Boston Red Sox

Drellich: Is there more to Farrell's decision to not pinch hit for Sandoval?

Drellich: Is there more to Farrell's decision to not pinch hit for Sandoval?

PHILADELPHIA — If letting Pablo Sandoval bat in the ninth inning helps show Dave Dombrowski that Sandoval has no logical place on the roster these days, then Red Sox manager John Farrell might be more calculating than you think.

It’s sink or swim time for Sandoval, and Farrell’s top boss seems to want Sandoval to have that chance.

Chris Sale let the Sox bullpen breathe on Thursday night, returning to his most dominant form with his ninth double-digit strikeout game of the season in a 1-0 loss to the Phillies.

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Three out of four wins vs. the Phillies is fine. But check back in October to see if Thursday’s loss stings more after the fact. In a sport where the best teams win 60 percent of the time, there might not be a game all season where the match-up better favors the Red Sox: a terrible team vs. the ace.

The way it ended, with an ugly Sandoval strikeout on a pitch way out of the zone and down, created some bad optics.

Why have Sandoval bat if Hanley Ramirez is available off the bench, Manager John?

He was quick with his answer after the game: he did not consider pinch-hitting Sandoval with Phillies closer Hector Neris on the mound. 

“No,” Farrell said. “Not against a right-hander, no.”

What a dummy, right?

Look deeper. Farrell has been starting Josh Rutledge over Sandoval lately. This isn’t some sort of Sandoval love affair for the manager.

It’s one of two things, or maybe a combination thereof. Sticking by players usually includes letting them have at-bats. That’s an easy explanation. It’s the reason Chris Young batted against a right-hander early last season and everyone flipped out.

How else to get Sandoval going than to give him a chance, than to convince Sandoval he’s believed in? It’s not always defensible, but, managers do make choices for that reason.

Look even deeper, though. We already can tell Farrell doesn’t believe much in Sandoval. Rutledge’s usage lately shows us that. 

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, meanwhile, seems to be of the mindset that Sandoval needs a chance.

“I think you also have to remember that Pablo has done everything that we asked him to do,” Dombrowski said before the game. “He got himself in shape, he’s worked very hard. He’s continued to work hard. He’s worked on the dietary aspect of it. He’s worked on the skill aspect of it. When I came in here, he was working out. So he’s done everything he possibly can, he had a very good spring training. 

"Early in the season his numbers weren’t great, but yet he hit the ball very hard. He was one of the top five in the league statistically as far as hard hit balls when he went down at that time. So he’s just come back for a short time period. I thought he had a very good game last night, offensively and defensively. So I think sometimes you have to give guys an opportunity before you just jump to the conclusions right away. And we’ll continue to monitor his situation. It’s up to him to do well and we’ll see what takes place.”

Sounds like the leader of the front office wants Sandoval to get at-bats, doesn’t it?

How many ABs would Dombrowski want to see, though, before deciding with Farrell on a course of action? To play him every day or cut him or whatever else?

“I can’t even answer that question,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t know that there is a 100 percent answer to that. Everybody’s different. Some guys get back quicker than others. In his case, he’s not playing per se every single day. He hasn’t been so far, at least. People forget he missed all of last year basically too. So I think that’s another part of it. So I don’t really have a certain number of specific at-bats.”

But he’s not there yet, it would seem. Again: sounds like the leader of the front office wants Sandoval to get at-bats, doesn’t it?

So if you’re Farrell, and Dombrowski wants Sandoval on the roster until some hazy number of at-bats are reached, you’re handcuffed. Don’t play him, and this grey-area at third base drags on. Play him, and give Sandoval a chance to get rolling — and a chance to show the top boss whether he truly can perform.

Sandoval’s played 29 games and has 105 plate appearances. It's not much. Different statistics stabilize after a different number of appearances, on average. 

Dombrowski’s not exactly a stats wonk, though. He wants to see Sandoval play? Well, Farrell’s letting him. The visual’s saying something, and it might be exactly the message Farrell hopes is delivered.

Red Sox extend division lead to five games with 5-1 win over Yankees

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Red Sox extend division lead to five games with 5-1 win over Yankees

BOSTON - Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled in two runs and singled in another, and Rick Porcello pitched six innings of a combined three-hitter to help the AL East-leading Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Sunday and extend their lead over the Yankees to five games.

The Red Sox won for the 14th time in 17 games, taking two out of three from New York for the second weekend in a row. The archrivals meet again in the first week of September for a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Porcello (8-14) allowed all three New York hits, striking out four and walking three to win his fourth straight start. Three relievers provided a perfect inning apiece.

Porcello has allowed two runs or fewer in all six career starts against the Yankees in Fenway Park. That's the longest such stretch for a Red Sox pitcher since at least 1913, the ballclub said.

Sonny Gray (7-8) allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings.

Brett Gardner homered near the Pesky Pole for the Yankees, who had won five of their last six.

Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

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Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

BOSTON — The Red Sox on Saturday lost a game in which Chris Sale pitched and Rafael Devers homered. Let the Yankees’ 4-3 victory be a reminder: the American League East race isn’t going to close any time soon. At least, it shouldn’t. 

But even in close losses, there’s a parallel track to the pursuit of the division that should be a compelling sideshow for Red Sox fans: history.

The importance of Chris Sale breaking Pedro Martinez’s club single-season strikeout record is minimal compared to KO’ing the Yankees. Yet, with every passing start, tracking each K becomes a tad more intriguing. 

The southpaw on Saturday surpassed 250 strikeouts for the season, becoming just the third pitcher to do so in his first 25 games. Randy Johnson did that in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001, and Pedro Martinez did it in 2000 as well.

But now, unexpectedly, it’s not just Sale’s work that’s worth watching. He has a partner in the pursuit of bookkeepers. 

Devers, in just 20 games, has become the hitting foil for the ace. He ripped his eighth home run in Saturday’s 4-3 loss, a seventh-inning shot just to the right of the yellow line reaching out of the triangle in center field. The homer was also a record breaker, because no one else under the age of 21 has hit eight home runs in their first 20 games, per Elias. That’s in major league history, to be clear. 

The record for a player of any age is nine home runs, matched most recently by Trevor Story last year, and once upon a time by George Scott, in 1966.

A chubby left-handed hitter swatting home runs everywhere, defying everyone’s expectations? It’s almost too stunning to properly contextualize or explain. 

“I try not to look too much at videos because I would go out there with the mentality of what this guy has,” Devers said. “I just try to do my batting practice and do my fielding practice every day and just keep things the same.”

“If it's in the strike zone I try to be aggressive with it, and try to lay off the ones outside the strike zone. But I don't look for any location or any type of pitches.”

He’s that good: he steps in and rips and the results have been stunning. Almost Ruthian. Or, in fact, Ruthian.

Devers on Saturday became the first player under the age of 21 to homer in three consecutive games against the Yankees since Ruth did it in 1915, per Elias. Ruth, of course, was still with the Sox then. Those home runs happened to be the first three of his career.

Devers’ 28 hits through his first 20 games are the most by a Red Sox hitter since Johnny Pesky had the same amount in 1942.

Four Sox hitters have hit safely against the Yankees in their first five games against them since the age of 21: Jack Rothrock (1925), Ruth (1914-15), and Ted Williams (1939).

Sale needs 63 strikeouts to tie Martinez’s 1999 mark of 313. He shouldn't have a hard time meeting that figure if he makes another, say, seven starts.