Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin

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First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin

SEATTLE -- As if Bobby Valentine doesn't have enough to worry about -- a just-completed 1-8 West Coast road trip; the possibility of a last-place finish; the fresh memory of a now infamous radio interview that turned contentious almost from the start -- he faces the prospect of returning home for the penultimate homestand of the season, only to find his potential replacement in the visitor's dugout.

When the Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, speculation is bound to focus on Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

Farrell, it would seem, is nearly as tired of fielding questions about his interest in managing the Red Sox as Valentine is of facing queries about his job security.

But that won't stop the talk.

There are indications that Farrell -- and not Dale Sveum or Valentine -- was the first choice of the Red Sox last October when the team chose not to retain Terry Francona.

Before the notion could pick up much steam, however, the Jays announced they would not allow employees under contract to make lateral moves to other organizations. Multiple baseball sources said the Jays would have been willing to let Farrell go to Boston but only in exchange for pitcher Clay Buchholz, a price the Red Sox found wildly prohibitive.

Now, 11 months later, things are back where they began. Once again, the Red Sox are expected to be in search of a new manager. Once again, Farrell's name will be linked to the opening.

In some sense, not much has changed. As he was a year ago, Farrell remains under contract to the Jays, signed through the end of 2013. Their policy about not allowing personnel under contract to pursue similar jobs in other organizations is still in effect.

But that could change in a hurry. If John Henry or Larry Lucchino call Jays CEO Paul Beeston and re-state their interest in Farrell, Beeston would just about be forced to go to Farrell and see if his manager was committed to remaining with the Blue Jays -- or interested in listening to the Red Sox.

(A caveat: one MLB executive said Wednesday that Beeston is acutely aware that allowing Farrell to jump to a division rival would only further cement the sense of inferiority that many Toronto fans have regarding Canada's only MLB franchise.)

From there, it would be a matter of settling compensation between the two teams. There have already been suggestions that Daniel Bard would be an acceptable return in exchange for letting Farrell out of his deal a year early.

(One baseball source indicated recently that the relationship between Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos and Farrell has chilled some, with the former no longer entirely convinced that Farrell is the man to turn the franchise into a contender).

What's unknown is whether the Sox are still as fascinated with Farrell. In his nearly two seasons in Toronto, the Jays' progress has been minimal. Toronto has the third-worst record in the American League and will, barring some miracle hot streak, finish with a losing record for just the second time in the last seven seasons.

Still, Farrell has several undeniable positives:

He's intimately familiar with working in Boston and its attendant pressures and demands.

His knowledge of pitching in general -- and of Buchholz, Jon Lester and others on the current Red Sox staff -- would be invaluable.

And he successfully straddles the line between authoritarian figure and player-friendly manager, a balance Valentine could never strike.

Now, Farrell could still remove himself from any consideration with a Sherman-esque public statement. Or the Sox could focus their search entirely elsewhere.

But that won't stop the chatter this weekend at Fenway as the countdown to the end of the season begins and the speculation about the next Red Sox manager intensified.

Just what Valentine needs.

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.