Mankins, offensive line cramming for Titans

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Mankins, offensive line cramming for Titans

FOXBORO -- With about 72 hours left before the Patriots' season-opener with the Titans, Logan Mankins knew that he and his fellow offensive linemen had a lot of work to do. It was time to cram.

After a preseason rife with injury and inconsistent personnel groupings, Tom Brady's personal protectors had just three days to round into regular-season form -- a difficult task to be sure.

Mankins missed a chunk of training camp as he recovered from knee surgery. Sebastian Vollmer nursed his ailing back for much of the preseason. Brian Waters, who had a Pro Bowl season last season, still hasn't reported. And second-year linemen Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon struggled very publicly during New England's first two exhibition games.

"It's coming together," Mankins said. "We've had a couple guys miss a lot of time so we're still working on it. We've got a lot of work to do between here and Sunday. Hopefully we can put our best on the field Sunday, play good together, trust in each other. We're going against a good defense. They're very athletic, very fast and they play hard so it's gonna be a big challenge."

For Mankins, Sunday could be particularly trying simply because he hasn't played much full-contact football since his return. He played sparingly against Tampa Bay in New England's third preseason game, and he didn't play at all against the Giants in their fourth and final exhibition. He's barely six months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, and even he's not 100 percent sure how he'll be feeling if asked to play four quarters in Tennessee.

"It's always tough," he said. "It goes for everyone in the league. Not everyone plays a full game in the preseason. It's different for everyone. Myself not having too many reps, I just gotta trust in my conditioning and hopefully it's good enough."

The guys on either side of Mankins -- Solder at left tackle and, presumably, Ryan Wendell at center -- are surely hoping the same. Mankins said that as long as the three of them are on the same page, they should avoid any major gaffes.

"It's just the three of us seeing through the same set of eyes on that side," he said. "There should only be one call and that's the right call. If we start making too many calls then guys are saying things we don't need out there, that gets guys confused. We gotta be on the same page and trust that call and everyone do what it says."

Seventy-two hours and counting for them to get it all straightened out.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

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Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

BOSTON - Drew Pomeranz pitched six strong innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to their fourth straight win.

Pomeranz (4-3) made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and has lost 15 of 21 on the road.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez (1-3) early.