Red Sox happy with recent home success

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Red Sox happy with recent home success

BOSTON It was the kind of win the Red Sox needed. Contributions from all parts offense, defense, starting pitching, and the bullpen.

Perhaps it was enough to fend off the naysayers. For the time being.

Its very encouraging, said manager Bobby Valentine, who celebrated his 62 birthday with a 12-1 win over the Indians at Fenway Park.

Especially at home because there was some question after game one of the four-game series that wed never play well at home again, and that there was a mental state that we couldnt break through, and la-de-da-de-da-de-da.

When you see the guys in the clubhouse thats a good thing for me. Its good. And I think we had a good thing most of the year, its just frustrating because wed get so close and it would slip away. And now were just banging the door down. Were not letting the door shut the last couple of games. Its really been good.

While Daniel Bard was not at his sharpest, it was enough to hold the Indians at bay. The four-run lead his offense handed him in the first inning certainly helped. Bards outing, along with Clay Buchholz on Friday and Felix Doubronts on Saturday, gives the Sox a streak of three straight quality starts for the first time this season.

The bullpen once again came through, with three scoreless innings, one each from Rich Hill, Matt Albers, and Scott Atchison.

The 11-run margin of victory was the Sox largest of the season, and largest since an 18-6 win over the Blue Jays on Sept. 13. The Sox have scored 10 or more runs nine times this season, the most ever in the teams first 34 games of a season.

The offense batted around twice, in the four-run first and in the six-run seventh. Jarrod Saltalamacchia led the offense going 3-for-4 with a season-high five RBI, the second most of his career, and a his fifth home run of the season.

It starts with pitching, said Saltalamacchia. Pitching and defense wins games. So last three starts have been great. These guys have been going after the guy, really commanding the plate, commanding the zone, kind of setting the tone for us and then with our offense were going to be able to put some runs on the board. And a day like today where Bardo battled and just going after these guys and didn't give in, that was what picked everyone up.

Rookies Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks combined to go 4-for-5 with six runs scored, five RBI, a home run, two doubles, a walk, and Nava twice getting hit by a pitch.

Its awesome. It really is, Saltalamacchia said. Thats whats going to happen throughout the year. You get guys that are injured, guys that get called up and step in like theyve done. Its not easy to come to Boston and step in like they've done and do a great job.

Perhaps a game like this will make it easier to play, at least for the final two games on the six-game homestand.

Youve just got to take it all in, Saltalamacchia said. Its the best place in the world to play and obviously if were not playing well, they're going to let us know and thats part of the game. But a day like today, we put some runs on the board, but it was awesome.

McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

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McAdam: Sure, take Buchholz out of the rotation, then what?

It's easy -- obvious, even -- that Clay Buchholz should be immediately replaced in the Red Sox rotation.
     
What's more, it's apparent who should replace him. Eduardo Rodriguez, though his velocity remains mysteriously subpar, is otherwise healthy and available.
     
Even with the acknowledgement that Rodriguez's fastball isn't as lively as the Red Sox would prefer it to be, he remains a logical option.
     
And there can be little debate over the move to extract Buchholz from the rotation. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 6.35 ERA, and while pitcher’s won-loss records are notoriously misleading, this stat isn't: the Red Sox are 3-7 with Buchholz starting and 26-11 with everyone else.
     
Buchholz's confidence is shattered. You can see it in his body language on the mound. You can sense it with the glacial-like pace in which he works
with runners on base. You can observe it in his postgame remarks, where he looks and sounds like someone with no idea how to reverse his slide.
     
Case closed.
     
But the next part of the equation is a little trickier: what do the Red Sox do with him now?
     
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will just release him. For one thing, there's more than $8 million coming to him for the remainder of the season and those decisions aren't made lightly.
     
For another, it's possible -- hard as it might be to imagine now -- that Buchholz could help the 2016 Red Sox before the season is through. And if you think that's a ridiculous notion, then you've forgotten other similar stretches in his career.
     
