Haggerty: Signs are there that Sox are giving up season

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Haggerty: Signs are there that Sox are giving up season

CLEVELAND So this is what happens when a baseball team gives up all pretense of hope for a season, or caring about how theyre perceived.

Sure there were still angry competitors raging against the dying of the 2012 Red Sox dream. Dustin Pedroia practically had hot, piping steam coming out of his ears as he barked out a request for reporters to hurry up and ask him whatever questions were coming his way after his first career game as a designated hitter.

Pedroia had a pair of hits and scored a run in Bostons 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night at Progressive Field, and his hitting tear continued for another day as the little infielder played in his 14th straight game.

But he wasnt able to get up with a chance to tie the game in the seventh inning when Pedro Ciriaco and Carl Crawford ran into a rare 6-5-6-4 double play that killed a potential rally what was then a tight one-run game.

It was Ciriacos mistake in being over-aggressive attempting to go second-to-third on a fairly routine infield ground ball, and he appeared to be wearing the burden of the loss following the game.

I thought the ball was going to pass him, so I went and he made a nice play, said Ciriaco. I should have waited to see if it went through. I made a mistake.

Its an easily forgivable miscue from a minor league middle infielder thats hitting .341 for the Sox, and has consistently been one of the best stories during a sunken regular season. Ciriaco is not the problem with his baseball team, but his gaffe helped slap the Sox with their third loss in a row and sank them to three games under .500 for the first time.

Wearing that kind of substandard record and consistently letting games slip through their fingers in mid-August has brought some harsh realities to most of the Sox players. They know the season is over, and that winning streak their shiny, happy manager keeps talking about simply isnt coming.

There were looks of resignation on many of the Sox players faces as they chewed up corn on the cob, picked at the postgame spread and shuffled out of the Cleveland visitors clubhouse. Its the same clubhouse that some of these players strutted through five years ago with World Series confidence, but that was truly a long time ago.

There were others that just dont seem to care about wins or losses anymore.

Like John Lackey as he apparently needs to travel with the team and work with trainer Mike Reinold while recovering from Tommy John surgery a fairly standard rehab that literally thousands of pitchers have come back from stronger-than-ever over the last 30 years.

But for whatever reason the underachieving righty needs to travel with the team even though he wont be throwing even one measly pitch for them.

Lackey was so busted up after the latest defeat that he was strutting around the clubhouse with a can of Bud Light in each hand, or what is known as double-fisting on every college campus in the history of mankind.

So much for the Bobby Valentine ban on alcohol in the Sox clubhouse that was implemented during spring training.

For a guy that was at the epicenter of last years chicken and beer shenanigans and somebody that isnt expected to help out this years team in any way, shape or form it was another clear case of some Sox players that just dont care anymore.

Not all.

Not even most.

But instead its a few rotten apples that are ruining the bunch as they continue to infect a team thats trying to shake its past reputation.

They dont care about the ultimate fate of this years team, and thats been obvious in the consistently bogus results.

They clearly dont care to protect reputations they feel were sullied when the truth about last years fractured, flawed squad came to light.

The conventional thinking was that Lackey would be removed from the equation after he underwent offseason elbow surgery, and would rehab in Fort Myers or at home.

But instead hes essentially morphed into Barney from the Simpsons hanging around the team with an 82.5 million contract and no accountability of any kind.

It probably shouldnt be surprising in the end, however.

Why should players that suffered no real punishment for last years misdeeds feel like theyre anything but bulletproof when they do the exact same things this year?

The Red Sox had a chance over the winter and again at the trade deadline -- to sweep out the problem children, and jettison the I Like Beer backup singers to parts unknown.

They didnt do it and that same swaggering indifference threatens a group of young players trying to do the right thing while the regular seasons walls are already closing around them.

There was a lot of talk that things would be different about this years group of Sox players. But action speaks louder than words, and theyre screaming same old, same old as the Sox sink back toward the bottom of the AL East with the second-highest payroll in all of Major League Baseball.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays

 

QUOTES:

"Rick has been the model of consistency.'' - John Farrell on starter Rick Porcello

"It means that we have a heck of a team, really. The runs we put up, and I don't think anybody talks about our defense.'' - Porcello, asked about the significance of being baseball's first 18-game winner.

"It's cool to be a part of that, but we're in a race right now and that's way more important.'' - Mookie Betts on the crowd chants of "MVP!" during his at-bat.

 

NOTES

* Hanley Ramirez has nine extra-base hit in the last 15 games.

* Opposing baserunners have stolen only 54 percent of the time when Sandy Leon is behind the plate, the lowest figure for any Red Sox catcher (minimum 20 games) since 1987

* Brock Holt tied a season high with three hits, including two with two outs and runners in scoring position.

* Mookie Betts set a career high with 72 extra-base hits.

* Betts became the third player in franchise history to have a 30-homer season before the age of 24. Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro are the others.

* Betts has five homers and 13 RBI in his last five home games.

* Rick Porcello is just the fifth major league pitcher since 1913 to begin a season 13-0 at home

* Porcello is the third Red Sox pitcher to win 18 of his first 21 decisions after Cy Young (1902) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2008)

* David Ortiz leads the majors in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS.

 

STARS:

1) Rick Porcello

The righthander became the first 18-game winner in the big leagues and he did it by supplying seven innings for the sixth straight start while improving to 13-0 at home.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts gave the Red Sox an early lead with his 30th homer of the year, becoming the third player in franchise history to reach that milestone before the age of 24.

3) Travis Shaw

Shaw broke out of a month-long slump with a three-hit game, including a double, to go along with two RBI.