Scutaro, Reddick play bigger than their bodies


Scutaro, Reddick play bigger than their bodies

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON In the battle of the little guys, the Red Sox finally came out on top in the end.

It looked like it was going New Yorks way when solo homers by Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner seemed to be the difference between winning and losing, but then Bostons own support guys brought home the come-from-behind 3-2 victory in the tenth inning at Fenway Park.

Marco Scutaro finished off a 4-for-4 performance at the plate with a double off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth inning that kick-started the game-tying rally, and Josh Reddick belted an RBI single in the bottom of the tenth that catapulted Boston to their eighth walk-off win of the season.

The win was a big statement from both Scutaro and Reddick that theyre willing and able once the playoffs begin, and battles like the 4 hour, 15 minute marathons against the Yankees become a nightly occurrence. The timing was uncanny for Scutaro, who said something clicked for him during batting practice and then proceeded to go out and put on an offensive clinic by spraying line drives and beating out infield hits.

For a guy that had struggled a bit against Rivera in his career aside from a walk-off homer when Scutaro was still a member of the Oakland As, the infielder looked comfortable slapping a double off the Green Monster scoreboard as the first hitter in the ninth frame. He moved to third on Jacoby Ellsburys sacrifice bunt with nobody covering third base, and then scored the tying run when Dustin Pedroia rocked a sacrifice fly out to left field.

It was something that Scutaro needed after starting the homestand in a 2-for-15 rut, and feeling some level of urgency with Jed Lowrie coming off the 15-day disabled list Monday as prime playing time competition at the shortstop position. Lowrie had earned the bulk of the playing time earlier in the season prior to his shoulder problems, and Scutaro will need to maintain a high playing level to secure as many starting nods as possible.

Scutaro scoffed at the question when asked if he was feeling any pressure to raise his level of play with Lowrie vying for at bats at the shortstop spot, and indicated it was all about the team. But since its an impossibility that both Lowrie and Scutaro will be in the starting lineup once the postseason arrives, its a case of the let the best shortstop win starting in Minnesota.

Scutaro got a nice little head start to the competition Sunday night in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Baseball.

Ive been kinda battling all year with my mechanics and my timing," Scutaro said. "But today during batting practice I felt something clicking in and I took it in during the game."

Does Scutaro feel like he needs to keep things up if he wants to play regularly?

Cmon man. Cmon man. Were just trying to win games here," he said. "It doesnt matter who is in the lineup. Weve got a mission here to just win. I dont care. When our regular guys go down, youve other guys like Reddick and Dan Wheeler are doing a great job. Thats what it is all about on winning teams.

Reddick is actually in a bit of the same category with a potential return of J.D. Drew looming as he builds up strength in his troublesome left shoulder. There are many around the Sox organization that still expect Drew to make a push for his right field job in the final two months of the season, and some that still view Reddicks game-to-game at bats as a tad too undisciplined for the OPS-loving Red Sox crew.

Reddick played into a lot of those beliefs in his first four at bats by watching few pitches pass by him and swinging at offerings far out of the strike zone a combination of things that can make Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan cringe. But the young right fielder also showed off his growing experience and mental toughness by clearing all of that from his mind, and exploding on a hanging Phil Hughes curveball in the bottom of the tenth inning for an RBI single toleft field that scored Darnel McDonald with the game-winning Sox run.

You put all those other at bats from that night in the past, and you focus on whatever you can to help win the game," Reddick said. "I got a first pitch curveball and I didnt miss it. I watched the way Hughes was pitching Papi Ortiz and I was sitting on the pitches he started him off with and I got a hold of it. I barreled it pretty well and I knew it was going to get in even though Brett Gardner has got pretty good speed.

Its my first walk-off hit in a long time, so it makes it that much more fun to enjoy the experience. And not to get the crap beat out of me in the wild postgame celebration.

Instead of kicking himself for stranding nearly double-digit runners on the bases in a fruitless loss to the rival Yankees, Reddick collected his first walk-off hit in the big leagues. The right fielder also executed the other big play in the game when he cut down Russell Martin at second base attempting to stretch a single into a double. Eduardo Nunez followed with a solo home run that would have ending things for the Sox had Martin been on base.

It was Reddicks fourth outfield assist of the season, and a sign that the youngster is beginning to get comfortable with the gigantic grass pasture otherwise known as right field at Fenway Park.

And speaking of comfortable, it appears that both Scutaro and Reddick are getting comfortable against the Yankees in their stints here in Boston, and that will make all the difference when things get more difficult for the Sox down the stretch.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

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.