Beckett finally gets support, 3-1

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Beckett finally gets support, 3-1

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Theres a reason Josh Beckett has only nine wins to show for his All-Star season despite an ERA hovering around 2.00.

Becketts ugly little reason struck again on Saturday at Fenway Park in the first six innings, but it wasnt fatal this time around.

The Red Sox entered the game supplying Beckett with a team-worst 3.71 average run support for each of his 19 starts this year, but they finally arrived via some timely hitting from Jacoby Ellsbury.

Varitek singled with two outs, and Marco Scutaro followed with a ground rule double down the right field line that was stopped from being more by a wrong-headed fan that reached out to snare the ball. The fan misplay was rendered moot by a two-strike, two-out Ellsbury single up the middle that plated both Varitek and Scutaro to give the streaking Sox all they would need in a 3-1 victory at Fenway.

Beckett was brilliant while cruising through seven innings with no cushion at all to work with. The power righty only faltered in the final frame with a single run blemish while scattering seven hits and fanning seven Seattle hitters as his record improved to 9-3 on the season.

The only Seattle run in the game arrived courtesy of the immortal Mike Carp, who has bashed a home run in each of the last two games against the Sox for his only two big league round-trippers on the season. Lanky Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan matched Beckett inning for inning, and took advantage of several Boston base-running misadventures before their seventh inning rally.

The Sox set the tone in the first couple of innings when a one-out Dustin Pedroia double was wasted in the first frame, and David Ortiz was gunned down at home plate for the third out on a potential sacrifice fly in the second inning. There were clearly a few instances of the Sox shooting themselves in the foot with mental errors and miscalculations in judgment.

Adrian Gonzalez topped it off in the sixth with a rare gaffe on the basepaths while running into an out at third base after lacing a ground rule double down the right field line. All of the mistakes were forgotten, however, when the Sox once again won another game with a dominant seventh inning. Daniel Bard escaped a no-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth frame and Jonathan Papelbon wrapped things up for his 23rd save of the season.

Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury has been the best player on the diamond for the Red Sox many times this season, and he was at it again on Saturday night with a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the seventh with two strikes and two outs. He then almost made a sliding catch in the top of the ninth that would have really capped it all off. Ellsbury finished with a 2-for-4 evening that gives him 11 multi-hit games in his last 17 appearances, and has him batting a robust .413 over that stretch dating back to June 30. Ellsbury has become a gigantic difference-maker to the Sox and has in the words of Josh Beckett figured it out at the Major League level.

Honorable Mention: Josh Beckett
Beckett has been saddled with the worst run support on the Red Sox (3.71 runs per appearance entering Saturday nights start) and it appeared that might be the reason for his demise on Saturday night. The gunslinger didnt let it shake him. Instead, Beckett dominated with all of his pitches for seven strong innings, fanned seven Ms hitters and managed to hold Seattle to one run until his offense woke up in the bottom of the seventh frame. Beckett improved to 9-3 on the season and dropped his ERA to a miniscule 2.07 on the season a pair of numbers that many around the Sox didnt see coming before the season began.
The Goat: Eric Wedge
Twice the Seattle manager has had games within reach against the Sox this weekend, and twice he probably waited just a little too long to call for the bullpen. Sure its understandable to make that kind of mistake with King Felix Hernandez on the hill, but a baseball manager needs to know when its time to lift Blake Beavan from the ballgame in the decisive seventh inning. Wedges miscalculation took the base-running gaffes of both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez out of the equation, but also magnified his own curious call for a bunt while trailing by two runs in the eighth inning. Also the Goose Gossage handlebar moustache is a little bizarre since were on the subject.

Turning Point:
The turning point could have been when a fan in the right field stands foolishly pawed at a Marco Scutaro ball hit down the line, and turned what would have been an RBI hit to tie the game into a harmless ground-rule double. But instead the real turning point came one batter later when Jacoby Ellsbury turned on a Bleavan fastball and rocketed a two-run single up the middle to provide the tying and go-ahead run for the Olde Towne Team. It was the first runs of the night for the Sox offense and it was all that they would need.

By the Numbers: 93-33
The lopsided ratio of runs scored for the Sox against their opposition in the seventh inning of games this season. The seventh frame is their most productive inning by close to 30 runs and shows exactly how much damage the Sox are doing after chasing starting pitchers out of ballgames. The Sox outscored the Ms 3-1 in the seventh inning of Saturday nights win.

Quote of Note:
As a pitcher it would be more impressiveyeah its a big deal. Its a milestone. But I dont think hes ready to hang it up yet. Josh Beckett having some fun with Sox manager Terry Francona earning his 1000th career big league win as a skipper Saturday night before turning serious.

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

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''