Sox miss chances, fall to Mariners, 2-0

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Sox miss chances, fall to Mariners, 2-0

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Red Sox have found little remedy for the malaise that has enveloped them this season. Despite a respectable performance and a quality start -- by John Lackey, the Sox fell for the second straight game to the Mariners at Fenway Park, getting shut out, 2-0.

The Mariners entered the game with a record of 12-15 fewer wins than all but two other American League teams. That would be the Orioles and Red Sox, with 11 wins each. Saturdays loss drops the Sox record to 11-15.

Lackey, who went six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts, took the loss, his record falling to 2-3 with a 5.65 ERA. The Mariners got a run in the third when Ichiro Suzuki drew a one-out walk, went to third on Chone Figgins single to right and scored on Milton Bradleys double to left.

The Mariners added another run in the sixth when Jack Cust led off with a single, went to second on Michael Saunders single and took third on Brendan Ryans sacrifice bunt. Jack Wilsons sacrifice fly to Jacoby Ellsbury in center scored Cust.

While it was the Red Sox pitching that was their undoing in Fridays loss, it was their inability to put together any type of productive offense in Saturdays shutout. They had 12 baserunners, on six hits and six walks, but could muster no run-producing offense. They left 11 runners on base, and were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Their lack of production with runners in scoring position has plagued the Sox all season. They are 52-for-245 (.212) in such situations.

The Red Sox had several opportunities to get on the scoreboard Saturday, all going for naught. In the first inning, they loaded the bases with one out. But David Ortiz struck out on a Doug Fister slider and J.D. Drew flied out to center ending the inning.

They loaded the bases in the fifth with no outs, but Adrian Gonzalez lined into a double play, Ellsbury being forced at second. Kevin Youkilis fouled out to end the inning.

In the sixth they put runners on third and first with two outs. In the seventh they had runners at second and third with two outs. Each frame ended in futility for the Red Sox offense. In the sixth Jarrod Saltalamacchia fouled out. In the seventh Ortiz flied out to left.

The Red Sox have now been shut out three times this season, tying the Angels and White Sox for most in the American League. Their last shutout came April 19 in Oakland. Lackey also took the loss in that game, again throwing a quality start.

Fister earned the win, improving to 2-4 (2.70). Brandon League earned his seventh save in as many opportunities.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Doug Fister

The Mariners right-hander held the Red Sox scoreless over 5 23 innigns, improving his record to 2-3 (2.70 ERA). Although he allowed 10 baserunners five hits and a career-high five walks he managed to keep the Sox off the scoreboard, maintaining a tenuous two-run lead. Fister had just one clean inning, when he retired the side in the second, striking out Jed Lowrie, getting Carl Crawford to ground out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly out. The Sox had enough scoring opportunities against Fister loading the bases in the first and fifth, putting runners in scoring position in the third, fourth, and sixth. But Fister was sufficiently effective to shut down the Sox offense.
The win was his first on the road this season, and first since Sept. 19, 2010, in Texas. It was his first career scoreless outing on the road, and fifth overall. He lowered his ERA from 3.19 to 2.70. Fister has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in five of his six starts this season, behind only Jered Weaver and Dan Haren in the AL.

HONORABLE MENTION: John Lackey

Lackey took the tough-luck loss, going six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts. His record falls to 2-3 (5.65). The Red Sox have been shut out three times this season, tied for most in the league. Lackey has taken the loss in the last two, despite posting quality starts in each. He has held opponents to two runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings in each of his last three starts. In that span, he has an ERA of 1.35, giving up three earned runs in 20 innings, after beginning the season with a 15.58 ERA (15 earned runs, 8 23 innings) in his first two starts.

The Mariners third-inning run snapped Lackeys scoreless inning streak at 15,his longest stretch since throwing 22 scoreless innings from Sept. 5 15, 2009, while with the Angels.

Thats John Lackey, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Thats the guy that goes out there and just battles. Thats what he did tonight. He pitched his butt off and I just wish we could have got that win for him.

THE GOAT: David Ortiz

There were plenty of goat horns to go around. The Sox were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 runners on base. But Ortiz (0-for-4, two strikeouts) was responsible for leaving five runners on base, including two in scoring position with two outs.

With one out and the bases loaded in the first inning, he struck out on a Doug Fister slider (J.D. Drew followed that by flying out to center). In the seventh, with two outs and runners on second and third, he flied out to left to end the Sox last, best scoring chance.

THE TURNING POINT

The Sox certainly had enough opportunities to get on the board, as evidenced by the 11 runners they left on base, and the 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. But, any hope seemed to fade away after the fifth inning. In that frame, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs against Fister. Adrian Gonzalez, their best offensive hope recently, came to the plate. But, Gonzalez lined out to second baseman Jack Wilson, who doubled off Jacoby Ellsbury at second. Kevin Youkilis fouled out to first baseman Justin Smoak,

Although the Sox were able to get runners on base in the sixth, seventh, and ninth, their best scoring opportunity was in the fifth.

