Top Sox hitters lock on, but stil lacking consistency

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Top Sox hitters lock on, but stil lacking consistency

BOSTON The Boston Red Sox did a pretty fair job of showing exactly what they can do when everything goes right against the big, bad Texas Rangers on Monday night.

They got the pitching and the quality defense, but the real key was the top four hitters in the Sox lineup going ballistic in the 9-2 victory at Fenway Park that nudged them back to the .500 mark.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez went 11-for-18 with eight doubles and eight RBIs while knocking the stuffing out of Yu Darvish, and Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia became the first fearsome threesome in franchise history to each whack at least two doubles out of the 1-3 spots in the lineup.

While Sox manager Bobby Valentine wasnt going to start expecting that kind of production every single night, its much closer to the Sox team he envisioned prior to arriving in Boston.

Its going to be hard to get Dustin with three hits and Adrian with three hits every single night, or having Carl and Ellsbury on base all the time, said Valentine, who may not have witnessed some of the hitting binges that Pedroia is eminently capable of providing. But having consistent at bats are what were getting these days. These guys are world class players and theyre playing very well right now.

Of particular importance is Pedroias three-hit, three-double performance out of the No. 3 hole after languishing as a .260-something hitter for much of the season. The second baseman is a career .300 hitter and could truly spark the Sox if he goes on one of his patented hitting tears over the final two months of the season.

Clearly an energized Ellsbury and a confident Crawford have brought bounce to the top of Bostons batting order, but theyll also need consistency on a nightly basis if theyre looking to pile wins together.

The Sox are tops among Major League teams in runs scored this season, but theyve been an all-or-nothing kind of outfit. Theyre also riding on the accomplishments of the first few months of the season. Nine of their thirteen double-digit scoring binges came in April or May, and theres been a steady offensive slowdown as the Sox have trudged through the dog days of their schedule.

So its important to build on Mondays impressive showing against a very good team, and spread out the offensive over multiple nights while their starting pitching unit gets their house in order.

When Ellsbury and Crawford are healthy and they get into the rhythm that they can both be in, thats when this team is going to score a lot of runs. They set the table and they set the tone, said Gonzalez. After that its up to the middle of the order to drive them in. If they can be on base then we can score some runs.

In so many ways the Red Sox win over the Rangers was exactly the way Boston would conjure up a victory blueprint if such a thing existed in baseball. Its no mystery whats needed for the Sox to embark on an epic winning streak in the final 62 games of the regular season.

They need a lot more of what they showed in a short burst against a playoff caliber team, and its up to the big guns in the top four spots of the Boston lineup to provide it for them.

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

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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.