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.

Chris Sale blanks Angels for 6 innings in Red Sox 6-2 win

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Chris Sale blanks Angels for 6 innings in Red Sox 6-2 win

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A pitcher dreams of starts like this, his team giving him a big early lead before he even throws a pitch. Of course, teams dream of having a starting pitcher like Chris Sale.

The two came together in brilliant fashion on a warm Friday night, with the Boston Red Sox scoring five times in the top of the first and Sale throwing six scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

"We spotted him five runs in the first inning," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I thought we did an outstanding job of stringing hits together, hitting pitches where they were located and using the whole field."

And then turning it over to Sale, who continued his dominating season.

Sale (12-4) allowed four hits and struck out nine to push his major league-leading total to 200. He walked one and lowered his American League-best ERA to 2.48.

"I've not been around a pitcher who's had that kind of focus," Farrell said. "His strikeout capability is certainly unique. He's an elite pitcher. And it's not just with one pitch. It's three different ones he can get strikeouts with."

He became just the fourth pitcher to reach the 200-strikeout mark in 20 or fewer starts, joining Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson (three times) and Pedro Martinez.

"It's cool," Sale said. "I appreciate it. I'm not the biggest fan of looking at stuff like that. Those are things for the offseason or to tell my grandkids."

Sale has won 11 of his last 13 decisions. He improved to 6-0 against the Angels with a 1.23 ERA in seven starts (nine games).

"He's really deceptive, uses both sides of the plate and has really good secondary stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Boston jumped on erratic Angels starter Ricky Nolasco (4-11) in the first, with six of its first seven batters collecting a hit. Nolasco went four innings and allowed all six runs on nine hits and a walk.

The Angels avoided a shutout when Martin Maldonado hit a solo home run off reliever Kyle Martin in the seventh. It was his 11th homer of the season.

SAVING CATCH

Jackie Bradley Jr. made a tremendous, leaping catch as he flew into the center-field wall on a drive by Yunel Escobar to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

"Jackie made a spectacular catch going up against the wall, as he's done so many times," Farrell said. "That was a play he was all out, right to the point of impact. Thankfully there's padding there."

All Sale could do was be appreciative.

"It seems like once he makes a great catch, it's like, OK, that's the best catch," he said. "Then he makes another and then that's the best one. It just seems like he's always raising the bar. It's fun to watch."

NOLASCO STRUGGLES

The Angels are 5-15 in games Nolasco has started this season, and 42-36 all the others.

"All you can do is wear it," Nolasco said.

DEFENSE TOO

The Red Sox are not the only team getting some strong defensive play.

The Angels have now gone 14 consecutive games without committing an error, matching the franchise record.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Right-hander Joe Kelly (strained left hamstring) remained in Boston and threw long-toss. ... With Eduardo Rodriguez (partial shoulder dislocation) back, right-hander Doug Fister is moving to the bullpen. In five games (four starts), Fister is 0-4 with a 7.89 ERA.

Angels: Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (forearm strain) threw lightly for the first time in two weeks. "He's taking baby steps right now," Scioscia said. "We won't have a read on him for another seven to 10 days." ... Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (right oblique strain) is scheduled to throw four innings Saturday for Triple-A Salt Lake. ... Outfielder Shane Robinson left the game after four innings with upper back spasms.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Left-hander David Price (5-2, 3.39 ERA) looks to keep his strong recent stretch going Saturday against the Angels. In his last three starts, he has allowed just two earned runs (20 innings).

Angels: Right-hander JC Ramirez (8-8, 4.54) is scheduled to make his 19th start of the season. In five career games against the Red Sox (one start) he is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA. He last started a game on June 14.

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

BOSTON -- Doug Fister’s start on Thursday was the clearest reason an 8-6 Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays felt like a bridge day. He was there to give some rest to the other starters, which was a worthy idea. But Fister’s command was poor enough to make that decision questionable.

Presumably, Fister’s time as starter for the Sox is now over, although manager John Farrell was noncommittal afterward.

MORE RED SOX

Add it to the list of reasons the Red Sox look like a team in limbo at the moment. They’re in first place, while simultaneously playing a waiting game.

Whom the Sox acquire before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month, and how long they wait to pull off a deal, looms large. Because even though the offense has looked better the last two days, it was still the primary drawback during a 4-4 homestand within the division.

Chris Sale and David Price will be on the mound to start a three-game weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim, so at least a feeling of normalcy should return.

“Back to the top of the rotation,” Farrell said. “We’ve got a chance to hopefully catch up with some recovery days down that bullpen. Anytime Chris and David are walking to the mound, we feel like we're extremely confident.”

But now, someone new needs to walk through the clubhouse door. Someone will, too -- it’s just a matter of when, lest Dave Dombrowski’s m.o. all of a sudden changes 40-plus years into his career.

There’s no confusion about what should be done.

As nice as it is that Christian Vazquez is capable of playing third base, the Red Sox need to find a situation where they have a third baseman who can start the game and finish it -- where they have someone whose bat is good enough to do so.

Vazquez manning third at the end of Thursday’s game is symbolic of the position on a whole: it’s been left to the warmest body at the moment, rather than someone who truly has a handle on the job.

Top prospect Rafael Devers has been hitting very well in his brief stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, going 8-for-22 (.364) in six games, with a .440 on-base percentage and a pair of home runs. He has four strikeouts compared to three walks.

But considering the way Dombrowski has spoken all season, the Sox seem intent on doing what’s best for Devers’ development rather than rushing the 20-year-old to aid the major league team. And what was right for Devers’ development thus far this season, as the Sox saw it, was three months at Double-A.

Spending only a week in Triple-A, or really anything less than a month, then, would seem hasty. Even a late August or September call-up would be a quick move, relatively speaking.

Barring a change of heart, then, help still needs to come from the outside. Even if the Sox believe in Devers for this year, he would still be an unknown commodity in the big leagues, and the Sox at this point need something more than that.

There’s a piece missing, at least one. Everyone’s waiting to see what comes next, including the clubhouse.