Boston Red Sox

Beckett has the answers for struggling Red Sox

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Beckett has the answers for struggling Red Sox

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Josh Beckett delivered exactly what the Red Sox needed.

With the team mired in its worst start in decades -- and the starting pitching bearing a large portion of the responsibility for that -- Beckett delivered a gem, shutting down the Yankees as the Sox got their second win of the season, 4-0.

Right from the very beginning he was commanding all his pitches, and . . . when he opens up the plate with that two-seamer to the lefties, it seems like it opens up the entire plate, manager Terry Francona said. Commanded his breaking ball, threw it in all counts. He established to where they couldnt sit on a pitch because he was changing speeds, going back and forth. Think he ended up with one walk. Really, really good.

Beckett (1-1, 2.08 ERA) went eight innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, with 10 strikeouts. It was his best performance in a very long time.

The erstwhile ace said he felt some sense of responsibility to deliver.

I think we all do that, he said. When our day comes to pitch, were not thinking about what happened yesterday or two days ago or the future. I think everybodys trying to do their thing and we havent been getting a lot of breaks.

Beckett set the tone with his first batter, striking out Brett Gardner looking at a curveball. After Derek Jeter grounded out to Marco Scutaro at shortstop, Beckett struck out Mark Teixeira looking at a fastball. He struck out six of the nine batters in the Yankees lineup.

Five of his strikeouts came on curveballs.

Obviously, the curveball gives me another weapon, he said. I felt like I kind of had both of them going a little bit because early in the game I threw some early in the count to get back in or get ahead or establish it or whatever, and I think that set it up for later.

For Francona, though, Becketts two-seam fastball was the key pitch.

When hes able to establish that two-seamer to lefties, thats where I always feel like the plate opens up, Francona said. And he did it early in the game and its a good feeling. Ive seen him enough now to where, to me, thats where he really is, hes okay.

On this night, Beckett was more than okay. He faced more than the minimum in just two innings. In the third, Jorge Posada struck out, swinging at a curveball, Eric Chavez singled, and Beckett hit Russell Martin with a pitch. But Beckett got Gardner to end the inning on a 4-6-3 double play.

In the fourth, he gave up a one-out walk to Teixeira and a single to Robinson Cano before striking out Curtis Granderson swinging at a fastball, and getting Nick Swisher to ground out to Dustin Pedroia at second.

Beckett retired the final 14 batters he faced. His offense gave him a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but it wasnt until Marco Scutaros bases-loaded double in the seventh scored David Ortiz (walk) and J.D. Drew (walk), to give Beckett some breathing room.

They definitely have a good lineup, Beckett said. The strikeouts, theyre great, but the biggest pitch I had to make was the double play ball that got Gardner out. If he hits that anywhere else, its so hard to turn a double play.

Beckett had at least one strikeout in each of his innings. It was his 11th career 10-plus strikeout performance, but first since July 27, 2009, against Oakland.

Beckett gave little indication that this type of sterling performance was about to be delivered. Entering the game he had a career 6.26 ERA against the Yankees. In his last outing, April 5 in Cleveland, he took the loss giving up three runs on five hits and four walks, needing 106 pitches to get through five innings.

I dont know, Beckett said. You just take it day by day. You're not waiting on the magic bullet. Theres no magic bullet. You just go out there and you deal with what youve got that day.

We still got a long way to go. I feel good about my outing, yes. I went eight innings, saved the bullpen a little bit. We still got a long way to go.

Francona, though, saw some signs.

I think his stuff has been fine, he said. I think its been, a couple of the games at the end of spring training he wasnt throwing his breaking ball for strikes. He was leaving the two-seamer over the middle of the plate. Stuffs really the same, velocity, all that stuff. Just his fastball at times, it creeped up above the knees. Hes always been keeping his changeup down all spring going into this start. But when hes establishing the fastball and then hes flipping the curveball in for strikes, its a nice combination.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Drellich: Red Sox role-d once again by Farrell's bullpen usage

Drellich: Red Sox role-d once again by Farrell's bullpen usage

CLEVELAND -- John Farrell is fighting himself. More than he might realize, he’s willing to mix up his bullpen usage in a way that’s smart. But in some of the most crucial innings, Farrell will stubbornly and perhaps reflexively revert to tradition and a false sense of role -- one that actually runs counter to the logic the manager employs at other times.

