Boston Red Sox

Mattingly welcomes change, challenge in late-season Sox acquisitions

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Mattingly welcomes change, challenge in late-season Sox acquisitions

DENVER -- Don Mattingly was born in the Midwest (Indiana) and makes his baseball living now in Los Angeles.

But once, he was in the cauldron, playing for the New York Yankees when George Steinbrenner raged, the manager could be fired on any given day and the threat of a trade was omnipresent.

So Mattingly, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, knows that a new address can mean all the difference for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and next season, Carl Crawford.

All three -- in addition to utility man Nick Punto -- were dealt off Saturday by the Red Sox in one of the biggest and most shocking deals in modern baseball history. Beckett was perceived as a bad influence while Crawford and Gonzalez appeared to be poor fits for Boston.

Now, they each get a fresh start and Mattingly is happy to have them.

"I don't know if you ever really know (how players will respond)," he said before the Dodgers faced the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. "I don't know if it's a change of scenery, a new start, you want to show people you can play. I just think it kind of gives you a little bit of a do-over, for a guy that's coming from a place where there's kind of been a negative vibe going on around him.

"So when a player comes in, coming out of that circumstance, it gives you the opportunity to say, OK, I'm starting over.'"

Mattingly, of course, never had to change uniforms, cities or leagues. He was a Yankee for his entire playing career, and he understands the pressures that come with playing in a baseball crazed-market on the East Coast.

"How you go to a Boston or go to a New York (is critical)," said Mattingly. "You go there as a free agent and they build you up like you're the next coming because they've just signed you. It's kind of almost the reverse of when you leave town, they're talking about all the bad stuff that's happened with you.

"But when you come to town, you're right next to sainthood. That puts you in trouble because you can't live up to it. It's hard to live up to that as a free agent. So it's a lot easier to be in New York or Boston or Philly if you're coming up through the minor leagues because you come up with zero expectations. You get to be yourself. Nobody expects a young kid to do anything and you grow into a city.

"When you come in as a free agent, it's a lot tougher. It's a lot tougher and I've seen people struggle with it, especially if you struggle (right away). A guy comes in, he's played eight years somewhere and he did well. If he struggles early in the city where he's been, people know he has a track record. They know he's going to come through. They've seen him produce.

"But when you struggle in a new city, it's like, 'I haven't seen you do anything.' Or, 'This guy is not that good.' And then guys press, and it just snowballs on you."

Mattingly has seen his share of upheaval with the Dodgers. He managed last year with the franchise essentially became wards of Major League Baseball, with outgoing owner Frank McCourt unable to meet payroll. More recently, he went to spring training not knowing who would win the bidding as the team was put up for sale.

And just last month, the Dodgers landed, in the span of a few days, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League and Joe Blanton.

So he knows all about change and vows to be patient with the former Sox players getting acclimated to a team, a new city, a new league.

"You think about all the different changes," he said. "Your life is kind of turning upside down. Guys, I think, play better when they get settled and they're comfortable. It's pretty hard to be settled and comfortable when you make that move.

"That takes a little bit of time. There's nothing we can really do about that. We'll just try to make it as easy as possible and have some understanding with that."

And yet, there's a sense of urgency. The Dodgers are second in the N.L. West and went into Monday's action two games out of the wild card race with 33 games to go.

The Dodgers don't have a lot of time to figure all of this out.

"I think we all know, we're in a short-term, short-run sprint situation," he said, "and anything can happen in this game, no matter who you've got playing. I think we're all pretty realistic. There's no, 'Oh, you guys are in.' We've got to play and we know it. I don't feel like there's any guarantee. I don't think our players feel that, either.

"I think we all know we're in a short-term situation as far as the window to put this thing together and play good baseball."

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

BOSTON — Congratulations, Dave Dombrowski. It’s September, and you built a certified, top-notch bullpen. 

Credit goes all around. The pitchers themselves receive the most, with the front office, John Farrell and the rest of the staff taking their slices as well.

But the success is particularly notable for an executive who perennially had terrible bullpens in Detroit. Dombrowski knows the reputation he garnered, too.

Maybe now he’ll start to shed it.

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The trouble in his old job wasn’t for lack of trying. Joe Nathan didn’t work out. Many folks didn’t.

“I think that there’s a few factors there,” Dombrowski said in 2016 of his bullpens in Detroit. “At one time we had (Jose) Valverde (from 2010-13 who) was the best closer for a couple years. (Joaquin) Benoit pitched very well as a set-up guy. We had a very solid bullpen at that point.

“We were unlucky a little bit in, for example, a guy like Joel Zumaya — who was a dominant guy, young — hurts his arm. Somebody you’re counting on. . . . Really (Bruce) Rondon never lived up to the early expectations. I know he’s still young, he’s doing better. So we got a little unlucky on those things. He got hurt too.”

So it goes. Per FanGraphs’ measurement of WAR, the Tigers had the worst bullpen in the majors from 2003-15, Dombrowski’s tenure.

The Sox’ bullpen is fifth in WAR this year, and second in ERA. Last year’s group was good, but not this good. 

One of Dombrowski’s premier pick-ups in Boston, Addison Reed, has a common refrain when asked about his own pitching: he doesn’t change a thing. 

