Facing injuries, Sox buckle down

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Facing injuries, Sox buckle down

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY As the injuries pile up for the Red Sox and the dog days of August begin to weigh down heavily on key players that are still healthy, it takes a little bit of everything to keep the Boston train rolling.

It requires Herculean performances by great players like the One Man Gang act pulled off by Dustin Pedroia on Thursday night, and sometimes it takes gobs of contributions from unexpected places like the ones put forth across the board in Friday nights 7-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Playing in the middle of a stretch of 14 out of 17 games on the road without two of your marquee players is a time for a baseball team to show the clichd buzz words that are always getting tossed around: character, toughness and resolve. The Sox have had all of those in the last two games since getting owned by the Tampa Bay Rays starting staff earlier this week, and theyll need it to continue.

Its tough losing Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but one of the great things about the Red Sox is that we have enough good players who can pick up the slack, said Josh Beckett.

The Sox have basically spit on the notion of curling up into a pity-filled ball by putting up back-to-back wins while keeping pace with the Yankees, and some even chastised the doubters after the game was over.

You guys already ready to hit the panic button? said one Red Sox player in jest to a group of reporters following the victory. Weve got a long way to get.

The Sox continue to get excellent performances all across the board like spot starter Andrew Miller and jack-of-all-trades reliever Alfredo Aceves combining to hold the Royals to four hits and a single run. Miller hadnt started a game for the Sox since July 31 and could have been excused if he was a rusty, out-of-sorts mess on the mound, but instead the lengthy lefty was on point with his delivery and fastball command.

You do well and you can say you were fresh. You struggle and you say you're rusty," said Miller, who made two relief appearances for the Sox following that last start. "Fortunately, I was able to say I felt fresh tonight.

The win makes Miller 5-1 on the season and also gives Aceves eight wins and a pair of saves during a season when hes owned the Julian Tavarez will do anything out of the bullpen role for Boston.

Given the injuries in the rotation, the Sox would already be in deep trouble if both hurlers hadnt gone high and above expectations for this season. Aceves and Miller are a combined 13-2 this season for the Sox, and might just be viewed as the difference should the Sox finish above New York when the standings are final.

Its a lot to ask. Normally when you bring a guy out there in the sixth inning hes not going to finish the game, said Francona. But he goes out there and puts up zeroes, and is efficient enough where he can stay out there and save the bullpen.

The Royals decided they werent going to let Pedroia beat them for a second straight night and twice intentionally walked the slugging second baseman when trouble was brewing for the Sox offense. It seemed like it might work when Jed Lowrie couldnt make Kansas City pay despite singling in both instances, and Ryan Lavarnway left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings of the game.

Instead it was a pair of underperforming outfielders that got things going in the fourth inning when Carl Crawford (hitting .248) and Darnell McDonald (hitting .170) both unloaded for extra base hits and ended up producing the tying run. One inning later it was Lowrie and Lavarnway getting on base and Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming through with the three-run bomb way over the left field fence on an 0-2 changeup from Jeff Francis.

All that matters is that we won, said Gonzalez. In football during a season when theres only 16 games then every game matters, but here youre going to through spans where you dont feel good and when you feel great. You need to keep yourself as even as you possibly can.

Its a deep team. We dont depend on just one or two guys. Salty has been unbelievable since the first month and weve got a really good lineup one through nine. Its not just one through four here. You take a couple of guys out, and a couple of other guys step up.

Sure Adrian Gonzalez had three hits to bust out of an 0-for-14 slump, Jacoby Ellsbury managed a run and an RBI and Dustin Pedroia was on base three times despite going hitless in the game, but it was the unsung heroes in the lineup that managed to pull them through on a nondescript Friday night in Kansas City that will be long since forgotten when the excitement of October baseball arrives.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

Apparently, the Red Sox couldn’t hold onto the best leader in the world. And the best leader in the world has no idea how to housebreak his puppy.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was given the top spot on a list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders," published by Fortune on Thursday morning.

The potential for silly takeaways from Epstein’s placement on the list -- and his response to it in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney -- are amusing, if not astounding.

Wait, Epstein doesn’t think baseball is the most important thing in the world?

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein told Olney. "That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball -- a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Zobrist, of course, had the go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

As Fortune described it, the list of leaders is meant to include those “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same” across business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Epstein certainly did help transform the baseball world.

“In the fall of 2016, as partisan distrust and division reached abysmal depths, fascination with the Chicago Cubs became that all-too-rare phenomenon that united America,” his blurb on the list begins.

That’s fair. But, if you scroll down the list: Pope Francis is No. 3. Angela Merkel is No. 10 and LeBron James is No. 11.

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Three players are tied for the Red Sox' lead in home runs in Florida. Only two of them will be with the team come Opening Day.

The other may be the starting first baseman a year from now.

Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Sam Travis have all gone deep three times this Grapefruit League season.

Coming back from surgery on his left ACL, Travis has yet to play in the majors. But he easily could later this year.

In a perfect world, though, the 23-year-old spends 2017 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He needs to prove he can consistently hit off-speed pitches.

A right-handed hitting first baseman who played college ball with Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, Travis already crushes fastballs.

He carries himself like a stereotypical masher, too.

Travis rocks an unbuttoned jersey with no undershirt. No batting gloves. A grip-it-and-rip-it approach and Mike Napoli vibe.

But, don't get too caught up in the image.

"I mean, are you essentially asking like, do I still like have a plan?" Travis said when approached about his reputation.

No, because everyone has a plan. It's a question of how his is formulated, what matters to him. Because it can't always be as simple as see ball, hit ball. And it isn't.

"I definitely watch video. Everyone watches video," Travis said. "You kind of need to watch video when you get to this stage . . . You're in the box, you don't really want to think at all. That's what practice is for. But yeah, I'm definitely working on stuff.

"Just because I don't wear batting gloves doesn't mean I'm just going out there -- I definitely still got an idea what I'm trying to do."

Travis said he tried batting gloves once in high school and they just didn't feel right. So he takes hacks with a 34-inch bat with no frills..

But even when hitters say they don't think at the plate, they do.

If you're up 2-and-0, the thought has to cross your mind: fastball?

"I mean, yeah, you definitely are talking to yourself," Travis said. "But you don't want to get too far into your own thoughts because then that's when you get in trouble."

Slugging involves calculating.

Travis will look at scouting reports, but they're not his end-all be-all. The written ones, anyway. He keeps others in his head.

"I like to know what pitches [an opponent] has, which way pitches are going to move," Travis said. "But you know, you find that out from other players, and of course scouting reports and video. But the best experience is when you're actually in there, when you actually see it first hand.

"I remember everybody."

Video can be used to break down one's own swing, too. But that's not Travis. Tinkering's not his bag.

In part, that's because he's always had a simple approach mechanically.

"I don't really take much of a stride or anything. I kind of just pick it up and put it down," Travis said. "I've always been the guy that can make an adjustment pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat depending on what the pitcher is, it just goes with like timing and stuff."

Usually, somewhere along the way -- in the professional or amateur chain -- a coach will try to change a player's swing. Travis said that wasn't the case for him, though.

"No. Not really," Travis said. "Everyone's still gonna have minor adjustments, it's just how the game works. You know, you're going to put a bad swing on the ball. But as long as you recognize it and get right back to where you are . . .

"I've always been a guy who believes less movement, the better it is. That's my own personal opinion. Whatever works for people, that's what they're going to do."

Sometimes, that means loosening a few buttons and just letting it rip.

After watching a little video before the game.