Aceves loses control in spot start vs. Padres

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Aceves loses control in spot start vs. Padres

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Before Tuesdays game against the Padres, Red Sox manager Terry Francona mentioned how fortunate he is to have pitchers like Alfredo Aceves, Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller to fill in when his regular starting pitchers are unavailable.

Then the game started, and the Red Sox didn't feel so fortunate.

Aceves started in place of Josh Beckett, who was ill, and the Padres scarcely had to worry about hitting him; they only had to wait for him to issue walks. He walked five batters in a row -- with two outs, no less -- in the second inning, leading to two San Diego runs, and put the Sox in a 4-1 hole during his five-inning stint. Boston eventually tied the game, but wound up losing to the Padres, 5-4.

It was Aceves' fourth start of the season, but unlike any hes made before. In his first two starts of the season, he was nearly untouchable, giving up a combined two runs on eight hits in 11 innings.

Tuesday was much different because Aceves simply couldn't find the strike zone.

His previous high for walks allowed in a game was four, in four innings Sept. 26, 2008, while with the Yankees against the Red Sox. He passed that in one inning Tuesday night.

He just lost his command, Francona said. Normally a hitter or two, you reel it back in. He just didnt find it for a while because after that he came back and actually threw the ball pretty well and put up some zeroes. His stuff was fine, but he lost the plate and it hurt.

After retiring the first two batters in the second inning Orlando Hudson on a grounder to shortstop Marco Scutaro and Anthony Rizzo on a fly ball to left fielder Josh Reddick Aceves walked five straight batters, forcing in two runs, before getting out of the inning. Two of the free passes came on four pitches.

Aceves said the short notice before his start -- he found out he was pitching Monday night -- did not affect his performance.

You just got to do it, he said. Adjust, focus, whatever you got to do. I came here today early, like two hours before the game or more, maybe three hours. Come to video room, see the lineup. The lineup was on my chair and I do my plan. Simple, not too crazy. Just simple, what it is, and go for it.

The last major-leaguer to walk five consecutive batters in an inning was Clevelands Jason Davis in the eighth inning in Seattle on April 24, 2005, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Since divisional play began in 1969, Darren Oliver (five walks in the fifth inning on May 11, 2002 in Seattle) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (five walks in the fifth inning on May 27, 2010 against the Royals) are the only other Sox pitchers with as many walks in an inning, according to Elias.

Aceves added to his walk total in the fourth, issuing yet another four-pitch pass to Jason Bartlett to open the inning.

I lost command, said Aceves. Unfortunately, I lost command. I was trying to keep the ball down."

He followed the two-out, five-walk, two-run second inning with a two-out, three-hit, two-run third. He had just one clean inning, the fifth, which was his final inning,.

We needed him to go five innings, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Its tough for him coming out of the bullpen, starting and then going to the bullpen role. So, its tough but Ace is always ready to come in there and pitch. Just had that one bad inning of control.

Its tough when you lose feel like that. I just try and slow it down, get him back on track the best way you can. But when you lose feel like that, and your arm slot drops a little bit, you just got to battle through it and thats what he did.

Aceves, though not pleased with his performance, was satisfied that he had a strong finish to his outing.

It was not my best, he said. But I started good and I finished strong. It happens, you know . . . I tried to come back and I did.

Aceves, who is 3-1 with a 3.70 ERA overall, is now 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA (12 earned runs over 21 innings) in his four starts this season.

What does he do with an outing like this?

You learn, you learn, you learn, he said. The last inning I was feeling, feeling, not thinking of mechanics. I was feeling and making pitches.

Have to have something bad for good things to happen.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: Pedroia returns, Pomeranz on mound

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: Pedroia returns, Pomeranz on mound

Dustin Pedroia returns to the lineup after missing two games to attend a family funeral as the Red Sox play the middle game of their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Fenway Park.

Pedroia is back at second base, batting leadoff, as the Red Sox look to make it two in a row coming off a 9-4 victory on Monday night.

Brock Holt, who filled in a second in Pedroia’s absence, moves to left field and Bryan Holaday catches left-hander Drew Pomeranz (10-10, 2.95 ERA) for Boston. Pomeranz struck out a career-high 11 in his last start against the Rays, last Thursday in St. Petersburg. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-5, 3.53) starts for the Rays.

The lineups:

RAYS

Logan Forsythe 2B

Kevin Kiermaier CF

Evan Longoria 3B

Brad Miller 1B

Matt Duffy DH

Tim Beckham SS

Scott Souza Jr. RF

Corey Dickerson LF

Luke Maile C

Jake Odorizzi RHP

 

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Mookie Betts RF

Hanley Ramirez 1B

Travis Shaw 3B

Brock Holt LF

Bryan Holaday C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Drew Pomeranz LHP

 

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

BOSTON - With one quick flick of his wrists Monday night, Mookie Betts drove a pitch into the Monster Seats, marking his 30th homer of the season.

The homer put Betts into exclusive company in team history. Only two others before him -- Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro -- had ever reached the 30-homer milestone before turning 24. 

It's a reasonable assumption that, with five weeks still to play in the regular season, Betts will more than double his home run total (17) from last year, a remarkable jump.    

More to the point, Betts wasn't projected as a power hitter. In 2011 and 2012, Betts played the first 72 games of his pro career career without hitting a single homer. 

The power began to manifest itself somewhat the following year when he belted 15 homers between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, but still, few envisioned that Betts would show this kind of power at the major league level.

He was athletic, with extra-base capability, and speed. But a 30-home run hitter? That wasn't in the cards.

"That's pretty cool, hitting 30,” allowed Betts after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. "But that's not the reason we play.''

 For several minutes, Betts did his best to deflect questions about his milestone, consistently emphasizing team goals "first and foremost” over his own personal achievements.

"Trying to affect the game in some form or fashion,” he shrugged. "We're in a race right now and that's way more important[than individual stats].”

Still, Betts himself acknowledged that his homer total has come as something of a revelation.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [this kind of] power,'' he said. "But I'll take it while it's here.''

Maybe the power explosion shouldn't come as a shock, however. Betts has always demonstrated exceptional strength and fast reflexes, exhibiting the sort of "quick-twitch'' athleticism that make scouts drool.

He's improved his pitch selection and recognition, and it surely hasn't hurt to be part of a powerful Red Sox lineup that currently has him hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Hanley Ramirez.

"Experience...knowing when and when not to turn on balls,” Betts explained further. "There's a whole bunch of things that kind of go into it.”

As he's gained confidence, Betts now picks certain counts where he allows himself to take bigger swings, though he's careful to  point out that he's not ever trying to hit homers.

"Not necessarily trying to hit a home run,'' he offered, "but trying to drive [the ball]. Those things come with experience and knowing when and when not to. I'm not trying to hit a home run. They just kind of come.''

In this, just his second full season in the big leagues, they're coming more and more frequently -- whether anyone expected it or not.

     

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises, were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.