Notes: Wakefield misses 200th win once again

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Notes: Wakefield misses 200th win once again

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

MINNEAPOLIS -- As it turned out, the third time wasn't the charm for Tim Wakefield. In fact, it was no different than the first two times.

Wakefield has been in pursuit of his 200th career victory over the last two weeks, but each time, he's fallen short.

Monday night, when the Red Sox scored a run in the top of the eighth inning to take a 6-5 lead, he was six outs away from the milestone, but then Alfredo Aceves allowed a run to the Minnesota Twins in the bottom of the eighth, costing Wakefield the win.

The Sox have won two of his last three outings, but each time, Wakefield has been left with a no-decision.

"We obviously want to win," said Terry Francona after the Sox held off the Twins, 8-6, "and personally, we want Wakefield to get that win. The last three have been kind of back and fourth."

"I'm just happy that we won," said Wakefield.

Wakefield was victimized by some sloppy play in the early going, with the Twins scoring three runs -- just one of them earned -- in the third inning.

In the fourth, Jason Kubel hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the bleachers for a leadoff homer.

Still, Wakefield, who gave up three earned runs -- five overall -- in seven innings was happy with how he threw.

"I felt like I had a good knuckleball all night," said Wakefield. "Some weird stuff happened. I tried to keep us in the game as long as possible. I felt like I threw the ball pretty good."

"We're happy with the win," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, "but the guys, myself included, we want him to get that win. It's important. We want to get that big 200 win for him so he can stop thinking about it. But he's still going out there and pitching great, so I don't think it's weighing on him too much."

The Red Sox didn't get to their hotel here until after 5 A.M. Monday morning, making for a quick turnaround and a short night.

Early Monday night, the Sox seemed to be sleep-walking, with sloppy play leading to two unearned runs in the second inning. But they rallied for seven runs over their final four innings, a testament to their mental toughness.

"That just proves what kind of team we are, to me," said Saltalamacchia. "Getting in at 5 in the morning, being down by four runs early and coming out there and still swinging and putting runs on the board and coming up with a victory."

"This game is crazy," said Ortiz. "But one thing you know, when you don't have all your energy out there, sometimes those are the best games because you're not trying to do too much. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn't. I guess it worked today."

Kevin Youkilis got the night off Monday, part of Terry Francona's plan to rest a number of his regulars this week before Thursday's off-day hits.

"I'll try to give everybody (some rest) at some point (in the next few days),'' said Francona. "I'm thinking about (sitting Dustin Pedroia) maybe Wednesday. That will give him back-to-back days before Seattle. We'll mix and match a little bit.''

With Youkilis out, Jed Lowrie, activated Monday, got the start at third base. Lowrie has missed the last seven weeks with a pinched nerve in his shoulder.

To make room for Lowrie, the Sox optioned lefty Randy Williams to Pawtucket.

"It's great for us (to have Lowrie back),'' said Francona. "For the first six weeks of the year, he was our best hitter, our most productive hitter. We don't have to have him play every day, but he'll play third (Monday night) and probably play short (Tuesday night). We'll see how he does. But it will be nice to have him and (Marco Scutaro) together and give us more production.''

The changes also impacted the batting order, with Carl Crawford moved up to second (Pedroia's normal spot) and Pedroia moved into Youkilis' slot in the cleanup position.

"We're just trying to put out a balanced lineup with Youk not in there,'' said Francona. "We kind of looked at a bunch of ways and decided to go with this.''

Crawford hasn't hit in the top third of the order since the opening weeks of the season. He began Monday night hitting .260 after having gone 12-for-28 (.428) on the recent homestand.

The Red Sox are in the market for some lefty relief help, but don't appear to have much interest in Arthur Rhodes, who was given his release by the Texas Rangers.

Rhodes was placed on release waivers Monday by the Rangers and will be a free agent Wednesday, but the reports on him aren't great and the Sox would be forced into a roster spot to make room for him.

The team continues to monitor some waiver moves and would like to add a lefty specialist, though it's unlikely anything will happen until later in the month.

Oakland's Craig Breslow remains a possibility. Florida's Randy Choate, whom the Sox monitored earlier, is said by a source to not be available.

Francona said he was aware that starter Josh Beckett was working slower than usual in the Sunday night win over the New York Yankees.

ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine was critical of Beckett for the game's slow pace. Even before the game went into extra innings, it was on a pace to last four hours, despite just three runs being scored before the bottom of the ninth.

With the bases empty, pitchers are supposed to deliver the ball within 12 seconds, but Valentin said Sunday night that Beckett was frequently taking 30-40 seconds.

"If the league wants to send a letter and say 'Speed it up,' I dont blame them,'' said Francona, "(but) I'd rather us win. It was hot, they were working him really hard . . . We talk to all of our pitchers about being quick because we believe in it. But he wasn't doing it on purpose.

"He was tired, he was feeling it, he covered first a couple of times. There are a lot more guys than just Beckett. Some times guys are just slower. That's why they try to get you to speed up. He wasn't doing it on purpose.''

Bobby Jenks, who was scheduled to throw a side session Sunday, instead spent the weekend at a Boston hospital with a severe stomach virus. He was set to undergo a colonoscopy Monday to determine the cause of the problem.

"He got really sick,'' said Francona. "I mean really sick.''

Jenks (back) is on the DL for third time this season.

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

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.