Buchholz, Pedroia help salvage finale with O's

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Buchholz, Pedroia help salvage finale with O's

BALTIMORE And on the third day, the Red Sox were finally the victors.

After taking gut punches in the first two games of the series against the Orioles, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz both came through Thursday night in a 6-3 victory at Camden Yards.

Pedroia went 2-for-4 with an RBI and energized his teammates with his frenetic play in the field and running the bases while Buchholz continued to keep his teammates in a game that would have battered his fellow starting rotation mates. Buchholz (11-3) scattered eight hits and three walks in eight innings. He allowed three runs in the first two innings before settling into the game.

The seven strikeouts were also a clear sign of his dominant stuff while sewing his team-leading 11th win of the season, and his seventh win in his last eight decisions.

Those first two frames were a little rough as a two-run Adam Jones double in the first frame and a Mark Reynolds homer to start the second inning both greeted the Sox righthander. But he buckled down after that and allowed only two hits the rest of the way.

The Sox offense scratched for one run in the top of the second when a Scott Podsednik RBI single knocked in Nick Punto, and then the Boston bats pushed Chris Tillman out of the contest in the fifth inning. Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia got things going with a one-out single and double respectively, and then Crawford scored on a wild pitch.

That set things up for an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly to center. Pedroia narrowly beat out a Jones' laser beam throw from the outfield. The Sox second baseman popped up, pumped his fist and seemed to energize the entire bench while exerting the energy of somebody playing for their reputation.

The sac fly tied things up and set the stage for a sixth-inning rally to win the game against reliever Luis Ayala. Podsednik started things off with a double and then moved to third after a fielders choice from Crawford.

Pedroia, Gonzalez and Cody Ross all slammed RBI singles to hand Boston a three-run lead before Gonzalez was gunned down at third after Pedroia crossed the plate with the sixth run. Ross ended up leading the Sox with three hits and was one of five Sox players with multi-hit efforts.

Alfredo Aceves closed things out for his 24th save and gave the Sox something to build on as they head into the Bronx for an urgent series against the hated Yankees.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.