Morales tacks on another solid spot-start outing

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Morales tacks on another solid spot-start outing

BOSTON -- First the win. Now, the Whats next?

Of course, a win is easy to take as Franklin Morales gave the Red Sox and manager Bobby Valentine Sunday afternoon against the Twins at Fenway Park.

Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, Morales was able to do what no other starter or any pitcher, for that matter could do in the four-game series against the Twins this weekend. Win. Morales also stopped the Sox four-game losing streak.

Starting in place of the ailing Josh Beckett, Morales earned the win, improving to 3-2. He went six innings, giving up one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, 63 for strikes, lowering his overall ERA from 3.32 to 3.14.

In six starts this season, Morales is 3-1, while the Sox are 4-2 in those games. Spanning 32 13 innings in those starts, he has allowed 11 earned runs for a 3.06 ERA, giving up 25 hits and 11 walks with 35 strikeouts.

The win by Morales was also the first by a starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz beat the Tigers on July 30.

He pitched six great innings, Valentine said. When you need some zeroes and lengthIm impressed with way he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia used all of his pitches. A lot of changeups, strikes and he threw his curveball. He didnt get many strikes but he threw it effectively. Very impressive.

But now Valentine may have to make a decision.

I like him as a starter. We know that, Valentine said. Right now, I dont think we have to do anything with Franklin or make total determination. I have a tough Texas team coming in and our bullpen is a little wobbly and were a guy short out there and all that good stuff. Well play it by ear.

Deciding whether to return Morales to the bullpen or keep him in the rotation is not difficult, Valentine said. And, an immediate decision is not imperative.

But, its everything else that goes along with that kind of decision that Valentine must take into consideration.

Its an easy decision, Valentine said. We just have to figure out all the other parts. He wants to start and I want him to start and we have to figure out. We cant always count on a guy getting injured so he can get a start. Hes been lights out out there.

Morales has shuttled between the bullpen and rotation this season. He has made 34 appearances in all, getting called to start when needed. The back-and-forth does not bother him, he said.

You know what, I dont thinking too much about that, he said. I thinking inning by inning, hitter by hitter, throw strikes and take the hitter out.

Thats not my decision. I am here for the team, to help the team in any situation the manager needs me and try to take the hitter out.

Morales said he is confident in his ability and his role, whatever that maybe, on the staff.

My confidence is very good, he said. I feel very concentrated with my pitches, with my split finger, with my curveball and my fastball. Its my best pitch and what I do is attack the hitter.

Morales and Saltalamacchia worked comfortably together on Sunday. Although they allowed the first batter to reach base in the first, third, and fifth innings, just one scored. The Twins got their lone run off Morales in the fifth when Alexi Casilla walked to lead off, stole second, went to third on Jamey Carrolls ground out, and scored on Ben Reveres sacrifice fly.

Other than that, there was little the Twins could do with the Sox left-hander.

Same thing hes done all year long, Saltalamacchia said. Came in there, threw strikes, mixing his off-speed pitches for strikes, which is huge. It gets hitters off-balance. They dont know really what to swing at and what not to swing at. He just pitched great.

The 106 pitches were the second-highest pitch count of the season for Morales, behind only 109 in seven innings on June 28, nine appearances and three starts prior to Sunday.

Its real impressive considering that he went from bullpen to starter back to the bullpen again, Saltalamacchia said. Hes been up and down every night. Even Saturday night he knew he was starting today but he still had his cleats on just in case. The guy, to have a mentality like that, to be able to turn a switch and pitch a gem like today is awesome.

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

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Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.