Rare stumbles by Bard, Aceves lead to Sox loss

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Rare stumbles by Bard, Aceves lead to Sox loss

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Despite being loaded with unfavorable possibilities, its an equation that has worked out well for the Red Sox this season. Starting pitcher cant go deep in the game? Need someone to enter in a difficult situation? Need a potentially rally quieted? Red Sox manager Terry Francona has not hesitated to plug Alfredo Aceves or Daniel Bard into high-leverage situations.

Entering Thursdays series finale against the Yankees, Aceves had earned the win in 18 consecutive relief decisions since June 7, 2009. His last loss in relief was on May 26, 2009, with the Yankees in Texas. He was 9-1 with two saves and a 2.83 ERA in 43 games (39 relief appearances) for the Sox this season.

Bard, with a 2.03 ERA, had retired 45 of the 59 first batters he had faced, a 76-percent success rate. He had allowed just 3 of the 29 runners he had inherited to score. His 31 holds led the American League.

So, to watch them both falter against the Yankees Thursday night was surprising. Aceves took the loss, as the Yankees beat the Sox, 4-2. Bard suffered his third blown save, allowing both of the runners he inherited from Aceves to score.

With Jon Lester, who threw 43 pitches in the first inning (a career first-inning high), able to get through just five innings, on 114 pitches, Aceves entered to start the sixth with the Sox leading, 2-1. He faced six batters, but kept the Yankees off the scoreboard. He left the bases loaded when he got Robinson Cano to ground out on a ball scorched to Jed Lowrie at third base.

With one out in the seventh, Andruw Jones battled Aceves for a 14-pitch walk, fouling off nine offerings. After he hit the next batter, Jesus Montero, making his major league debut, Aceves night was done.

Bard entered in the difficult position of having two runners on to face Russell Martin. After getting Martin down, 0-and-2, swinging at two sliders, Bard threw three consecutive balls before Martin doubled to right, scoring Chris Dickerson (pinch-running for Jones) and Montero.

The 1-2 pitch I thought wasa pretty good pitch, maybe an inch off, Bard said. I guess plate umpire Alfonso Marquez got it right. But a good pitchers pitch. And then 3-2, threw him a really good slider and he was able to stay back and fouled it off. And then, obviously, the next fastball caught too much of the plate. I thought I made two really good two-strike pitches on him and just didnt put him away.

A single to Eric Chavez, pinch-hitting for No. 9 batter Eduardo Nunez, scored Martin, giving the Yankees a 4-2 advantage. Bard struck out Derek Jeter, looking at a 97-mph fastball, and Curtis Granderson grounded out to Marco Scutaro at short.

But the Yankees had done all the damage they would need to do. With the loss, Aceves fell to 9-2, while Bard was charged with a blown save.

For catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Aceves and Bard approached their outings in their usual fashions.

They went after guys, said Saltalamacchia. We went after them with everything we had. Alfredo had a what, 15-, 16-, it felt like 100-pitch at-bat with Andruw Jones. So that was a good at-bat for him, kept fouling, fouling. We had to figure something to throw at him and we threw a couple of curveballs. He took some good pitches, got a walk and that kind of started their inning for them, I think.

Daniel came in, threw his fastball, like he normally does. Got ahead of some guys. Threw a good 1-2 pitch to Martin that we both felt was a pretty good pitch. But we dont give up. We still got to go after them and get the outs. They just got some key hits.

With several long at-bats with high pitch counts, it can be difficult for a catcher to know what pitch to call for next.

Its tough, Saltalamacchia said. Hitters get better as the at-bats go. You see more pitches. You start to get a little more comfortable. But they battled. Its as simple as that. They went up there tonight and fouled some pitches off. Kept their bats alive and made us kind of earn those outs. We pretty much earned every out we had to get.

The two runs charged to Aceves snapped a career-high string of 13 13 scoreless innings and eight scoreless appearances. It was just the third time he has allowed two earned runs or more in 40 relief appearances this season, the last on July 19 at Baltimore.

His stuffs good, Francona said. He nicked Montero. That ends up being really big. When youre pitching in a game like that, when the scores close, you cant just, again against the Yankees, you have to kind of pick your spots and try to maneuver it around. We have a lot of confidence in him thats why hes pitching there.

Martins two-run double in the seventh off Bard sealed the game.

