First Pitch: Sox find a winner in Morales

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First Pitch: Sox find a winner in Morales

SEATTLE - In defeat, sometimes there are discoveries.

Thursday night, while much of New England slept, the Red Sox found something, even as they were suffering a frustrating 1-0 setback to the Seattle Mariners.

When Franklin Morales limited the lowly Chicago Cubs to just two runs over five innings almost two weeks ago at Wrigley Field, the Red Sox were pleasantly surprised. Morales had, on short notice, been thrown into the rotation as a fill-in for Josh Beckett, and Morales had given them a quality start out of nowhere. He was, after all, making his first start in more than three years.

When Morales pitched well again in his next outing, the Sox took more notice, as he allowed two earned runs over six innings to a better offense, the Atanta Braves.

But when Morales went pitch for pitch, scoreless inning for scoreless inning, with Felix Hernandez Thursday night in the opener of the Sox' West Coast road swing, they became true believers.

Three starts or not, Morales is now officially beyond fluke status.

"He's done an incredible job,'' said Adrian Gonzalez. "We all knew he had that in him. He just feels the game really good. He understands how to pitch guys. It was King Franklin vs. King Felix today.''

Morales now made three starts for the Sox and has struck out 24 hitters over 18 innings while issuing just three walks, and became the first Red Sox starter since Curt Schilling to strike out at least seven in each of his first three starts in a season.

The same guy who was a decent middle reliever just over two weeks ago now is a dominating starter.

Bobby Valentine thought Morales would be well-suited to start, but surely even he could not have imagined that Morales would be this good.

"Well, I don't think anyone can pitch like this all season,'' cautioned Valentine. "But he's pitched extremely well. He's been aggressive in the strike zone. He's been consistent with all three pitches in the strike zone. He's thrown them anytime in the count. He's pitching in-and-out and up-and-down. That's what you teach.''

What's even more incredible is how quickly Morales has ramped up his arm strength. Until the Wrigley debut, he had only pitched more than two innings twice.

Now, three starts in, he was able to give the Sox 109 pitches, the second-highest total of his career.

"He's been outstanding,'' said outfielder Cody Ross. "He's got outstanding stuff. His curveball is really good. His split-change -- or whatever that thing is -- is filthy. He'll throw it in all counts. And he can throw 96, too. You get a combination like that, and he doesn't have that smooth delivery. It's kind of herky-jerky and it messes up guys' timing.''

"He controls his fastball at 96 mph and it's tough to do that,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

But Saltalamacchia thinks it's determination as much as stuff that has made Morales so good.

"He wants to pitch, he wants to start,'' said Saltalamacchia. "He's making his case.''

Indeed he is. Beckett, whom Morales replaced, returns Saturday, but the Red Sox are going with a six-man rotation for the rest of the next week or so.

After that, there are no assurances, no guarantees that Morales will remain in the rotation.

But he sure looks like, somehow, he's here to stay. How can the Sox take him out of the rotation the way he's throwing?

"It's not on my calendar of things to do,'' said a smiling Valentine.

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

BOSTON -- Chris Sale was perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Red Sox hitters do the work this time.

Sale cruised into the fifth inning, then was rewarded in the seventh when the Boston batters erupted for seven runs on their way to a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.

Sale (5-2) struck out six, falling short in his attempt to become the first pitcher in baseball's modern era to strike out at least 10 batters in nine straight games in one season.

But he didn't seem to mind.

"It was fun," said the left-hander, who received more runs of support in the seventh inning alone than while he was in any other game this season. "You get run after run, hit after hit. When we score like that, it's fun."

Dustin Pedroia waved home the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch, then singled in two more as the Red Sox turned a 3-1 deficit into a five-run lead and earned their third straight victory. Sam Travis had two singles for the Red Sox in his major league debut.

"I was a little nervous in the first inning," he said. "I'd be lying to you guys if I said I wasn't."

Mike Napoli homered for Texas, which has lost three of four to follow a 10-game winning streak.

FOR SALE

Sale, who also struck out 10 or more batters in eight straight games in 2015 with the White Sox, remains tied for the season record with Pedro Martinez. (Martinez had 10 straight in a span from 1999-2000.)

After scoring four runs in support of Sale in his first six starts, the Red Sox have scored 27 while he was in the game in his last five. He took a no-hitter into the fifth, but finished with three earned runs, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings.

"Guys pulled through for me when I was probably pretty mediocre," he said.

NO RELIEF

Sam Dyson (1-5) faced seven batters in relief of Martin Perez and gave up four hits, three walks - two intentional - and a wild pitch without retiring a batter.

"Martin threw the ball really well and I came in with two guys on and couldn't get an out," Dyson said. "Sometimes they hit them where they are, and sometimes they hit them where they aren't."

Asked if he felt any different, he said: "Everything's the same.

"If I get my (expletive) handed to me, it's not like anything's wrong," he said. "Any more amazing questions from you all?"

SEVEN IN THE SEVENTH

It was 3-1 until the seventh, when Andrew Benintendi and Travis singled with one out to chase Perez. Mitch Moreland singled to make it 3-2, pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge singled to tie it and, after Mookie Betts was intentionally walked to load the bases, Moreland scored on a wild pitch to give Boston the lead.

Pedroia singled in two more runs, Xander Bogaerts doubled and Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dyson was pulled after walking Chris Young to force in another run.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx got Benintendi to pop up foul of first base, but Napoli let it fall safely - his second such error in the game. Benintendi followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 8-3 before Travis was called out on strikes to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor was shaken up when he dived for Betts' grounder up the middle in the third inning. He was slow getting up. After being looked at by the trainer, he remained in the game.

Red Sox: LHP David Price made his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing six runs - three earned - seven hits and a walk. He struck out four in 3 2/3 innings, throwing 89 pitches, 61 for strikes, and left without addressing reporters. 3B Pablo Sandoval also played in the game, going 2 for 4 with two runs.

"He felt fine physically," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who added he would talk to Price on Thursday morning to determine how to proceed. "We had a scout there who liked what he saw."

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP Nick Martinez (1-2) to the mound in the finale of the three-game series.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-3) looks to snap a personal two-game losing streak.

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

If only David Price could pitch as well as he dodges the media.

The Red Sox lefty bailed on a typical post-start media session with reporters in Pawtucket on Wednesday, after his second minor league rehab outing in Triple-A was another dud.

As Price comes back from a nondescript elbow injury, difficulty retiring minor league hitters doesn't combine well with difficulty facing questions. He sat in the mid-90s in his second rehab start with Pawtucket, but allowed six runs, three earned, in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.

The PawSox were at home at McCoy Stadium against Triple-A Louisville, a Reds affiliate, and Price heard some heckling. Postgame, he wanted to hear nothing, apparently.

Per CSNNE’s Bill Messina, who was on site in Pawtucket, the media was waiting outside the clubhouse for Price, as is standard. 

PawSox media relations told the media to go to the weight room, where Price would meet them. As media headed that way, PR alerted reporters that Price was leaving and did not want to talk. Media saw a car leaving, but there was no interview.

On the mound, Price’s velocity is there, but the command is not. The Red Sox would be unwise to bring back Price before really two more minor league starts — one to show he can do well, another to show he can repeat it.

Price’s ERA in two starts for Pawtucket is 9.53. He’s gone 5 2/3 innings and allowed six earned runs, while striking out eight and walking two overall.