Boston Red Sox

McAdam: Sox can't escape the pain


McAdam: Sox can't escape the pain

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- At this point, the Red Sox seem locked into a race with the clock, trying to determine if they can get to the All-Star break before another injury strikes.

For a while, it had been position players who were coming up hobbled, crowding the trainer's room and disabled list. Lately it's been pitchers.

Jon Lester did not return for the fifth inning Tuesday night depite having no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays for the first four innings. He suffered from a pulled left lat and was replaced by Matt Albers.

After holding off the Jays 3-2, the Red Sox and Lester stressed that the injury wasn't a major one, but it will undoubtedly require some creative restructuring for the Sox for the first next two weeks.

Consider: Of the five Red Sox pitchers who began the season in the starting rotation, one is one out for the season (Daisuke Matsuzaka); one has already spent time on the DL and continues to battle elbow issues (John Lackey); one is currently on the DL with a lingering back issue (Clay Buchholz), and another seems headed there (Lester). Only Josh Beckett has been mostly healthy, and he recently went 15 days in between starts because of the flu.

Sometime Wednesday, Lester will likely be placed on the DL, making him eligible to return July 21.

There remains the outside chance that the Sox will elect not to DL Lester and simply use the calendar and All-Star break to manipulate things. Theoretically, they could use someone on staff (Alfredo Aceves) to take Lester's final start of the first half Sunday, then stack their rotation so that Lester is at the back end when they return from the break.

Such an arrangement would give Lester 13 days' rest, without requiring a DL stint. But it would also leave Terry Francona and pitching coach Curt Young a pitcher short as they navigate the final two series of the first half and first one after the break.

The setback for Lester comes at a time when he seemingly had gotten over a rough patch of outings. After seven shutout innings against the Phillies last week to avert a sweep in Philadelphia, Lester was brilliant Tuesday night, retiring 12 of 13 hitters he faced, five by strikeout.

Moreover, it comes at a time when uncertainty surround two fellow starters. Lackey appears lost on the mound, all the while denying that his elbow is a factor in the downturn. If Lackey isn't hurt -- or refuses to acknowledge that he is -- the Sox have no choice but to run him out to the mound once every five nights, hoping against hope for better results.

Lackey currently has the worst ERA of any qualifying starter in either league. His trade value is non-existent and the Red Sox are on the hook for three more full seasons after this one.

Then there's the mysterious case of Buchholz, whose back hasn't been right since right for more than a month, leading to a trip to see a specialist Wednesday morning.

If Buchholz remains out well past the break and Lester is forced to miss a start or two, the Red Sox will face an injury strain as bad as the one which hit the club at midseason last year, when half of their infield, both catchers and two-thirds of their outfield all occupied spots on the DL.

Without Buchholz and Lester, the Red Sox are left with exactly one dependable starter: Beckett.

Both Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller have performed better than expected, but the former has a recent history of breaking down in the second half while the latter has 16 career wins as a starter.

The Sox are fortunate to have had such satisfactory pitching depth to date. Already this seasson, the Sox have used eight starters. If they need to get a spot start out of either Kevin Millwood or Felix Doubront Sunday, that number will swell to nine.

If any of the Big Three (Beckett, Lester or Buchholz) are lost for an extended period, the Sox shouldn't count on reinforcements from the trade market. Unlike last year, when bonafide front-of-the-rotation starters were available in midseason (Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee), the best available starter this summer is Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, who would be no better than the equivalent of a No. 4 for the Red Sox.

(The thin market doesn't begin to factor in that the Sox' inventory of prospects has been stripped bare by the Adrian Gonzalez deal.)

The Yankees have somehow managed to remain in first place in a season in which their bullpen has been decimated by injuries (Pedro Feliciano, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano) and their rotation has been held together from surprise contributions from veterans such as Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Now it is the Red Sox' turn to similarly ride out this rough patch. The alternatives -- in every sense of the word -- aren't pretty.

