Boston Red Sox

McAdam: Calls go unanswered on road

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McAdam: Calls go unanswered on road

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- As they have already demonstrated this season, the Red Sox need no help when it comes to losing on the road.

Nonetheless, they may have received some unsolicited contributions from the umpiring crew in the opener of their nine-game road trip Tuesday night, nudging them toward their worst start to a season on the road in franchise history.

It's likely that the Red Sox weren't going to do with much against Oakland A's lefty Brett Anderson, who shut them out for eight innings before turning things over to his bullpen for a scoreless ninth in a 5-0 victory for the A's.

But every time the Sox had opportunities, a break seemed to go against them.

With just one baserunner in the first three innings, the Sox put the leadoff man on in the fourth after a walk to Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia took off for second with Adrian Gonzalez at bat, hoping to put himself in scoring position. But Anderson whirled and threw to first baseman Daric Barton, who in turn, fired down to shortstop Cliff Pennington to nab Pedroia.

Pedroia was so convinced that Anderson had balked that he could be seen shouting the word on his way to second; manager Terry Francona was so convinced he immediately was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds.

"The rule is, you can't deceive a baserunner," said Francona. "He went in two different directions. He started to the plate, changed his mind, landed toward the plate . . . For me, it was a balk all the way."

"I don't know, man . . . I don't know," said Pedroia, shaking his head in disbelief after the game. "I thought it was pretty obvious. I think I was yelling mid-run. It's hard to believe they couldn't see that.

"That's upsetting. That should have been a runner on second with Adrian up; instead, Anderson throws a nasty pitch and Adrian strikes out and he keeps rolling. It makes it tough."

Anderson then went on to retire the next nine hitters in succession and 10 of the next 11. The lone runner to reach was Gonzalez in the seventh, who hit a tapper back to the mound that Anderson first bobbled, then threw wildly to first.

Another bizarre call in the eighth, with Oakland holding a slim 1-0 lead, managed to turn against the Sox.

David Ortiz led off with a single to right and gave way to pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. With Mike Cameron at the plate and the count full, Ellsbury took off for second.

Cameron appeared to perhaps check his swing as Ellsbury broke for second, representing the potential tying run. Ellsbury seemed to have beaten the throw, but second-base umpire Andy Fletcher made no call.

After a few seconds, it was ruled that Cameron had interfered with catcher Kurt Suzuki, resulting in a double play, with Ellsbury out at second because of the interference.

"I'm confused a little bit," said Francona, who was watching from his office in the visitor's clubhouse. "When acting manager DeMarlo Hale went out, he asked, 'Whattaya got?' and he was told interference on Cameron . . . Then Hale went out in between innings and he was told by the umpires, 'No, no interference - Fletcher called Ellsbury out on the steal attempt at second.'

"So I'd like to find out what really happened. It was hard for me in here. I never saw a call made at second on the stolen-base attempt. It looked to me like they were covering up a little bit. It looked to me like there was a little bit of ambiguity. Something was not right there.

"Cam came across the plate. But then when Hale went out after the inning, he was told they called Jacoby out on the steal. Which, clearly, he wasn't, and, clearly, they didn't make a call. So I don't know."

The Sox have been shutout in the last 20 road innings. The same offense which averaged six runs per game in the four games against Toronto didn't make the trip West.

"It's a small sample," said Francona of the road woes. "But in a 1-0 game, we needed a break and we didn't get anything."

"It's tough," concluded Pedroia. "But we'll get breaks."

Just not Tuesday night.

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

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

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Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

CINCINNATI - Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam - a Reds' season record - in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games - most in the majors - after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young.

Part of Porcello's problem has been a lack of run support. Boston has been blanked while he's on the mound in 10 of his losses. This time, the Red Sox got him off the hook, overcoming Gennett's career-high 27th homer with the help of Devers' three-run shot off Sal Romano (5-7).

The Red Sox are last in the AL with 159 homers.

Left-hander David Price (6-3) pitched 2 2/3 innings and contributed a single, bringing the Red Sox to the front of the dugout for a celebration. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances.

Gennett was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee late in spring training. He has provided some of the Reds' best moments in an 88-loss season, including a four-homer game on June 6. His homer off Porcello ended the Red Sox' streak of 26 straight scoreless innings.

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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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