McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future

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McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
As bad as the Red Sox' offense has been of late -- no more than four runs scored in each of their last seven games -- some context is important here.

The Sox still have the second-best record in the American League and only three teams in all of Major League Baseball have more wins.

The offensive dip is partly attributed to the stretch of games in N.L. parks where the Sox must play without their DH and some injuries which have impacted the lineup's depth.

Those are temporary shortcomings.

"It's the way the season is, man," said John Lackey, who would have won with better run support Wednesday. "You play 162 games and it goes in runs in both directions. You can't expect to get 12 every night. Things happen. We've got a great offense and they'll be back soon."

But here's the troubling aspect of the recent swoon, indeed, the red flag that has existed since the start of the season: the Red Sox seem wholly incapable of winning close, low-scoring games -- exactly the kind of games teams have to win in September and in the post-season.

Sure, the Sox have 45 wins. But many of them have come when they've clubbed the opposition into submission, as they did recently when they reached double figures in run scored six times in the span of 12 games.

But know how many games the Red Sox have won scoring three runs or fewer in 2011? Four, or, roughly once every three weeks.

Contrast that with the Phillies, owners of the best record in either league, who won four of those low-scoring games in the first 18 games of the season and have won a staggering 17 games in which they didn't score more than three runs.

That, too, requires context. The Phillies were built around their starting rotation, which features, arguably, three of the best 10 starters in the game -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Moreover, they play in the National League, where offenses are nearly as potent, and, as the Red Sox would be only too eager to point out, they don't have to face a DH.

But that huge discrepancy reflects how different these teams are and how harder it is for the Sox to win when they don't hit.

"You know how it is," said Dustin Pedroia. "When we all get together and swing the bats well, we score a lot of runs. When we don't, we're not going to score a lot. We've got to do a better job of, when we're not all swinging it well, finding ways to score runs."

And that's at the heart of the matter. The Sox aren't going to always be the offensive juggernaut they were at times in May and June. There are going to be stretches like the first three weeks of the season, and more recently, the last 10 days, when they have to figure ways to win without scoring seven or eight runs.

Maybe the Sox are too powerful for their own good, so dependent on big innings and extra-base hits that they can't find a way to play small ball and win pitching duels.

Maybe it's not realistic that a team with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez can eek out low-scoring victories.

Other good teams seem to have figured it out. If the Red Sox don't, eventually it's going to cost them.

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

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.