Aceves holding down the fort in long relief


Aceves holding down the fort in long relief

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON With both starting pitchers the Royals' Danny Duffy and the Red Sox' Andrew Miller getting pounded Tuesday night through just 3 23 innings, and with both bullpens pretty well beaten up after Mondays 14-inning game, the Sox had one advantage in their bullpen:

Right-hander Alfredo Aceves.

After Miller was driven from the game with two outs in the fourth inning, and the Sox trailing by two runs, Aceves entered and shut down the Royals for the next 3 13 innings, allowing just three hits while striking out three. That performance earned himself the win, improving to 6-1, and lowering his ERA to 3.10.

It was just what the Sox needed, as their offense broke open for eight runs over the next six innings, giving them a 13-9 win over the Royals.

We got in our bullpen a lot Monday night, said manager Terry Francona. And we had everybody available Tuesday. But if Aceves doesnt do what he does, youre asking a lot. And the ability to not just get people out but to go multiple innings is so important. Its been so valuable to us.

Working between the bullpen and making four starts this season, Aceves improves to 20-2 in his career, the first pitcher to win 20 of his first 22 career decisions since St. Louis Howie Krist did it from 1937-1942, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Aceves has won his last 15 relief decisions since June 7, 2009, the longest relief win streak in the majors since Phil Regan won 15 straight decisions with the Dodgers from May 17, 1966 through May 10, 1967.

I knew coming in to this after Monday night it was my job to pitch deep into the game and didnt do a good job of that tonight, Miller said. Fortunately, Aceves was able to come in and pick up a lot of slack.

Aceves has been picking up a lot of slack this season. Just one of his wins this season has come while he has started. The other five he earned in relief. His ability to not only shut down opponents, but go multiple innings has been extremely beneficial. He has thrown a high of six innings while starting and 4 23 out of the bullpen.

Aceves did one heck of a job, catcher Jason Varitek said of the right-handers performance against the Royals.

Aceves gave us a chance to get our offense going, settle everything down. And then everybody was a little worn from Monday night. It doesnt matter whos coming in . . . but Aceves set that tone. He did an awesome job.

Hes got a good repertoire of pitches, and thats a good thing to have on your team.
With Miller leaving early, Aceves performance minimized what could have been another tough night on the bullpen, with little carry-over effect for Wednesday.

Its OK, Francona said. Because what Aceves did, nobodys gotten overworked. We hung on and won tonight. If you start matching up early, though, youre certainly running the risk of getting in trouble. And we dont want to do that.

Julian Tavarez held a similar role in the Sox pen a few years ago with one exception.

Julian Tavarez did it, Francona said. He kind of took the ball, maybe more of a mop-up type, where Aceves is pitching in games where were winning and holding on . . . Its a pretty unique role.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Shoulder injuries don’t have to be damning for hitters. Look at the 469-foot home run Hanley Ramirez decimated Saturday in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.

Yes, he’s gotten off to a slow start. Through 19 games played, he has two long balls.

But he had just one homer through the same number of games in 2016. He’s hitting .250 now. A year ago at this point, he was hitting .266.

“Last year, Hanley started slow,” hitting coach Chili Davis said prior to the Cubs series. “I watched him, work, and work, and work, and work, and you know, he didn’t abandon what he was working on. He didn’t abandon it, he stuck with it and he perfect ed it. And when he perfected it, he went off. He’s still working.

“Timing, consistency with timing, and it could be partially the shoulder bothering him.”

At least eight times in his career, Ramirez has been considered day-to-day or gone to the disabled list because of a shoulder injury. He partially dislocated his left shoulder, his lead shoulder, in 2007.

Hey, did you notice it was 83 degrees at first pitch Saturday?

“When it’s cold, and you’ve got bad joints, it affects you,” Davis said during the week. “When it warms up, it loosens up more.”

Davis knows better than most how to handle shoulder pain, how to be a successful power hitter despite it. The former switch-hitting slugger has a metal screw in his left shoulder after a 1986 surgery.

“For 13 years I played with it,” Davis said. “It was multiple dislocations. I slipped down some stairs in Riverfront Stadium. Grabbed a rail, and dislocated it. It dislocated like five times after this. It was so loose.”

Davis, now 57 years old and last a big leaguer in 1999, still has the screw in that shoulder. Today they make dissolvable ones, but didn't back then.

Believe it or not, Davis believes the surgery helped his righthanded swing. He was a switch-hitter, and batting righty, he liked to hook the ball.

“I’d get out and around,” Davis said. “And then I realized I had to use my top hand more. … It created power the other way for me. It was ridiculous how that happened. I mean, it was ridiculous. 

“Because if you really think about it, [the right] is my strong hand. I do everything with this hand, I eat, I’m a right-handed guy. … Everything right-handed was all over the field.”

Davis said hitters are always aware of their health situations. He remembers coming back from ankle surgery and the bad habits he created. The day he finally let himself act normally, he heard a pop. But it wasn’t trouble: it was merely scar tissue breaking up.

The shoulders are, of course, important. But Davis explained that a swing where the shoulders do most of the work is probably not ideal.

“People talk to connection with the backside, feel that connection. Well, that connection creates synchronicity,” Davis said. “Yeah, it creates some power, but you can try to feel connection and lose your hands, your hands get lost in the process. So they got to work perfect together. 

“But the bigger muscles, to me, were the stop muscles for me. If I was going to swing and I went to stop, that’s when I felt these things holding me back, or the connection holding me back. So just from experience alone, yeah, if the shoulders are involved in your swing, then you’ve got a long swing and your hands aren’t going to work the right way.”

There was a moonshot Saturday that suggested Ramirez’s hands are working properly, and that his shoulder pain won't mean a drop-off from last year necessarily.

“I think at times he may [be compensating],” Davis said. “He’s working on things. If he wasn't working, if he came in the cage during BP and I didn’t think that he was working on something, then I’d have a problem with that. But he’s working, and last year he worked and worked and worked until it clicked. So, I’m hoping the same thing happens this year.”

Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox


Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

BOSTON - Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero and Ben Zobrist had solo shots, helping the Chicago Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers.

Steven Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.