Boston Red Sox

Flubbed popup opens floodgates, helps Blue Jays beat Red Sox, 8-6

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Flubbed popup opens floodgates, helps Blue Jays beat Red Sox, 8-6

BOSTON -- Steve Pearce blooped the ball to the edge of the outfield grass, and Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt was there.

He planted his feet. He raised his arm to catch it.

But something wasn't quite right.

Holt lost the ball in the sun, allowing it to glance off his glove for a two-run single that tied the game as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied from an early deficit to take the lead for good and hold on to beat the Boston Red Sox 8-6 on Thursday.

"As weakly as I hit it, I didn't" expect it to fall, said Pearce, who had three hits. "When you put the ball in the air, sometimes (the fielder) just can't do it. Day game, clear sky. It was a great time for it."

Ryan Goins followed with a two-run single to give the Blue Jays the lead. Justin Smoak homered twice, but it was a 140-foot duck snort that turned things around and allowed Toronto to leave Boston with a split in the four-game series.

"I don't care how hard it's hit, it's a two-RBI knock. Then Goins comes right behind me, keeps things rolling," said Pearce, whose team lost nine of the first 10 games of the season and haven't been above fourth place since. "We've had a lot of things going against us, so it's nice to finally have something go for us."

Dustin Pedroia had three hits, including a three-run homer, while serving as designated hitter on a 90-degree day at the end of a grinding homestand. Including the 15-inning game on Tuesday with Toronto, the AL East-leading Red Sox played 76 innings in about 144 hours - the equivalent of 8 1/2 games in six days.

But it was the sun more than the heat that was the problem, especially for the right fielders and anyone else who tried to field a popup.

"During day games it's always pretty bad for the right side of the field - second basemen, right field," Holt said. "It was one of those balls that wasn't really high enough where I could do anything to move myself and maneuver myself to get that out of the sun. ... I tried to stay with it as long as I could and unfortunately couldn't make the play. So that one's on me."

Dominic Leone (2-0) earned the win. Toronto starter Francisco Liriano got just five outs, allowing three runs in the second, but the Blue Jays came back with four in the third to take a 5-3 lead against Doug Fister (0-4).

Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Smoak has 26 homers and 62 RBIs this season. His previous career highs were 20 and 59.

"We still have 2 1/2 more months left in the season so I just try to keep my head down and keep going," he said.

Smoak's RBI single in the sixth gave Toronto a 7-3 lead, then Pedroia's homer in the seventh made it a one-run game. Smoak added his second homer in the ninth.

Mookie Betts had two hits and two RBIs for Boston.

FOR STARTERS

Liriano gave up three runs - two earned - five hits and a walk, striking out one. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon, and Betts scored two with a single to give Boston a 3-1 lead in the second.

But the Blue Jays came back with four in the third, when Fister walked four batters and also gave up run-scoring singles to Pearce and Goins. Fister allowed six runs, seven hits and four walks, striking out three in 4 1/3 innings.

SELF DEFENSE

Goins ended the fifth inning when he raised his bat to protect himself from an inside pitch and wound up grounding it back to reliever Fernando Abad. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman signaled a fair ball, Abad made the casual throw to first, and Hanley Ramirez, seemingly confused, paused before stepping on the base. Goins remained on his knees in the batter's box, smiling, long after the rest of the players cleared the field.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez left Wednesday night's game with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Red Sox: Leon was hit in the left foot by Russell Martin's foul tip in the fourth inning. The training staff came out to look at it, and the Boston catcher remained in the game.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (4-6) faces Trevor Bauer (7-8) in the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland.

Red Sox: Chris Sale (11-4) will start the opener of a three game series against the Angels, facing Ricky Nolasco (4-10).

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.