Boston Red Sox

Lester, Sox at a loss as first half of season ends

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Lester, Sox at a loss as first half of season ends

BOSTON Jon Lesters first half ended as fruitlessly for the Red Sox as it began. With a loss.

Sunday night in the first-half finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 13 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He took the loss, as the Sox fell to the Yankees, 7-3. Lesters record fell to 5-6 while his ERA rose to 4.49.

Lester set the tone for his outing by following a frustrating trend for Sox starters in the four-game set with the Yankees. In all, Sox starters gave up 14 runs in the first inning of each of the games. Lester gave up two Sunday, digging a hole for himself to work from. He needed 29 pitches (17 strikes) to get through the inning.

"Jon had another uphill battle," Bobby Valentine said. "He was throwing the ball well. You look up and he's at 100 pitches in the fifth inning."

This was the first time Lester had faced the Yankees this season. He has lost his last three starts against New York, after winning his previous five. He is now 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA in 8 career starts against the Yankees at Fenway.

This was the third-shortest outing of Lesters 18 starts this season.

Well, obviously not good, Lester said of his latest outing. Got to get deeper in the game somehow than what I did. Too many pitches, too many foul balls, too many deep counts. Just kept giving people any opportunity to get back in the count. And with a good team like that, you cant do that.

Facing six batters in the first inning, Lester allowed the first three to reach base, with one scoring, before he could record an out.

Derek Jeter singled to right field, Curtis Granderson singled to center, and Mark Teixeira doubled to left, scoring Jeter. After Alex Rodriguez popped out, Robinson Cano walked and Nick Swisher grounded into a fielder's choice to third base, with Granderson scoring.

Down by two after the top of the first, the Sox offense fought to stay in contention. But each time, Lester allowed the Yankees to pull ahead. Trailing 3-2 after four, Lester allowed the first two New York batters to reach in the fifth Mark Teixeira on a single and Alex Rodriguez on a triple, scoring Teixeira. Andruw Jones' one-out single two batters later scored Rodriguez, knocking Lester from the game. But the deficit was too much for the Sox offense to overcome.

I thought he had great stuff, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He was throwing a cutter to both sides of the plate early in the count, late in the count, breaking ball, changeup. They got the runs early but he made some good pitches. Ball just kept finding a hole. You cant really explain it and you cant really talk about anything. I thought he made some really good pitches tonight.

The Sox are 11-7 in Lesters starts this season. He knows he has to give the Sox a better chance of winning games in the second half if the team is to have any postseason hopes.

Its important, Lester said. Its a horseexpletive first half. I can only speak for myself. Uncharted water for me. Just got to keep grinding it out. Cant give up. I just got to keep working. That's all I can control, is showing up every day, working hard and things are going to turn around.

Perhaps the All-Star break is coming at the right time.

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.