Boston Red Sox

Pitching fails Sox from start to finish

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Pitching fails Sox from start to finish

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Whether or not the Red Sox make the playoffs, Tuesdays 7-5 loss to the Orioles at Fenway Park, dropping their record to 5-15 in September, will very likely stand as their signature defeat of the season.

Jonathan Papelbons declarations to the contrary, there was plenty of blame to be shared in this loss to the team with the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst record overall. Poor pitching. Lack of timely hitting. Sloppy defense. They were all on dubious display in this game.

Erik Bedard posted yet another in a string of abysmal starting pitching performances in September. He lasted just 2 23 innings giving up four runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with no strikeouts. Facing 16 batters, he threw 76 pitches 51 in the third inning, tying Casey Coleman and John Danks for a major-league high in pitches in an inning this season.

As unlikely as it seems, though, Bedard -- making his first appearance since Sept. 3; he's been sidelined by back and knee ailments -- actually lowered the ERA of Sox starting pitchers this month from 6.87 to 6.77. That tells you how poorly Boston starters have been performing.

If you play a sport, you have to put all that stuff aside, Bedard said. If you let outside distractions get to you, you cant focus out there.

He could also have been distracted by Josh Reddicks error in the third inning. Reddick dropped Vladimir Guerreros fly ball to right field with two outs, a man on second and the later in the inning to come home as the Orioles took a 4-1 lead.

Just misjudged it, came in, said Reddick. He obviously hit it hard enough. I thought he did and it kept going. I jumped a little too late and it just got it off the end of the glove. It was a bad read.

After that misplay, Bedard walked the next two batters.

You do the best you can, Bedard said of the error. It happens. People make errors. Its just part of the game. You try to limit the damage. As a pitcher thats all youre thinking of.

The Sox offense stranded four runners in scoring position with two outs, the last of which came in the sixth when Mike Aviles was left at second base. Any one of those runs may have changed the course of the later innings for the Sox.

The most egregious breakdowns, however, came in the eighth inning. Daniel Bard, who started the seventh, came back out for the eight. But after putting runners on first and second with one out, manager Terry Francona went to Papelbon, for what he hoped would be a five-out save.

Instead, Papelbon was charged with his second blown save of the season and first since May 9, the last time he entered a game in the eighth inning.

We went to Bard early, Francona said. We had told these guys we probably would. But I think we had gone far enough where we wanted Pap to face the lefty Chris Davis and get one and piece it together and it didnt work.

Instead of shutting down the Os, Papelbon struck out Davis then loaded the bases, giving up a single to No. 9 hitter Nolan Reimold after getting him to 0-and-2. Papelbon then allowed Robert Andino, who entered the game hitting .265, a three-run double on a 3-and-2 count, scoring the eventual game-winning runs.

We went to Pap, like we planned, Francona said. We hoped to get into a situation where we could get to Bard and Pap. Knowing Erik probably wouldnt go too far. Got ahead of Reimold 0-2 tried to go up and away and misfired.

Then we get into a situation where we get a deep count. Andino shoots one to right, clears the bases. Thats the way it goes. Pap has been so good. Hopefully we can get him the ball tomorrow.

Papelbon insisted the loss belonged to him.

I got to be able to put guys away on 0-2," he said. "For me its, this games on me. We were put in a situation where the team needed me, I didnt come through. I dont want to hear anything tomorrow about Tito bringing in guys early, the lineup not coming through, or anything else. This game is on me. My job when Im called on is to go out there and finish the game. I didnt do that so this games on me and I take full responsibility for that.

The way Ive been throwing the ball I got to go out there and execute. I didnt do that and by me not going out there and executing 0-2 pitches, I let my team down. So Ill shoulder that. Ill take full responsibility and Ill be ready to go tomorrow. Thats it. Its plain and simple.

"This is the time of year, we cant think about tonight. We got to go out there tomorrow and keep grinding away. Theres nothing we can do, except for the fact that Im going to take this, put it on my shoulders and let everybody know, this is on me, nobody else.

As much as he would like not to, on this night Papelbon gets to share that responsibility.

Now, the Sox who have lost 7 of their last 10 games hope to earn a split of the four-game series against the hapless Orioles who, since Sept. 7, are 8-3 against the Yankees, Rays, Angels, and Red Sox. In that time, the Sox are 3-11.

Nobodys going to lay down for us, Papelbon said. Nobodys going to hand us any wins. We got to go out there and get it on our own. That's the only way its going to happen.

If there was anything that can mitigate the bitterness of this loss, perhaps it is this the Rays lost to the Yankees. The Sox magic number to clinch the A.L. wild card is now down to seven.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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.