First Pitch: Monday, August 29

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First Pitch: Monday, August 29

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, a quick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at least the corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapup of Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's And That Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

BLUE SKIES: Storm? What storm? Things are looking bright in Red Sox Nation, thanks to a pair of wins over the A's (csnne.com) on Saturday in the pre-Irene muck and mire, a two-game lead over the Yankees in the A.L. East, and a couple of days off before starting a three-game Fenway series against the Yanks (csnne.com) in a matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in baseball. (si.com) Those numbers may expand -- at least on the Boston side -- if A.J. Burnett pitches one of the games of the series. (New York Daily News)

Still, the story of the weekend -- even in baseball -- was HurricaneTropical Storm Irene. (cbssports.com) After all, how often do players get a weekend off in August? (cbssports.com)

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW . . . that Red Sox prospect Will Middlebrook and Patriots rookie QB Ryan Mallett are a) best friends and c) roommates? (Providence Journal)

GOING UP: The Red Sox leapfrogged the Brewers and Yankees and moved to the No. 2 spot in si.com's weekly Power Rankings.

AMERICA'S MOST BELOVED . . . SOMETHING: In an attempt to defend Tropicana Field, home of the Rays, the St. Petersburg Times' Tom Jones lists the five worst stadiums in sports . . . and he has Fenway Park at No. 5. (The Trop, incidentally, isn't on the list.)

WAR OF WORDS: The Yankees split their Sunday doubleheader with the Orioles (New York Daily News), but that wasn't the big news of the day in Y. Universe. The Yanks claim they were left out of the decision-making process when one of Saturday's rainouts was rescheduled for Sept. 8, costing them one of their two remaining off-days this year, and they're hopping mad about it. (New York Post) Buck Showalter -- who hasn't been afraid to talk the talk against the big boys this year (csnne.com), even if his team hasn't exactly walked the walk on the field -- responded quickly, saying New York's complaints had "a feeling of hypocrisy" and that the Yankees' "opinion on what the Baltimore Orioles should do for their fans and for their organization isn't really that relevant to me personally." (masn.com)

UM . . . NEVER MIND: And then it turns out that a miscommunication between Yankee players and a lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association may have been the reason the Orioles selected the Sept. 8 make-up date. (New York Post)

DON'T LOOK NOW . . . but the Rays -- fresh off a 14-strikeout performance from David Price in a 12-0 win over the Jays (St. Petersburg Times) -- are only six games behind the Yankees in the wild-card race.

MILESTONES: Derek Jeter has now played more games as a Yankee than anyone in history (mlb.com) . . . The Tigers' Justin Verlander is MLB's first 20-game winner this season. (Detroit News)

GOOD LUCK: Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice-president of operations, agrees that the relationship between players and umpires -- which improved in the wake of the Richie Phillips fiasco -- is deteriorating, and he's determined to fix it. (si.com) Interesting note: He says don't believe the computerized strike zones you see on TV, which frequently show the umpires missing ball-and-strike calls. Writes Mel Antonen: "Torre said the problem with the TV networks is that their strike zonetechnology is set up for one strike zone, to a batter that stands sixfeet tall . . . 'TV is not accurate' said Torre."

OLD FRIENDS: Wil Ledezma -- yes, he belonged to the Red Sox once upon a time -- was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays (bluejays.com) . . . That was one ugly outing for Brad Penny yesterday in what is fast becoming one ugly season (rotoworld.com) . . . Hanley Ramirez says he'll be back in the Marlins' lineup Wednesday against the Mets (Twitter) . . . Nick Hagadone, whom the Sox sent to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade, was quietly recalled by the Indians Friday for his first taste of the big leagues (cleveland.com) and just as quietly sent back to the minors yesterday (Rotoworld) . . . Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens can't figure out Jason Bay (New York Post) . . . Adrian Beltre doesn't think he needs a rehab assignment, but the Rangers insist so he'll go (AP via SI.com).

NEW FRIENDS: Andre Ethier-to-Boston rumors have been circulating forever, so it's interesting when a) he seems to complain about the Dodgers making him play through a knee injury (Los Angeles Times), and then b) backs off those comments (mlb.com).

THE QUIET MAN: Joe Buck's voice problem has been evident to anyone who's watched a Fox game this season, and he explains what's wrong -- thankfully, it's nothing serious -- to the New York Times.

AND FINALLY . . . Looking for an athlete who'll inundate you with Tweets? R.A. Dickey's your man. (The Wall Street Journal)

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scored runs in bunches in tallying four consecutive victories. They leaned on pitching and defense to earn their latest.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners for their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third win in a row for Rodriguez (4-1), who gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

"I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm never really thinking about numbers. I just go out there and throw my pitches and do the best I can do."

That effort is producing one of the best stretches of his three-year career.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span. He hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings and only 11 runs in his last 49 1/3 innings. His ERA is just 2.01 over that same period.

"He was amazing," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Put zeroes on the board all night long. And he made the big pitch when he needed to."

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Manager John Farrell said his 24-year-old pitcher is in a "very good place" right now.

"He was powerful tonight," he said. "It's just a matter of his abilities coming together. This has always been an extremely talented young guy. We've talked about his maturity, we've talked about his progression. It's been on display here for a good number of starts consecutively."

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs.

"The whole night obviously wasn't consistent," he said.

Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help defensively. Bradley had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBIs in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

MISSING: OFFENSE

Mariners manager Scott Servais said they are doing everything they can to find production from an offense that has gone missing.

"Offensively, we struggled to put innings together. That's kind of been the story here for the last week or so, we just haven't gotten the line moving at all, for whatever reason," he said. "Guys are frustrated by it, we all are. We know we're better than that, offensively. It's not happening right now."

Seattle was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his first major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP