Sox can't shake losing feeling

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Sox can't shake losing feeling

The weather was spectacular. The ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the ballpark was glorious.

Then came the game.

Ugh.

"A downer,'' said Bobby Valentine succinctly.

"Tough,'' agreed outfielder Cody Ross. "After such a great celebration, to come out and lose the first one this year against these guys....it's tough.''

And yet, not much different than the Red Sox have shown through the first 13 games.

If the presence of the Yankees, their archrivals, was supposed to lift the Red Sox out of their early-season lethargy, the plan backfired. The Sox seemed flat and overmatched.

Sometimes, they haven't hit. Sometimes they haven't pitched. And Friday, it was a little -- or neither -- of both.

Clay Buchholz became the second Red Sox starter this year to allow five homers in a game, though he had at least had the good sense to give all of them up with the bases empty.

Even that proved too much of an obstacle for a feeble offense which has now scored three runs or fewer in eight of the 13 games played.

After scoring 31 runs in the first three game of the homestand -- all wins -- the Sox have now scored just eight runs in the last four -- all defeats.

That's either the sign of a bad team, or at the very least, one with serious issues.

Buchholz's performance was particularly troublesome. In three starts, he's allowed 18 earned runs, including six homers.

His absence in the second half of last season croaked the Red Sox, particularly in the final month when they got two wins combined from their top two starters, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.

Valentine preached patient for Buchholz after Friday's implosion, noting that the righthander "is still getting his feet underneath him,'' following his lower back stress fracture last season.

But if Buchholz can't provide quality starts as the bridge between an established front of the rotation and an unproved duo (Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront), the Red Sox are in deep trouble.

Any scenario that had the Sox remaining in contention was built around the notion that their third starter would consistently keep them in games. But in all three of his starts so far, Buchholz has put the Red Sox in an early hole. Only once did his teammates hit enough to overcome the early deficit.

The bottom third of the order is punchless, and with injuries robbing the Sox of two-thirds of their starting outfield, the replacements off the bench aren't contributing.

(Contrast this with the Yankees, whose depth is such that Joe Girardi could give Alex Rodriguez the day off from third base while getting two homers from his fill-in, Eric Chavez).

Without Jacoby Ellsbury to ignite the top of the batting order, Bobby Valentine is left to utilize Mike Aviles, who lacks the on-base ability to hit there with success.

Add it up and the losing streak is at four straight with two more games remaining with Yankees. The homestand that was supposed to energize them has instead resulted in a downward spiral.

"We're going out and we're playing hard,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "It's just not clicking. When it does, it's going to be the same as last year.''

Saltalamacchia was making reference to the team's four-month run that saw them post the best record in the American League from the beginning of May until the end of August.

But on a day after a dispiriting loss, it's as if he's referring to last September when the bottom fell out of the Red Sox' season. For now, this season more closely resembles a continuation of the team's 7-20 fade rather than a fresh start.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .