Control still an issue for Miller

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Control still an issue for Miller

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When the Red Sox promoted Andrew Miller from Pawtucket last month, they knew there would be nights like Friday night.

Nights when Miller can't command the strike zone as well as he'd like. Nights when Miller not only walks too many (five), but consistently falls behind and has to pitch in hitter's counts.

In his first four starts, Miller displayed improving control, walking 11 in his first 22 23 innings, but only once more than three in any one start.

There were signs, however, that Friday wasn't going to be his night. He walked two of the first three hitters in the first inning, and one scored.

And in the second, he walked another to help load the bases, setting the stage for a grand slam by Ben Zobrist, leading to a 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

"The walks really hurt,'' acknowledged Terry Francona." The strike-to-walk ratio (85 pitches, 51 strikes) wasn't horrible, but all of the balls (he threw) were bunched together. That's a tough way to pitch.''

Indeed, Miller was gone after just 2 23 innings, forcing the Sox to use four relievers to cover the final 5 13 innings.

"I pitched around the plate,'' said Miller, "but I got behind in counts, threw pitches up in the zone and you can't be successful that way.''

Miller maintained that the off-night wasn't the result of any sort of mechanical flaw.

"To be honest with you, I actually felt pretty good about where the ball was going,'' Miller said. "I just think I found myself in counts, in a lot of deep counts. I've got to do a better job attacking the zone insteading of trying to hit the corners.''

A more aggressive approach, in other words, may have cut down on walks and changed the outcome.

In needing 85 pitches to get just eight outs, Miller put himself in a tough position, with his pitch count climbing early.

"I'm not doing it on purpose,'' he said, "but it seemed like I'm just missing off the plate or hitting the corner. What got me back here (to the big leagues) is being aggressive in the strike zone and I'm not doing that right now. I've got to do a better job (with that).

"To me, it seems like I'm kind of nibbling and finding myself in counts. These guys are good enough that when they're ahead in the count, they're going to tattoo the ball pretty good.''

Pitching coach Curt Young echoed the same sentiment and said pitching consistently from behind was what doomed Miller.

"He's been throwing the ball good...he's been solid,'' Young said. "Tonight was (about) not being ahead and not a lot of early outs.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

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Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

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Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.