Doubront proves fit for spot starter's role

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Doubront proves fit for spot starter's role

CHICAGO -- Bobby Valentine thought that Franklin Morales could be an effective starting pitcher even though the lefty hadn't started a game in more than three years.

It's doubtful, however, that even his manager expected to get a start like the one Morales turned in Sunday night.

In his first start since coming to the Red Sox, Morales was brilliant in the Red Sox' 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday night, thought he didn't factor in the decision.

Morales allowed two runs on four hits in five innings, while fanning nine and walking no one. Of the two runs allowed by Morales, the second could have been prevented had Dustin Pedroia and Darnell McDonald not almost collided while converging on a pop fly to shallow right.

Though Morales has often struggled with his command in Boston, he threw 80 pitches, and a staggering 65 of them were strikes.

"We had a hunch that he could perform well in that situation," said Valentine, "and he proved our hunch correct. Those were five pretty good innings. And he had more, according to him. I'd like to give him a chance to do more next time."

Valentine liked what he saw of Morales in relief, but given the nature of the role, "he'd made a bad pitch and have to come out of the game. When he had some length, he always did a good job. When he had a full inning, he always completed it. He was throwing 95 mph at the beginning and at the end.''

Given a longer leash, Valentine thought, Morales could flourish. And in one start, he did.

"I felt pretty good the first couple of innings," said Morales. "I tried to get my confidence to make my pitches. After that, I tried to work ahead in the count. I wasn't thinking too much. I tried to let go with my fastball and use my pitches and stay consistent with my location."

Morales was also able to maintain his velocity throughout the night, seldom dipping below 94-95 mph despite this being his longest outing since 2009.

"I told (Valentine) I would let him know how I felt after every inning," said Morales. "With my confidence and my concentration, I felt strong in my mind."

Morales will presumably get another start next Saturday, with the benefit of an extra day's rest thanks to the off-day on Monday.

He became the first Red Sox starter to stirke out nine in an outing of five innings or less since Josh Beckett -- whose start he filled -- did so against Toronto on Aug. 28, 2009. He was also the first to accomplish that without issuing a walk since John Henry Johnson did so against Detroit on Aug. 7, 1974.

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

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Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

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.