Boston Red Sox

California wins Little League title in wild fashion

526404.jpg

California wins Little League title in wild fashion

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 29, 2011

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) Nick Pratto made his father proud and helped California win the Little League World Series.

The way Pratto threw his helmet in the air and skipped around first base after his game-winning single, it was hard to tell the 12-year-old first baseman had done anything wrong Sunday in the first place.

The boys from Huntington Beach were all smiles after Prattos solid liner to center with the bases loaded and two outs scored pinch-runner Eric Anderson for the winning run in a 2-1 victory Sunday over Hamamatsu City, Japan, to take the tournament title.

California returned the World Series title to the United States with the type of victory even the big leaguers dream about. A U.S. team has won six of the past seven World Series, with Japans win last year the exception.

It has a nice ring to it, Pratto said when asked what it was like to be called a champ.

It was a fitting end to a tense game marked by excellent pitching and timely defense.

Braydon Salzman pitched a complete-game three-hitter for the win and struck out nine. Japan starter Shoto Totsuka struck out five over 4 1-3 innings, giving up a homer to right to California slugger Hagen Danner.

The teams exchanged handshakes at the plate before Californias giddy players posed at the mound with their new championship banner.

My team is physically smaller than most of the teams. We didnt think we would get to this stage, Japan manager Akihiro Suzuki, who fought back tears after the game, said through interpreter Kotaro Omori. All of the players did such a wonderful job to get to this stage.

Nicks father, manager Jeff Pratto, said after winning the U.S. title on Saturday that the World Series championship would be a no-pressure contest.

That changed in the third, when Japan flashed trademark hustle to scratch out the games first run after Seiya Fujita singled to left.

Pinch-runner Kaito Suzuki moved to second on a bunt and raced toward third with no one covering. The throw from Pratto at first bounced into foul territory, allowing Suzuki to score easily.

Probably when my son threw that ball away, Jeff Pratto said when asked when he started feeling pressure. It was half-and half. Our shortstop didnt get to third and cover.

When he got to the plate, the skipper added, in my head, Im thinking this is a chance to redeem himself.

Did he ever.

With runners on first and second, an error by Japan shortstop Gaishi Iguchi on what could have been an inning-ending double play loaded the bases for California. After a force play at the plate, Pratto smacked the single to center off reliever Kazuto Takakura that scored the winning run.

Pratto said it was great to have his father as his coach, but he kind of gets on my nerves sometimes.

First pitch was delayed more than three hours after the outer bands of Hurricane Irene brought more rain than expected to the Williamsport area.

The result was bad, but they really tried their best, Akihiro Suzuki said. Todays weather was difficult for us to get used too. If the weather was like this in Japan, we wouldnt have played.

The clouds finally started parting midway through the game, and sunshine draped the complex by the time the California players left the stadium to cheers by friends and family.

Neither team could convert on several chances to break open the pitchers duel earlier in the game.

With runners on first and second in the top of the sixth, third baseman Dylan Palmer blocked the bag from sliding Japan runner Ken Igeta on a bunt play to help get California get out the inning.

California put runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth, but Takakura got a flyout to end the inning.

Playing right field in the second, Takakura also made a running catch on a fly down the line to save an extra-base hit with a runner on second.

In a gracious gesture, Japans players and coaches lined up and exchanged high-fives with the California kids after Huntington Beach did the traditional victory lap around the stadium warning track.

Its just a dream come true, Danner said. I never thought we would be in that spot, let alone winning it.

Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

red_sox_eduardo_rodriguez_062216.jpg

Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

BALTIMORE — If you suspected Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee created a residual effect with his mechanics as he struggled in the second half, you were correct. 

It was here in Baltimore on June 1 that Eduardo Rodriguez hurt his right knee, suffering another subluxation, which he’s prone to. Once he came back — a month and a half later, after the All-Star Break — his performances didn’t match the competency he’d shown pre-injury.

Through the first nine starts back, Rodriguez had a 5.47 ERA. He appeared clearly outside of the playoff rotation picture.

The last three outings have left a different impression, and are a product of improved mechanics. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez is lifting  right leg, his lead leg, higher now.

“I think Eddy’s regained more confidence physically over his last three starts,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “We’ve seen a better delivery. Really since he had come back the injury here, a little bit of abbreviated leg lift. He finally got a little more confidence in picking that knee up and getting a little more drive from his lower half. I think that’s made a huge difference. He’s using his changeup more which is also a huge difference, but I think that lower half has allowed him to do that.”

Rodriguez has a 2.55 September ERA. He has strikeout ability that could be appealing in a postseason setting, but he’s young and inexperienced compared to Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The fact he’s had confidence issues with his delivery could factor into how the Sox decide their playoff rotation, but his upside and strikeout potential are undeniable.

Rodriguez had a knee subluxation in 2016 that affected his mechanics for a time as well.

Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

patriots_alan_branch_112716.jpg

Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

FOXBORO - If Alan Branch is worried about his spot with the Patriots, he isn’t acting that way. A notorious slow starter, Branch played just six snaps in Sunday’s win at New Orleans. And to hear him talk, it’s business as usual.

“It’s not like you can practice 3 technique on a store clerk,” said Branch late Wednesday afternoon. When informed that he probably could if he wanted, Branch smiled and noted “you’d probably get arrested for that.”

All kidding aside, it was stark to see Branch’s ample behind stapled to the bench. He earned a two-year contract this offseason, and his presence on the interior has been critical to the defense’s success. But after getting pushed around a bit too often in that opening night loss to the Chiefs, Branch spent a lot more time watching then playing. Did he know that he wasn’t a big part of the plan?

“That’s another question you gotta ask Bill, man” said Branch. “That’s not something I can talk about.”

Branch has - at times - come off as nonchalant about the game. Wins, losses, big plays, no plays, none of it seems to change his demeanor. Knowing that, I asked him if he was frustrated by his lack of playing time.

“I mean every player wants to be on the field so it is what it is,” he responded. 

Does he think that he’ll be more involved Sunday against the Texans?

“I don’t know what they plan to do with me,” he said. “i just need to go in there and keep my head to the grindstone and work.”

That may be Bill Belichick’s plan: sitting the player to motivate him. It would also seem to be potentially the last resort, and with someone who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.