Crawford getting into the swing of things in Boston

836329.jpg

Crawford getting into the swing of things in Boston

BOSTON It was always supposed to be this easy for Carl Crawford.

After a year of struggling with his transition to Boston and another half-season lost to injury, the energetic left fielder is finally starting to look like the guy that the Red Sox lured away with free agency big bucks.

In his first nine games off the disabled list Crawford had no extra base hits and a single RBI while shaking off the rust, but the Sox outfielder has busted out with a .333 batting average, six extra base hits and 9 RBI in his last nine games. Crawford sprayed three hits out of his comfortable No. 2 hole in Sunday afternoons 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, and showed what he can do in all facets of the game.

He made a nice jumping catch at the base of the Green Monster early in the game, put pressure on the Minnesota defense with his trademark base-running speed and set the table for a Sox offense that was functional for at least one day.

Hes a game-changer, said admiring teammate Adrian Gonzalez, who smashed a two-run homer in the victory. Hes making things happen and hes incredible when he and Jacoby get on base. Today it was Carls turn. With those two guys at the top of the lineup they can make a big difference.

Oh, and it was his 31st birthday as well.

Id like his birthday to be every day, said Bobby Valentine. Hes hitting with two strikes, hes hitting the ball hard, stealing bases, and advancing runners. He had damn-near a perfect game.

When hes like that he can make a big difference for us.

Interestingly enough Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan attributed Crawfords recent success to refined plate discipline. Anybody watching the speedy Sox outfielder over the last season-and-a-half knows how bad Crawford can look when hes swinging wildly at pitches out of his happy hitting zone.

Overall hes still hitting at a .279 clip in his first 18 games back this season, but hes simply done a better job of recognizing his pitches and hammering them with impunity.

Hes made some mechanical adjustments to free him up a little bit, but his pitch selection has been very good. When he gets a pitch to hit hes barreling it up, said Magadan. A lot of it is confidence. He hit a little bump for maybe 15 at bats after coming back, but he didnt throw everything out the window that hed been working on for adjustments.

The key for him is getting good pitches to hit. When he does that he maximizes his chances of stinging the ball.

His pitches per plate appearance have actually dropped from a career-high 3.89 last year to a 3.63 mark thats more in line with his career averages. So perhaps Crawford has stopped forcing himself to be an overly patient hitter according to the Sox philosophies, and is instead relying on the eye, quick wrists and athletic ability that have allowed him to be the only modern Major Leaguer to record 200 doubles, 100 triples, 100 home runs and 400 stolen bases before his 31st birthday.

I feel good for him. I know that he wants to prove that last year was an aberration, which we all think it was, said Magadan. He was anxious to start the year, but unfortunately he wasnt able to because of injuries. But hes going to make the most of the time hes got now.

Now that Crawford is seemingly healthy enough to play every day and finally looking like the same player he was in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, everybody is getting a chance to see what the Sox lineup looks like with another impactful game-changer at the top of it.

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

usatsi_9312433.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “He had quality stuff, but the story of this one is not being able to contain (Josh) Donaldson. Big night for him . . . I though Joe had quality stuff . . . [He] wasn’t as sharp with the overall location as he was the first time out for us quote” John Farrell on Joe Kelly’s second start since his return from the disabled list.

 

* “He’s such a good player and does it in critical moments.” Farrell on Josh Donaldson after his two-homerun, 4-5 performance for Toronto.

 

* “He throws hard and has a lot of sink on his ball. Not much you can do with it. Just try to put it in play and see what happens.” Xander Bogaerts on facing Toronto’s start Aaron Sanchez.

 

* “Bottom line is the results. I think there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell before the game on moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen to make room for Eduardo Rodriguez.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Following Friday night’s performance, Josh Donaldson is now 12-20 in his career against Joe Kelly with a double, two home runs and nine RBIs.

 

* The Red Sox’ five runs brings their season total to 38 on the road, averaging 3.8 per game through ten road games. At home, Boston has averaged 7.8 runs through 18 games.

 

* Despite a rough start, Joe Kelly still didn’t record a loss. He hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision since 7/22/15.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his streak to 20 games in his second at-bat against Aaron Sanchez. Boston’s shortstop now has the longest active streak in the league.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Josh Donaldson

Toronto’s third baseman dominated not only Joe Kelly, but Koji Uehara, launching two balls over the fence in a 4-5 day.

 

2) Aaron Sanchez

Although he got tired late, Toronto’s starter only had three earned runs through 6.2 innings against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

 

3) Xander Bogaerts

After teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. saw his streak die Thursday night, Bogaerts squeaked one up the middle, bringing his streak to 20 games, against a starter who’s caused problems for him before.

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

usatsi_9312552.jpg

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

fm_buchholz_0527161464384330150_3450k_1280x720_694466115630.jpg

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move.