McAdam: Sox offense coming up aces

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McAdam: Sox offense coming up aces

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- They're still hitting just .248 as a team. Tuesday night's lineup featured three players hitting .204 or below. Their struggles hitting with men in scoring position (.225) have yet to be cured.

But somehow, someway, the Red Sox have managed to beat three straight aces -- reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez Sunday; previously undefeated Jered Weaver Monday; and Dan Haren Tuesday.

At the time, each of the three starters began with the best ERA in the American League. And each time, the Red Sox figured out a way to win.

"I think we're playing crisp baseball," offered Terry Francona by way of explanation after the Sox beat Haren and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 7-3, Tuesday night. "We've faced some good pitchers. You go into these games knowing you're probably not going to knock them around. They're some of the best pitchers in baseball. And they're hot."

Indeed, the Sox did not bash any of the trio. Hernandez allowed just two runs over seven innings. Weaver was charged with three over six innings. Haren gave up four in seven-plus innings.

But each time, the Red Sox used the same successful formula: they drove up pitch counts, did more damage against the bullpen, and tellingly, got terrific outings from their own starters.

In fact, over the three games, Red Sox starters compiled an ERA of 1.86, compared to 3.15 for Hernandez, Weaver and Haren.

"When you beat guys like that," said Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie, "you've beat some of the best in the game."

Finally, more than a month into the season, the Red Sox are showing the same approach that has made them one of the best offensive teams in the game the last few years: patient, selective, and grinding.

"They're great pitchers," said Adrian Gonzalez, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games and smacked his first homer at Fenway, ending a drought of 96 at-bats, "so you just go out up there looking for good at-bats."

The Sox couldn't get much of anything done in the early innings against Haren, whom they beat in Anaheim two weeks ago, handing him his first loss of the season. Through the first four innings, their only hit was a single by Carl Crawford with one out in the third.

Crawford then stole second, but neither Jarrod Saltalamacchia nor Jacoby Ellsbury could deliver him.

In the sixth, however, with Haren's pitch count climbing, the Sox scratched out two runs for their first lead of the night. Ellsbury led with a double into the right-field corner.

Haren then fanned Dustin Pedroia, but three straight singles followed from Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Lowrie.

In the seventh, another single from Crawford -- two hits for the third straight game -- and well-timed double off The Wall by Saltalamacchia stretched the Red Sox lead to 3-1. Gonzalez's leadoff homer to start the eighth chased Haren.

Offensively, there's still plenty of room for improvement. While others have heated up, Pedroia has continued to cool, dropping to .255. J.D. Drew has been virtually non-existent from the start, with a .231 batting average and just five RBI.

But there are good signs, too. Ellsbury appears comfortable again in the leadoff spot, having hit safely in each of the 11 games since he was returned to the top of the batting order. And Crawford is up to .194, having lifted his batting average some 40 points in the last three games.

Mostly, however, there's the satisfaction that they have figured out ways to score enough -- sometimes just enough -- to beat front-line starters.

"It's a great sign," said Gonzalez. "It's something we can definitely move forward from."

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

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.