Buchholz, Pedroia help salvage finale with O's

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Buchholz, Pedroia help salvage finale with O's

BALTIMORE And on the third day, the Red Sox were finally the victors.

After taking gut punches in the first two games of the series against the Orioles, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz both came through Thursday night in a 6-3 victory at Camden Yards.

Pedroia went 2-for-4 with an RBI and energized his teammates with his frenetic play in the field and running the bases while Buchholz continued to keep his teammates in a game that would have battered his fellow starting rotation mates. Buchholz (11-3) scattered eight hits and three walks in eight innings. He allowed three runs in the first two innings before settling into the game.

The seven strikeouts were also a clear sign of his dominant stuff while sewing his team-leading 11th win of the season, and his seventh win in his last eight decisions.

Those first two frames were a little rough as a two-run Adam Jones double in the first frame and a Mark Reynolds homer to start the second inning both greeted the Sox righthander. But he buckled down after that and allowed only two hits the rest of the way.

The Sox offense scratched for one run in the top of the second when a Scott Podsednik RBI single knocked in Nick Punto, and then the Boston bats pushed Chris Tillman out of the contest in the fifth inning. Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia got things going with a one-out single and double respectively, and then Crawford scored on a wild pitch.

That set things up for an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly to center. Pedroia narrowly beat out a Jones' laser beam throw from the outfield. The Sox second baseman popped up, pumped his fist and seemed to energize the entire bench while exerting the energy of somebody playing for their reputation.

The sac fly tied things up and set the stage for a sixth-inning rally to win the game against reliever Luis Ayala. Podsednik started things off with a double and then moved to third after a fielders choice from Crawford.

Pedroia, Gonzalez and Cody Ross all slammed RBI singles to hand Boston a three-run lead before Gonzalez was gunned down at third after Pedroia crossed the plate with the sixth run. Ross ended up leading the Sox with three hits and was one of five Sox players with multi-hit efforts.

Alfredo Aceves closed things out for his 24th save and gave the Sox something to build on as they head into the Bronx for an urgent series against the hated Yankees.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''