Boston Red Sox

Notes: Bard can't seal Wakefield's 200th win

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Notes: Bard can't seal Wakefield's 200th win

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

TORONTO -- It was so close, Tim Wakefield could almost taste it: Up by two runs, six outs to go and Daniel Bard, the Red Sox' dependable set-up man, pitching the eighth.

But then things went horribly wrong. Bard had command issues, walking three and hitting another batter. And when Matt Albers came in gave up a three-run double, the Red Sox had lost the lead and Wakefield had lost a chance -- his seventh -- to win career victory No. 200.

Wakefield, however, insisted he had some responsibility for the loss, even though he left with a three-run lead after five innings.

"I struggled the first three innings throwing strikes," said Wakefield. "I put a lot of pressure on (the bullpen) from the sixth on to the ninth. I'll take the blame for not getting deeper into the game and not giving those guys some rest."

Wakefield had difficulty commanding the knuckler in the first three innings, tossing two wild pitches, walking three and hitting a batter.

He was far better later, retiring six of the last seven hitters he faced.

Wakefield has had seven chances at 200 -- he hasn't won since July 24 -- and was asked if he feels at all snakebit in his pursuit of history.

"If it happens, it happens," he said philosophically. "If it doesn't, it doesn't change what I've done. I'd like it to happen. But more important is for us to get into the postseason and we're trailing the Yankees by 2 12 games now.

"That's our ultimate goal."

Bard had a 1.46 ERA over his last 56 outings before Wednesday night, but was charged with five runs in an inning, blowing the lead and Wakefield's chance at No. 200.

After getting the final out with an inherited runner in the seventh, Bard allowed the first three hitters in the eighth to reach on a hit batsman, single and walk. He then struck out two before walking Eric Thames to force in one run.

That brought Jose Bautista to the plate and Bard got ahead 0-and-2 before losing him, walking him to force in another run and tie the game.

"My command kind of came and went as the inning progressed," said Bard. "I just didn't have good timing with my delivery."

But even after his struggles, Bard maintained confidence in himself.

"I'm definitely a believer that until the run crosses the plate, I'm going to try to find a way to keep that from happening," he said. "I fully believed, with the bases loaded and no outs, that I could get out of that. I never doubted that."

Worse, the blown lead meant that another chance for Wakefield to win his 200th was gone.

"When I got in the clubhouse," said Bard, "Wakefield, he was the first guy to come up, shake my hand and pat me on the back. He knows how hard I'm trying. To be that close to getting out of it with the lead intact makes it even tougher.

"But we're trying for him. He did his job today; I didn't do mine."

Terry Francona was asked if he gave any thought to bringing in Jonathan Papelbon for a four-out save in the eighth.

"I wanted Bard to get through Bautista," explained Francona. "He handled Bautista so well. I actually thought staying with Bard was the right thing to do."

As if things weren't frustrating enough in the eighth inning, things didn't get any better in the top of the ninth.

Adrian Gonzalez homered to bring the Sox to within two, and singles to David Ortiz, a groundout and a single by Marco Scutaro scored another, making it 11-10.

Francona had Mike Aviles pinch-run for Scutaro, but Aviles, representing the potential tying run, got thrown out attempting to steal second base for the final out of the game.

"I didn't have a great jump for one," said Aviles. "For two, that's probably the best pitch to get thrown out on. It wasn't a pitchout, but it was up and out. It just didn't work out."

The Jays had Jose Molina behind the plate, "one of the best in the business in throwing out runners," said Aviles. "So I knew I needed to get a good jump. I don't feel like I got a good jump, but he did a good job getting rid of it."

Josh Beckett, who returned to Boston Tuesday to have his ailing right ankle examined, rejoined the Red Sox Wednesday.

"It's going to be common sense when it comes to his program," said Francona. "We'll see how he does. Once he's ready to start that five-day routine, we'll get him going."

Beckett was walking around the clubhouse with a bootbrace device on his ankle. He was not available to speak with reporters before Wednesday night's game.

With Beckett out for his next start and Erik Bedard skipped to give his knee extra rest, the Red Sox don't yet have a starter announced for Tuesday, when they begin a homestand with Toronto.

"We haven't gotten that far," said Francona.

J.D. Drew (finger) attempted to throw Tuesday, but was unable to do so because of lingering soreness.

"And he hasn't been able to swing either," said Francona, "so we're nowhere."

Clay Buchholz threw long toss from a distance of about 105 feet for about 60 throws.

"Good day," observed Francona of his starter. "He's picking up the intensity, picking up the distance. He'll take Thursday off and move out to 120 feet. He's tolerating everything."

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

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.