Extra works pays off for Punto

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Extra works pays off for Punto

TORONTO -- After going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Tigers on Wednesday night, Nick Punto knew he had to do something. While he had seen limited playing time for most of the season, Punto had been subbing for the injured Dustin Pedroia, and figured to do so for the foreseeable future.

But he was at a disadvantage at the plate.

You can practice all you want but until you step in that box and see 95-mph pitches coming at you, its going to be tough, he said.

So he texted Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan around midnight on Wednesday with a request.

I said can we get on the field, try to get some time, and crank that pitching machine up, try to get it to where its throwing 95 miles an hour, Punto said. I felt really good coming out of that. Since then Ive been seeing the ball a lot better.

Punto wanted to see some velocity in BP, which isnt always easy off the regular BP pitchers, whose offerings are a good 30 or so miles less than what he wanted. He and Magadan got the machine onto the field before the series finale against the Tigers on Wednesday.

Punto knew something clicked.

Timing is everything and when you get that machine cranked up you cant be long in your swing, he said. And my swing was a little bit long. We shortened it up.

Punto didnt see the results immediately, but he figures that session combined with the regular playing time paid off Saturday against the Blue Jays.

Punto went 3-for-4, with a home run, a double, two runs scored, and two RBI, in the Red Sox 7-4 win over the Blue Jays.

Absolutely super, manager Bobby Valentine summed up Puntos outing. His timing at the plate was great today and it was really needed.

Puntos home run, his first of the season, and first since his lone home run last season, on Sept. 27, was the Sox final run of the day. A game like that can serve as a catalyst and confidence booster.

Its big, he said. Its big from a personal standpoint just because I havent had a whole lot of success and to come in and contribute and help the team win and get a few, hits, Im starting to see the ball a lot better, thats huge.

Its unfortunate to lose our stud second baseman, our All-Star second baseman, but for me it just means some reps and some more timing.

After his home run, a blast to right leading off the ninth, Punto returned to the dugout welcomed by the silent treatment from his teammates.

The good old silent treatment. Thats baseball, he said. I said come give me some love. Ive been playing this game a while 12 seasons and thats only my 15th home run so come give me some love.

The home run was appreciated in more ways than one by his teammates.

Punto got a big home run for us, kind of let us breathe a little bit, said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Its really special to be able to see a little guy like that be able to hit it that far.

Including his final at-bat of Fridays game, Punto went 4-for-his last 5. In the two games he raised his average from .122 to .175, not a goal number, but moving in the right direction.

Appropriately, Punto was involved in the final play of the game, a groundball he fielded to close out the win. The Sox are 4-1 in the last five games Punto has started at second base.

Its been a lot of fun, he said. I love the game of baseball and to get out there and get to play in consecutive games is a lot of fun.

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.