Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

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Red Sox notes: Crawford collects first hit

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In an effort to get newcomer Carl Crawford to relax some, Terry Francona dropped him from third to seventh in the Red Sox lineup Sunday.

Whether that was the key or not, Crawford, hitless in his first two games, broke out a little, with a single in the second and another in the seventh inning.

Crawford hit a cue shot down the third base line that landed just an inch or two inside the foul line, getting him going and snapping his hitless streak at eight at-bats.

"It was a relief to finally get the first hit,'' Crawford said after the Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to Texas. "That way, I can get that out of the way and focus on just trying to get better. I didn't know for sure if it was going to be fair or foul.

"Those are the kind of little things that kind of get you going sometimes, so hopefully, that's the start of something.''

Changing teams and signing a mega-contract (seven years, 142 million) was a new experience for Crawford and he acknowledged that, perhaps in an effort to justify his deal, he tried too hard.

"It's my first time doing this,'' Crawford said. "For me, I was probably pressing a little bit, wanting to do well so bad, you forget to just relax and play ball. I probably had a little case of that. Hopefully I can relax from here on out. Once you get that first hit out of the way, it feels like just doing what you normally do.''

Compared to Jon Lester Friday and John Lackey Saturday, Clay Buchholz didn't pitch terribly Sunday. But he didn't pitch well enough to get the Red Sox their first win, either.

Buchholz had the good sense to only allow home runs with the bases empty. Problem was, he did it four times -- David Murphy in the second, Ian Kinsler in the third, Mike Napoli in the fifth and Nelson Cruz in the seventh.

The only other hit Buchholz allowed was a single to Michael Young in the second. But the four homers were more than enough for the Rangers.

"I thought two of the homers were hit well and two of them weren't hit that well,'' recounted Buchholz. "That's the way it goes. I'd rather give them up with nobody on base than with a couple of guys on.

"Today didn't seem like a big struggle for me. Nobody on, behind in the count a couple of times, I'm not going to give in . . . I'd rather give up a hit than walk a guy, then have that guy score. All in all, I think I left four pitches up in the zone and I don't think they mishit one all series. You've got to tip your cap sometimes.''

The four homers off Buchholz were not a career high. He gave up five to Toronto on Sept. 29, 2009.

"He didn't have an inning over 18 pitches,'' said Terry Francona. "He didn't have to pitch out of jams, he didn't have long innings. He just gave up the four solos.''

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a rough series. He was 0-for-3 Sunday, making him 0-for-10 in the opening series with five strikeouts.

"The one thing that Salty does so well is work the count and swing at strikes, and you can see how anxious he is right now, swinging at a lot of first-pitch strikes," said Francona. "He's just got to relax right now and do what he can do and not try to get it all back in one at-bat.

"He swung at a lot of first pitches this series. I think he was just overanxious.''

Francona absolved Saltalamacchia for any blame regarding the 26 runs the Rangers tallied in the series.

"Results aside, I think Salty does a very good job with the pitchers,'' said Francona. "If a ball is over the middle, that's the way the game is. And the Rangers are good enough where if you make a mistake, they hit it a long way. A tough three-game series isn't going to change our view of Salty.''

Jonathan Papelbon made his first appearance of the season, getting in an inning of work in the eighth with the Sox already trailing 4-1.

Papelbon yielded a leadoff double to Andres Blanco, hit Kinsler and gave up a run-scoring double to Michael Young. After intentionally walking Josh Hamilton to load the bases, Papelbon then struck out Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in succession.

The Sox were outscored 26-11 in the three-game series despite effectively limiting the damage done by Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP.

Hamilton had three hits in the series, but two were singles. His only extra-base hit was a double when the Rangers were well ahead in the eighth inning of the opener. He added an RBI single in Saturday's win.

The Sox walked Hamilton intentionally twice, with mixed results. On Saturday, with first base open, they walked him in the fourth to bring up Adrian Beltre who foiled the strategy with a grand slam off John Lackey.

Sunday, they walked him in the eighth before Papelbon struck out the next three hitters.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

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Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.