Down 0-2 he worked his way back into the count like good hitters do and got a fastball up for a huge hit, Francona said. Theres a lot of things that happened -- to Montero the ball that just hit his uniform . . . Bard comes in in a lot of difficult spots. When he gives up a hit -- thats why we have him in there, youre going to give up a hit sooner or later.

Bard, though, has struggled against the Yankees. In 26 career outings against New York, spanning 23 innings, he has allowed 11 earned runs, for a 4.30 ERA, with seven home runs. In seven outings this season, spanning seven innings, he has a 3.86 ERA -- 1.71 runs higher than his season 2.15 ERA.

Its frustrating, Bard said. You want to come in and shut them down but its never easy coming in with two guys on. Im not making excuses but I think Ive done pretty well with inherited runners up to this point and at some point its going to fall and you're going to give up a couple. Im not going to worry about it. Ill move on and come back tomorrow.

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

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia still out

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia still out

Dustin Pedroia is again out of the Red Sox lineup tonight, John Farrell said in his weekly interview on WEEI Wednesday afternoon. The Sox open a two-game series with the New York Yankees at Fenway.

Pedroia hurt his knee and ankle Friday night after a hard slide into second base by the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado, leading to plenty of controversy in its aftermath. 

With Pablo Sandoval placed on the 10-day disabled list before the scheduled opener of this series was rained out Tuesday, Josh Rutledge, just off the DL, will start at third and Marco Hernandez will play second.

Rick Porcello (1-2, 5.32 ERA) pitches for the Red Sox, opposed by the Yankees right-hander Luis Severino (1-1, 4.05).  Here's how Porcello has fared against the Yankees: 

The full lineups: 

YANKEES
Brett Gardner LF
Chase Headley 3B
Matt Holliday DH
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Starlin Castro 2B
Aaron Judge RF
Greg Bird 1B
Austin Romine C
Ronald Torreyes SS

Luis Severino RHP

RED SOX
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Mookie Betts RF
Mitch Moreland 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Josh Rutledge 3B
Marco Hernandez 2B
Sandy Leon C

Rick Porcello RHP

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

A piece that ran on POLITICO Wednesday morning explored an interesting possibility: A potential political career for longtime baseball executive Theo Epstein. 

The piece, titled “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” comes a month after Fortune magazine ranked the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on its annual ranking of the world’s greatest leaders. In the POLITICO article, Ben Strauss, in addition to noting the 43-year-old’s accomplishments with the Red Sox and Cubs, hits on several instances in which Epstein’s leadership has been mentioned in relation to politics. 

Strauss then goes on to interview CNN senior political commentator (and Cubs fan) David Axelrod about whether Epstein could be a saving grace with “Democrats on the lookout for a new generation of talent.”

The interview sees both POLITICO and Axelrod compare Epstein to Barack Obama. Says Axelrod: 

They both have two kinds of intelligence: emotional intelligence and a more linear intelligence. They both have the self-confidence to surround themselves with very smart people. Theo’s had a core group around him (general manager Jed Hoyer and head of amateur scouting Jason McLeod) since the beginning in Boston. It’s striking how much he relishes smart people around him and has the confidence to be challenged...Obama had it, too. I would add that Epstein has learned on the job. In Boston he was a pioneer [in using statistical analysis]...He’s told me that he used to be dismissive of the touchy-feely stuff [in evaluating baseball players], but now his scouts write five-page essays about the guys they’re going to draft. In the same way, Obama would tell you he was a better president at the end of eight years than at the beginning. He was smart enough to learn on the job, too.

Asked whether Epstein could win a statewide race for governor or Senate in Illinois, Axelrod replied, “Yeah, he could,” but questions whether Epstein has “the desire to hold public office.”

“I think Theo would be frustrated in public office because of the situation he’s in now,” Axelrod said. “He basically has free rein to do what he needs to do for the success of the organization. That is not the case in politics—you’re seeing that with the governor in Illinois (Bruce Rauner) right now. You have to deal with legislatures and all kinds of public stakeholders. And if you’re used to making things happen, I’m not sure the Senate would be a particularly satisfying job for you. When I talked to him on my podcast...about what he might want to do next...he allowed that he might want to own a team sometime and use that team or use that platform to try to impact on a community. He clearly cares about the larger world and wants to make an impact...But there are many, many reasons I think Cubs fans can relax and enjoy the benefits of his leadership for many years to come.”