Nationals stymie Sox in Dice-K's return, 4-2

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Nationals stymie Sox in Dice-K's return, 4-2

BOSTON Before the game, manager Bobby Valentine said he was anxious to get Daisuke Matsuzakas first start in his Red Sox managerial tenure over with because he had no idea what to expect.

Matsuzaka gave Valentine five innings, giving up four runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts and a home run. He threw 80 pitches, 52 strikes, facing 20 batters. But Valentine may still not be sure what he can expect from the Japanese right-hander.

The Sox lost their second straight game, 4-2, to the Nationals at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon.

Matsuzaka started out strong. He struck out Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman, both swinging at sliders, with a Bryce Harper fly out sandwiched in between, in the first inning. He needed just 12 pitches, nine for strikes, in the inning.

Despite a lead-off, first-pitch home run by Adam LaRoche in the second, Matsuzaka looked solid through the first three innings when he faced one batter over the minimum. He had five strikeouts in that span three swinging at sliders, one looking at a slider, and another looking at a 91-mph fastball.

But he ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk. A nice double play started by Adrian Gonzalez sliding catch in right field and then doubling Ian Desmond off first, saved Matsuzaka from more damage.

The Sox offense, meanwhile, could do little with Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. In five previous starts against the Sox, Gonzalez had not gone more than six innings and had not allowed fewer than three runs.

In the first four innings, though, the Sox had just one baserunner when David Ortiz doubled to lead off the second then took third on a wild pitch. But that was as far as he got.

The Sox had baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings, without being able to score, before driving Gonzalez from the game in the seventh after a one-out walk to Will Middlebrooks and a single by Mike Aviles.

Right-hander Craig Stammen entered the game and walked pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney. Lefty Michael Gonzalez entered to face pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a first-pitch two-run single off the wall in left field. But Gonzalez struck out Daniel Nava, looking at a 92-mph fastball, and got Dustin Pedroia to pop out in foul ground to first baseman Adam LaRoche to end the Sox threat.

Franklin Morales relieved Matsuzaka to throw three perfect innings with three strikeouts. Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth.

First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

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First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees.

 

* As the postseason gets closer, David Price needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Price gave up three homers Tuesday night -- a two-run shoot to rookie sensation Gary Sanchez in the first; a solo shot to Didi Gregorius in the sixth; and another two-run belt in the seventh to Tyler Austin.

That's six homers in the last three outings and 29 for the season. It's also the sixth time this season that he's given up multiple homers in the same start, with the three on Tuesday representing a season-high.

Prior to this year, Price had never allowed more than 25 homers in a season. Last season, splitting time between the cavernous Comerica Park in Detroit and the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, he yielded just 17.

Worse, twice Tuesday the homers came at inauspicious times. In the sixth, the Sox had just closed to within one at 3-2; in the seventh, the Sox had worked t tie the game at 4-4.

 

* For all of the offensive brilliance shown by Mookie Betts, it's easy to forget how good he's been in right field.

Anyone who plays in the same outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr. runs the risk of having his defensive play overshadowed and that's likely the case with Betts.

He's played a Gold Glove-caliber right field, showing good range and instincts -- especially for someone who never played the outfield professionally until about 2 1/2 years ago.

And while Bradley has the stronger arm, Betts has 14 assists, including one Tuesday night.

That took place on a ball in which Betts was initially fooled. With one on, Chase Headley lined a ball to right that Betts seemed to lose in the lights. He went to his knees, fighting the lights, and managed to reach back to make the catch, sprawling. He then had the presence of mind to set himself and fire a throw to first, doubling up Starlin Castro for a mind-blowing double play.

 

* Expanded rosters make a mockery of the game.

In the eighth inning, Joe Girardi and John Farrell combined to burn through six players for one plate appearance.

Righty Blake Parker was set to face Aaron Hill, but Farrell had lefty Travis Shaw announced. Girardi then countered by bringing in lefty Richard Bleier to face Shaw.

Of course, Farrell countered by having righty Chris Young hit for Shaw. Young reached on a fielder's choice, and because Young can't play third, Farrell had insert Deven Marrero at third in the bottom of the inning.

Four position players and two pitchers in one spot. That couldn't be done in any other month during the season.

So why is it allowed in September?

 

Pomeranz scratched from last start, could pitch out of bullpen in playoffs

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Pomeranz scratched from last start, could pitch out of bullpen in playoffs

NEW YORK -- With the postseason just over a week away, it didn't appear that Drew Pomeranz was going to be part of the Red Sox' starting rotation.

On Tuesday, that became official.

Pomeranz was scratched from his last scheduled start of the regular season Thursday with some soreness in his forearm. Henry Owens will take his turn against the Yankees.

"He's come out of this last start (in Tampa Bay) a little bit more sore,'' said John Farrell. "There's been a need for additinal recovery time (and there's also) the total number of innings pitched. There's a number of factors.

"The forearm area is where he's experiencing some discomfort. He needs a few extra days. So combined with his career high in innings pitched (169.1), we're backing him out of his last start.''

Farrell emphasized that Pomeranz hadn't been shut down for the season, but did say that if the lefty pitched again, it would be out of the bullpen.

"We need to get him back on a mound,'' Farrell said, "hopefully by the end of the week to determine what role he'll have in the bullpen going forward.''

The fact that the Red Sox were a win -- or a Toronto loss -- away from clinching the division and have the luxury of being careful didn't have an impact on the decision to hold him out.

"You always put the player's health at the forefront,'' said Farrell. "Is this increased risk with the higher number of innings, or additional needed recovery time? You factor those in. This is independent of the standings.''

Pomeranz appeared to have been squeezed out of playoff rotation, with the four spots going to Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz.

In 13 starts, Pomeranz was 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA with the Red Sox after being obtained in a July trade with San Diego.

Two weeks ago, the Padres were disciplined for not fully disclosing all the necessary medical information with the Red Sox leading up to the deal, with GM A.J. Preller suspended for 30 days without pay.

It's unclear whether this injury is at all related to info the Padres withheld from the Red Sox.

"I can't really comment on that,'' Farrell said. "I do know what the player needs is some additional time. What's attached to that previously, I really don't have the specifics.''