Holy smokes: Angels beat Sox at Fenway, 5-3

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Holy smokes: Angels beat Sox at Fenway, 5-3

The Red Sox' offense, apparently, has gone on summer vacation.

For the eighth time in the last 11 games, the Sox were limited to three runs or fewer as the team suffered its fifth loss in the last seven games, a 5-3 setback to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Sox had some late inning chances but stranded three baserunners in the last three innings.

Starter Aaron Cook was rocked for all five Angels runs over the first five innings, allowing 11 hits along the way.

His own throwing error -- his second in as many games -- led to the first run in the third. Five straight singles in the fourth led to two more and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run blast over everything for one of the longest homers at Fenway this season.

Snapping a homerless streak that had lasted almost a month, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his 21st of the season into the seats in right to put the Sox on the board in the sixth.

A Wall double by Scott Podsednik followed by a ground ball and a wild pitch by reliever Jordan Walden let to another run for the Sox in the seventh.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO -- Drilled in the hip by a heater, Bryce Harper knew where this was headed. In a hurry, too.

"You see red," he said.

Enraged, the Washington slugger charged the mound, wildly fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with reliever Hunter Strickland, setting off a furious brawl Monday during the Nationals' 3-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.

"You never want to get suspended or anything like, but sometimes you just got to go and get them and can't hesitate," Harper said. "You either go to first base or you go after him and I decided to go after him."

The two players have a history, stemming from two home runs Harper hit off Strickland in the 2014 playoffs.

"I can see how that stands in people's minds," Strickland said.

This flashpoint came in their first matchup since then, with two outs in the eighth inning, none on and Washington ahead 2-0., Strickland hit Harper with the first pitch, a 98 mph fastball.

Harper didn't wait. The four-time All-Star pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

"My head was on a swivel, as quick as I could to not get taken out by somebody on their team or anything like that," he said.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. Giants star catcher Buster Posey stuck near the plate when Harper bolted, and stayed clear of the fracas as things escalated.

"Strick and him are the only ones that can answer why" the fight happened, Posey said.

Posey got a concussion last month from a beaning. He said he wasn't thinking about that accident, but was concerned about injuries.

"There were some big guys tumbling around out there," he said. "So it was a little dangerous to get in there sometimes."

Harper's eyes were wide as he flung his helmet -- it wasn't close to Strickland but it might've slipped, as helmets are hard to throw accurately -- and they started swinging away.

The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper said.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters.

"I'm OK, but why is that news?" Morse said. "I was trying to get in there to break everyone up."

Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected, and are certain to face punishment from Major League Baseball.

No injuries were reported in either clubhouse. Harper attributed a scratch to Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon pulling him away from the brawl.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. Harper watched the second shot sail down the line, in Game 4, and glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases.

"I wasn't sure what was going on, but I think [the Giants] were definitely shocked at the situation, shocked that he would do something like that three years later," Harper said.

"It just wasn't relevant. Like I said, it was three years ago, over a thousand days, I guess," Harper said. "I don't know why he's thinking about it. He's got a World Series ring. It's on his finger and he's able to look at it every single night."

Angry, Harper did at least appreciate there was no head-hunting.

"One thing I've got to say about Strickland is he hit me in the right spot, so I do respect him for that," Harper said. "He didn't come up and in toward my face like some guys do, so I respect him on that level."

Strickland said he missed his spot.

"I left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him," he said. "He's taken advantage of that, so I went inside. Obviously, I got in a little too far."

"He decided to come out, that's what he decided to do. It's go time. You protect yourself and stand your own ground," he said. "And I'll take what consequences come with it. I was pretty fired up, to be honest. It's part of the game."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy framed it for everyone.

"It looks bad, it does," he said. "Harper gets hit and you look at a guy who's given up some home runs, and he'll tell you that he was trying to come in. You don't want to make a mistake there. You have two guys who don't care for each other too much. It was a pretty good pile."

Nationals manager Dusty Baker had no doubt about Strickland's intent.

"We were ahead 2-0, two outs and nobody on base. I mean, that's the prime time to hit somebody if you're going to hit them, it looked like it was intentional to me," he said.

"What's a man supposed to do? He's not a punching bag, he's human with emotions. I know he took [Strickland] deep in the playoffs a couple of times and he probably took exception to that. I mean baseball is a game where you don't forget and you can hold grudges for a long, long time."

Too long in the estimation of Harper and his teammates.

"Completely uncalled for," said Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who wasn't with Washington in 2014. "Bryce hits one . . . off him in a big spot from what I understand, I think I remember seeing it live, and Hunter waits three years. I think if the Giants thought it was that egregious, Bryce would've gotten one the next season."

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, Harper's teammate in 2014, said the incident shouldn't come as that big a surprise.

"You can't assume what other people are thinking or what other people are going to do," he said. "History is history, some people hold it longer than others."

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.