STAT OF THE DAY: 11

As in 11 runners left on base, and 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The Sox futility added up to 11 Saturday night.

Not tonight, said manager Terry Francona, when asked if he had any answers for his teams lack of clutch hitting. Its a lot of the same thing. We get in situations like that and were swinging at a lot of off-speed pitches and not staying in the middle of the field We had a few opportunities and didnt do anything.

QUOTE OF NOTE:

What are we, 11-15? We started 0-6. So, since then weve actually played OK. But we havent played up to our potential. Thats the good thing is that theres five months of the season left. So a lot of games to be played and we havent played anywhere close to where we want to play and were going to play great ball at some point. We just hope everyone stays patient with us. Its very frustrating for everybody. Everyone in this clubhouse is frustrated. We want to win more than anyone else. We understand the frustrations out there. People pay a lot of good money to come to these games. We know theyre frustrated. Just so everyone knows: Were really frustrated, too. Guys are, this is their lives. This is what they dream about their whole life to do. We want to play well. Were going to play well. Sometimes in life its not when you want it. Sometimes you have to wait a little bit in life.

--Kevin Youkilis on the Red Sox record and performance in April

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

With Brady out, Patriots lean on Blount to carry the load

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With Brady out, Patriots lean on Blount to carry the load

We've heard it many times before. It gets repeated so frequently that it's become a regional sports cliche: The Patriots are a game-plan offense. 

And they are. When they like their matchups running the football, they'll run the football. When the short-to-intermediate passing game is what suits them best, they'll do that.

But make no mistake, they'll typically roll with the latter plan of attack. Especially when Tom Brady isn't suspended. Given his skill set, and given the weapons he has around him, the team thrives when medium-range passes are put on the money. 

Sometimes that comes at the expense of consistency in the running game. Last season, the Patriots were tied for 25th in the league in terms of rushing attempts. 

This year? Different story.

Through three weeks -- unless the Falcons choose to run it more than 50 times in their Monday night matchup with the Saints -- the Patriots have called more running plays than any other club in the league. Their 108 attempts is seven better than the 101 Dallas has run, and New England lead back LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL in carries with 75, one more than Houston's Lamar Miller. 

It's been a drastic change for a team that typically likes to chuck it.

In Week 1, against a talented Cardinals secondary, Blount carried 22 times, which was more than he had carried in any game in 2015 save for a win over the Redskins when he saw a career-high 29 attempts. In Week 2, he matched that career-high when the team needed him to step up following Jimmy Garoppolo's shoulder injury, running for 123 yards and a score. Then in his most impressive performance of the young season, with rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, Blount took the ball 24 times against the Texans, scored twice, and averaged 4.38 yards per carry. And the 6-foot, 250-pounder did it on just three days' rest. 

"We really needed it in both games," coach Bill Belichick said on Monday. "LeGarrette has a lot of skill, as we know. I mean, he’s a big back that has very good quickness, and feet, and balance and speed for that size. So, we just kind of always feel like if we can just get a hole, get him started, get him going that he has a lot of ability to make yards on his own if we can just get him going, get him downhill, and get him some space to run.

"He has done a good job with it. He has broken tackles. He has run through some arm tackles and things like that. He has gotten some good, tough yards for us. Hopefully we continue to do that. Hopefully we can continue to get him the ball with some momentum, some space, and give him an opportunity to do some things on his own and not have to deal with four or five guys there at the line of scrimmage but try to get him going.

"He has worked hard, he’s in good condition, he has done a good job of gaining yards in the fourth quarter and at the end of the game. He hasn’t gotten worn down in those situations so that’s all been very positive and we needed it."

Belichick recognized Blount's work, and the work of the blockers in front of Blount, during his postgame address on Thursday night. "We talked about that running game breaking open in the fourth quarter," Belichick said, beaming

Blount is averaging 25 carries per game, which is 9.5 more than his previous career-high, which he recorded back when he was a rookie for the Buccaneers in 2010, and it's 11.2 carries more than his average last year.

Despite the workload, despite the fact that he's almost 30 and coming off of a season-ending hip injury suffered last year, he's looked fresh. Particularly late in games, Blount has been relied upon heavily as the Patriots have tried to maintain possession and salt away the clock. Against the Cardinals, he had a critical third-down run that helped set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winning field goal.

"He’s had a number of games in his career here with us that he’s really done a nice job of carrying the ball a few times and to be able to do that four days apart, that’s always a tougher issue when you carry it a lot," said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. "And then come back and do it in the same week, four days apart, that’s not easy to do. He does a good job of taking care of his body and trying to get himself ready to go each week, learn the game plan and get ready to go when his number is called.

"He’s been in there a lot this year. He’s carried the ball, he’s pass protected, he’s been involved in the passing game a little bit, so he does a lot of different things. Some show up in the stat sheets, some don’t, but we’ve certainly counted on him a lot and he came through for us again on Thursday night."