Saltalamacchia rewards Valentine's confidence

795050.jpg

Saltalamacchia rewards Valentine's confidence

CHICAGO -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hitless in his last 17 at-bats and his batting average had dipped to .247.

Given that, it seemed like an odd time for his manager to make him the Red Sox' cleanup hitter. But that, Bobby Valentine reasoned, was precisely the point.

"Actually, I think he's been hitting the ball very well and hitting into lousy luck,'' said Valentine. "He knows that I totally believe in him. I saw his average go from .280 down to (.240-) something and the team was losing and I saw him dragging his head a little and I thought (hitting him cleanup) was a way for him to understand I believe him.''

Message received.

Saltalamacchia doubled in his first at-bat, smashed a two-run homer in his next at-bat, putting the Red Sox on their way to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

"I was happy, excited,'' said Saltalamacchia of his reaction to his new spot in the lineup. "(It meant I would) get some more at-bats, get some opportunities to get some more RBI. I was happy with that.''

Saltalamacchia launched a split-finger fastball from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the fourth inning into the bleachers in right field.

"He threw me a split that I swung through and missed,'' recounted Saltalamacchia. "Then he tried to throw it again and this one was a little more in the strike zone and I was able to put the barrell on it and hit it out.''

Saltalamacchia said the boost of confidence from the manager was exactly what he needed.

"It felt good,'' he said. "I talked to him a little bit as I was walking out (Friday) night and he said, '(The hits) are going to start falling because you've been swinging the bat well. It's kind of what was happening at the beginning of the season. I was hitting the ball hard, but right at people.

"That's kind of what I thought was happening the last few games - hitting the ball well, but right at people or right to the fence. It felt good to have a little confidence (shown in me) to hit in the four-hole.''

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

red_sox_jackie_bradley_060816.jpg

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the day off and Christian Vazquez get the start at catcher as the Red Sox look to extend their winning streak to 11 games today against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. 

Andrew Benintendi replaces Bradley in center, Chris Young is in left and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) is on the mound as the Red Sox close in on the A.L. East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is three with seven games left. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.73) is on the mound for the Rays.

The lineups:  

RED SOX 
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP 

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SS
Mikey Mahtook RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Curt Casali DH
Luke Maile C
Richie Shaffer 1B
---
Jake Odorizzi RHP 
 

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

miami-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI  — Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

"Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion," Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said FWC's Lorenzo Veloz.

"We are stunned and devastated," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times — landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries — before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.

"I'm still in shock," former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. "The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family."

© 2016 Associated Press.