Rally fizzles; Pedroia scuffles

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Rally fizzles; Pedroia scuffles

BOSTON With the Red Sox trailing by three runs going into the eighth inning Friday night against the Braves, there were fleeting thoughts that they might be able to duplicate their eighth-inning dramatics of the night before.

After all, the sparkplug to Thursdays three-run, game-winning rally, Will Middlebrooks, was leading off, followed by Ryan Kalish, Mike Aviles, and Daniel Nava, who all played key roles in the outburst.

Middlebrooks and his teammates had been virtually stymied up to that point in the game by Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens, making his first big league start since April 23. Jurrjens had allowed just three baserunners through the first seven innings a first-inning single by Adrian Gonzalez, a third-inning walk to Nava, and hitting Middlebrooks with a pitch in the fifth.

Middlebrooks came through in the eighth with a lead-off double, off the wall in center field. After Kalish flied out to center field and Aviles grounded out to shortstop, Nava doubled to center, scoring Middlebrooks and ending Jurrjens outing.

Chad Durbin replaced Jurrjens on the mound to face Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia grounded out to short to end the Red Sox hopes, as they fell to the Braves, 4-1.

Pedroia missed six games after leaving the May 28 game against the Tigers with a slight tear in the adductor muscle of his right thumb. He avoided the disabled list. But, in 15 games since returning to the lineup, Pedroia is batting .145, going 9-for-62, with three extra-base hits, all doubles, five RBI, five walks, and 10 strikeouts. His average has fallen from .295 to .264 in that span.

Today he actually said he felt fine, like its over, manager Bobby Valentine said. It probably did take three weeks plus to heal. And I thought his swings tonight were pretty good. The ball he hit to right field in the sixth was one of the best balls he hit to right field in a long time.

Just pitchers, theres a lot of pitchers that theyre pitching him tough. He hasnt gotten those pitches that he can really drive. And hes battling. Hell get hot. Hotter than a firecracker.

Asked if he would consider moving Pedroia out of his customary No. 2 spot in the lineup, Valentine replied:

Theres been a lot of consideration but I think Pedroia getting hot is right around the corner.

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.