In 2014, when Buchholz had what was, until then, the worst season of his career, he still managed to put together a seven-start stretch at the end of the season that saw him go 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
     
Or the 13-game stretch inside the otherwise hideous 2012 (season ERA: 4.56) in which Buchholz was 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA.
     
Those two stretches are at the heart of the paradox that is Buchholz - even in the course of miserable seasons, he invariably finds a stretch where he figures some things out and pitches brilliantly for a time.
     
It's one reason the Red Sox have stuck with him for the first two months -- the knowledge that, at any time, something may click, sending Buchholz on one of his patented rolls.
     
After all, Buchholz is just 31, too young to be finished. And as both the pitcher himself and manager John Farrell said Thursday night, in the wake of another poor outing, health isn't an issue.
     
And that's the rub here.
     
If Buchholz hadn't been given a public clean bill of health, the Red Sox could have discovered a heretofore undetected "general soreness'' somewhere on Buchholz's body -- a balky shoulder here, or a tender elbow there.
     
That would have bought Buchholz and the Red Sox some time to place him on the DL, take a mental break from the mound and work on making some adjustment away from prying eyes.
     
Now, that would seem not to be an option -- unless Buchholz, ahem, stubbed a toe getting on or off the Red Sox charter flight to Toronto early Friday morning.
     
Finally, Buchholz is long out of options and has sufficient service time to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.
     
So what's left? Not much, beyond a trip to the bullpen. And that's where things get complicated.
     
In a 10-year major league career, Buchholz has made exactly two (2) appearances in relief, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
Given that Buchholz has struggled mightily early in games -- until Thursday's start, when he completely flipped the script and retired the first nine hitters he faced, Buchholz had allowed a batting average of  .366 the first time through the order -- it's difficult to imagine him being successful in relief.
     
Sure, the Red Sox could designated him as their mop-up man in  relief, brought in when the team has fallen behind early or jumped out to a huge lead in the middle innings.
     
But such scenarios can't be counted upon to provide Buchholz with enough regular opportunities, and even  if they did present themselves, there's no guarantee that Buchholz would thrive under such circumstances.
     
So, the club appears at a dead end -- unwilling to release Buchholz because of meager starting depth options and the likelihood that he might be needed in a few weeks or months, and unable to find a spot for him to get straightened out.
     
It's the ultimate conundrum, which, when you think about it, is the perfect way to view Buchholz's career.
     

 

McAdam: Ridiculous to think Bradley's streak ended because he hit leadoff

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McAdam: Ridiculous to think Bradley's streak ended because he hit leadoff

BOSTON -- If you think John Farrell's decision to hit Jackie Bradley Jr. leadoff for one night is the reason Bradley's 29-game hit streak came to an end, I've got some swamp land you might be interested in buying.

Such silly talk first surfaced mid-afternoon when the lineup was announced. With Mookie Betts getting his first day off this season, somebody had to hit leadoff. Farrell went with the guy who was leading the league in hitting.

That sounds reasonable. But not to some, who cried that putting Bradley at the top was (take your pick) disrupting Bradley's routine, putting him in a place with which he wasn't familiar, or asking him to change his approach.

Of course, none of those made much sense.

First of all, Thursday night marked the sixth (SIXTH!) different spot that Bradley has hit during the hitting streak. He had hit second, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth. So the notion that any change was disruptive was absurd.

As for the notion that Bradley would treat his at-bats differently because he was leading off? Also wrong. Bradley's major adjustment since spring training has been being aggressive early in the count. So, do you know how many pitches Bradley saw in four at-bats as the leadoff hitter? Eight.

Does that sound like someone who was being forced to be more patient for the night, or someone changing their approach by working the count more?

Finally, Bradley hit two balls on the screws -- one to the warning track in right, just in front of the bullpen in his first at-bat and another in front of the center field door, some 400 or so feet away, in his third.

Streaks come to an end, even when hitters belt the ball hard. Twice.