Boston Red Sox

Ciriaco, Beato two unlikely August contributors for Red Sox

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Ciriaco, Beato two unlikely August contributors for Red Sox

BOSTON -- Not many would have assumed -- in the spring -- that Pedro Ciriaco and Pedro Beato would be leading the way for the Red Sox in a late-August game at Fenway Park.

But here they were, helping the Red Sox to an 8-6 win over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday at Fenway Park.

Ciriaco finished 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored, while Beato picked up his first win in his Red Sox debut.

Offensively, Ciriaco's seventh-inning RBI single put the Red Sox up 7-4, and eventually became the game-winner, as the Royals were able to get two more runs in the top of the eighth off lefty reliever Craig Breslow.

Those two runs, however, went against Beato, as he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk, without recording an out. An RBI sacrifice fly and then an RBI single off Breslow cut Boston's lead to 7-6, but Breslow was able to get out of the inning, helping to secure Beato's first win of the season, in his Red Sox debut.

"He got the whole team out of a big jam," said Beato after the game. "He minimized the damage, and that's what he was out there for."

Beato allowed only one hit and struck out two batters in his first two innings, after coming in to relieve Felix Doubront in a 4-4 game to begin the sixth inning.

"Pedro Beato, I had never seen him before," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the game. "He did just a fabulous job in two innings and shutting them down."

"Everything was going," said Beato. "I mean, I was throwing the ball down in the zone and just throwing strikes. Keeping hitters off balance and put the ball on the ground. That's the best thing I can do. Even that last inning, I got two ground balls. But unfortunately, they just found a hole."

When Breslow minimized that damage by allowing only two of those runs to score in the eighth, the only thing keeping Beato's win in place was Ciriaco's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.

It was strictly a sign of Ciriaco's speed, as he ran out a grounder to third with bases loaded and two outs, beating the throw.

"He's been great," said Pedroia. "I mean, geez, he's put the ball on the barrel. He runs the bases well. He plays great defense. He's been awesome. He's learning too, he's still young. He's playing the game right. It's fun."

Ciriaco's other RBI came in the bottom of the fifth, as he ripped a solo home run off the AAA sign over the monster seats, which cut Kansas City's lead to 4-3 at the time.

"He gave me a good pitch to hit, and I hit it well," said Ciriaco after the game.

To calculate just how clutch Ciriaco has been this season, you don't have to ask Beato. All you need to do is see that seven of his 16 RBI this season have come in the seventh inning or later. And since joining the team in July, Ciriaco has eight games with three or more hits, which is tied for second most on the Red Sox.

Needless to say, he's trying to be here for more than just this second half of the season.

"Every time I get up to the plate, I just want to have fun," said Ciriaco after Sunday's win. "I'm just trying to survive, and stay here. I don't want to be like jumping around. I just want to be part of the team here.

"I'm really happy to be here, and the opportunity that Valentine gave me to play, that's good for me. It's fun."

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

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Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

CINCINNATI - Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam - a Reds' season record - in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games - most in the majors - after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young.

Part of Porcello's problem has been a lack of run support. Boston has been blanked while he's on the mound in 10 of his losses. This time, the Red Sox got him off the hook, overcoming Gennett's career-high 27th homer with the help of Devers' three-run shot off Sal Romano (5-7).

The Red Sox are last in the AL with 159 homers.

Left-hander David Price (6-3) pitched 2 2/3 innings and contributed a single, bringing the Red Sox to the front of the dugout for a celebration. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances.

Gennett was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee late in spring training. He has provided some of the Reds' best moments in an 88-loss season, including a four-homer game on June 6. His homer off Porcello ended the Red Sox' streak of 26 straight scoreless innings.

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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