Hill (elbow) to DL, Melancon back with Sox

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Hill (elbow) to DL, Melancon back with Sox

BOSTON It was not an easy start for Mark Melancons Red Sox tenure. After just four games, he was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, lugging an ERA of 49.50 with him.

Now he's back. Melancon was in the Red Sox clubhouse and on the roster Sunday morning, after left-hander Rich Hill was moved to the disabled list with tightness in his surgically repaired left elbow.

Melancon has not been on a major league mound since April 17 against the Rangers when he faced six batters without recording an out. He gave six runs on four hits, including three home runs, and two walks. He had never given up more than one home run in an outing before that.

He was sent to Pawtucket with the mission of working on being more aggressive and pitching inside. He also knew that to get back to Boston, he had to take the demotion with the right attitude.

Well, after five or six times doing it, you realize that it doesnt help to go down there and get mad, Melancon said . So, no its tough to go down there after youve had a couple bad outings but you got to make the best of it, and thats what I was trying to do.

Its kind of like, I dont know, I guess if you go to a different school and then you come back, you kind of just see all your old friends, he said of being back. Just a good feeling, yeah.

Obviously, you dont wish for an injury, you dont want anybody to do bad. So when the Sox bullpen set the bar as high as they were, its pretty obvious why I was down there and kind of hanging out.

In 21 games with the PawSox, Melancon posted an ERA of 0.83 with 11 saves. in 21 23 innings, he gave up just two runs on 15 hits and three walks, with 27 strikeouts and no home runs.

A lot more aggressive and just throwing strikes, Melancon said. That was the main focus, continuing to throw all the pitches and work on that. More or less, it was the approach and the aggressiveness.

I didn't focus on mechanics too much. I didnt think that was an issue. Just my cutter, my changeup. But obviously Im always working on my fastball, always my curveball. The biggest thing was the aggressiveness and approach.

The results were almost immediate for Melancon, who never lost confidence, he said.

It was nice to get out of an inning, he said with a laugh. A lot of people asked me, Was it confidence? No, it wasnt confidence. I really didnt think it was, and I still dont think thats what it was. Simply aggressiveness and an approach.

Manager Bobby Valentine is pleased with the adjustments Melancon was able to make in Pawtucket, as well as the results.

Every report was excellent from about the third day that he got there, Valentine said. He regained command of his fastball, his curve ballIm not sure if it got sharper but it became a much more functional pitch and he started throwing his changeup, also. He threw to both sides of the plate, maintained his velocity, pitched more than two innings. He would have been back sooner if our bullpen wasnt doing as well as its been.

Melancon was acquired in a trade with the Astros in December for shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland. Originally, it was planned for him to be the closer, until the acquisition of Andrew Bailey from the As. At that point, Melancon was going to be a set-up manmiddle reliever. Hes not sure what his role will be now.

Valentine was asked if he has the confidence to use Melancon in big situations.

As good as hes throwing Id like to put him in situations that will help us win a game, if its needed, Valentine said.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.