McAdam: Road trip in rearview, Sox going strong


McAdam: Road trip in rearview, Sox going strong

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two and a half weeks ago, the Red Sox were staring into a scheduling abyss: They would rack up tends of thousands of miles, flying from the midwest to the Pacific Northwest, back to Boston (briefly), then back to the midwest and Texas.

The stretch was daunting. But the Red Sox survived, even thrived.

They went 10-7 in those 17 games, including a 9-5 run in the 14 road games. When the stretch began, the Sox led the Yankees by a game. Now that the demanding span of games is over, their lead is exactly the same: A full game over second-place New York.

That included a 6-2 finish in Kansas City and Texas, where the Red Sox had been winless earlier in the season and carried a five-game losing streak into Tuesday.

"We've been playing well," said Dustin Pedroia. "This part was tough and this last (bit of it) says a lot about our team. We came out here, lose the first game then played three great games."

Of the five series' that made up the 17-game segment of the schedule, the Sox won three and lost two. By winning each of the last two series, both on the road, the Sox can now claim eight winning road trips in the last nine and still boast the best road record in either league.

At 50-30, the Red Sox have 32 games remaining over the next 4 12 weeks. Of those 32, 19 are at home, with just 13 remaining away from Fenway.

Of course, the next two days won't feel like much of a reprieve. Following an early Friday morning touchdown in Boston, the Red Sox must play three games in the span of about 25 hours.

Then, they'll have two straight days off, which might interrupt any momentum they've built. But they're also at home for the next 10 days, with the full knowledge that just two road trips remain.

The worst is over.

The one-game lead over the Yankees is hardly secure and there are no guarantees that it will remain intact past next week, when the Yankees visit for three games.

More likely, the division -- for whatever that's worth for bragging rights, home field and a better first-round draw - won't be decided until the final weekend of the season when the Red Sox visit New York.

But for now, the toughest part of the summer is behind them. The test was passed.

"I don't think it's time to take a deep breath," cautioned manager Terry Francona. "But we're hanging in there."

Two and a half long weeks ago, tens of thousands of miles back, that was the goal.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics


Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1


Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.