Boston Red Sox

Lester takes hard-luck loss versus Rays

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Lester takes hard-luck loss versus Rays

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There was not much more Jon Lester could do Tuesday night -- except get a win.

Despite holding the Rays to three runs on seven hits over seven innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts, Lester and the Red Sox fell to the Rays, 3-2. Their record fell to 2-9, the worst in baseball.

Lester has been as much a hard-luck loser as the Sox have seen this season. It was his second straight quality start -- he shut out the Indians over seven innings in Cleveland on Thursday -- but he still doesn't have a win to show for it.

In this game Lester was matched against David Price, Tampa Bays ace and another of the American Leagues elite left-handers. Price (1-2) earned his first win of the season.

After Daisuke Matsuzakas disastrous outing Monday night, which lasted just two innings and taxed the bullpen, Lester gave manager Terry Francona exactly what was expected of him.

He knows what were up against tonight, Francona said. Were not knocking the ball all over the ballpark. They got one of the best lefties in the league, too. And we just didnt do enough.

In the first inning, Lester got Sam Fuld to ground out to Marco Scutaro at shortstop, before striking out Johnny Damon and B.J. Upton to end the inning. Lester struck out Damon to end the third inning, and then struck out Tampa Bays three, four and five hitters Upton, Felipe Lopez, and Sean Rodriquez in the fourth. From the third to the fourth, five of the six outs were on strikeouts.

But Lester faltered in the fifth. After retiring the first batter, he surrendered a single on an 0-and-2 pitch to Kelly Shoppach. Dan Johnson and Elliott Johnson followed with singles of their own, loading the bases and bringing Sam Fuld to the plate.

Fuld hit a swinging bunt to Adrian Gonzalez, charging from first. Gonzalez appeared to have just a bit of trouble getting the ball out of his glove before he threw home and Shoppach slid in safely, tying the score and keeping the bases loaded.

Damon then singled to center, scoring both Johnsons and putting Tampa Bay in front, 3-1. It was all the Rays would need.

Were facing one of the better guys in the league tonight, just like they were, said Francona. I dont think you ever go into a game against a guy like Price and think youre going to knock him around the ballpark.

I thought Lester was every bit as good. They bunched all their hits right about in a row. They got a swinging bunt. The 0-2 pitch to Shoppach to start it off, Lester left it out over the plate and Shoppach served a ball into left. Then a couple balls were hit, Johnnys ball up the middle . . . But I thought Lester was really good.

Jason Varitek, who caught Lester, was just as impressed.

I thought he did well, Varitek said. He kept us in the game. That inning could have gotten further away. He made pitches to keep it at 3-1 . . .

"After that, Lester battled and stayed and didn't let it get away from him.

Wins for Lester -- and the team -- have been hard to come by this season.

We dont have a whole lot of wins ourselves and its not about Jon, Varitek said. Its about us. Were playing better and we just got to push and find a way to win a game.

Its not a whole lot of fun for anyone. But everyones doing their work, going about their business right. And if we continue to throw a quality start like that, were going to win a lot of games.

Lester accepted his tough luck.

Four singles beat me, or whatever it was, five singles, he said. But you know what? Ill take that every start, if youre going to beat me with singles, and then tip my hat. The only pitch Id want back in that inning is the ball I threw to Damon. Just right side of the plate, just up a little bit, he was able to put a good swing on it. But I dont really know what else to say about it.

The Sox have been at a loss -- for words and games -- for much of the season. With the combination of the Red Sox loss, the Rays win, and Houstons win, the Sox now have the worst record in baseball.

I think its a combination of everything on every night, Lester said. I thought we played really good tonight. If our record wasnt what it is right now I dont think really too many guys would be worried about tonight. But, obviously, we know what were up against right now.

"But we just got to keep grinding. Everybody in that clubhouse is going to show up every day. Its the same deal every night we talk to yall. Its the same answers and its clich-y, but its the truth. We show up every day. Everybodyd in that clubhouse cares. Everybody wants to play hard. Everybody wants to do good. Were trying. Itll come. Its obviously not what we wanted right now but its too much talent in that clubhouse to be where we're at right now.

Asked what would help right his team, Lester replied:

We need a night like Tampa Bay had Monday night when the Rays scored 16 runs on 20 hits. We need a night where we show up and we just pound the baseball and we do everything right. I think also a night where . . . we come from behind and get a win. That, I think, would get us going. Were just not putting everything together.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.