Red Sox offense continues to struggle

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Red Sox offense continues to struggle

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are adamant that their struggling offense has nothing to do with the venue they're playing at. They also insist that the at-bats are solid.

Right now, in their eyes at least -- and even after their fourth-straight loss on Saturday -- the Red Sox bats just aren't getting the bounces.

"Baltimore's got a lot of balls that fell in here. We got a lot of balls that they dove and caught, a line drive that the pitcher catches," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after Saturday's 8-2 loss at Fenway Park. "It'll all catch up with us here. Our balls will fall, and we're going to win a lot of games at home.

"I see a lot of really good at-bats," said Valentine. "When you hit the ball hard and they catch it, you can't aim it. And then, if you're fouling off eight and nine pitches, and then you hit a line drive and they dive and they catch it, you can't think that's a bad at-bat. We've had a lot of them. Probably as many as the other team. We're just not getting results."

In their current four-game losing skid, the Red Sox have not hit a single home run. It's the first time that Boston has gone homeless in four consecutive games at Fenway Park since May of 2007. And it's the first time the Red Sox have lost four consecutive games at home without homering, since 1986.

If this Red Sox team wants to do what those two teams did -- get to the World Series -- then this offensive slump will certainly have to be improved upon with the Sox being outscored 23-11 in the last four games.

So how does that happen?

First off, the thin roster doesn't help. With Jacoby Elssbury and Kevin Youkilis injured, there was hope that up-and-comer Will Middlebrooks could step in and be an immediate impact. So much so, that he was bumped up to second in the Red Sox batting order in just his second Major League game on Friday night.

But the injury bug has even put a halt to that, at least for one day it did.

Middlebrooks was a late scratch to Boston's lineup for Saturday's afternoon game against the Orioles. With lefty Ryan Sweeney back in the lineup, Middlebrooks was originally slated to hit eighth and start at third base. But because of leg cramps, Middlebrooks was replaced with Nick Punto.

"He was just up all night with cramps in his legs," said Valentine, while calling Middlebrooks day-to-day. "And again, in this short roster, that's a tough proposition, I thought. When I talked to him, I asked if it had ever happened before, and he said, 'Not really.' I couldn't chance him going out and pulling a muscle."

Once that change was made, Valentine also felt the need to change his lineup around, moving Sweeney from the leadoff spot to sixth in the order, and putting Punto in the leadoff spot.

"I just wanted to do that," said Valentine. "I thought maybe he could spark us at the top of the lineup."

None of that helped the Red Sox score more than two runs on Saturday, and they finished the game 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position while leaving six runners on base.

Valentine's assertion is that those at-bats with runners in scoring position are good. And Red Sox players agree.

"When you've got guys on second and third and you get robbed and a guy makes a diving play, where it could have went the other way and had two runs with a guy on first instead of getting that third out," said Sweeney. "It's frustrating right now, but it just seems like sometimes when things are going like that, that's what happens."

Another belief in the Red Sox clubhouse is that it's still early, and too early to panic about an offense that most feel will break out soon. Adrian Gonzalez, who finished Saturday's loss with his second straight three-hit game, shared that belief afterwards, saying things like:

"We've still got time."

"The good thing is, it's still May 5."

"These kinds of things don't happen in one day."

"There's still a lot of season to be played."

All of that is true, of course. But it's also about execution.

"I just feel like, right now, when we do get pitches that are mistakes, we're just not doing anything with them," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "We faced a good pitcher today, and we've been facing a lot of pitchers that have been throwing the ball well. We've just got to take advantage of the mistakes and then keep it rolling."

And the Red Sox hope that at some point soon, those solid at-bats and hard-hit balls that aren't falling right now, will start turning into runs.

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

The Cardinals broke open a close game with four runs in the last two innings against Red Sox relief prospect Chandler Shepherd and went on to a 7-2 exhibition victory over Boston yesterday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Cardinals box score

The loss dropped the Sox to 1-3 for the exhibition season.

Boston had jumped on top, 1-0, on an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis countered with two runs in the second and one in the third, all against starter Brian Johnson. It remained 3-1 until the Cards touched Shepherd for two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Red Sox added their final run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jordan Procyshen, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, hit a sacrifice fly.

Moreland, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young each had two hits for the Red Sox. who also got scoreless relief from Teddy Stankiewicz, Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Kyle Martin and Brandon Workman. It was Bogaerts' last game before leaving to compete for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Sox host the Yankees on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."