Boston Red Sox

Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

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Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Those seeking to read the tea leaves regarding Terry Francona's ideas for a regular-season batting order had some fresh fodder awaiting on the clubhouse bulletin board Monday morning.

For the second game of the Grapefruit League season, the Sox' lineup featured Jacoby Ellsbury leading off, Dustin Pedroia hitting second and Carl Crawford, making his Red Sox debut, hitting third.

So what was the significance of that?

Not much, according to Francona.

"That's today's lineup,'' said Francona. "We're just trying to win the Mayor's Cup. We front-loaded it today for obvious reason -- panic is setting in after a loss to Minnesota Sunday night.

"It's an obvious possibility to use that same combination at the start of the regular season, but who knows? We're just trying to get ready for the season.''

It's tough to read too much into a lineup that was not featuring projected starters Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

No matter what Francona does with his batting order, it seems unavoidable that there will be back-to-back lefties in the lineup somewhere. Presumably, if Francona uses the Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford troika at the top, Adrian Gonzalez would hit cleanup with Kevin Youkilis fifth, David Ortiz sixth and J.D. Drew seventh.

That would present two stretches of the order with consecutive lefties: Crawford and Gonzalez hitting third and fourth and Ortiz-Drew hitting next to one another at Nos. 6 and 7. But with five of their seven best hitters left-handed (Ellsbury, Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew), that's unavoidable at some point.

The key may well be leadoff, where Ellsbury is the manager's clear preference -- as long as he can handle the role.

"He was really starting to grow into it in 2009,'' said Francona, noting that the outfielder missed all but about 2 12 weeks with broken ribs last season. "At times, we would hit him down in the order to kind of protect him a little bit. But I think we've always said that when he's leading off and hitting well, that's our best lineup.

Francona seems to be holding off on naming Ellsbury as his leadoff man until he can judge the outfielder's readiness following his lost 2010 season.

"He came into camp swinging the bat way ahead of where I expected him to be," said Francona. "But he missed maybe 500 at-bats. So if it looks like that one fewer at-bat per game would help him, hitting him ninth to start the season is what we would do. We'll watch his at-bats."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

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Red Sox use wild pitch to beat Orioles 1-0 in 11 innings

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Red Sox use wild pitch to beat Orioles 1-0 in 11 innings

BALTIMORE - Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and the Boston Red Sox used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games.

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.