Red Sox' streak snapped vs. Rays, 4-0

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Red Sox' streak snapped vs. Rays, 4-0

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com Red SoxInsider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- The Red Sox' mighty offense, which had averaged slightly better than nine runs in the last week and a half, ground to a halt at Tropicana Field, and with it came an end to the team's nine-game winning streak.

The Sox were held to just five hits by James Shields as the Tampa Bay Rays posted a 4-0 shutout. All five of the Boston hits -- three by Adrian Gonzalez -- were singles.

Carl Crawford, returning to Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays last December, was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers, and went hitless in three plate appearances.

Tim Wakefield pitched well, allowing just four hits over seven innings, but was saddled with his first loss since May 6.

Wakefield threw 119 pitches, the most he's thrown in a single outing since Sept. 18, 2003.

The Rays got a solo homer from Jason Ruggiano for their first run in the fifth and later added a second when, with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was charged with a passed ball as Evan Longoria crossed the plate.

They added two more runs off Tommy Hottovy and Alfredo Aceves in the eighth.

STAR OF THE GAME: James Shields
Shields tossed his third complete-game shutout of the season, limiting the Sox to just five hits all night -- all of them singles.

In so doing, Shields became the first American League pitcher to post three shutouts by mid-June in 17 seasons.

HONRABLE MENTION: Tim Wakefield
Wakefield got absolutely no run support, but deserved a better fate than to be left with the loss.

He limited the Rays to just two runs over seven innings and one of those was unearned, scoring on a passed ball. It was Wakefield's first loss since May 6.

GOAT OF THE GAME: Kevin Youkilis
The Sox were punchless at the plate most of the night, but Youkilis struggled more than most.

In the first, he struck out with runners at first and third. Then, in both the third and sixth, he hit into inning-ending double plays.

In all, Youkilis stranded five baserunners.

TURNING POINT: In the third inning, with runners at first and second, Youkilis hit into an inning-ending double play. After that, the Sox never put a baserunner in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: Wakefield threw 119 pitches, the most he's thrown in an outing since Sept. 18, 2003.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "I'm going to try to make tomorrow feel as normal as possible. Today, I can't lie, it didn't feel like a normal day for me.'' -- Carl Crawford after returning to Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays.

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

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.
 

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

Apparently, the Red Sox couldn’t hold onto the best leader in the world. And the best leader in the world has no idea how to housebreak his puppy.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was given the top spot on a list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders," published by Fortune on Thursday morning.

The potential for silly takeaways from Epstein’s placement on the list -- and his response to it in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney -- are amusing, if not astounding.

Wait, Epstein doesn’t think baseball is the most important thing in the world?

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein told Olney. "That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball -- a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Zobrist, of course, had the go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

As Fortune described it, the list of leaders is meant to include those “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same” across business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Epstein certainly did help transform the baseball world.

“In the fall of 2016, as partisan distrust and division reached abysmal depths, fascination with the Chicago Cubs became that all-too-rare phenomenon that united America,” his blurb on the list begins.

That’s fair. But, if you scroll down the list: Pope Francis is No. 3. Angela Merkel is No. 10 and LeBron James is No. 11.