First pitch: Silent nights (and days) for Red Sox

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First pitch: Silent nights (and days) for Red Sox

MIAMI -- For so long this season, the Red Sox have had such difficulties with their pitching staff -- first the bullpen, later the starting rotation -- that it was nearly unthinkable to consider the offense as bearing any blame for their struggles.

Yet, with the team reeling after its fourth straight loss, that's exactly where it belongs.

Until recently, in fact, the offense had been so dependable that not even the players themselves seemed capable of recognizing the problem.

Over the weekend, when the Sox were being swept by the Washington Nationals, the Boston clubhouse was divided between criticizing the umpires and crediting the Washington pitching staff.

To be sure, the Sox ran into a tough string of starters at Fenway (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman). And facing Josh Johnson Monday night in Miami didn't make things any easier.

But there's a limit to how much praise should go the opposition when the lineup is sputtering. Johnson, after all, came into Monday night with a 4.56 ERA. Yet he limited the Sox to four hits and one run over seven innings, with seven strikeouts, as Boston once again went down meekly, 4-1.

"With our offense,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, "we should be able to come up and score some runs . . . We're facing some really good pitching, but this is the big leagues. We need to step it up, get some guys over, get some guys in. That includes everybody.''

Indeed, the downturn has been from top to bottom in the lineup. For a team that was second in the league in runs scored only 10 days ago, the last eight games (1-7) have seen the Red Sox average 3.1 runs per game and hit just .221 collectively.

In that eight-game stretch, the Sox have lost games by two runs twice, one run two other times, and three runs on two other occasions.

"You get that one hit that continues the inning and you get two or three to follow . . . '' said Bobby Valentine wistfully. ''But we're just not getting that one to continue the inning. It seems the other team is getting it against us.''

Among the regulars, only David Ortiz has been a consistent performer. Dustin Pedroia's double Monday night was just his second since May 13, sure evidence that the infielder is being hampered by his right thumb injury.

Meanwhile, the brief hot spurt by Adrian Gonzalez last week seems to be over as quickly as it began.

The long-term losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford -- to say nothing of Cody Ross, who was second on the team in homers and slugging percentage when he broke a bone in his foot last month -- seem to become more acute with each passing day.

"We don't have a lot of options with the lineup,'' acknowledged Valentine ruefully, "so we're trying just get guys in motion once in a while. We need that homer, we need that bloop -- one of the two.''

"There's a lot of frustration,'' said Saltalamacchia. "We know we're better than this. We know we can put some runs on the board. It just seems like right now, guys are pitching us really well and we're not hitting any mistakes. When you miss the mistakes, it's tough to do much.''

Pomeranz 'pretty comfortable' with potential move to bullpen

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Pomeranz 'pretty comfortable' with potential move to bullpen

NEW YORK -- If Drew Pomeranz is going to be part of the Red Sox' postseason plans, the team will likely have a better idea about that question by Thursday afternoon.

Pomeranz, who was scratched from his final scheduled start on Thursday because of soreness in his left forearm and general concern about his 2016 workload, will throw a 30-35 pitch bullpen.

If he responds well, he could then see some relief action over the final weekend at Fenway to determine his readiness for the playoffs.

"Before we even begin to map out a potential relief appearance over the weekend,'' said John Farrell, "we've got to get through that next step.''

Pomeranz pitched well in his last start at Tropicana Field over the weekend, but has been dealing with some discomfort in his forearm.

"I've had some soreness here, late in the year,'' Pomeranz said. "I've thrown more innings than I have ever (before), so we kind of sat down and talked about the best course of action the rest of the way.''

Pomeranz described what he felt as "just some soreness, probably from never covering this time of the year. It's a spot I've never been in before. We just decided the best thing to do was not making this last start and talk about maybe sliding into the bullpen.''

The lefty is no stranger to the bullpen, having pitched there as recently as last season while with Oakland.

"I've had the benefit of doing pretty much everything (in terms of roles),'' he said. "I'm pretty comfortable in any situation. If they see me helping there, obviously, that's where I want to be. But I don't know if it's a sure thing. We'll have to see how it goes.''

Meanwhile, another sidelined starter, Steven Wright, is expected to rejoin the team in Boston Friday. Wright threw a bullpen off the mound earlier this week in Fort Myers as he attempts to come back from inflammation in his shoulder.

 

Wednesday's Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Second try at clinching A.L. East

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Second try at clinching A.L. East

The Red Sox try again to nail down the A.L. East crown tonight, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against the Yankees while needed just one victory -- or one Toronto defeat -- to clinch the division.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Brock Holt 3B
Andrew Benintendi LF
Sandy Leon C
----
Clay Buchholz P

YANKEES:
Brett Gardner LF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Gary Sanchez C
Brian McCann DH
Starlin Castro 2B
Didi Gregorious SS
Mark Texeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Mason Williams RF
----
Bryan Mitchell P