When Reed got rocked in one of his early outings with the Red Sox, against the Yankees, he said he didn’t change. When he got in and out of trouble in the eighth inning Monday night in another extra-inning win for the Red Sox, 10-8 over the Orioles in 11, he said he didn’t change.

Same for Dombrowski, it would seem. 

He continued to go after established relievers. There was the huge trade for Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith took a while to contribute because of arm injuries, but he had the 11th-inning save Monday, and his velocity appeared to be creeping up. 

The Tyler Thornburg situation was troubling, so Dombrowski went out and got Reed from the Mets.

Could Dombrowski have had success sooner if he had changed his approach? Well, maybe, but that’s a different argument.

It’s worked. He didn’t change a thing. 

How cliche. But cliches, we should point out, have become a central theme in all these extra-inning wins for the Sox (they're 14-3). Grit, resiliency, determination — you run the risk of drowning on those words, even if they’re well deserved.

Those relievers, though. Both throughout the season and in these marathon games the Sox too often seek, the ‘pen has been unexpectedly excellent, with a rotating cast of characters.

“It’d be nice if we started winning those games in nine and not going extras,” Reed joked, with a presumed kernel of truth. “If it takes 19, 20 innings to get that win, we’ll take it.”

The roles for the postseason are still up in the air, which is strange for a ‘pen that’s been so successful. But at the same time, it suggest an equal distribution of success (and at times, challenges).

The bottom line: Dombo did it, with his relievers making him look smart.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Benintendi's single in 11th sends Red Sox over Orioles, 10-8

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Benintendi's single in 11th sends Red Sox over Orioles, 10-8

BALTIMORE -- Roaring from behind and then finally winning in extra innings, the Boston Red Sox did more than merely maintain their lead in the A.L. East.

They showed their mettle, a characteristic that should come in handy during the postseason.

Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run single in the 11th inning, Mookie Betts had four RBIs and Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-8 Monday night for their ninth win in 12 games.

Xander Bogaerts homered and scored three runs for the Red Sox, who remained three games ahead of the second-place Yankees in the AL East and reduced to four their magic number for clinching a playoff berth.

Boston erased a five-run deficit with a six-run fifth inning and needed 10 pitchers to beat a skidding Orioles team that has now lost 10 of 12.

"This is a big one, being down early and coming back," Benintendi said. "Obviously it's a good win, but it's kind of a character win. Everybody contributed tonight."

After three walks - one intentional - off Miguel Castro (3-2) loaded the bases in the 11th, Benintendi hit a grounder past diving second baseman Jonathan Schoop to give Boston its major-league leading 14th extra-inning win against three defeats.

"That's one of the reasons we stand here today," manager John Farrell said.

Matt Barnes (7-3) pitched the 10th and Carson Smith got three outs for his first save.

"Our group has such grit, such determination, such competiveness," Farrell said. "There's no quit in them."

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left in the fourth inning after being struck in the face by a foul ball he chopped off the plate. The team described the injury as a bruised nose and listed his availability as day to day.

It was the second freak injury Pedroia sustained at Camden Yards this season. On April 21, the All-Star was spiked on a late slide by Manny Machado, a play that created bad blood between the teams into May.

Baltimore built a 5-0 lead against Doug Fister over the first three innings, taking advantage of five walks and getting a two-run double from rookie Austin Hays.

After Betts hit an RBI double in the fourth, Adam Jones countered with a run-scoring single in the bottom half. But the 6-1 advantage vanished in the fifth under a torrent of six hits against Dylan Bundy and two Baltimore relievers.

The key blows in the six-run inning were a two-run double by Brock Holt - Pedroia's replacement - and a bases-loaded double by Betts that scored all three runners.

"It was just that one inning. I let things slip away from me," Bundy said. "I didn't really limit the damage very well, obviously. I was just leaving balls over the middle of the plate and they made me pay for them."

Pedro Alvarez homered in the bottom half and Tim Beckham put Baltimore back in front with a two-out RBI double .

"We find a way to build a big inning, we give it right back and then from that point on the bullpen is outstanding," Farrell said.

The see-saw leveled in the seventh when Bogaerts homered off Donnie Hart to make it 8-all.

BUNDY WILL CONTINUE

As the Orioles stagger to the end of the season, there's speculation that manager Buck Showalter might shut down Bundy, who's now at a career-high 169 2/3 innings.

"I don't think we're at that point yet," the manager said. "Stuff's fine, he feels great between starts, he's getting extra days rest."

Bundy said: "It's September. Everybody is tired right now. So, you've got to battle through it."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Betts was in the starting lineup despite hurting his thumb in two places Sunday. ... DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) did not start but appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... 2B Eduardo Nunez will test his sore right knee running the bases Wednesday. Farrell said: "Wednesday will be a good test in terms of where he is at."

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5, 3.28 ERA) looks to keep his outstanding season going in his fourth start of the year against Baltimore. Pomeranz was 25-36 lifetime before this season.

Orioles: Kevin Gausman (11-10, 4.83 ERA) makes his 32nd start of the year, the fourth against Boston. He's 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA against the Red Sox in 2017.