Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game

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Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game

BOSTON -- The Red Sox knew they needed more than two hits to win a ball game. They learned that lesson on Thursday night at Fenway Park in a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

So on Friday night, they switched gears, and finished with 14 hits. Only problem was, the result didn't change.

The Red Sox lost their third straight game, 6-5, in extra innings. But they had plenty of chances to tack onto the five runs they scored in the first three innings.

"With Felix Doubront pitching with a four-run lead, I think they thought there was going to be a different kind of game," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine on his offense's mindset. "And then they had to shift gears."

The Twins tied the game at 5-5, thanks to a four-run fifth. And that's where Valentine saw his team try to switch those gears.

But after going down in order in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox stranded two runners in the seventh, three in the eighth, and one in the ninth.

The eighth inning was the most painful of the Red Sox offensive struggles on Friday night. With one out, Boston got back-to-back singles from Carl Crawford and Kelly Shoppach, which was followed up by a Mike Aviles walk to load the bases for the top of the order.

But Jacoby Ellsbury struck out swinging, and Dustin Pedroia flied out to right field to end the inning.

"I felt like we were in complete control of the game, and then they had a big inning," said Pedroia. "We just seemed to not be able to find a way to score.

"We had chances. We just didn't come through. That's basically it. They made some good pitches . . . It's just tough.

"We're playing hard," Pedroia later added. "We just, last night, that was awful offensively. And tonight, it was a good game, we just didn't find a way to pull away. When Crawford hit that big home run, we didn't score any more runs. We've got to do a better job of that."

The Red Sox left 10 total runners on base, and finished Friday's loss 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.Their last runner in scoring position came in the bottom of the ninth, with the game still tied at 5-5.

Ryan Lavarnway drove a two-out double off the top of the wall in left-center, and was then replaced with Pedro Ciriaco as the pinch runner. It had all the makings of a dramatic finish, but Will Middlebrooks grounded out to third to end the inning.

"Talent can only go so far," said Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross after the loss. "We have to figure out ways to win. There's a difference between being a really talented group, and being a winning group. On paper, it looks like that, but right now, it just feels like we're treading water. It's not a good feeling. We've got to snap out of it."

Crawford's talent came through with a three-run home run in the third inning that gave the Red Sox a comfortable 5-1 lead at the time. But after that, they couldn't figure out a way to drive in any more runs.

"We had good at-bats, and we had chances, and then we didn't have such good at-bats," said Valentine. "We'll get them tomorrow."

But the number of hits won't matter. The difference will come in the number of hits with runners in scoring position.

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

 

BOSTON — They have the right idea, if not yet the right personnel.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has brought on a pair of former Tigers in an effort to help the Red Sox’ depth.

It’s hard to expect much from righty Doug Fister — who mostly throws in the 80s these days and is to start Sunday — or from Jhonny Peralta, who’s going to play some third base at Triple-A Pawtucket. Fister was claimed off waivers from the Angels, who coincidentally started a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park. Peralta, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent to a minor league deal.

Neither may prove much help. Fister could move to the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to return, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. The Sox hope E-Rod is back in time for the All-Star break.

That’s assuming Fister is pitching well enough that the Sox want to keep him.

But at least the Sox are being proactive looking for help, and it’s not like either Peralta or Fister is high-risk.

Fister, 33, threw 180 1/3 innings last year with the Astros, posting a 4.64 ERA. He hasn’t been in the big leagues yet this season.

Said one American League talent evaluator earlier this year about Fister’s 2016: “Had a nice first half. Then struggled vs. left-handed hitters and with finishing hitters. No real putaway pitch. Has ability to pitch around the zone, reliable dude.”

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”