Look at the big cat, Craig Kimbrel, who was again left in the bullpen Monday night as the eighth and ninth innings deteriorated in a 5-4 Red Sox loss to the Indians. 

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It’s all about the inning with Kimbrel, you see -- or in Monday’s case, it's a matter of when Farrell would have been forced to use him.

“[If] I use Kimbrel tonight, [he'll] need . . . one, if not two days off,” Farrell said. “That's why you need the contributions from everyone.”

But the indication was Kimbrel was available for a save, or perhaps the 10th inning when the lineup turned over again. If he needs rest, rest him. Farrell did not say that Kimbrel was down entirely.

But the eighth inning? No, that’d be lunacy.

“I know that there’s this overriding thought that you can just drop Craig Kimbrel in anywhere from the sixth inning to the ninth inning,” Farrell said Friday. “And with all due respect, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just that. We’ve used Craig for four outs or more this year. And there’s a willingness to do that. 

“But when we’re completely rested down there, there are roles [in which] guys have performed very well . . . And there’s a reason why our bullpen has excelled to the point they have. There are roles that are established and they pitch to them.”

Seriously, what roles? The roles change as often as Farrell’s logic defending them, aside from Kimbrel’s overwhelming need to be in save situations.

The Sox were not “completely rested” on Monday, for one. Addison Reed was unavailable entirely.

But step back for a moment, and look at the overall usage of the reliever who initially got the Red Sox into trouble Monday in the eighth, Matt Barnes. 

The righty this year has pitched in the sixth inning three times. He’s been used in the seventh inning 18 times and the eighth inning 29 times, including Monday. 

Another nine times, Barnes has pitched in the ninth or later. Fourteen times, he’s made multi-inning appearances.

Does that sound like a rigid role to you?

When Farrell spoke recently of his plan for using Reed and Barnes, it sounded pretty darn progressive.

"Addision, we’ve initially said it’s the eighth inning," Farrell said. "We’ve used him accordingly based on where we are in the lineup and based on the potential of running threats . . . As we map out the seventh and eighth inning, it’s going to be Barnes and Addison and we’ll see where the right matchups provide themselves.”

So what matters more, lineup position and running threats, or what inning it is?

Depends which reliever Farrell is talking about on which night, or maybe which way the wind is blowing.

For Monday night, Barnes all of a sudden was a reliever with a role.

“On a night when not everyone's available, [Barnes is] the one that has had the most experience in the eighth inning against both lefties and righties,” Farrell said.

Experience in a particular inning, now that’s the primary factor for Barnes? What about the fact Barnes has been terrible on the road lately?

What about the fact that Brandon Workman has a 1.40 ERA, or that Farrell said before the game Workman is now in the high-leverage mix?

Workman gave up a leadoff double on Monday in the ninth inning. He might have blown the eighth inning anyway. Farrell also prefers a clean inning for Workman, and wanted to avoid using the righty Monday for workload reasons as well.

But Workman was, indeed, available. So why let extra innings or a tie game in the ninth force you to use him, as opposed to pitching him at a time he perhaps could have protected the lead?

Workman in the eighth could have thrown in place of either Barnes or Heath Hembree. The latter’s done worse than anyone on the Sox with inherited runners and came on to try to clean up Barnes’ mess. Workman has six inherited runners this year and none have scored.

But Workman has a role. Except he doesn’t. Or if he does, it’s as loosely defined as everybody else’s, save for the guy who can only get saves.

