Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

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Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Kyle Weiland, the Red Sox rookie right-hander who had just 19 major-league innings heading into game one of Mondays doubleheader against the lowly Orioles, was giventhe unenviable task of being asked to do what veteran starting pitchers have been unable to do: Stop the September bleeding.

But like most of the other Sox pitchers this month, Weiland was unable to put a stop to the September collapse the Sox are in. After falling, 6-5, to the Os who entered the game with the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst overall the Sox are now just 4-14 this month. In their last 15 games they have suffered six one-run losses.

Their once comfortable lead over the Rays for the wild card is down to just 1 games. The Sox entered September with an AL-best record of 83-52 and a 1 -game lead over the Yankees. They now trail New York, who beat the Twins Monday afternoon, by 5 games for the division lead.

In 18 games this month, starting pitchers have gone just 86 innings, averaging less than five innings a game. They have given up 68 runs (61 earned) on 100 hits and 43 walks with 75 strikeouts and 13 home runs. The starters have posted a combined 6.38 ERA while pitching just three quality starts.

Weiland, who was returning to the mound on short rest after throwing 61 pitches in Thursdays loss to the Rays, took the loss, dropping his record to 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA. He went 4 23 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The three home runs he gave up were one shy of the Orioles single-game high this season. He left with the Sox trailing, 6-2.

Weiland went through the first seven batters in the Orioles lineup smoothly with four strikeouts, not allowing a runner on base. But when left fielder Darnell McDonald lost two consecutive fly balls in the sun, the game quickly unraveled for Weiland.

Kyle started out really keeping his pitches down, with movement, missing some bats, manager Terry Francona said. Then the second time through the order we didnt help him because we lost a ball, then Mac couldnt catch the second one. Then he got up with too many pitches, fastball, breaking ball. Couple of them left the park.

So its kind of a different once through the order than the second time through the order.

Weiland said the two balls lost in the sun, putting runners on second and third with one out, did not cause him to lose focus.

No,he said. Thats stuff that I kind of expect in the game of baseball. Some things are going to go your way, some things arent. You cant help that the sun is right behind home plate, and obviously both sides are having trouble with it. So you cant think about that stuff. Its my job to go back out there when stuff like that happens and pick up my teammates because nine times out of 10 theyre going to pick me up more than Im going to pick them up. So its definitely something that pitchers try to really step up when stuff like that happens topick up guys because theyre saving us all the time.

But the loss the Sox first to the Os at Fenway this season -- can hardly be blamed on Weiland

Darnell McDonald was in left field, a late addition because Carl Crawford was scratched shortly before game time with a stiff neck. He had the unfortunate luck of trying to field the two balls in the sun. The first, a Nolan Reimold drive was ruled a hit, despite falling out of McDonalds glove. The next batter, Josh Bell, was given a two-base error. Both runners eventually scored in the inning, giving the Os a 2-0 lead.

The first one was a tough sun, McDonald said. I lost it in the sun. I saw it off the bat and after that I didnt see it. The second one I got there and took my eye off it at the last minute and didn't make the play. Its a situation where I feel terrible putting my team in the hole like that. But you got to bounce back and play the game. It was a tough day for me. It was terrible out there today. Youre paid to play baseball. I was ready. It was just one of them days whereI didnt make the plays.

McDonald led off the bottom of the third with a home run, his sixth of the season, cutting the Sox deficit in half. But the bats could not get the job done today. The batters, despite 12 hits in the game, were just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Sox had an opportunity to add another run in their two-run fifth when David Ortizs drive down the right field line appeared to be fair but was ruled foul. When Ortiz eventually flied out to center, Dustin Pedroia was stranded on third base, his third triple of the season.

Very frustrating, Ortiz said. Nothing we can do but come back the second game and try to hit the ball fair. Its a mistake that happened. You got to deal with it.

I guess the reason why we have umpires down the line is so they can read the ball better because from distance sometimes it gives you some trouble and . . . that reviewing thing I think it was good for home runs and things like that. But I guess a situation like what happened today you should give it a shot because were trying to win a baseball game and its not the right call.

But there was plenty of blame to go around.

We need to pitch better, we need to hit better, we need to play better D, Pedroia said. We need to do everything better, so when youre losing you can point fingers at everybody. We just got to go out there and play hard and play winning baseball. We do that, theres not a team in the world that can beat us. So we got to play better.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

By Pat Bradley, CSN Staff

Chris Sale was treating this like a regular season game, and delivered an excellent, midseason performance.

The Boston Red Sox got a taste Tuesday of the star pitcher they acquired last offseason, when Sale dominated the New York Yankees in a 4-2 spring training road win in Tampa, Florida.

Sale, who entered the game having thrown 63 of his 68 spring pitches for strikes (92%), continued to show off his incredible command, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes (67%) in the victory.

The 27-year-old struck out five of the first six Yankees he faced, and finished with an even 10 strikeouts on the night. He’s now struck out 20 batters to just one walk this spring.

"Obviously, anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York," Sale said, via The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park in a night game, it gives it more of a regular-season feel. That's what we're here for. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular-season game, the better off we're going to be."

His single blemish came on a 2-2 pitch to Yankees designated hitter and noted masher Matt Holliday, who sent the ball sailing to the opposite field for a two-run home run that at the time tied the score at 2.

Sale quickly regrouped, lining out Chris Carter to left field on his very next pitch to end his outing. His final line: two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts and a hit batsman in six innings on 86 pitches.

That’s quite a debut to the rivalry, and something the Red Sox are well aware could become a regular thing.

“I don't want to say tonight is the norm,” began Red Sox manager John Farrell, via The Providence Journal, “but certainly he is very capable of doing that every time he walks to the mound.”

Sale wasn’t the only one strutting his stuff on Tuesday, though. Youngsters Marco Hernandez and Sam Travis continued to hit and were pivotal parts of a Red Sox offense that pounded out 13 hits.

After Mike Miller opened the scoring with a solo homer for Boston in the third inning, Travis kept things rolling a few batters later when his base hit scored Hernandez.

Travis was back at it again in the seventh inning, when his groundout scored Heiker Meneses for what proved to be the game-winning run.

Hernandez and Travis each finished 2-for-4, with Hernandez tripling (his fifth of the spring) and scoring a run and Travis driving in two runs of his own. They raised their spring averages to .422 and .351, respectively.

Every member of the starting lineup -- which did not feature regulars Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval or Xander Bogaerts -- recorded at least one hit, save for Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the cleanup spot.

Boston is back in action Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.