Boston Red Sox

Red Sox' AL East lead trimmed following 4-3 loss to Yankees

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Red Sox' AL East lead trimmed following 4-3 loss to Yankees

BOSTON -- CC Sabathia thought about retiring after a knee injury put the 37-year-old left-hander out of commission earlier this month.

He didn't, and his return to the New York Yankees' rotation was perfect timing for a team fighting to stay in the AL East race.

Tyler Austin hit a three-run home run, Todd Frazier added a solo homer and Sabathia retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced as the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 on Saturday night.

Sabathia (10-5), returning from a stint on the disabled list because of sore right knee, allowed two runs and four hits to earn his first victory since July 21. He also improved to 3-0 in three starts against Boston this season. Dellin Betances got the last three outs for his ninth save.

"I felt confident coming in. But to be able to go out and pitch well against that team and get us a big win, feels really good," Sabathia said.

He said he's surprised himself by how fast he was able to return to action.

"I would have said, `No way.' But everything's worked out," he said. "I want to keep going out there and helping the team."

The Yankees won for the fifth time in six games and snapped Boston's three game winning streak to pull within four games of the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.

Chris Sale (14-5) struck out nine, but was tagged for the four runs and seven hits. He is still looking for his first victory in the rivalry. He had allowed three runs or more only once over his previous six starts and had a 1.19 ERA in three starts against the Yankees. New York is 4-0 in games he has started.

The Yankees needed all four runs to preserve the win.

The score was 4-3 the eighth when Andrew Benintendi struck out, but advanced to first on a wild pitch by reliever David Robertson. Hanley Ramirez followed by lining a double to left field. The Yankees then intentionally walked Chris Young to load the bases.

But Robertson was able to settle down and struck out Xander Bogaerts on three straight knuckle curves.

Boston got within a run an inning earlier when Rafael Devers got ahold of reliever Adam Warren's fastball, driving it just over the center-field boundary for a home run. It was confirmed after an umpire review. Devers' eighth homer was the latest highlight in the rookie's remarkable run since being called up to the majors July 24.

"Even when we lose, we don't go down easy," Sale said. "They throw some tough arms out there. We put some good at-bats together...We just couldn't squeeze it out."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: Placed INF Garrett Cooper on the 10-day disabled list with left hamstring tendinitis and recalled INF Tyler Austin from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... Todd Frazier took an 81 mph slider from Chris Sale off left shin in second inning. He briefly got attention from the training staff, but was able to stay in the game.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said LHP Drew Pomeranz, who left mid-batter with back spasms in the fourth inning of Friday's win, was still experiencing some soreness on Saturday. But Farrell said that "He's of the mindset he's going to be ready to go for his next start."

DUBIOUS RECORD

Aaron Judge stuck out swinging in the fifth to set a major league-record with 36 consecutive games that he has struck out.

RING `EM UP

Sale now has 250 for the season, joining Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers to record 250 or more in 25 or fewer games in a season.

NICE PLAYS

There was a pair of standout plays on both sides Saturday.

Mookie Betts, the second batter Sabathia faced, sent a screaming liner back toward the box. The lefty snagged it by quickly raising his glove , with the ball sitting in the top edge of the webbing for a `snow cone' catch. After the grab, Sabathia held it for a few seconds, walked off the mound and broke into a grin.

Later, in the fourth, Jackie Bradley Jr. drifted back to the center-field warning track on Austin's towering drive. Bradley leaped with his arm outstretched and made the grab at the top of his full extension while his body went up against the wall.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Sonny Gray is 5-4 with a 1.88 ERA over his last nine starts. It is the majors' second-lowest ERA since June 25.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello has won each of his last three starts, but is 0-3 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season.

How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

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How Drew Pomeranz, 2nd best lefty in the American League, can be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not technically be the No. 2 for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Red Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Either way, 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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The 28-year-old Pomeranz 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 change-up’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 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.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

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.