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

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

BOSTON — The minutiae starts to fade now. Steal a few wins, rattle off a gorgeous run when people didn’t expect you to — what should or shouldn’t happen doesn’t matter.

Are the Sox really this good? At a certain point, it’s irrelevant how many wins were lucky (Friday’s, arguably), or against bad teams (the White Sox), or anything else. Those victories are cinderblocks in the standings that the Yankees are will find increasingly difficult to budge.

There’s simply no challenging the value of banked wins, no eliminating them.

Look, you didn’t need Friday night’s 9-6 Red Sox win over the Yankees to realize the Sox are resilient. All of August has been a coming out party: for a pitching staff that’s making due without David Price, for an offense liberated by a 20-year-old third baseman who homered again Saturday, Rafael Devers, as the team adapts smoothly to the absence of Dustin Pedroia.

“We miss them,” Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night. “There’s no question we miss those two guys, and [are] really looking forward to their return. But it speaks volume to the team we have, the depth and talent that’s here. 

“What Raffy has done by coming up, and Eduardo [Nunez’s] arrival here at the time when Pedey goes down, they’ve been instrumental in the way we’ve played. I don’t know if you want to call it the next-man-up mentality, but we have not skipped a beat and guys are beginning to flourish and shouldering a greater burden.”

But what, beyond this sense of resiliency, have you learned since the trade deadline? What can you tell about the Sox’ future from watching them reach a season-high 19 games over .500? 

That discussion is more complicated. The Sox are of the best anywhere, just as they were projected to be entering the year — albeit with some different personnel fulfilling those predictions. They’re just the second AL team to reach 70 wins.

Yet, it’s fair to wonder how many times a reliever like Tommy Kahnle — one of the Yankees’ significant trade additions — will let Mitch Moreland come through with a go-ahead hit on an 0-2 count in the seventh inning. 

It’s fair to wonder how many times Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can fall into trouble without swing-and-miss stuff and be bailed out. Or how many times Farrell can keep holding back guys like Addison Reed, as the skipper did on Friday, until he really has no other choice — and be let off the hook for those choices.

The Red Sox are homer-happy right now, with multiple long balls for the 9th time in 14 games. Those home runs could be long overdue, or it could be a cluster and an aberration.

Again, those questions start to diminish in importance. Because in the same way we talk about time running out for Price’s return from injury, time also starts to run out for other teams.

There’s a cushion of five games in the AL East going into Saturday’s middle game of three with the Yankees, one of just four remaining head-to-head match-ups between the Sox and Yanks this season. The last time the Sox and Yankees were playing each other as the top two teams in the division this late in the year was 2011, a reminder of how quickly leads can dissipate. 

This isn’t a suggestion the Sox should be foolhardy, or have anything wrapped up. It’s a reminder that whether you believe Eduardo Nunez will keep up his .361 average down the stretch, or whether you find anything dubious about some of these Sox wins — they’re still in the bank, appreciating in value from now until October.


Moreland delivers with pinch-hit single to help Red Sox beat Yankees, 9-6


Moreland delivers with pinch-hit single to help Red Sox beat Yankees, 9-6

BOSTON - Pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland hit a two-run single in Boston's four-run seventh inning and the Red Sox rallied to beat the New York Yankees 9-6 on Friday night.

Boston won for the 13th time in 15 games to extend its lead in the AL East to five games over the second-place Yankees. New York snapped a four-game winning streak.

Addison Reed (1-1) got five outs, striking out three. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 29th save.

The Red Sox opened a 3-0 lead on homers from Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez. But Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer in the sixth, then New York scored four in the seventh to take a 6-3 lead.

Boston loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh against Tommy Kahnle (2-4). Mookie Betts had a sacrifice fly and Andrew Benintendi an RBI single. After Hanley Ramirez walked to load the bases again, Moreland's single made it 7-6.

Jackie Bradley Jr. added a two-run single in the eighth.