Facing injuries, Sox buckle down

191542.jpg

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

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.

MORE RED SOX

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.