Red Sox salvage a win in Philadelphia, 5-2

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Red Sox salvage a win in Philadelphia, 5-2

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHILADELPHIA -- Unable to score many runs of late, the Red Sox needed a strong pitching performance to avoid a sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jon Lester gave them one.

Lester limited the Phils to just two hits over seven innings as the Red Sox defeated Philadelphia 5-2, snapping a two-game losing streak and giving them just their second win in the last eight games.

Lester, 10-4, didn't allow a hit until Chase Utley lined a single to left with one out in the fourth.

Boston belted three homers -- all with the bases empty. Jason Varitek hit in one in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia and Varitek homered back-to-back in the eighth.

The Sox also got some production from the lower half of their lineup.

In the fifth, Josh Reddick tripled and scored on Drew Sutton's single to right. Sutton took third on a hit-and-run as Marco Scutaro singled to right, then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's single between short and second.

After a scoreless eighth from Daniel Bard, the Phils snapped the shutout bid with a two-run homer by Ryan Howard off Bobby Jenks.

STAR OF THE GAME: Jon Lester
Lester stopped a personal two-game losing streak with a fine effort, shutting out the Phillies over seven innings and limiting them to just two hits in winning his 10th game.

The lefty didn't allow a hit until the fourth, then retired eight in a row before allowing another baserunner to help the Red Sox snap their own two-game streak.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jason Varitek
Varitek, moved up to fifth in the Red Sox lineup, smacked two homers -- both solo -- to account for 40 percent of the Red Sox' output.

It was Varitek's first multi-homer game since April 10, 2010.

GOAT OF THE GAME: David Herndon
Herndon came on in relief of Cole Hamels, who left after taking a comebacker off his right hand in the fourth inning.

Coming into a scoreless game, Herndon gave up two runs on five hits over two innings and was saddled with the loss.

TURNING POINT
Given that the Sox looked to be in for a long afternoon against Hamels, the line drive off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth inning -- which eventually drove Hamels from the game -- may have been the break the Red Sox were looking for.

After being held scoreless over the first four innings, the Sox scored three runs against the next two Philadelphia relievers.

BY THE NUMBERS: The last six homers hit by the Red Sox -- three Thursday afternoon and three Saturday night in Pittsburgh -- have all come with the bases empty.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "He may be small in stature, but not in his opinion of himself.'' -- Terry Francona when asked if Dustin Pedroia was the smallest cleanup hitter in baseball.

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

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.