Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

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Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

At a game over .500, nine games out of first place and four games behind the second wild-card leader, the Red Sox found themselves in limbo on the day of the non-waiver trading deadline.

They're not fully engaged in the playoff race, but neither are they completely out of it, and their actions -- or lack of same -- toward the deadline.

The Red Sox made just one deal involving personnel on their 25- man roster, and it was essentially a swap of journeyman relievers -- with a 36-year-old outfielder thrown in for good measure.

As deadline deals go, it didn't exactly rival the four-team blockbuster that sent Nomar Garciaparra out of town and sent the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years.

Fans wanted more, of course, a dramatic move in one direction or the other. Some wished for a massive sell-off; others wanted a trade of impact.

The Red Sox delivered none of the above.

They weren't seller or buyers. They were more like interested bystanders.

If they had been, say, eight or 10 games below .500, then they could have done what the Philadelphia Phillies did -- throw up the "For Sale'' sign and make the best deals they could for some established veterans, stockpiling prospects to fight another day.

The Phils auctioned off outfielder Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in part because they were really, truly out of contention.

Conversely, if the team had been eight or 10 games over, the Sox would have been motivated to obtain a difference maker. Maybe then, the Sox would have been convinced to package two of the three Killer B's -- Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- to trade for Josh Johnson or someone else who could make a difference this year and several seasons beyond.

For the best example of that approach, think of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, in the last week, landed Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Victorino.

But the Red Sox weren't in it, or out of it. They just were.

You could see the seeds for this approach being planted two weeks ago, when Cherington, the day before the second of the half of the season, noted that, in Boston, giving up on a season simply isn't permissible.

And it's here that "The Monster'' of which Theo Epstein spoke, is in play. Because there are tickets to be sold, sponsorships to be negotiated and TV ratings to bolster, starting over isn't an option.

Yet they haven't been good enough or consistent enough to warrant a big acquisition.

Limbo can be uncomfortable.

Larry Lucchino revealed a week ago that the Sox had "empowered'' general manager Ben Cherington to do something "bold,'' thereby whetting the appetites for those who hoped for either a fire sale or blockbuster acquisition.

"It was an unfamiliar position,'' said Cherrington. "You're trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance, (vs) the reality of where we are. You need to do the math and the cluster of teams ahead of you and what you need to actually pass all of them. We have to weigh that against the desire to make the team better.

"It was an additional layer in the decision-making process, as opposed to the past, when we've sort of been more clearly buyers.''

Acknowledging Lucchino's permission to be bold, Cherington didn't "find anything bold that made sense to us.''

Cherington, in his first year as GM but a veteran of many deadlines as Theo Epstein's assistant, labeled this July experienced "uncharted waters. It gives you more clarity when you're on side or the other.''

And so, they stood (almost) pat, which is a gamble in itself, considering that the inaction is, in effect, a show of faith in team's underachieving roster.

"We're happy with the guys we have here,'' said Cherington. "It's really a reflection more on them. We believe in the group. We feel we like we have as good a chance as any of the teams in this cluster of teams fighting for a wild card and win a lot of games the next two months.''

That, in point of fact, may be the boldest move of all at the deadline, for Cherington and his assistants are banking on a bunch that have done little to inspire anyone through the first two-thirds of the season.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar