McAdam: Red Sox play the blame game

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McAdam: Red Sox play the blame game

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

TORONTO -- There's more than one reason why the Red Sox have yet to reach .500 this season, and on Tuesday night, the start of their five-game road trip, there was more than one reason why they failed again.

There was the oversized pothole dug for them by starter Jon Lester, who lost both command and control of his emotions in a first inning that saw the lefty walk three, including one with the bases loaded.

There was the by-now standard inability to deliver the big hit when it was needed most. The Sox stranded 12 and in one particularly frustrating inning, the seventh, couldn't get a run after putting the first two hitters on base.

There was the home run allowed by DanielBard with the score tied in the eighth,which meant Adrian Gonzalez' ninth-inning homer tied, and didn't win, the game.

But ultimately, as the Sox slipped back to 17-19 with a 7-6, 10-inning defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays, it was the team's helplessness in the bottom of the final inning which sealed their fate and left them 0-for-3 in games which could have brought them back to the break-even point.

The Red Sox knew that Rajai Davis was going to run. What was left of the undersized crowd at Rogers Centre knew it, too. But the Red Sox could do nothing to stop Davis, ultimately, from stealing this game from them.

Matt Albers had worked an efficient ninth inning, but quickly fell behind Davis 3-and-1 with one out in the bottom of the 10th.

"In that situation,'' said Albers, "I'm not going to walk him. I'm going to make him hit the ball. He hit a chopper to the right spot which got into center field."

But Davis was just getting started.

The Red Sox called for a pitchout as Davis broke for second. But even with that, catcher Jason Varitek one-hopped his throw and Davis slid in safely.

"We had the pitchout,'' recounted Varitek. "We had the right thing. I wasn't able to gain as much as ground as I would have liked in making the throw. It ended up bang-bang."

"If we get the ball in the air to second,'' said Terry Francona, "we've got him.''

Davis wasn't done, however.

Francona said infield coach Tim Bogar tried to get rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias's attention to hold Davis closer to the second-base bag, but couldn't.

"Maybe a little bit of inexperience on Iggy's part,'' said Francona, "just not getting tight enough. It certainly changed the way we had to defense the Jays the rest of the inning."

Albers, however, took the blame for not doing a better job in keeping Davis anchored.

"I shouldn't have let him steal third,'' he said. "That was on me. I've got to keep him closer and keep him at second. It's unfortunate. You know he's going to go.''

"Third . . . it was . . . no contest," recounted Varitek. "Hindsight, you can always say that you could have done this or that. But I wasn't able to make a throw."

Not that the Sox were surrpised by Davis's decision to take off for third, even though he was already in scoring position.

"Not in the least bit,'' said Varitek. "He was that way in Oakland. He's got accelerated speed. By no means were we surprised.''

From there, all the Blue Jays needed was a simple sacrifice fly, which they got from rookie David Cooper. A routine flyout to center, which would have been the second out had David been kept at second, instead Sox sent the Sox to their second extra-inning loss in the last six days.

Plenty of blame, indeed. But not enough answers for a team which has found merely getting back to even much harder than it ever could have imagined.

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

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

By Pat Bradley, CSN Staff

Chris Sale was treating this like a regular season game, and delivered an excellent, midseason performance.

The Boston Red Sox got a taste Tuesday of the star pitcher they acquired last offseason, when Sale dominated the New York Yankees in a 4-2 spring training road win in Tampa, Florida.

Sale, who entered the game having thrown 63 of his 68 spring pitches for strikes (92%), continued to show off his incredible command, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes (67%) in the victory.

The 27-year-old struck out five of the first six Yankees he faced, and finished with an even 10 strikeouts on the night. He’s now struck out 20 batters to just one walk this spring.

"Obviously, anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York," Sale said, via The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park in a night game, it gives it more of a regular-season feel. That's what we're here for. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular-season game, the better off we're going to be."

His single blemish came on a 2-2 pitch to Yankees designated hitter and noted masher Matt Holliday, who sent the ball sailing to the opposite field for a two-run home run that at the time tied the score at 2.

Sale quickly regrouped, lining out Chris Carter to left field on his very next pitch to end his outing. His final line: two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts and a hit batsman in six innings on 86 pitches.

That’s quite a debut to the rivalry, and something the Red Sox are well aware could become a regular thing.

“I don't want to say tonight is the norm,” began Red Sox manager John Farrell, via The Providence Journal, “but certainly he is very capable of doing that every time he walks to the mound.”

Sale wasn’t the only one strutting his stuff on Tuesday, though. Youngsters Marco Hernandez and Sam Travis continued to hit and were pivotal parts of a Red Sox offense that pounded out 13 hits.

After Mike Miller opened the scoring with a solo homer for Boston in the third inning, Travis kept things rolling a few batters later when his base hit scored Hernandez.

Travis was back at it again in the seventh inning, when his groundout scored Heiker Meneses for what proved to be the game-winning run.

Hernandez and Travis each finished 2-for-4, with Hernandez tripling (his fifth of the spring) and scoring a run and Travis driving in two runs of his own. They raised their spring averages to .422 and .351, respectively.

Every member of the starting lineup -- which did not feature regulars Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval or Xander Bogaerts -- recorded at least one hit, save for Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the cleanup spot.

Boston is back in action Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.