A near-perfect beginning for Mortensen

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A near-perfect beginning for Mortensen

BOSTON -- There was much more attention and hype surrounding the Red Sox debut of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks Wednesday night, but as first games go, it's tough to beat the one enjoyed by pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

Called up from Pawtucket earlier in the day, Mortensen pitched three scoreless -- and nearly perfect innings -- in relief of starter Daniel Bard.

Mortensen allowed a leadoff single to the first Oakland A's hitter he faced, former teammate Cliff Pennington, then tossed a wild pitch that enabled Pennington to take second.

But after that Mortensen retired the next nine hitters, striking out six of them.

''He was fantastic,'' said Bobby Valentine. "We saw that his off-speed stuff in spring training in the bullpen looked terrific but in the games, he seemed to elevate a little. Often we said, 'If that stuff is down, he's going to be really tough.' Well, it was down tonight and he was really tough.''

"It definitely helps the confidence,'' said Mortensen. "You come in, put a stop to things and give us a chance to get back into the game. It was a nice outing.''

Mortensen pitched with Colorado last year. Though he was once a member of the A's -- having been dealt off to acquire Matt Holliday -- there's been such roster churn in Oakland that "I had the advantage that no one in the A's lineup except Pennington has ever seen me.''

Whatever Mortensen used as edge, it worked.

He got two strikeouts with Pennington in scoring position in the seventh, before retiring Seth Smith on a groundout to first.

In the eighth, he got another grounder to the right side and two more strikeouts. It was a pattern he repeated one more time in the ninth -- groundout to first, followed by two strikeouts.

"I think all my pitches were working pretty well today,'' he said. "I was able to locate them all. If you pound strikes and mix things up, you get some check-swings and swings-and-misses.''

While in Pawtucket, Mortensen had pitched in relief and hadn't pitched more than two innings in any one appearance. But going three innings Wednesday wasn't much of a stretch.

"Not at all,'' he said. "It had been four days since I'd thrown and felt pretty fresh. I just wanted to continue what I had been doing. I had felt pretty good in Pawtucket. I still felt like my delivery needed a little work and tonight it actually felt like it was clicking.

"The pitches were coming out good, the movement and action was good. It was nice to see. I just have to build off that."

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

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Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “I benefited from good defensive plays and hard hit balls at people and guys just making plays. Whether you feel good or not you have to have good things happen out there on that field.” David Price said on his successful start against Toronto.

 

* “He woke up this morning more sore than when he left here last night . . . Didn’t want to push it. We’re hopeful he’ll back in the lineup tomorrow.” Farrell on David Ortiz being a late scratch prior to Sunday’s game.

 

* “It’s always great to avoid a sweep . . . We battled hard the whole game and had great at-bats the whole game.” Mookie Betts said on winning the final game of the series against Toronto in a postgame interview with NESN.

 

* “On a day when we were thin with the amount of usage we’ve had, Clay stepped in.” John Farrell said on Clay Buchholz’s relief appearance for Boston in the 10th inning.

 

* "It definitely felt a little different . . . Got to help the team any way I can . . . Glad I could contribute today . . . All in all it's sort of a learining experience for me and I'm sure I'll get better at it as we go." Clay Buchholz said on his first relief appearance of the season for the Red Sox out of the bullpen.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 22 games in his 1-6 performance.

 

* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single in the sixth. Pedroia has also hit safely in 23-straight games against Toronto

 

* Clay Buchholz made only his third career appearance as a reliever for the Red Sox, striking out one and allowing no runs in the tenth. His last relief appearance came on 8/17/08.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Dustin Pedroia

 

The second baseman continues to dominate the Blue Jays, finishing 2-6 with the game-winning double.

 

2) David Price

 

Boston’s ace answered the call in his most important start as a member of the Red Sox, even though he didn’t get the win he only gave up two earned runs off five hits and three walks

 

3) Mookie Betts

 

Entering the game with one hit in his last 20 at-bats, Betts went 2-4 with two walks, scoring two runs.

First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

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First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

 

The Red Sox bullpen coughed it up in the eighth in the second consecutive game.

After coming into a difficult situation in the eighth, Heath Hembree grooved a 1-0 fastball to Encarnacion for his 10th homerun of the season.

Hembree missed with his fastball middle-in, when Christian Vazquez set up down and away. That’s a miss that can’t happen against a hitter who’ll make you pay every time. Hembree entered the game locked-in, but lost his focus in the eighth.

 

Clay Buchholz's successful inning in reliefer doesn mean anything, yet. can’t pitch from the bullpen either.

He has a long was to go before he proves any value in the bullpen. The only guarantee right now is Buchholz can pitch more then one inning. He has to churn out more appearances like Sunday to be usable for the Red Sox.

 

The real David Price has arrived.

Boston’s ace showed up when he was needed. And he did it against a strong, streaking lineup, without having to strike everyone out.

After coughing up a two-run homerun to Jose Bautista and walk Josh Donaldson, he regained his composure to get out the deadly Edwin Encarnacion and one of yesterday’s villains, Justin Smoak.

And after Boston got him a one-run lead in the following half-inning, Price came out with 89 pitches to his total and only threw seven in the sixth.

That extended his outing by an inning and gave Boston’s bullpen some extra rest.

 

Blake Swihart looks like a natural in left field.

Even though his trade value is highest as a catcher, Swihart looks very comfortable in left. The question that remains with the change is his bat. If Swihart hits the same playing in left as he does behind the plate then there’s limited value in keeping him in left field once Brock Holt is healthy.

 

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts’ at-bats in the sixth completely threw off R.A. Dickey’s start.

In addition to Mookie Betts breaking up the no hitter before Pedroia came up, Boston’s men up the middle extended their hitting streaks after grueling at-bats.

The two saw 19 pitches between them both, taking six balls apiece. With the knuckleball being unpredictable to begin with, it became that much harder for Dickey to get the ball by Boston’s two and three hitters.

After that, he got into another full count with Shaw, walking him after seven pitches.

Once he hit Hanley Ramirez in a 1-0 count that marked the 11th ball of the inning after throwing 25 in the previous five innings.

Dickey clearly tried to change his approach with hitters figuring out the knuckler the third time through, which led to his earlier than expected exit after throwing five innings of no-hit baseball.