McAdam: Bard saves the day in the sixth

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McAdam: Bard saves the day in the sixth

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Clay Buchholz had hit the proverbial wall, having thrown 103 pitches, loading the bases with two consecutive walks, and placing the Red Sox' bid for their first road win of the season in jeopardy.

And here was the biggest problem: it was only the sixth inning, far too soon to go to closer Jonathan Papelbon, and yet too risky to trust to the team's group of middle relievers.

Daniel Bard, then, to the rescue.

Bard inheirted a bases-loaded, one-out jam, with the Oakland A's threatening to dismantle the three-run lead the Red Sox had at the time. He struck out Cliff Pennington, then retired Coco Crisp on a flyout, leaving the baserunners exactly where they were when he entered the game.

Just for good measure, Bard added a scoreless seventh inning, leaving only six outs for Bobby Jenks and Papelbon to record. As it turned out, both late-inning relievers allowed a run each, but Bard had steered the Sox through the biggest threat of the afternoon.

"That was the game right there,'' marveled Terry Francona after the 5-3 win was in the books. "You've heard me talk about it, time and time again - the game can be won in the sixth or seventh. For me, that was it. He came in and stopped it. That's what he's there for.

"It's a big weapon. That's what it is. We have the ability to pitch him with the game on the line and he's one of the best in the league. He can get left-handers, he can obviously get right-handers. He holds runners . . . With runners on base, that's who we want to bring in.''

Whenever Papelbon falters, fans clamor for a job switch in the Red Sox bullpen, clamoring for Bard to become closer with Papelbon shifted to a set-up role.

But that ignores the fact that each is probably better suited for their present role. And it also glosses over how demanding Bard's job is.

While Papelbon often has the luxury of starting an inning clean -- i.e., with no baserunners -- and in possession of a two- or three-run lead, Bard can be summoned, as he was Wednesday, with a mess in progress, asked to perform cleanup duty.

"His ability to hold runners is very good,'' said Francona. "His ability, from the first pitch he throws, to become engaged in the game is also unusual. It doesn't take him a hitter or two to get ready -- he's ready to go. I know he's a young kid, but he's been in those circumstances an awful lot already.''

Through the first 16 games, however, Bard hasn't always been as consistent this season as he has been in the past. On Opening Day, after the Sox had worked to come from behind and tied the game on David Ortiz's solo homer, Bard promptly handed the Texas Rangers four runs, absorbing the loss.

In Cleveland, he was on the mound when the Sox lost a heartbreaking 1-0 pitcher's duel as the Indians used a suicide squeeze in bottom of the eighth to extend the Red Sox' early-season losing streak.

But on Wednesday, Bard was nearly faultless. And he had to be, given that the margin for error was narrowing even as he took the mound.

"That's what I'm here for, I guess,'' said a satisfied Bard afterward. "That proves that games can be won -- or lost -- in an inning after the starter is out. I'm glad they called on me there.''

The key under such circumstances, said Bard "is to focus pitch-to-pitch.''

Even so, Bard had to take a deep breath when Crisp lined a pitch to left, only to have the ball fall inches foul from the left field line. For Bard and the Red Sox, it was eerily similar to an at-bat from another former Sox outfielder.

In the opener, David Murphy had sliced a two-run double to left after his liner landed on the line and kicked up chalk. The baseball gods were with Bard Wednesday, sending Crisp's shot just beyond the foul line.

"It was good to have some luck like that after what happened earlier in the season for me,'' said Bard.

The pressure of those leveraged situations -- middle or late innings, game on the line, but no save situation -- is something Bard revels in.

"I'm not getting any save opportunities,'' he said, "so I've got to savor those when I get them.''

And road wins, too, which had been non-existent for the Red Sox until Bard came in and did what he does as well any reliever in the game.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."

Red Sox move into first place with rain-delayed, 9-3 win over Twins

Red Sox move into first place with rain-delayed, 9-3 win over Twins

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz wasn't expecting one rain delay, let alone two. But he got through both just fine.

Pomeranz pitched five solid innings, Chris Young hit a three-run homer and the Boston Red Sox moved into first place in the AL East with a 9-2 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

"It was kind of crazy. I didn't even realize it was supposed to rain at all tonight," Pomeranz said.

Pomeranz (7-4) had to sit through nearly an hour delay before the game started, then a 76-minute delay between the second and third as a thunderstorm slowly passed over Fenway Park. Despite the interruption, the left-hander held the Twins to an unearned run and four hits, struck out seven and walked none.

Christian Vazquez homered for the first time in more than a year, helping the Red Sox win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two weeks. Dustin Pedroia had three hits and scored twice.

Bench coach Gary DiSarcina managed the Red Sox with John Farrell serving a one-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball.

"It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of adrenaline. I can see and appreciate the trials and the tribulations and the struggles John goes through daily and nightly," DiSarcina said. "I don't think I'm going to appreciate it until the season's over and I'm looking back at having a day like this."

The Red Sox capitalized on three errors by the Twins and moved a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees, who lost 4-3 to the White Sox on Tuesday.

"Long night," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I've seen some really good games here and I've seen some ugly ones, and that would fall in the latter category for sure."

Hector Santiago (4-7) returned for the Twins after a stint on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left shoulder. He allowed two runs and one hit in two innings.

"I feel really good right now. Obviously it's only two innings," Santiago said. "I feel like I had some really good velocity, really good acceleration on the off-speed (pitches)."

The only hit Santiago allowed was Vazquez's two-run homer in the second. The Red Sox led 6-1 when Young blew it open with a drive off one of the signs above the Green Monster in left.

"We just didn't do a lot of damage control after we got back out and start playing again," Molitor said.

Minnesota didn't score until the fifth when Jorge Polanco drew a one-out walk and Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton followed with consecutive singles off Pomeranz, who was fading and faced six batters in the inning.

Eduardo Escobar added a solo homer for Minnesota in the eighth.

Boston hadn't won consecutive games since beating Philadelphia three in a row from June 12-14.

VERSATILE VAZQUEZ

Vazquez hit his first home run since May 1, 2016. It was his third career homer and all three have come with one man on base.

Vazquez also stole a base after walking in the fourth and caught the entire game. Vazquez threw out Rosario when he attempted to steal third after leading off the third with a double off the wall in left.

"He's been great behind the plate all year. He's been hitting the ball all year," Pomeranz said. "It was good to see him get that home run tonight."

SUSPENSION

Farrell was suspended for poking umpire Bill Miller in the chest during an animated argument over the weekend.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: Santiago was making his first start since June 6 at Seattle. The Twins placed him on the 10-day DL the next day. To make room on the roster for his return, recently acquired RHP Dillon Gee was sent down to Triple-A Rochester.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez sat out his second straight game with a bruised left knee from a pitch that hit him Sunday.

UP NEXT

Twins: Rookie LHP Adalberto Mejia (2-3, 4.93 ERA) pitches in Fenway Park on Wednesday night for the first time.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (4-9, 5.00 ERA), the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner, looks to win consecutive starts for the first time this season.