Sox pleased with battles vs. Strasburg

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Sox pleased with battles vs. Strasburg

BOSTON -- Stephen Strasburg was the story coming in, and he was the story coming out of Friday night's game at Fenway Park, in which the Red Sox lost 7-4 to the Washington Nationals.

The 23-year-old righty stuck out 13 batters in six innings, while allowing two runs in six innings, picking up his seventh win in the process.

"Seeing him for the first time, our hitters battled him," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "He threw a lot of pitches in six innings, for sure. But, like they were saying, he's not just a thrower, he's a pitcher. He had pitches he could throw behind in the count. His split-changeup was a really devastating pitch. We haven't seen that before. His fastball was alive all night long. He's special. He's a very good pitcher, obviously."

As special as Strasburg is, and was on Friday night, Valentine could do nothing but praise his offense afterwards.

"This was a good offensive performance by our team. I know we came up short, but this was a battling performance for us. We're in the ninth inning, we had a couple runs taken away from us. We were still battling at the end there.

"There was no letdown, and the guys didn't get discouraged. I thought there was one good at-bat after another."

The Red Sox fell behind 7-2 after originally taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run double by Mike Aviles. And after putting up two more runs against Washington's bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings to cut it down to a three-run game, Valentine would have liked to have one specific pitch back -- a called strike on Kevin Youkilis that ended the sixth inning with the bases loaded.

A worn down Strasburg had thrown 113 pitches and loaded the bases with one out on a Dustin Pedroia single, an Adrian Gonzalez double, and a David Ortiz walk. Strasburg then struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and ended the inning -- and his night -- by punching out Youkilis with a 3-2 fastball that appeared low, forcing Youkilis to lose his cool and get ejected.

"I think that inning should have continued," said Valentine after the loss. "Who knows, we could have tacked on three more, four more runs on this thing.

"That pitch was not a strike."

The other run that was taken away from the Red Sox came earlier, in the third inning, when Nationals right fielder Xavier Nady leaned over into Washington's bullpen and robbed Adrian Gonzalez of a solo home run.

The out was in the midst of a stretch in which Strasburg retired 11 consecutive batters after allowing the two-run double to Aviles in the second inning.

"He's got good stuff," said Gonzalez afterwards. "We knew what we were expecting. We've seen enough of it on TV and on video, so we know what we were going up against. I thought we did a good job. But he was the better man out there."

Still, the Red Sox seemed pleased with the way they battled him.

"He's good, he's got good stuff," said Saltalamacchia. "His fastball, throwing it as hard as he does on both sides of the plate. He's got a good, sharp curve ball. He throws his changeup at any time. It's definitely not a comfortable at-bat. We definitely made him throw some pitches though. We just couldn't come back from that many runs."

And perhaps Gonzalez said it best, when wondering -- out loud -- what could have been, had Youkilis not been called out on strikes with bases loaded in the sixth.

"We were one pitch away from making that game interesting."

On Friday night, that one pitch went to Strasburg.

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.