Albers' struggles may open door for Wheeler

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Albers' struggles may open door for Wheeler

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY Matt Albers assured an assembled group of media on four different occasions that he hadnt lost any confidence after summoning his blowtorch and destroying a one-run Sox lead in the sixth inning of Saturday nights loss.

Thou dost protest just a little too much, Mr. Albers.

The right-handed reliever has been a revelation for the Sox this season as the third arm behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in Bostons bullpen, but he was strictly batting practice on Saturday night.

I feel good and the confidence is there. I feel good physically, assured Albers after dropping to 4-4 with a 3.71 ERA on the season. It comes down to execution and Im not quite where I need to be. Ive pitched when Ive been hurt before and thats definitely worse. Or Ive lost confidence before, and thats not the case this time.

I think I was just working behind guys. Physically and mentally I feel good. It really just comes down to execution. You want to improve, but you dont want to make complete changes either. For me working ahead in the count and refining my slider are the big things.

Albers allowed four runs and three hits in a 13 of an inning during Bostons 9-4 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, and coughed up any chance for Tim Wakefields 200th career victory. Wakefield had tired in the sixth inning, armed with a 4-1 lead, and Albers finally ambled out to the mound in a one-run ballgame that already had trouble written all over it.

Then Albers walked rookie catcher Salvador Perez to bestow the undisciplined 21-year-old backstop with his first career walk in 33 at bats, and it was apparent that one of Bostons bullpen success stories didnt have it on this night.

Hes a pretty free-swinging guy, said Albers. I need to get him out there.

In fact Albers really hasnt had it during the entire month of August, and has an 11.25 ERA in seven games this month coming off a month of July when he went completely unscored upon.

There could be several things at play.

Albers could be feeling the pressure of important games down the stretch in August for the first time in his career after toiling in relative obscurity for the Orioles and Astros over the past five seasons. It could be that Albers is hitting a wall like so many other baseball players do during the so-called dog days of the season when fatigue creeps into the arms and legs of even the most determined ballplayers.

Or it could be that Albers is simply regressing back to the pitcher that hes been throughout his career while posting a 4.79 career ERA in Baltimore and Houston, and never really coming close to the high leverage innings and responsibility hes earned in Boston. Albers is in Terry Franconas trusted bullpen plan after performing well all season with a pretty good array of hard stuff out of the bullpen, but perhaps that needs to change.

A lot of balls caught the middle of the plate and there were a ton of two-out runs. That killed us, said Francona. Walking the first guy is not good, and there were a lot of balls that caught too much of the plate.

He had a little stretch like the rough August earlier in the year. Hes done some really good things for us. Were certainly not going to run away from him.

Terry Francona wasnt having any of it publicly, but it was pretty difficult to ignore Dan Wheelers perfect inning of work to close out of the game was essentially wasted after the game had already been decided. While Albers ERA is blowing up like an Underdog balloon in the Macys Thanksgiving parade, Wheeler has put together 10 straight scoreless games and dropped his ERA to 3.95 while featuring some of the gutsiest efforts of the season.

Its true that Wheeler stumbled badly to start the season and has been playing catch up ever since then, but it could be high time that the big righty starts getting some of the high leverage appearances with the game on the line. Perhaps slipping Wheeler into the game in the sixth inning wouldnt have changed a thing, but its hard to imagine the righty walking Perez with the way hes turned into a strike-throwing bullpen demon over the last month.

Ive been able to locate better. Ive worked every day to really turn things around, said Wheeler. I really look at percent of strikes and making guys put the ball in play rather than putting guys on base. Thats one of the things I really take pride in: throwing strikes and not walking guys.

It looks like pitchers stock is falling while the other one is rising, and perhaps now is the time for a little role reversal while theres still plenty of time left for things to be sorted out in the AL East.

Stay tuned to the seventh inning of the next ballgame with the Sox holding a tight lead to get your answer.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.

 

Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

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Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

Like the rest of the baseball world, the Red Sox expressed shock and sadness over the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident in Miami. 

David Ortiz tweeted his thoughts before the game Sunday in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays.

There was a moment of silence for Fernandez - who attended high school in the Tampa area after defecting from Cuba at 15 - before the game at Tropicana Field, and before all major league games on Sunday. 

There was to be on-field ceremony for Ortiz before his last game at the Trop, part of his retirement farewell tour, but it was canceled at Ortiz's request. A video tribute to Ortiz was shown during the game and the Rays gave Ortiz his retirement gifts privately.

Ortiz wiped away tears during the moment of silence. He wrote Fernandez's intitals and his uniform number 16 on his cap.

Fernandez had joked about how he wanted to give up a home run to Ortiz when he faced him as an N.L. pitcher in the All-Star Game this past July. 

"I told him yesterday that I am going to throw him three fastballs down the middle. I want to watch him hit a home run," Fernandez had said. 

Ortiz ended up walking against Fernandez, prompting this response from Big Papi:

First baseman Hanley Ramirez, who played for the Marlins, as well as other Red Sox players, also tweeted their reactions after hearing the news of Fernandez's death Sunday morning.