Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

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Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

BOSTON -- The Red Sox finished with the best record in the American League, at 97-65, tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. For their accomplishment, they will have home field advantage throughout the postseason, and will face the winner of Wednesday’s one-game wild card playoff, either the Rays or Indians, on Friday in Game 1 of their AL Division Series at Fenway Park.
 
“I think more than anything, we’ve put ourselves in a very good position and that’s over a course of 162,” manager John Farrell said. “Our guys have earned that. We’re in a little bit different format because of the number of days off. It’s rewarding for all of us to say we won a division and we’ve been able to maintain home field advantage. Those are two things, that I think as we begin this postseason, sit well with us. I know by Friday this group will be chomping at the bit to get in the field.”
 
In addition to four days of rest, the Sox’ accomplishment  also means they are the last team in baseaball to know who their Division Series opponent will be.  Farrell was asked if there are any disadvantages to that.
 
“None that I can state right now,” Farrell said. “Only because I know that amount of scouting work we’ve done on every team that was in contention is not going to change because we’re going to find out [Wednesday] night. We’ve got meetings scheduled for Thursday morning and that would encompass any team that we’re going to play. The fact that’s not going to be determined until [Wednesday] night, we’re more than prepared to shift according to who it is.”
 
Farrell has not announced his roster or Game 1 starter yet, preferring to get through today’s workout and simulated game before making any information public. The Sox’ opponent may have an impact on those decisions to some degree.
 
“There’ll be some of that involved,” Farrell said, “but the one thing that I want to be clear at is that we’ve set a pretty clear approach to how we’ve used all of our position players throughout the course of the regular season. To make a drastic shift from that  I don’t know that that would be putting guys in the best position to succeed.
 
“So, this is a team that we’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve pinch-hit before, or we’ll use a pinch-runner, we’ve demonstrated that. So to say that we’ll look to do something completely different because we’ve got a five-game series with two offdays in it, I think that would be running from what our strengths have been established all year.”
 
Farrell, like his staff and players, will be watching tonight’s game, just as he has watched playoff games in the past.
 
“Every year, yeah,” he said. “Even those years when you’re on the outside looking in, personally I have a strong interest in the game. You like to see how things unfold and what decisions are made based on certain things that come up in a game. You think along the game as it’s happening even though you might not be there.”
 
The Red Sox will all be watching tonight’s game, but with a different perspective than most viewers.
 
“There won’t be any fan in me pulling for either team,” said Jake Peavy, “I was talking to my father about this, the way I watched the game [Monday] night [between the Rays and Rangers] was so different than he and my mother and brother and everybody else. I’m watching pitch sequences, and how guys are setting up and what guys are trying to do in certain situations. And that’s certainly the way I think we’ll all watch the game [Wednesday] night, with an idea that we’re going to face one of those teams. I’m going to face those hitters that I’m watching. So I’ll watch it a lot like I do homework tapes.”
 
“I’m in a good situation to where I can watch it,” said Jonny Gomes. “It doesn’t matter who wins. It’s not like baseball-sized tears at the end of the game. Just watch it as a fan. And they got 162 games under their belt too. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel [tonight]. So just watch the game as a fan.”
 
Neither the manager of any of his players expressed a preference for who they might face in their Division Series. In six meetings between the Rays and Indians, Tampa Bay won four, going 2-1 both at home and at Cleveland. The Sox finished 6-1 against the Indians, but have not faced them since May, when they were a much different team. The Sox finished 12-7 against the Rays, 6-4 at Fenway, 6-3 at Tropicana Field, and know Tampa Bay as well as any team.
 
A scout who has followed both the Rays and Indians gave his thoughts on the potential matchups:
 
“I think if Cleveland plays Boston, I don’t think Cleveland will match up well at all. I think Boston will kill them," the scout said. "Cleveland’s bullpen is really weak right now. If Boston plays Tampa, because of familiarity I think Tampa has a legitimate shot at staying competitive. However, I still see Boston winning either series rather handily. For me, right now as an outsider, I would have to say Boston is a clear-cut favorite to win  the whole thing.”

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: Molitor said RHP Phil Hughes, on the 10-day disabled list since late May with biceps tenderness, "felt good" but the pitcher had hoped his velocity would be a bit higher. ... LHP Glen Perkins, on the DL with a shoulder strain, is expected to resume throwing again Tuesday after a setback about a week ago.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez was out with a sore left knee after getting hit by a pitch Sunday. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the 10-day DL since June 20 with a left inner-ear infection, is slated to start a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. Manager John Farrell said there's no planned date for his return. ... Moreland fouled a ball that bounced and hit near his right eye.

NICE START, KID

Red Sox 3B Tzu-Wei Lin singled to right in his first major-league at-bat and first career start.

The 23-year-old from Taiwan played third on his country's national teams in 2009 and 2010. He's the second Taiwanese-born player to make Boston's major-league roster. Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin was the other, in 2012.

RUNNING AROUND

Twins LF Eddie Rosario made three nice running, over-the-shoulder catches.

WELCOME ABOARD

Infielder Jhonny Peralta reported to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. Boston signed him to a minor-league deal after he was released by St. Louis earlier this month.

The plan is to alternate him at third and DH with Sandoval.

ROSTER MOVE

The Twins sent RHP Dillon Gee back to Triple-A to make room for Tuesday's starter LHP Hector Santiago.

UP NEXT

Twins: Santiago (4-6, 5.26 ERA) will be activated off the DL Tuesday. He's been sidelined since June 7 with a strained left shoulder.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-4, 4.07) looks to snap a three-start winless stretch.