Beckett again spectacular in win over Phils, 5-1

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Beckett again spectacular in win over Phils, 5-1

PHILADELPHIA -- In his second start on his Redeption Tour, Josh Beckett was once again spectacular.

Beckett allowed just one run on seven hits in 7 23 innings, pitching the Red Sox to a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and a win of their weekend interleague series.

The Red Sox have won three of their last four and are 8-2 in their last 10 games.

Beckett has allowed just one in his last two starts, covering 14 23 innings since he was clubbed for seven runs in just 2 13 innings against Cleveland. That start came after Beckett became embroiled in a public relations fiasco in which he went golfing two days before being skipped in the rotation because of a lat pull.

Of the seven hits that Beckett allowed, four didn't leave the infield. He shutout the Phils through he first seven innings -- extending his scoreless streak to 14 consecutive innings -- before losing his shutout bid on a double, single and sacrifice fly in the eighth.

He was given an early lead in the first when Mike Aviles smashed his second leadoff homer in as many games and third homer overall in the series. Aviles drove in the second run with an RBI single in the second.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia's three-run homer in the third was the big blow, stretching the Boston lead to 5-0. All five runs came off Cliff Lee, who entered the game with a 1.95 ERA.

Vicente Padilla got the final out in the eighth and Alfredo Aceves pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.

STAR OF THE GAME: Josh Beckett
Beckett turned in his second straight strong start, allowing just a run over 7 23 innings. When the Phillies scratched out a run in the eighth, it snapped a 14 inning scoreless streak. Of the seven hits allowed, four didn't leave the infield.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Aviles
Aviles led off the game with a homer for the second straight day, then added a run-scoring single. Aviles homered in each game of the series and is hitting .400 over his last six games.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Cliff Lee
Lee entered the game with a 1.75 ERA, but was rocked for five runs in the first three innings. He gave up nine hits in seven innings, but that doesn't count another handful of outs that were hard-hit line drives at his fielders.
TURNING POINT
The Sox were leading 2-0 when Jarrod Saltalamacchia smoked a ball over anything to dead center, one of the hardest-hit homers by anyone this season. With two baserunners on, that made it 5-0.

BY THE NUMBERS
Aviles became the first Red Sox hitter to lead off two straight games with homers since Harry Hooper did in 1913.

QUOTE OF NOTE
"Was that the longest single in the history of baseball?'' Bobby Valentine, on Josh Beckett's 400-foot single off the center field wall in the seventh inning.

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski almost casually mentioned in October that John Farrell would return for the 2017 season, he was, predictably asked about the option that the club held on the manager for 2018.

Dombrowski noted that he would speak to ownership about that matter over the off-season. Apparently, it didn't take long.

The Red Sox announced Monday that the team had, indeed, exercised the option on Farrell, putting him on a guaranteed deal through the next two seasons.

"John's done a real fine job for us,'' said Dombrowski. "We had a very good year last year. I thought he did a good job handling the club. We're in a position where we have a good working relationship. He has the respect of our players; our players played hard for him, so we're very happy to have done that.

"It puts stability to our staff going into spring training.''

Dombrowski said the issue would have been addressed sooner, but the team had to deal with the departures of former GM Mike Hazen, former bench coach Torey Lovullo and other front office members.

"There were just so many issues that happened after (the end of the season),'' he noted. "There was no rush. This didn't have to be exercised until 10 days after (the competition of the 2017 season)... (But) John has a solid presence to himself, leadership capabilities, yet I also find him very open-minded when we have conversations. I think he's done a very fine job.''

Farrell became a focal point for criticism from the team's fan base and some in the media when the Red Sox struggled to separate themselves from the rest of the American League East in the first half of the season.

After winning a World Series in his first season at the Sox' helm in 2013, Farrell managed the Sox to a last-place finish in 2014, and the team was mired in the East basement in mid-August of 2015 when it was revealed that Farrell was battling lymphoma.

He took a leave of absence for the final seven weeks of the season and when the team's record improved under Lovullo, acting as interim manager, the pressure on Farrell was turned up for 2016, with Lovullo, Farrell's long-time friend, seen as the heir apparent should the team under-perform.

That pressure remained hot until the final month when a hot streak vaulted the Sox into first place and carried them into the post-season, where the team was swept out of the Division Series by Cleveland.

"I'm thrilled that (the option) has been exercised, obviously,'' said Farrell. "I love the city, the organization, the players that we have. This is an exciting young team - the young core group of players that we talk about is developing year after year.

"(This was the) first full year that Dave and I had a chance to work together and I appreciate his confidence...We addressed and faced a lot of challenges over the course of the season and we came out of it stronger and in a better place.''

Farrell maintained that "the status of my contract never changed (how I managed) day-in, day-out. And it won't going forward. My focus is what we can do (on a given) night to win a game and put our players in the best position to succeed. And that won't change.''

In four years, Farrell owns a 339-309 record (.523 winning percentage). He joined Joe Morgan as the only Red Sox managers to guide the team to multiple division titles.

 

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.