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Guyer scores winner on Holt's error in 9th, Indians top Red Sox, 5-4

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Guyer scores winner on Holt's error in 9th, Indians top Red Sox, 5-4

CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller wasn't among the Cleveland Indians chasing Roberto Perez around the infield, flinging water and white powder to celebrate a wild win over an American League rival.

The Indians relief ace - a pivotal piece during Cleveland's run to the World Series last season - may miss a few more big moments this season, too.

Miller's injury put a damper on a 5-4 walk-off victory Monday night over the Boston Red Sox, a game that ended when first baseman Brock Holt threw away Perez's bunt in the ninth inning, allowing Brandon Guyer to score from second base.

Miller left in the seventh after aggravating the patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Miller spent over two weeks on the disabled list with the injury before returning Friday. This was his second appearance since.

Manager Terry Francona said Miller will be evaluated Tuesday, but it seems likely that he'll return to the DL.

"Hope for the best and hope that it's not a big deal," Miller said. "It stinks missing any time. I've already missed 12 days or something like that. I don't want to do it again. We'll find out more (Tuesday). See how I wake up."

"That's not what we were hoping for, but we'll let the medical people put their heads together and see what they can do," Francona said.

Miller began the seventh by walking Red Sox star Mookie Betts on six pitches - including a number of fastballs that failed to reach 90 mph - and then threw one pitch to Andrew Benintendi before walking off the mound. Francona and a team trainer had a brief conversation with Miller, who then left the field.

Miller said he was optimistic that he had turned the corner with the injury, but that changed when he entered the game.

"It was kind of not really crisp the first pitches," he said. "But the pitch I pulled inside to Mookie, I kind of felt it. And I threw one more and it was the same thing."

The left-hander is 4-3 with a 1.65 ERA and has 79 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.

After Guyer's leadoff double against Brandon Workman (0-1) in the ninth, Holt fielded the bunted ball and tried to throw out Guyer at third. Guyer slid into the bag as the throw skipped past third baseman Rafael Devers, then got to his feet and raced across home plate.

"It was just a routine play," Holt said. "I couldn't get it out of the glove, fumbled it a little bit, and then tried to rush the throw, and made a bad one."

Holt replaced Mitch Moreland, who was a late scratch because of a sore neck. Moreland took a forearm in the back of the head from Holt on a play Sunday. Manager John Farrell said Moreland passed concussion tests, but he decided to hold him out of the lineup.

Perez also had a three-run homer in the second inning.

Cody Allen (1-6) allowed Christian Vazquez's leadoff single in the ninth, but retired the next three hitters. The inning ended when shortstop Francisco Lindor ran down Betts' popup in center field with his back to home plate.

Boston led 4-3 behind two-run homers by Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi before Edwin Encarnacion tied the game in the eighth with an RBI single.

Eduardo Rodriguez allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings for Boston. Mike Clevinger allowed both homers and gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings for Cleveland.

Jay Bruce was 1 for 4 in his first home game since being acquired from the New York Mets on Aug. 9.

MORE NOTABLE INJURIES

Plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was struck on the mask by a warmup pitch in the sixth inning from Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Wendelstedt finished the inning, but left while Miller was warming up, which led to a 10-minute delay as second base umpire Alan Porter changed his gear.

Indians first baseman Carlos Santana also left the game with an injury, exiting in the eighth inning with lower back tightness.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (back spasms) says he's on schedule to start Wednesday after a bullpen session Monday. He left his start against the Yankees on Friday in the fourth inning. "I feel pretty good," he said. "The progression is a little better every day, so I'm looking to keep getting that improvement."

Indians: OF Michael Brantley (sprained right ankle) is hitting and playing catch but hasn't started running. He's on the disabled list for the second time this season with the injury.

UP NEXT

RHP Doug Fister will face Cleveland for the third time in his last four starts Tuesday. He defeated the Indians on July 31, allowing two runs in 7 2/3 innings, but gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings and got the loss Aug. 14. RHP Carlos Carrasco didn't make it out of the second inning against Boston on Aug. 2, allowing five runs.