First pitch: Wins in New York something to build on

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First pitch: Wins in New York something to build on

NEW YORK -- At various points along the way in their season to date, the Red Sox have won games that looked to be a springboard to the run for which they've been waiting.

Most recently, Cody Ross's walkoff, three-run homer against the Chicago White Sox two weeks ago at Fenway seemed to be that launching pad. That dramaatic victory, however, was followed by three straight dispiriting losses -- and five in the next six games -- that sent them not soaring, but instead, plummeting.

Perhaps that's why not even Bobby Valentine, who expressed unbridled enthusiasm for his team Friday afternoon -- maintaining that they were "headed in the right direction'' and eminently capable of going on a streak that would soon carry them "10, 15, 20 games over .500 -- refused to take the bait in the aftermath of his team's 3-2 win over the New York Yankees Sunday night.

"I don't know that it does anything for (Monday),'' shrugged the manager. "We're playing a tough Detroit team. But I like the way the guys played.''

But if the Red Sox can't make something of back-to-back last-at-bat wins in Yankee Stadium, then this season may truly be a lost cause.

In the clubhouse, there seemed to be more hope that the Sox could build off the weekend wins.

Adrian Gonzalez, finally hitting with authority, predicted that the Sox should brace themselves for, in effect, two straight months of a playoff-like pressure-cooker, with each game providing some sense of urgency.

"We put ourselves in the position where that's basically what we've got,'' said Gonzalez. "We need to win every game.''

Dustin Pedroia, seated next to Gonzalez in the visitor's clubhouse, put a finer point on it.

"It couldn't have come at a better time,'' said Pedroia. "We need to win. We can build on this, get back home and play good ball. I hope (these) are huge. We just have to continue to build ballgames and let the momentum build up.''

It's been precisely that momentum that the Sox have been unable to sustain through the first 102 games. They've been locked in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back rut for much of the year.

Valentine, taking the macro approach, said the club has to focus on winning series, but the win Sunday was their first in the last three. The Sox can't afford to lose any more ground, not with six teams in front of them in the crowded American League wild card chase.

In the near term, the two late-inning wins might serve another purpose. General manager Ben Cherington has said for the last week that he would be watching his team closely on the road trip to determine his approach to the non-waiver trading deadline.

The Sox might not have wowed him with their play -- they finished an admittedly difficult road trip against the top two teams in the A.L. at 3-3 -- but Saturday and Sunday's victories may have, if nothing else, bought them some time.

"Obviously, we're playing as hard as we can,'' said Pedroia. "We feel that we have a great team, so hopefully (Cherington) sees that and knows that we have a championship-caliber team. We just gotta go play like it.''

That, of course, has been the hard part. Whether they were hamstrung by injuries or damned by their own underachievement, the Sox have, at no time, resembled the "championshoip-caliber team'' of which Pedroia spoke.

And whether they get help from a move or two by Cherington before Tuesday afternoon, time is running out on them.

If beating the Yankees twice -- on the road and in their final at-bats -- doesn't spur them, what will?

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.