Bullpen not good enough against Orioles

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Bullpen not good enough against Orioles

BOSTON -- It wasn't a terrible appearance for the Red Sox bullpen on Friday night at Fenway Park. But it wasn't good enough.

But if you're going to point a finger following Boston's 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 13 innings, then that finger would ultimately be pointed at left-hander Franklin Morales, who picked up his first loss of the season after allowing two runs in the top of the 13th that gave Baltimore its first lead of the game.

Morales entered the game in the top of the 12th, and relieved Alfredo Aceves with a runner on second and two outs. He was able to get out of the jam and got Nick Markakis to fly out to left field, ending the inning with the game still tied at 4-4.

But the 13th inning was a different story, as Morales let up a Matt Wieters single and then walked Wilson Betemit, all with one out.

With runners on first and second, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis singled to right field, scoring Wieters from second and advancing Betemit to third.

Scott Atchison then came in to relieve Morales, but the first batter he faced -- Mark Reynolds -- drove in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 6-4.

"Morales got the big out in the 12th inning, then came in again," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "Then he gave up a changeup base-hit, a 3-2 walk, and a ground ball through the infield.

"It wasn't a terrible appearance, that's for sure. But he gave up two runs."

Those two runs cost the Red Sox their third-straight game. That, combined with the fact that it truly wasn't a terrible performance by his bullpen, was all the more frustrating.

That frustration was evident following the game, as Valentine sat in his office chair, lid off, head back, and his eyes closed.

Had Morales got out of the 13th inning, he had Atchison ready to go three innings. And prior to that, he can't say he made the wrong decisions, given the bullpen arms he's dealing with.

Vicente Padilla and Rich Hill were able to get out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs -- that Padilla put them in -- by only allowing one run in the seventh. It tied the game at 4-4, but still, it didn't end the game.

Then, Matt Albers and Aceves combined for 4.2 scoreless innings of work, while allowing only two hits and one walk, while striking out six.

Albers had the walk, but stormed through the eighth and ninth innings.

Aceves allowed the two hits, but was one out away from going three full innings, and struck out six batters, including the first five hitters he faced.

"Aceves came in with a lot of rest, and was a man on a mission," said Valentine. "He and Matt Albers were lights out. They were terrific. They did everything that they could possibly do."

What they couldn't do was drive in runs for Boston's offense. And while it wasn't a terrible night for the Red Sox bullpen, they were the ones to crack first.

And that's all that matters.

"It doesn't count for nothing, man," said Aceves on his dominant night out of the bullpen. "We lost. We need to win. They're in second place, and we couldn't hold the lead. We just have to forget about this game, and come back Saturday with the same approach, work hard, and hopefully we're going to get the result that we want."

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.