Sox take fizz out of Brewers, 10-4

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Sox take fizz out of Brewers, 10-4

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- The Red Sox returned to Fenway Park, maintaining the red-hot momentum that propelled them through their best nine-game road trip since 1977, by beating up on the Brewers 10-4.

The Brewers, making their first appearance at Fenway since 2008 (when the Sox swept the three-game series), had little to like in their return. Starter Shaun Marcum lasted just one inning, needing 44 pitches.

John Lackey got through an up-and-down first three innings to even his record at 5-5. Lackey needed 25 pitches (16 strikes) facing six batters in the first inning, when he gave up two runs. In the second, though, he retired the Brewers in order, using just nine pitches (seven strikes). He came back to face six batters again in the third, allowing two more runs, on 24 pitches (17 strikes).

But after a no-out RBI single to Prince Fielder in the third, Lackey retired the next 15 batters three on strikes, two fly balls, and the rest infield grounders before allowing a one-out single to center by Nyjer Morgan.

Adrian Gonzalez went 3-for-3 in his first three at-bats including his 15th home run of the season, into the first row of Monster seats to lead off the fifth needing a triple to complete the cycle. But, Gonzalez, who has 10 career triples and two this season, grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth and walked in the eighth. He scored each of the first three times he reached base.

With the Brewers leading 2-0 in the first, Jacoby Ellsbury cut the lead in half with his eighth home run of the season, into the Sox bullpen. With one out, Gonzalez singled to center and scored on David Ortizs double to right.

The Sox added two more in the second. With two outs Dustin Pedroia walked and went to third on Gonzalezs double. With both scoring on Kevin Youkilis single to center, giving the Sox a 4-2 lead.

But the Brewers scored two of their own in the next inning. Rickie Weeks, Morgan, and Braun led with consecutive singles, Weeks scoring on Fielders single. Casey McGehee grounded into a double play, scoring Morgan, setting up Lackeys string of 15 Brewers retired.

After Gonzalezs solo homer in the fifth, the Sox added two in the sixth and three in seventh, securing the win.

Lackey got the win, going eight innings, giving up four run on eight hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Marco Estrada, who replaced Marcum in the second inning, took the loss, falling to 1-4.

Matt Albers, making his first appearance since June 9, pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out Fielder and McGehee.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.