Boston Red Sox

Red Sox hope offense doesn't lose its way in Cleveland

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Red Sox hope offense doesn't lose its way in Cleveland

BOSTON -- A year ago, Cleveland is where the best offense in the majors went to die. The Red Sox’ first visit back is a chance to hold a seance.

The 2016 team had the most threatening lineup anywhere. No one was better. But the Sox missed out on home-field advantage. Once the Division Series began in Cleveland, they lost their way at the plate too.

It’s true that Rick Porcello’s poor postseason outing — anomalous compared to his 2016 Cy Young campaign — could not have come at a worse time. David Price didn’t get the job done either. 

But the Sox offense ghosted everyone. The engine of a 93-win team collapsed.

“Given how we performed as an offensive team throughout the year, and it's not to take anything away from their pitching, but I think there was no more than one run we were able to score in any one inning,” Sox manager John Farrell said the night the Sox were swept out of the playoffs by the Indians, October 10. “The inability to string some hits together, generate the bigger inning, that wasn't there.”

It’s been there lately. The Red Sox entered Sunday averaging 6.07 runs per game in August, a full run more than the Indians’ 4.94. 

On one hand, with wins in 14 of 17 games, the Sox would appear almost bound to cool off. But simply from a psychological perspective, the timing of a drop-off in Cleveland would be unfortunate.

“I’ll be honest with you, we’re not thinking about the playoffs,” Farrell said Sunday at Fenway Park. “We’re not thinking about what transpired a year ago. I thought last year, getting into the postseason was an important stepping stone for this young group. We’ve added to that young group. We’re in a stretch of games this month — for the better part of a month or more — where the schedule is tough. Our guys are handling that challenge great right now, but we know we’re going in to play a very good team in Cleveland.”

Indeed, the focus should be on the task at hand, which is to not only win the division, but actually secure home field advantage this time. But this four-game set is a small-sample size forum to show off growth.

The young group Farrell referred to has had growing pains this year. The offense has been, as expected, a lesser entity without David Ortiz.

Maybe Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers, who weren’t around for last year’s wilting, will be the icebreakers for the Sox in Cleveland. Maybe they don’t need any ice breaker and will score 10 runs in the first inning Monday. 

However it gets done, with the looming likelihood of another playoff match-up between these two teams, the Sox would do well to hit this time in Cleveland. At the very least, a bushel of runs will dampen outside noise, and lessen the number of questions the team may face later on. There's probably also a boost of confidence to be gained for players who participated in last year’s disappearing act.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: What are biggest concerns about Red Sox?

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BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: What are biggest concerns about Red Sox?

1:00 - Shaughnesy, Drellich and Merloni give their leading off impressions regarding the Red Sox

4:00 - Dan Shaughnessy explains why he is still skeptical about the Red Sox team, and why he will not be able to feel confident until he sees them play in the postseason

9:00 - Does our Baseball Show crew have a problem with the Red Sox letting Chris Sale pitch the 8th inning so he could get his 300th strikeout?

15:00 - Jared Carrabis joins the Baseball Show crew to discuss what matches he likes for the Red Sox in the playoffs. 

17:00 - Jared Carrabis on how would the Red Sox match up against the Yankees in the playoffs

20:00 - How does Jared Carrabis think about the use of David Price as a relief pitcher?

Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

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Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

CINCINNATI -- Mookie Betts wasn't about to stop. Neither are the Red Sox, who are heading home with a chance to win another division title.

Betts doubled with the bases loaded to tie it in the eighth inning and dashed home from second base on an infield single, rallying the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday that moved them closer to an AL East championship.

By winning 14 of its last 17 games, Boston has left virtually no opening for the second-place New York Yankees to catch up. The Red Sox, already assured a playoff spot, completed an 8-1 road trip that put them in excellent position to win a second consecutive division crown, something they've never done.

Coupled with New York's 9-5 loss in Toronto, the Red Sox reduced their magic number to three. They lead the Yankees by five games with seven to play.

That means Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston finishes the regular season at home with three games against Toronto and four vs. Houston.

"We're learning a lot about ourselves," said Doug Fister, who pitched into the sixth. "We can put ourselves in a corner early and fight back. If we need a touchdown, the boys can put up a touchdown."

Boston inched closer with more late-game flair. The Red Sox lead the majors with 11 wins when trailing after the seventh inning.

They loaded the bases against Raisel Iglesias (3-3), who had blown only one save chance all season. Betts had fouled a ball off his foot on Friday night and missed one game. His double tied it 5-all, and he sprinted home on the still-sore foot - diving headfirst into the plate - on Rafael Devers' infield single.

"I felt he had a chance to beat it, and with me running it was going to be a tough play at the plate," Betts said.

Robby Scott (2-1) got the win, and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 appearances.

Billy Hamilton helped the Reds go up 4-1. He tripled home a run and brought the crowd to its feet by scoring after getting caught in a rundown between first and second. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a wild throw, and Hamilton kept going when nobody covered home.

"In my whole career, that's one of the best ones, especially since I was in a rundown and just trying to get to second base and then I end up scoring," Hamilton said.

GOT THEIR BACKS

Red Sox and Reds players stood for the national anthem. Boston manager John Farrell said if any of his players decide to follow the example of other athletes and make a statement during the anthem, he'll support them. "We strive to create an environment that's inclusive," Farrell said. "We would have their back as an organization if that's the expression they chose. It's their constitutional right."

INTERLEAGUE

The Red Sox are 12-1 against the Reds all-time in the regular season and have won nine straight, their longest winning streak against any NL team since interleague play started in 1997. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 16-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-15.

90 LOSSES AGAIN

The Reds reached the 90-loss mark for the third straight year. They lost 98 games in 2015 and 94 last year. It's the first time they've had three straight 90-loss seasons since 1930-34.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez ran the bases before the game, his next step in recovering from a sprained knee.

Reds: Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting a day off. He's played twice since returning from a broken left thumb.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5) faces Blue Jays LHP Brett Anderson (1-2) on Monday night. Pomeranz is 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.

Reds: After a day off, they finish with three games in Milwaukee and three at the Chicago Cubs. Deck McGuire (0-0) makes his first major league start Tuesday night against Zach Davies (17-9).

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