Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

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Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

BOSTON -- Before Friday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that he doesn't believe in momentum.

And was he ever right.

The old phrase in baseball, with regards to momentum, is simple. It's as good as the next day's starting pitcher.

Josh Beckett took the hill on Friday night, trying to keep Boston's two-game win streak alive following back-to-back solid one-run outings from Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz.

And spirits were riding high entering Beckett's 16th start of the season, thanks in part to Cody Ross' ninth-inning walk-off home run the night before.

"I don't believe in momentum," said Valentine before Friday's game against the Blue Jays. "I mean, I think that you could have momentum in a game and in an inning, but I don't think yesterday necessarily carries over, other than you have a good feeling when the game starts."

Even that would be a stretch, mainly because of Beckett's brutal 10.20 first-inning ERA this season.

But Beckett struck out Toronto lead-off man Anthony Gose to begin the game. And it looked like things would be different in this first inning.

Then Colby Rasmus drove a ball over Cody Ross' head in right field for a one-out triple. And in the next at-bat, Edwin Encarnacion grounded to third, and Will Middlebrooks decided to try and throw Rasmus out with a tag at home.

The throw was in time, the tag seemed good, but the ump called him safe, and the Blue Jays led 1-0. An Adam Lind single and then a J.P. Arencibia single scored another Toronto run, and it was more of the same for Beckett in the first.

"I thought the first inning, I made decent pitches," said Beckett, who also defended Middlebrooks' aggressiveness on his throw to the plate. "The second inning was the inning where things got away from me."

Yunel Escobar led off the top of the second with a double, and then Beckett got two outs, with Escobar eventually getting to third. That's when it fell apart.

Beckett was ahead of Gose 0-2, and then threw four straight balls for the two-out walk. And Rasmus made him pay, driving a two-out, two-run double the other way, off the top of the monster, giving the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead after two innings, and leading to a 6-1 Toronto win.

"Well I thought he had good stuff all night," said Valentine after the loss. "The leadoff strikeout I thought was good. Then Rasmus hit a low curve ball over Cody's head, and then we got a ground ball to third and we didn't get an out on it.

"He made a couple bad pitches in the first couple innings, and there were four runs. But he had pretty good stuff tonight."

Beckett allowed another run in the fifth, but it was unearned, thanks to a Will Middlebrooks error. Still, he picked up his eighth loss of the season after allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out seven in six innings.

"I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing," added Beckett. "I got burned whenever I didn't make pitches."

Both Valentine and Beckett wish they could have back Gose's second at-bat of the game in the second inning, which was a two-out walk that gave Rasmus a chance to break it open, which he did.

"That 3-2 curveball to walk Gose, I think he lost a little concentration," said Valentine. "And he just threw a fastball out over the plate to Rasmus the next pitch. Before we knew it, it was two runs. He's out of that inning if he drops a curveball in there."

Other than that, Valentine still thought Beckett had "good stuff" in his last two outings.

"I thought he had good stuff tonight," said Valentine. "And I thought he had good stuff the last time out."

Beckett got the win his last time out. It stands as his only win between now and May 20. He's 5-8 with a 4.53 ERA. His and Jon Lester's win total (five each) matches that of Daniel Bard, who's been in Triple-A Pawtucket since June 5, and Bard's last win was on May 29.

"Obviously the results are not where we want them to be, but you've just got to keep going out there," said Beckett. "There's nothing you can really do."

The Red Sox would like those early-inning mistakes to be limited. And until that starts happening, the belief in momentum certainly won't be carrying over to Beckett's next start.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."