Spikes needs to keep the effort consistent

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Spikes needs to keep the effort consistent

There's no debating Brandon Spikes can be a hard-hitting impact player for the Patriots. The fumble he forced under the two-minute warning in New England's 52-28 win over Buffalo swung some badly-needed momentum back to his team, which was down 14-7 at that time.

Tom Brady lauded the linebacker during a Monday morning WEEI interview.

"That play that Spikes made to knock the ball out from C.J. Spiller . . . I love being on the team with Brandon Spikes. What he does for our defense, and creating fumbles, and really the hard-hitting presence that he is in the middle of the field. Brandon brings that physical element, and to knock the ball out of Spiller like that, that was really awesome."

And not unlike a play Spikes made in Week 2 against the Cardinals.

"That's what he did against Arizona, to knock the fumble off running back Ryan Williams, but that was one of the best plays that I've ever seen anyone make," Brady continued. "He has a nose for the ball, he has a nose for knocking the ball out, and that was a huge play in the game yesterday. For Vince Wilfork to be on the top of it and to recover it, that was a huge play in the game."

Spikes also had a fourth quarter forced fumble, which the Patriots converted into a touchdown. At that point New England was up 28-21 and just starting to gorge itself on scoring drives. But despite the comfortable cushion the team ended up with, Spikes' contributions were not lost on his teammates in the post game.

"He had a huge game," Wilfork said in the locker room. "He caused, what, two, three fumbles? One was on the goal line -- it was seven points. He's coming into his own. He's becoming a big player and, you know what, we need that from everybody."

The challenge is for Spikes to deliver that kind of effort week after week.

We can write odes to his electricity -- he's New England's thumper, a guy who admitted during the 2011 playoffs, "I can get a little crazy out there." But some of Spikes' energy feels like unmet potential, crackling yet unleashed under the surface.

During his first two years consistency was an issue partly because injuries and a suspension kept him off the field. This season he's started all four of New England's regular season games and there's no news of lingering pain holding him back.

So why does he sometimes go dark? Where was the Spikes Spark when New England allowed Ray Rice to average 5.1 yards on 20 carries last week?

When you have a guy who seems able to defibrillate the unit at will, consistency is expected instead of asked for.

Spikes' teammates, from the quarterback to defensive captain, believe he's capable. He just needs to keep proving it.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

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Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.

First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

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First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

NEW YORK -- First impression from Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

* Henry Owens looked improved over earlier starts.

The lefty took the place of Drew Pomeranz Thursday night and pitched into the fifth inning, allowing two runs on four hits.

Talent evaluators believe that Owens has the stuff necessary to be a back-end starter in the big leagues if -- and that's a big qualifier -- he can command his pitches.

Alas, that's often been an issue for Owens, who averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings last season in Boston and, in four starts earlier this season, a bloated 9.3 walks per nine innings.

On Thursday night, Owens showed far better control, issuing just two walks. Further, he managed to pitch ahead in the count, giving him an advantage against the New York lineup. And mixing his changeup and fastball, he fanned six.

* Robby Scott had a bad night at a bad time.

Scott's in the mix to make the Red Sox post-season roster as a lefty specialist, competing against the likes of Fernando Abad.

He had been effective in most of his previous outings, with no runs allowed in six appearances with five strikeouts and a walk.

But brought in to face Brian McCann with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth, he yielded a single to center.

After getting Aaron Hicks on a flyout, he walked rookie Tyler Austin to force in a run, then heaved a wild pitch that scored another run before retiring Brett Gardner on a flyout.

Keeping in mind that Scott wouldn't be asked to face that many righthanders were he to make the post-season roster, Thursday's outing wasn't helpful in making his case.

* Yoan Moncada is gone for now.

The Red Sox announced that the rookie third baseman had traveled to Fort Myers to prepare for his upcoming assignment in the Arizona Fall League next month.

Expectations were high for Moncada when he joined the Red Sox on Labor Day weekend in Oakland and when he collected multiple hits in each of his first two starts, it appeared as though he would get most of the playing time at third for the remainder of the season.

But not long after, Moncada began chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone and looking very much overmatched at the plate. HE struck out in nine consecutive at-bats.

That doesn't mean that Moncada won't someday -- likely in the not-too-distant future -- be a very good major league player. But it is a reminder of how big a jump it is to go from Double A.

And, it served to point out how remarkable Andrew Benintendi has been in making that same jump.