Ross makes amends with four-RBI game


Ross makes amends with four-RBI game

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Cody Ross felt somewhat responsible for the Red Sox loss in the series opener at Tropicana Field Wednesday night.
Thursday night, he made amends.
Ross, who had trouble picking up a routine fly ball from the dome's roof and wasn't in position to make a strong throw to the plate as the go-ahead run scored in Wednesday's 2-1 loss, drove in all but one of the team's run in a 5-3 victory Thursday.
He walked walked with the bases loaded in the first, belted a solo homer in the third and added a critical two-run single in the eighth to provide some breathing room.
"I obviously felt really bad about (Wednesday) night," said Ross. "To come out today and pick up the team and get a victory, split the short series, was big for us."
The at-bats:
In the eighth, with Dustin Pedroia on third and David Ortiz at second, Ross faced Wade Davis.
"He threw me a curve ball first pitch and I swung at it," he said. "I was just trying to battle. I looked out there and saw the shift and I was just trying to hit a hole, and luckily, hit it right to the shortstop and he wasn't there."

In the third, with two out and the bases loaded, he faced Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore.
"He threw me two really good (changeups) right before that," recounted Ross, "that had some movement them, moving away from my barrell. I took both of them. The (next) one kind of stayed flat. I was just trying to square it up. I definitely wasn't trying to hit a home run to center. I just hit it hard and got some air under it."

In the first inning, with the bases loaded, Ross fell behind 0-and-2 to Moore, before battling back for a walk, forcing in the first run of the night.
"(That kind of at-bat) definitely gives you confidence," said Ross, "being down 0-and-2 and battling back and fighting off some tough pitches. That definitely gave me confidence going up in my second at-bat.
"I was down quickly 0-2 (the next time when he homered), but I didn't panic. I just stayed with my approach."
The four-RBI game was the second of the season for Ross, who didn't have one all of last year. Both of those games have come against Tampa, and three of his seven homers have been hit off Rays' pitching.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.