Yankees bring out the best in Sox

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Yankees bring out the best in Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Baseball. Go figure.

The same team which couldn't buy a big hit against the Cleveland Indians for three days found a way to score nine runs against the New York Yankees Friday.

The same team which saw its bullpen implode in successive games at Progressive Field Wednesday and Thursday got four scoreless innings of relief from its relievers Friday against a much tougher New York lineup.

And the same team which became the butt of jokes in its first two series of the season more closely resembled a powerhouse, bashing out a season-high dozen hits in the start of its third.

This was more like it for the Red Sox, who were in the midst of digging themselves an early-season hole before completely reversing course and overpowering the Yankees 9-6 in their home opener.

This was what they had had in mind with all the spending, all the upgrading done in the off-season.

"We did some good things today,'' pronounced Dustin Pedroia after the Sox finally had a win to call their own. "It was fun, man.''

Fun? Where had that been for the first week, a period during which they spun their tires and splattered themselves with early-season mud. Until Thursday's back-breaking 1-0 loss to the Indians, most of the losses hadn't been close.

The Sox were outhit, outpitched, and outplayed. And they knew it.

Friday, it was time to play the way they should. They had endured the taunts in Cleveland, the embarrassment of endless statistical precedents ("No team has ever lost its first six games and still...") and the uneasiness that filled them as they headed for home.

Partly out of desperation and partly as a premptive strike, they had appealed to their fans to get behind them instead of piling on. Player after player issued the same call-to-arms to the loyalists: We need you. Now.

The strategy worked like a charm. Disarmed, the fans welcomed the Sox onto the field as they might have had the team returned undefeated instead of winless.

Before they even took the field, the players listened to general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona in the clubhouse. In a brief address that lasted only a few minutes, Epstein and Francona delivered words of encouragement.

The players were reminded of the talent that existed in the room and that six games didn't make a season. They were told that they were better than they had showed and assured that, working together, they could pull out of the first-week nosedive.

"It was refreshing,'' said Mike Cameron. "I think as players, sometimes, we need reminding how challenging it is to be real good. They kind of reminded us that we're a good team and it didn't come to an end in the last six games. We just needed to work a little harder, try to relax and go out and play ball. The talent will show here and we know the victories will come.

"The timing was good because we made it difficult on ourselves in Texas and Cleveland. But at the same time, the first six games didn't represent who we are and the first six games didn't represent the season. We just had a bad start.''

A bad start in Boston means more than a bad start in, say, Kansas City. The danger came in the players feeling overwhelmed by all the questions, all the historical references, all the negativity.

So the Sox went out and shed the bad baseball like a warm coat on a spring day. The hitters hit, the relievers slotted in nicely and the fans roared.

That the return to normalcy came against the Yankees only made it sweeter.

It wasn't perfect of course. You know the old saying about momentum being your starting pitcher? Not Friday, with John Lackey handing the Yanks a 2-0 lead in the first, then spitting back a 6-3 cushion after the Sox had scored five times in the bottom of the second.

But it all worked out. No more references to losing streaks in 1945, no more admonishments about how no team that began a season this poorly ever did this or did that.

"It was good for us,'' said Pedroia. "We needed it.

One win. Just one.

But it seemed like a lot more Friday, about as far from the feeling they had leaving Cleveland 24 hours earlier.

Go figure.

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

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.