First Pitch: Red Sox offense has lost its grip

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First Pitch: Red Sox offense has lost its grip

OAKLAND -- Cody Ross, surveying the carnage in the wake of a hugely disappointing road trip, let out an audible sigh when he was asked about the underperforming Red Sox lineup.
The same lineup that scored a grand total of 14 runs in seven games.
The same lineup that hit a not-so-robust .200 (48-for-240) for the trip.
The same lineup that was a brutal .114 (5-for-44) in the last seven games.
Yes, that one.
The same one, by the way, that is still ranked second in the American League in runs scored, third in the league in slugging and first in extra-base hits.
"I mean . . . I don't know . . . there's really no words for it,'' concluded Ross after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Oakland, which sent the Sox back home with a 2-5 mark in the seven games against the A's and Seattle Mariners. "That's baseball.''
It's just not very good baseball on the part of the Red Sox.
In the seven games out west, the Red Sox offense went south. Only once did the team score more than two runs in any one game. Until the road-trip finale, only one player had more one RBI (Jarrod Saltalamacchia).
The Sox managed seven homers on the trip, but tellingly, six of them came with the bases empty.
"Our offense has just been that terrible,'' said Ross. "There's no need to sugarcoat it. It sucked, basically.''
Actually, the trip continued a season-long pattern. The Sox have the second-most runs in the game as a team and when the trip began had the second-biggest run differential of any team in the American League.
But that speaks to the Sox' habit of piling on in one-sided games. Twelve times they've scored double figures in runs.
In lower-scoring games, however, they seem unable to come up with the necessary hit when it's needed the most. When the Sox score four runs or fewer, they're a lowly 7-35.
Certainly, no blame can be assigned to the pitching on the trip. In the seven games, the Red Sox got quality starts six times. And even when they didn't -- Daisuke Matsuzaka's one-inning-plus implosion Monday night -- they got seven innings of one-run relief from the bullpen, keeping the game within reach.
Not that the offense took advantage.
"As good as our offense is,'' said Ross, "to get three-hit Wednesday . . . I think we scored all of eight runs (actually, 14) for the road trip. That's crazy. We've scored eight runs in an inning before and against really good teams. Out here we played two teams that are sub-.500 and got the crap beat out of us.''
The culprits were eveerywhere. Three players -- Saltalamacchia, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia -- combined to knock in almost half (six) of the 14 runs for the tripl
Adrian Gonzalez, whom the Sox are paying handsomely to produce runs, didn't drive home a single run until he singled home Ortiz in the sixth inning of the final game on the trip.
"We're all pressing,'' acknowledged Ross. "We're all trying to get something going. We're not getting that big hit when we need it. We can't seem to push anything across.''
Perhaps the Yankees, coming to town for a four-game set which will wrap up the first half, are just the tonic. The Yanks are without their two best starters (CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte) and their mere presence may create some energy and excitement at Fenway, enough to rouse the slumbering Boston attack.
That's the hope, from the Red Sox' perspective, anyway. Nothing else seemed to work on the road, including and especially their bats.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: Molitor said RHP Phil Hughes, on the 10-day disabled list since late May with biceps tenderness, "felt good" but the pitcher had hoped his velocity would be a bit higher. ... LHP Glen Perkins, on the DL with a shoulder strain, is expected to resume throwing again Tuesday after a setback about a week ago.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez was out with a sore left knee after getting hit by a pitch Sunday. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the 10-day DL since June 20 with a left inner-ear infection, is slated to start a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. Manager John Farrell said there's no planned date for his return. ... Moreland fouled a ball that bounced and hit near his right eye.

NICE START, KID

Red Sox 3B Tzu-Wei Lin singled to right in his first major-league at-bat and first career start.

The 23-year-old from Taiwan played third on his country's national teams in 2009 and 2010. He's the second Taiwanese-born player to make Boston's major-league roster. Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin was the other, in 2012.

RUNNING AROUND

Twins LF Eddie Rosario made three nice running, over-the-shoulder catches.

WELCOME ABOARD

Infielder Jhonny Peralta reported to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. Boston signed him to a minor-league deal after he was released by St. Louis earlier this month.

The plan is to alternate him at third and DH with Sandoval.

ROSTER MOVE

The Twins sent RHP Dillon Gee back to Triple-A to make room for Tuesday's starter LHP Hector Santiago.

UP NEXT

Twins: Santiago (4-6, 5.26 ERA) will be activated off the DL Tuesday. He's been sidelined since June 7 with a strained left shoulder.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-4, 4.07) looks to snap a three-start winless stretch.