Sox take hard route, win in 14th, 9-8

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Sox take hard route, win in 14th, 9-8

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Red Sox certainly didnt make things easy on themselves, but a win is a win even if it takes 13 23 innings and 5 hours and 17 minutes to secure.

With two outs in the 14th, Carl Crawford doubled to left. Guillermo Moscoso then issued an intentional walk to Jed Lowrie, opting to face J.D. Drew, who was 1-for-6 with four straight strikeouts, matching a career high for the fifth time. But Drew lined a Moscoso pitch into center field, scoring Crawford for the 9-8 win.

Seemingly on their way to cruising into a nice, comfortable win what would have been their third straight over the As going back to their two-game set in Oakland in April -- the Sox instead went the challenging route.

Jonathan Papelbon blew a four-run lead in the ninth as he and catcher Jason Varitek were both ejected in the ninth, after each had heated discussions with homeplate umpire Tony Randazzo.

The As batted around in the ninth, scoring four runs to tie the game.

Papelbon faced six batters before being tossed. He need 21 pitchers before recording his first out, on his third batter. He gave up a lead-off single to Mark Ellis and a walk to Daric Barton before striking out Landon Powell. Dustin Pedroias third error of the season, on Coco Crisps grounder appearing to be a made-to-order game-ending double-play ball -- scored Ellis with the As first run of the inning. Cliff Penningtons double to left scored Barton.

It was then that Varitek and Randazzo exchanged words behind the plate, with Varitek getting run. It was the fifth ejection of his career, and the first since May 28, 2009, in Minnesota. Varitek was replaced by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Pinch-hitter Conor Jackson singled to left, scoring Crisp and Pennington to tie the game, at which point Papelbon and Randazzo got into a heated exchange, with Papelbon getting his first career ejection.

With one out, Bobby Jenks entered, giving up a single to Ryan Sweeney, sending Jackson to third. But Josh Willingham struck out, his third of the game, for the second out of the inning, bringing Hideki Matsui to the plate. Matsui was in the midst of an 0-for-18 skid, the worst of his MLB career. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, an 87-mph slider from Jenks, Matsui swung and missed. But as the ball skipped away from Saltalamacchia, Jackson crossed the plate. Saltalamacchia recovered in time, though, to throw Matsui out at first, ending the inning with the score tied, 7-7.

Alfredo Aceves, the Sox seventh pitcher of the game, went four innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 3-1, with a 3.38 ERA.

Moscoso, who entered in the 14th, took the loss, falling to 2-1, with a 3.21 ERA.

One of the casualties of the game was Josh Becketts fifth win. He went six innings (plus two batters in the seventh), giving up three runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. He threw 102 pitches, 58 for strikes. His ERA climbed from 1.80 to 2.01 in the outing. In 12 starts, he now has six no-decisions, despite nine quality starts.

The teams combined to use 16 pitchers.

With the win, the Sox improve to 7-3-1 in home series, 11-7-2 overall.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alfredo Aceves
With the Sox down to one pitcher in the bullpen, Dan Wheeler, Aceves pitched the final four innings of the game to earn the win. Although Aceves, who entered in the 11th, allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base No. 9 batter Cliff Pennington on a walk and Conor Jackson on a double and let the As score the go-ahead run (albeit, temporarily, as the Sox tied the game again in the bottom of the inning.), he went four innings, allowing just the one run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 3-1, (3.38 ERA), the 12th straight decision he has won while pitching in relief.

He comes in his first inning, and walks a guy that scores, said manager Terry Francona. And then after that, he was lights out. As the game progressed, it gets hard to see the ball. You could tell. Guys were taking some funny swings, on both sides, with the shadows and everything.

He did a really good job. Were fortunate. Hes stretched out. Hes on one day short of what would be his day to start, but hes stretched out where he could do something like that, and ended up saving us the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Carl Crawford
Crawford went 4-for-7, with two runs scored and three RBI, raising his average from .235 to .246. His two RBI in the eighth inning accounted for the Sox' final runs in regulation. Then with two outs in the 14th, he doubled to left field and scored the winning run on J.D. Drews single to center.

Crawford, who matched his season high in hits and RBI, has driven in or scored the winning run in four of the Sox' five walk-off wins this season.

THE GOAT: Jonathan Papelbon
Although his team held on through 14 innings for the win, Papelbons implosion in the ninth inning made it much more difficult than it had to be. Staked to a four-run lead, he gave up four runs in the ninth.

Papelbon recorded just one out, giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk with one strikeout. His ERA ballooned from 3.28 to 4.32 in the outing.

Papelbon, who has acknowledged in the past that he has a different approach or a different level or adrenaline in non-save situations, entered the game with an ERA of 2.38 in save situations, 4.50 in non-save situations.

Incurring the first ejection of his career, from homeplate umpire Tony Randazzo, Papelbon was not able to see his outing through more than one-third of an inning.

I probably overreacted a little bit but its hard to say that because Im in the heat of a battle, Papelbon said. And then all of a sudden Im a base hit away from the game being tied up. Could I have done things or gone about things different? Yeah, of course. But in the heat of the battle thats a lot easier said than done. And looking back on it now, do I wish I had gone about it in a little bit better of a manner? Yeah. But between the white lines emotions always tend to get intensified and it is what it is.

THE TURNING POINT
While the debacle of the ninth inning could have proven to be the turning point if the Red Sox had lost, they held on to grind out a win the 14th inning. With two outs, Carl Crawford doubled, his fourth hit of the game, matching a career high. Jed Lowrie received an intentional walk from Guillermo Moscoso, who entered the game to start the inning, bringing up J.D. Drew, who was 1-for-6 with four straight strikeouts at that point, matching a career high. But, Drew broke his string, and deposited Moscosos second pitch, a 90-mph fastball, into center field, scoring Crawford and giving the Sox the win.

STAT OF THE DAY: 5
The 9-8 win was the Sox fifth walk-off win of the season. It was also the As fifth straight loss, their longest losing streak of the season. Jason Varitek incurred the fifth ejection of his career.
QUOTE OF NOTE
Obviously arguingballs and strikes. Actually you can't really do that and I lost my cool there I lost my cool a little bit on thestrike zonefor Pap We still got to maintain our poise out there andI lost mine today You know, it's hard to go into detail but I just felt like there were a few pitches with Papthat changed the course of that entire inning. I could've handled things a little different It's simple. I lost my cool on those things that happened in that inning where I thought Pap had made some pitches. -- Jason Varitek on his ninth-inning ejection, the reasons for it, and how he handled the situation.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.

Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

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Baseball Show Podcast: The right time to call up Rafael Devers?

The Red Sox have called up third baseman Rafael Devers. Lou Merloni, Evan Drellich, and Jared Carrabis discuss if this is the right time to bring up their top prospect and if they should still trade for another veteran third baseman.