Bad first hampers Beckett

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Bad first hampers Beckett

BOSTON -- Returningfrom a dismal road trip -- on which theywere able to win just two of seven from Seattle and Oakland, teams withsub-.500 records to face the Yankees, with the American Leagues best record,the Red Sox needed Josh Beckett, their erstwhile ace, to prove that he couldagain take on that mantle.
They got anything but in the first inning.

Beckett faced nine batters and gave up five runs, on four hits, a hit batter, a walk, and two sacrifice flies, throwing 33 pitches, just 15 strikes, in the inning. It was the first time he had allowed five runs in an inning since Aug. 13, 2011, at Seattle. He walked in the first run of the game, the first time he gave up a run on a walk since April 18, 2009, when he walked Baltimores Nick Markakis in the fifth inning.

Derek Jeter hit Becketts first pitch of the game for a single to center field. With just seven pitches, Beckett loaded the bases with no outs. He didnt get a called strike until the 21st pitch, and it was the first strike that wasnt hit safely or fouled off. On a 1-and-2 count to Yankees No. 8 hitter Eric Chavez, with his 26th pitch, it was the first time Beckett had been ahead in a count.

In all, Beckett went five innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and a hit batter. He threw 90 pitches, 49 strikes, as his ERA rose from 4.06 to 4.13.

It was tough, Beckett said. I was battling myself, especially in that first inning. I kind of sped up my mechanics there in the middle innings especially out of the windup it made a difference. The stretch was pretty tough.

Beckett gave up a run in the second, but held the Yankees scoreless over his last three innings. Surprisingly, he left with the lead, in line for the win, as the Sox batters got to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, whose performance was just as futile as Becketts. Staked to a five-run lead in the first, he gave it all back in the bottom of the inning.

Becketts potential win, though, was wiped out when the bullpen faltered, keeping the right-handers record at 4-7.

Beckett appeared to be a completely different pitcher in the third and fourth than he was in the first two innings. He faced the minimum number of batters in the third and fourth. Including the final out of the second, he struck out four straight batters, two on curveballs, two on 93-mph fastballs.

I think I got to locate some balls, he said, of adjustments he made. The balls I didn't locate, they hit the gaps. The first inning that didn't seem like that was the way it was going.

Beckett and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had several lengthy discussions on the mound.

I was just thinking to get down in the zone, Beckett said. I was really struggling. I think in the first inning I just wanted to throw a strike, I didn't care where they hit it. I was just really battling myself with that. I think the second inning it was better, I kind of spread things out. I was having a hard time getting my arm up.

He faltered in the fifth, giving up a lead-off single to Alex Rodriguez before striking out Robinson Cano. After Rodriguez stole second, Beckett walked Mark Teixeira, setting up a double steal with Nick Swisher batting. A nifty play by Nick Punto at second base, and Saltalamacchia, to cut down Rodriguez attempting to score on Nick Swishers one-hop liner prevented a run. Raul Ibanez flied out to Ryan Kalish in center to end the inning.

But, that was as far as Beckett would go. With a doubleheader Saturday, manager Bobby Valentine had hoped to get more out of Beckett.

Well, five innings was good but it could have been a lot worse, Valentine said. But six innings would have been perfect and I just didnt see him having it in him.

It was the first time Beckett faced the Yankees this season. In 2011, he went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 38 strikeouts in five starts against New York. He has made 27 starts in his career against the Yankees, more than any other team. Beckett was asked if perhaps the familiarity is giving the Yankees an edge.

No, he said. I mean you got to make pitches against them. Theyre good. Everybody talks about rival this, rival that. It's not that. It's just that both these teams have been really good for a long time so it automatically plays itself up like that. Theyre a good team. we're a good team. They've been a good team for a long time. we've been a good team for a long time. You just got to make pitches. Today was one of those nights where it was warm and balls were flying, so it makes it even more important to make pitches.

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

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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.