Wakefield watches 'pen blow chance for 200, 9-4

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Wakefield watches 'pen blow chance for 200, 9-4

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY The fifth time was far from the charm for Tim Wakefield and his trusty knuckleball in the pitchers personal quest for 200 career wins.

Wakefield was once again denied in his attempt to become the only active 200 game-winner in the big leagues despite carrying a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, and instead helplessly watched a complete bullpen meltdown lead to a 9-4 drubbing at the hands of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Wakefield was cruising into the sixth frame with six hits and only a single run allowed to Kansas City, but the Royals started punishing the 45-year-old twirler once he neared the 90-pitch range. After a Billy Butler strikeout to start the frame Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francouer and Mike Moustakas each tagged Wakefield for a hit and closed it to a one-run game with Wakefields milestone and a three-game Sox winning streak on the line.

Terry Francona pulled Wakefield from the game and instead called on a struggling Matt Albers, who imploded on the Kansas City mound after showing plenty of signs of struggle over the last few weeks. Albers recorded only one out and allowed four runs on three hits and a pair of walks while doing a fascinating impersonation of a batting practice pitcher as his ERA ballooned to 3.71 for the season.

Albers is sporting a bloated 11.25 ERA in seven appearances and eight innings pitched during the month of August, and appears in danger of falling out of favor in the Sox bullpen.

The big blow was an Alex Gordon double to left-center field that ripped things open for the Royals, and it was much too late by the time Franklin Morales entered the game for the Sox.

The disastrous eight-run sixth inning tied for their worst of the season wiped out solid offensive performances from the bottom third of the lineup and the first two-hit game and Major League RBI for rookie Ryan Lavarnway.

Player of the Game: Alex Gordon has been a thorn in Bostons side all season, and that continued on Saturday night with a game-high three hits, two doubles and 2 RBI during the great Wakefieldbullpen implosion of 2011. Not only is Gordon really breaking through to another level of baseball stardom in Kansas City, but hes turned into a certified Red Sox killer while hitting .360 (31-for-86) with 15 extra base hits and 15 RBI and an OPS over 1.000 in 24 career games against Boston.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Lavarnway picked up a couple of hits and his first Major League RBI in defeat, and has displayed some pretty mature approaches at the plate over the last couple of games. It appears that the designated hittercatcherright-handed bat is going to be able to help out the Sox while they wait for some of their injured players to return to the fold.

The Goat: Matt Albers walked one of the most wildly free-swinging hitters in the Major Leagues, Salvador Perez, upon entering a jam in the sixth inning while protecting a one-run lead, and he threw gasoline on the fire from there. Albers finished with four runs and three hits allowed in 13 of an inning and took the loss in one of Bostons worst innings this season. Albers has an 11.25 ERA in seven games during the month of August, and it might be time for Sox manager Terry Francona to give Dan Wheeler a look in that bullpen role directly behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.

Turning Point: Tim Wakefield had the game well in hand with a 4-1 lead heading into the sixth inning and got one out very quickly, but he couldnt get through the sixth to protect his 200th career win. Once the Royals put up two quick runs on Wakefield and dug into the Sox bullpen, the game was essentially over and Wakefields search for 200 career wins reached at least six games.

By the Numbers: 10 the number of scoreless games in a row that Dan Wheeler has tossed for the Red Sox while pitching his best baseball of the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: Im not frustrated. It hasnt happened in the last five starts. Im trying to treat it like its a normal start, and Im just trying to give us quality innings and quality starts. I had a bad sixth inning. Tim Wakefield, who appeared the picture of frustration after his chances for his 200th career win fell apart in the sixth inning.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has been suspended one game because of Saturday night's scream-fest with umpire Bill Miller, when Farrell objected to a balk call made on Fernando Abad that led to an Angels run in the seventh inning.

Farrell is to serve the suspension on Tuesday night. He has also been fined.

Farrell and the umpire couldn't have been much closer to each other's face, and some contact was made.

"There was contact made, yes. I didn't bump him though," Farrell said a day later. "The tip of my finger touched his shirt."

Miller has ejected Farrell three times, more than any other umpire.

"No, honestly I didn't even know that, someone's brought to my attention that it's been the third time," Farrell said Sunday when asked if that history played in. "I don't have a tote board of who's done what and how many times