McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

191542.jpg

McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- Slumping teams need to catch a break occasionally. But the way the Red Sox are going in the first week of 2011, they seem incapable of either making their own good luck, or knowing what to do with it when they get some.

Case in point: the sixth inning of Wednesday's 8-4 debacle at Progressive Field.

It was bad enough that Dennys Reyes, making his fourth appearance in the first five games, couldn't find the strike zone. He threw 12 pitches, and 11 for were balls. Of the three hitters he faced, two were hit by pitch and the third was walked.

Walked while he was trying to get a bunt down. Walked while he was trying to, quite literally, give the Red Sox an out.

Then, things went from bad to downright bizarre.

Dan Wheeler, on in relief of Reyes, got Michael Brantley to hit a liner right at -- more or less -- third baseman Kevin Youkils.

That's when the craziness began.

"It's one of those plays where, if you catch the ball, it's bases loaded still," recounted Youkilis. "You try that play a lot of times where you drop the ball on purpose. Sometimes it works. Usually they call it a dead ball. But right there, we almost had it worked out."

Like teammate J.D. Drew, who last year couldn't quite make up his mind on whether to catch a ball in foul territory or let it drop with a runner on third, Youkilis seemed to be indecisive.

At first, Youkilis thought he would drop the liner intentionally. But as the ball began to tail to his glove side as it got closer, Youkilis was caught in between. The ball -- intentionally or not -- fell out of his glove, creating chaos everywhere.

Youkilis scooped up the ball a few feet away and stepped on third base, creating a force play on Matt LaPorta, advancing to third. He then fired home to Jason Varitek, who was waiting to make a play on Travis Buck, the Cleveland runner breaking from third.

One problem: Varitek didn't see that Youkilis had stepped on the third-base bag, thus taking the force off a home. When Youkilis's throw arrived, Varitek merely stepped on home plate, thinking he had recorded an out.

In fact, he hadn't. Buck continued and crossed the plate, giving the Indians a two-run cushion.

"I didn't yell to Varitek to tag Buck," said Youkilis. "I guess Adrian Gonzalez was yelling at him from first base, but it was loud and all that, because the play was kind of crazy. It was just one of those things where it didn't work out."

"Obviously, I had no idea Youkilis had stepped on third," said Varitek. "I'm still trying to learn that one right now. I should have gone ahead and tagged him also. We were trying to secure an out and get the one out at the plate, but the way the ball richoched and where it was, I just never saw it. It was totally my fault.

"It's probably the weirdest play I've ever been a part of. I'm trying to learn what what I could have done different, besides, obviously, tagging him. But I didn't actually see the play."

Things then snowballed. Wheeler threw a sinker to Asdrubal Cabrera, about where he wanted it, but Cabrera went down and drove it out to right for a back-breaking, morale-sapping three run homer.

From down by a run when the inning began, the Sox were suddenly trailing by five, with another loss as their pennance.

"We've had a lot of different things happen," said Varitek in a bit of understatement.

Indeed, starting pitching was the culprit in the first two losses, with the punchless offense to blame for the next two.

Wednesday night, it was poor bullpen work and an uncharacteristic flubby one of the team's most fundamentally sound players.

One bad inning, one more bad loss. One they could hardly afford.

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

Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

red_sox_mookie_betts_032817.jpg

Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

The Boston Red Sox put up six runs in the first inning and coasted to a 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. led the way for the Red Sox with four and three RBI respectfully. Both outfielders had two-run home runs in the Sox’ big first inning.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright gave up one earned run in four innings, his ERA for the spring is now 0.68.

The Red Sox are back in action again on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m when Rick Porcello makes his final spring training start against the Minnesota Twins.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.