First Pitch: Magadan says Red Sox hitters need better approach

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First Pitch: Magadan says Red Sox hitters need better approach

BOSTON -- No, it's not just your imagination -- the Red Sox have been wildly inconsistent, scoring runs in bunches and, then, not at all.

Case in point: Thursday at Fenway, where the Sox were shut out for the fifth time this season, this time by a 29-year journeyman who was making just the fifth major-league start of his career.

It's been like that a lot of late. In the last month, the Red Sox have scored seven or more runs eight times. Unfortunately for them, there have also been 10 games in which they've scored two or fewer.

That's too much of a fluctuation to suit Dave Magadan, the team's hitting coach, and he's tired of it.

"There's no argument there,'' said Magadan after the 5-0 loss to Minnesota Thursday. "There's a lot of inconsistency. A lot of it -- and I know I've harped on this a lot this year -- is the approach at the plate. You're not going to bang out 15 hits every night. You've got to find ways to get on base, work a count, get a guy's pitch count up. Two-and-half months ago, we were fourth in the league in bases on balls; we're at the bottom now.

"And it has nothing to do with going up there looking for a walk. It has to do with having an approach, having an idea of what you want to do at the plate and if the pitcher doesn't give you the pitch you're looking for, you take the walk. When you don't do that, you have what we have: we score 10, we score 7, we score 1, we score 0, we score 10. It's back and forth and it puts a lot of pressure on the pitching staff. And it's been worse on the road.''

Magadan's remarks echoed that of Dustin Pedroia, who fumed that the team had wasted a good outing from Jon Lester (three runs allowed over eight innings).

"Jon pitched great,'' said Pedroia. "We didn't swing the bats at all. That's basically it. We'll come out and play tomorrow, but today we weren't very good. That's basically it - Jon pitched great and the offense stunk. That's it. There's no more expletive questions or anything like that. You don't have to ask anybody else. Jon pitched great; we stunk.''

That was the second time in the last week that Pedroia felt the need to take the offense to task. Last Friday, he charged that the lineup had "given away at-bats'' in the late innings of 10-3 loss to the Yankees.

Magadan didn't see the same deficiencies Thursday night. The Sox did, after all, make rookie Sam Deduno throw 101 pitches in six innings and worked him for four walks.

But it was the Sox did -- or more specifically didn't do -- with Deduno that made Magadan angry.

"I think we got ourselves in good counts,'' he said, "and didn't do much with the pitches we had. We got into plus counts and either fouled pitches off or were late or didn't take good swings. It's the same old story.''

The dropoff in walks for the Sox has been precipitous. Having David Ortiz out of the lineup for the last two weeks hasn't helped and the decline in run scoring reflects that.

But the problems run deeper than missing Ortiz, since they were evident even when Ortiz was the lineup's biggest producer. Adrian Gonzalez, though he's come around over the last month, has become a far less selective hitter this season. After leading all of major-league baseball in walks as recently as 2009, he's twice had stretches this season in which he went weeks between walks -- from May 16 to June 10, and again, from June 25 to July 31.

Once known for grinding out at-bats and driving up pitch counts, this Red Sox lineup has been almost impatient at times.

But as Magadan emphasized, it isn't just the walk totals that are off; it's the team's approach.

"Sometimes it can be as easy as taking a 1-and-0 pitch when you see the guy struggling to throw the ball over the plate,'' he said. "I think Deduno went 2-and-0 to the first four or five hitters of the game. Sometimes it can be as simple as that -- taking a 1-and-0 pitch to build to 2-and-0, instead of swinging at a 1-and-0 pitch out the zone and making an out. You never force him to continue making pitches.''

Magadan's data suggests that the Sox are seeing a lot of pitches, but in a different way.

"We foul pitches off,'' he said. "We chase pitches out of the strike zone to foul pitches off. It's one thing when you're seeing a lot of pitches and you're getting yourself in hitter's counts; but we're 0-and-1, fouling off a ball, then taking a strike, and foul off another ball. You're not really forcing pitchers to make quality pitches. You're chasing balls out of the zone and it makes his job a lot easier. Instead of having to make three quality pitches to get you out, he's only got to make one.''

The season is at the two-thirds marker and Magadan's frustration level is well past that.

