Farrell: Pitch execution root of Lackey's struggles

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Farrell: Pitch execution root of Lackey's struggles

BOSTON -- It's not that John Lackey has lost his stuff. According to former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, the struggling starter's pitch execution is causing his ineffectiveness.

Farrell, who now manages the Toronto Blue Jays, told Comcast SportsNet New England's Carolyn Manno he notices little change in Lackey between 2010 and 2011.

"There's not a drastic difference. You still see the same quality of stuff," said Farrell, whose Blue Jays have tagged Lackey for 20 earned runs in three starts this season. "When you look at the three starts that John made against us this year, he's pitched with similar velocity as last year. It's just the consistency of location inside the strike zone."

Lackey has a 5-8 record with a 7.47 ERA in 2011, a marked decline from his 14-11, 4.40 ERA 2010 campaign. He was voted Theo Epstein's biggest mistake by CSNNE.com visitors.

When asked how Lackey can fix his problems on the mound, Farrell coyly refused to give away any trade secrets, as any opposing manager would.

"I'm sure he and new Sox pitching coach Curt Young are working very hard to get that done," he said.

McAdam: Price is working for Red Sox

McAdam: Price is working for Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The ERA, though now at its lowest since the first week of the season, is still alarmingly high. So, too, are the hits allowed -- most in the league.

But there is another number regarding David Price that is not so discouraging. To the contrary, it's an indication that Price has contributed in a very real way and, more to the point, that there's reason for optimism as the final quarter of the season unfolds.

Innings.

Price has pitched 177 2/3 innings this season, the most of any American League starter.

The ability to consume innings is nothing new for Price, who threw 220 1/3 last season and led the American League the year before, 2014, with 248. Unless something unforseen takes place, Price will top 200 innings for the sixth time in seven seasons.

And, at a time of the year when pitchers tend to being running on fumes, exhausted by the heat and the demands of the schedule, Price is actually becoming more of a workhorse. Monday night's eight shutout innings represented the third time in the last six outingts in which he's pitched eight.

Since the beginning of July, in fact, Price has made 10 starts and pitched eight innings five times. Six times, Price pitched seven innings or more . . . and that number would almost certainly have been increased had not rain shortened his previous start in Baltimore last week.

It's the time of year when pitchers need to grind through starts and chew up innings and Price is doing that better than anyone right now.

After six innings last night, he was at 96 pitches and it seemed certain that the seventh inning would be his last. But then Price threw an eight-pitch seventh and was sent back out for the eighth.

When a runner reached with one out, John Farrell came out to check on Price.

"He just asked me how I was,'' recounted Price. "I told him, 'I'm good -- I got this.' ''

And with some help from Andrew Benintendi in left field, he did.

The deeper the season gets, the deeper Price has been going in games.

"That's what I expect every fifth day,'' he said of his ability to get into the seventh or eighth. "That's what I've done for a long time now. That's what I expect to do now that I'm a Red Sox. It hasn't happened as much as I feel like I should have this year, but like I said a couple of weeks ago, good things are going to happen.

"Innings are big for sure.''

As his habit, Price attributed the ability to go deeper into games to improved "execution'' -- perhaps the word he uses more than any other when analyzing his starts, good or bad.

"Making pitches, that's the name of the game,'' said Price. "The games that I've gone deeper in, I've executed a lot better.''

Given the struggles of the Red Sox bullpen of late -- see: Monday's ninth inning, in which Matt Barnes allowed two runs to spoil the shutout bid -- every inning that a starter provides is an inning a reliever doesn't have to worry about.

Just when they need him most, David Price may finally be getting locked in.

Benintendi saves Sox' bacon with catch of the year

Benintendi saves Sox' bacon with catch of the year

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When the Red Sox were preparing to promote Andrew Benintendi from Double A Portland, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski expressed confidence that the rookie would be able to hold his own offensively in the big leagues.

But, Dombrowski added, even if he struggled -- and he hasn't (.306/.353/.468) -- Benintendi could still contribute on the bases and in the outfield.

Monday was a case in point. Benintendi didn't collect a hit (though he did have a sacrifice fly to knock in the second run of the game), but he made a game-changing catch in the eighth inning to rob Steve Souza Jr. of what seemed destinated to be a two-run homer, paving the way for the Red Sox' 6-2 victory over the Rays.

Benintendi -- who had started the game in center field but was moved to left in the bottom of the eighth when Jackie Bradley Jr. replaced Chris Young -- sprinted sideways to the short wall just next to the foul pole, where it appeared Souza's drive would sneak over the fence. Without ever looking at the fence, he leaped, snared the ball just as it was leaving the field, then hit the wall with his waist and teetered periously close to tumbling off the field before righting himself and throwing the ball back to the infield.

Click here to see the play. According to Statcast, Benintendi covered 92 feet in getting over to make the catch.

"Pretty stunned," said Souza when asked his reaction. "That was an unbelievable play. He ran a long way, was at full speed and then to go over [the wall] and hold onto the ball . . . [that] was pretty impressive."

"Yeah, I think that's the best catch I've ever made," said Benintendi. "I've never really had an opportunity to take one back and I was fortunate enough I could."

Had Souza's ball cleared the fence, the Rays would have trailed 3-2 and that probably would have ended David Price's night, handing the game over to a less-than secure bullpen crew. Instead, Price got through the eighth unscored upon, and when the Sox tacked on three more runs in the ninth, the cushion was even larger.

"I spent seven years here," said Price, who began his career with Tampa Bay, "and I didn't see that catch too many times. It doesn't happen a whole lot. That was huge."

"That's a highlight-reel play at a pivotal time in the game," John Farrell said of the catch. "[Price] was outstanding. But in a three-run game, that late, take away a two-run homer, it's a huge difference in the ballgame."

That's an example of what Dombrowski was talking about: That Benintendi is a complete enough player to help the Sox win even when he isn't contributing at the plate.