

Jones has seen some good quarterbacks in three preseason games – Drew Brees, Jay Cutler and now Cam Newton.

“They’re so smart and so precise and they make split-second decisions and know where they want to go with the ball, you gotta be technically sound at all times and play the responsibilities so you’re in position,” Jones said. “Just go out there and do your job because you never know when it will be time to step up and make a play.”