McAdam: Red Sox gotta win at least some of the close ones

McAdam: Red Sox gotta win at least some of the close ones

BOSTON - Red Sox reliever Brad Ziegler was trying to put yet another late-inning loss into perspective in the Red Sox clubhouse.
     
Ziegler had come into the game in the top of the eighth inning, entrusted with a one-run lead.
     
In the span of a few minutes, the Yankees would score three runs on three hits, each of which could have easily resulted in an out.
     
It was that kind of night.
     
"Any loss is tough,'' philosophized the reliever. "[But] I would say this way is  a little better than getting getting the crap beat out of us.''
     
Is it, Brad? It it really?
     
Maybe the accumulation of multiple late-inning, close losses has Ziegler grasping at straws.
     
There certainly have been enough of them of late. As Alex Speier of Boston.com pointed out, the Red Sox have lost five games in their last 20 in which they were leading after seven innings. Prior to that, in their first 93 games, they had suffered three blown saves.
     
And the losses have come in almost every conceivable manner. 
     
* There was a two-run throwing error by Hanley Ramirez to begin the recent 11-game West Coast trip.
     
* There was the gopher ball to Robinson Cano, served up in Seattle by Fernando Abad, hours after he joined the team on a Deadline Day deal, obtained specifically for such matchups.
     
* There was Wednesday's unraveling in which the team failed to fully take sufficient advantage of three bases-loaded opportunities in three successive innings, then saw three pitchers combine to get six outs while allowing seven (!) runs.
     
* And finally there was the death-by-a-thousand-cuts gem from Thursday, in which the Yankees' three big "hits" were, in order: a routine grounder to short that resulted in an infield hit because A) the Red Sox were in a shift and Hanley Ramirez collided with Gary Sanchez at the moment a throw to first arrived; a line drive hit directly at rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who promptly lost the ball in the lights; and a squibber that traveled no more than a dozen feet from the plate, perfectly situated between an on-rushing  Ziegler and a charging Sandy Leon.
     
The whole inning reeked of what former Red Sox manager Jimy Williams used to call "buzzard's luck,'' and typified how things have been going  for the team in the last three weeks.
     
Cut these agonizing losses in half, and the Red Sox are neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays for first place in the East. As it is, they remain, almost improbably, only two games out of first in the loss column.
     
But what of the cumulative psychological toll of these sort of defeats.
     
The Sox look and appear snake-bitten at times, expecting the worst.
     
For the season, they're a combined 25-27 in games determined by one or two runs, a dip below average. But again, it's the recent cumulative weight of the recent losses, coming, as they have, at the worst possible time: now.
     
Whether Ziegler wants to acknowledge it or not, those close-but-no-cigar losses have a tendency to get a team to doubting itself, to expecting the worst -- and often getting it -- when close games head into the late innings.
     
What the Red Sox need, more than anything is to go on a hot run  over a few weeks. In other words, they need to have a stretch exactly like that had from July 3 through July 21, when they went 11-3.
     
Know what happened immediately before that streak?
     
A 21-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
     
A blowout loss can be overcome. It's these endless close losses that are choking the Red Sox.

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."