Bard's late-inning control problems doom Red Sox


Bard's late-inning control problems doom Red Sox

KANSAS CITY -- Part of becoming an established starting pitcher is learning how to finish what you start.

Daniel Bard thought he was going to do that Tuesday night. Instead, some sudden wildness cost Bard the chance to go deeper into the game, and ultimately, cost the Red Sox the game.

Bard had limited the Kansas City Royals to three runs over the first seven innings, and after a shaky second, had allowed just three hits -- all singles -- from the third through the seventh.

But in the eighth inning, feeling some fatigue, Bard lost the strike zone, issuing two walks to open the inning and leaving a mess for Matt Albers to clean up. Albers surrendered a three-run homer to Billy Butler, sending the Sox to a 6-4 defeat.

Bard had thrown 87 pitches after seven and was eager to continue.

"I felt great," said Bard. "I felt strong. You get to 90 pitches, I'm not tired to the point where I need to come out of the game by any means. But there is a fatigue that sets in. It's about learning how to pitch with that little bit of fatigue.

"It's not my arm. My arm felt great. It's your whole body -- your legs, your lower back. You have to learn how to pitch under those conditions. It's kind of where I'm at right now -- trying to learn how to finish games and get through that 100-110 pitches, strong all the way toward the end instead of tailing off and losing command late."

Bard could feel himself coming out of his normal delivery with the two walks.

"I was trying to do too much," he said. "I kind of smelled the finish line and wanted to get that win for our team really bad. I just tried to do a little too much with those pitches and maybe didn't trust them to the middle of the zone like I had been."

If the eighth inning was Bard's doing, then surely the second inning was his most bizarre. He was charged with two balks -- one scored a run and another led to a second run being scored -- while walking one and throwing a wild pitch.

"I chalked it up to just being a fluke thing," said Bard of the balks. "It sucks that they got three runs out of it; they probably get one or two there either way, even without them. I just tried to settle back in. I knew I was making good pitches and I wasn't going to let that take me out of my game completely."

From there, Bard seemed to get groundouts in bunches. From the third through the seventh, he got 10 of the 12 outs on the ground. Those outs helped Bard be more efficient with his pitch count.

"Mostly fastballs in," revealed Bard. "Sinkers to righties, and four-seamers in to lefties. It's a little weird, to be honest, because I'm used to getting punch-outs regularly, usually about one per inning or so. But I'll take outs anyway I can get them."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner


Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”