"It's not for lack of work or lackof preaching it or talking about it,'' said Magadan. "Thursday night was pretty frustrating. You've got Jon Lester throwing against a rookie. We felt like we should have put up a better fight. We were facing a guy we've never faced before and we're hacking at balls out of the zone.

"It's frustrating because I know we're better than this. We're going to have to get better. We're down to 56 games left and we've got a lot of teams we have to jump over. Getting shut out isn't going to get us to where we want to be.''

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

NEW YORK -- The division title was there for the taking Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. When you've won 11 straight and steamrolled every other team in the division, what's one more?

One too many, apparently.

The Red Sox' 6-4 defeat to the New York Yankees postponed the Champagne party for at least one night. In and of itself, that's not a huge concern. The Sox' magic number remains one with five games to play and the club's epic hot streak had to come to an end eventually.

A better night by either David -- Ortiz or Price -- might have resulted in corks popping and on-field celebrations.

Ortiz was 0-for-5 and stranded a total of seven baserunners. When he came to the plate in the top of the ninth against Tyler Clippard with two outs and two on, it almost seemed scripted.

Here was Ortiz in his final Yankee Stadium series, about to inflict one final bit of misery on the rival Yankees with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.

Talk about drama. Talk about one more famous, final scene.

Alas, Ortiz took some feeble swings and swung through strike three for the final out. Not even Ortiz, for all his clutch performances, can conjure a game-winner on-demand every time.

A far bigger concern was the work of Price. Perhaps the best thing than can be said of him for now is that he almost certainly will not have to face the Yankees again this season, against whom he's compiled a gaudy 7.89 ERA this season.

More troubling, though, is that Price is not exactly hitting his stride as the postseason appears on the near horizon. In his last three starts combined, Price has pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed 27 hits and 14 runs.

That isn't the line of someone at peak form at the right time. To the contrary, after a run of outings in which it again appeared Price had figured everything out, he's regressed in his last three.

Most troubling Tuesday was a repeated inability to turn back the Yankees after his team had pulled close on the scoreboard.

Price spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and the Sox finally scored twice in the top of the 6th to close within one at 3-2. But Price quickly gave anther run back in the bottom of the inning.

Then the Sox scored two more times in the seventh to tie things at 4-4. . . but Price gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the inning.

"Very frustrating,'' sighed Price. "It's something I talk about all the time. It's a very big deal. And it's something I feel like I've struggled with this entire year. Whenever you're going good, it's something you're doing very well. And whenever you're going bad...you get a lead, give it right back. . . that's tough.''

It also doesn't portend well for the postseason, where Price, as you may have heard, has a spotty track record.

With some strong starts in the final few weeks, he could have reached the playoffs with both momentum and confidence.

Instead, he's got one more start -- Sunday -- to straighten things out.

Ortiz? His postseason bona fides are set.

Price, meanwhile, has no such reservoir of success upon which to draw. And starts like Tuesday's only reinforce the doubts.

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees:

 

QUOTES:

"I went 0-for-5 today, so I ain't got (anything) to talk about.'' - David Ortiz after turning around and seeing a small army of reporters waiting for him in front of his locker.

"To have a chance to clinch the division for us here (and come up sort), it's not acceptable. If my offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should be able to go out there and win.'' - David Price.

"The bottom line story to this one was (Price) mislocating within the strike zone.'' - John Farrell.

 

NOTES:

* Boston's season-best 11-game win streak was snapped with the loss.

* David Price took his first loss since Aug. 7.

* Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season.

* Aaron Hill contributed his first pinch-hit homer in his career.

* Mookie Betts saw his streak of reaching base in 38 straight road games stopped.

* Dustin Pedroia posted his third straight multi-hit game.

* For the 20th time this season, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a three-hit game.

* In his last 12 games, Andrew Benintendi has eight extra-base hits.

* Hill's pinch-hit homer was the third by the Red Sox this month.

 

STARS:

1) Tyler Austin

The rookie first baseman snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run homer and also added two more hits in three at-bats.

2) Gary Sanchez

The first-year catcher continues to amaze, hitting his 20th homer in only his 51st game, sending the Yanks out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning.

3) Luis Cessa

Cessa took a big step forward from his last start against the Red Sox by keeping them scoreless through the first five innings before allowing two runs in the sixth.