Command issues haunt Red Sox

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Command issues haunt Red Sox

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON --@font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; The Red Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night,by a score of 7-6. So it would seem like a minor coincidence that the Red Soxwalked seven batters, as opposed to the six batters the Blue Jays walked.

Only, not really.

That one extra walk represented the leadoff walk in the topof the seventh inning. It turned out to be a disasterous seventh inning forBobby Jenks and the now 2-10 Red Sox, which also turned out to be thedifference maker in a one-run ballgame.

Jenks performed the cardinal sin of walking Torontos No. 9hitter to lead off the inning, with the game tied at 3-3. From there, the BlueJays top of the order took advantage by perfectly executing a hit-and-run, andscoring four earned runs off Bostons reliever, taking a commanding 7-3 lead.

The lead was commanding mainly because of the situationthe Red Sox were in. They had blown a 3-0 lead, and were on their way to a 10thloss, before even winning three.

And that was all because Red Sox pitchers lacked any type ofcommand on Friday night. Sure, Jenks only walked one. But it was the No. 9hitter, and it began an inning of regret.

Before Jenks, there was Clay Buchholz. The loss goes next toJenks name, because he was on the mound for the seventh-inning blow-up. ButBuchholz had initially allowed the Blue Jays into the game, after walking theNo. 8 and 9 hitters with one out in the top of the fifth. It lead to a CoreyPatterson two-out triple that cut Bostons lead to 3-2.

And then in the top of the sixth, Buchholz walked theleadoff batter in Adam Lind, who later scored in the inning, after TravisSnider drove him in with a double off of Alfredo Aceves.

The run was credited to Buchholz, meaning that the threeruns he allowed, all were the product of free passes. He finished with ahandful on the night, in just five innings pitched.

Yea I mean, five walks man, said Buchholz to himself afterthe game, as he leaned back in his chair disgusted with himself. I was alwaystold, Let them get hits and beat you. I feel like I should have beenpenned with this loss today, the way that went. Eliminate two of those walks,maybe thats two runs they dont score and we win the game.

Command was Bostons biggest issue on Friday night. Themanager saw that right from the get-go.

I thought it was a fight from the very beginning, forBuchholz to command, said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after the loss.The whole time, he just couldnt settle in and throw enough strikes.

Again, in the seventh we lead off with a walk, and theyexecute a hit and run, and the whole inning changes, added Francona. So allof a sudden youre playing in, and youre trying to do some things, and Jenkswasnt commanding very well.

Normally it comes down to command. Our guys have goodenough stuff. We just walked some people.

Not only did they walk them, but afterwards, they allowedthem to score.

I just never could find a feel, said Buchholz. I madesome big pitches when I needed to a couple times, but other than that, it was abattle all night . . . That was one of the most uncomfortable outings that Iveever been a part of.

You cant start an inning off that way, said Jenks. To goout there and get the first hitter is the most important thing youve got to doin that inning, and I just flat out stunk today.

Im not going to make any excuses, added Jenks, when askedabout the cold weather. It just wasnt there. All I can say is that I stunk.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Shoulder injuries don’t have to be damning for hitters. Look at the 469-foot home run Hanley Ramirez decimated Saturday in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.

Yes, he’s gotten off to a slow start. Through 19 games played, he has two long balls.

But he had just one homer through the same number of games in 2016. He’s hitting .250 now. A year ago at this point, he was hitting .266.

“Last year, Hanley started slow,” hitting coach Chili Davis said prior to the Cubs series. “I watched him, work, and work, and work, and work, and you know, he didn’t abandon what he was working on. He didn’t abandon it, he stuck with it and he perfect ed it. And when he perfected it, he went off. He’s still working.

“Timing, consistency with timing, and it could be partially the shoulder bothering him.”

At least eight times in his career, Ramirez has been considered day-to-day or gone to the disabled list because of a shoulder injury. He partially dislocated his left shoulder, his lead shoulder, in 2007.

Hey, did you notice it was 83 degrees at first pitch Saturday?

“When it’s cold, and you’ve got bad joints, it affects you,” Davis said during the week. “When it warms up, it loosens up more.”

Davis knows better than most how to handle shoulder pain, how to be a successful power hitter despite it. The former switch-hitting slugger has a metal screw in his left shoulder after a 1986 surgery.

“For 13 years I played with it,” Davis said. “It was multiple dislocations. I slipped down some stairs in Riverfront Stadium. Grabbed a rail, and dislocated it. It dislocated like five times after this. It was so loose.”

Davis, now 57 years old and last a big leaguer in 1999, still has the screw in that shoulder. Today they make dissolvable ones, but didn't back then.

Believe it or not, Davis believes the surgery helped his righthanded swing. He was a switch-hitter, and batting righty, he liked to hook the ball.

“I’d get out and around,” Davis said. “And then I realized I had to use my top hand more. … It created power the other way for me. It was ridiculous how that happened. I mean, it was ridiculous. 

“Because if you really think about it, [the right] is my strong hand. I do everything with this hand, I eat, I’m a right-handed guy. … Everything right-handed was all over the field.”

Davis said hitters are always aware of their health situations. He remembers coming back from ankle surgery and the bad habits he created. The day he finally let himself act normally, he heard a pop. But it wasn’t trouble: it was merely scar tissue breaking up.

The shoulders are, of course, important. But Davis explained that a swing where the shoulders do most of the work is probably not ideal.

“People talk to connection with the backside, feel that connection. Well, that connection creates synchronicity,” Davis said. “Yeah, it creates some power, but you can try to feel connection and lose your hands, your hands get lost in the process. So they got to work perfect together. 

“But the bigger muscles, to me, were the stop muscles for me. If I was going to swing and I went to stop, that’s when I felt these things holding me back, or the connection holding me back. So just from experience alone, yeah, if the shoulders are involved in your swing, then you’ve got a long swing and your hands aren’t going to work the right way.”

There was a moonshot Saturday that suggested Ramirez’s hands are working properly, and that his shoulder pain won't mean a drop-off from last year necessarily.

“I think at times he may [be compensating],” Davis said. “He’s working on things. If he wasn't working, if he came in the cage during BP and I didn’t think that he was working on something, then I’d have a problem with that. But he’s working, and last year he worked and worked and worked until it clicked. So, I’m hoping the same thing happens this year.”

Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

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Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

BOSTON - Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero and Ben Zobrist had solo shots, helping the Chicago Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers.

Steven Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.