First Pitch: Monday, August 29

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First Pitch: Monday, August 29

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, a quick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at least the corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapup of Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's And That Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

BLUE SKIES: Storm? What storm? Things are looking bright in Red Sox Nation, thanks to a pair of wins over the A's (csnne.com) on Saturday in the pre-Irene muck and mire, a two-game lead over the Yankees in the A.L. East, and a couple of days off before starting a three-game Fenway series against the Yanks (csnne.com) in a matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in baseball. (si.com) Those numbers may expand -- at least on the Boston side -- if A.J. Burnett pitches one of the games of the series. (New York Daily News)

Still, the story of the weekend -- even in baseball -- was HurricaneTropical Storm Irene. (cbssports.com) After all, how often do players get a weekend off in August? (cbssports.com)

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW . . . that Red Sox prospect Will Middlebrook and Patriots rookie QB Ryan Mallett are a) best friends and c) roommates? (Providence Journal)

GOING UP: The Red Sox leapfrogged the Brewers and Yankees and moved to the No. 2 spot in si.com's weekly Power Rankings.

AMERICA'S MOST BELOVED . . . SOMETHING: In an attempt to defend Tropicana Field, home of the Rays, the St. Petersburg Times' Tom Jones lists the five worst stadiums in sports . . . and he has Fenway Park at No. 5. (The Trop, incidentally, isn't on the list.)

WAR OF WORDS: The Yankees split their Sunday doubleheader with the Orioles (New York Daily News), but that wasn't the big news of the day in Y. Universe. The Yanks claim they were left out of the decision-making process when one of Saturday's rainouts was rescheduled for Sept. 8, costing them one of their two remaining off-days this year, and they're hopping mad about it. (New York Post) Buck Showalter -- who hasn't been afraid to talk the talk against the big boys this year (csnne.com), even if his team hasn't exactly walked the walk on the field -- responded quickly, saying New York's complaints had "a feeling of hypocrisy" and that the Yankees' "opinion on what the Baltimore Orioles should do for their fans and for their organization isn't really that relevant to me personally." (masn.com)

UM . . . NEVER MIND: And then it turns out that a miscommunication between Yankee players and a lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association may have been the reason the Orioles selected the Sept. 8 make-up date. (New York Post)

DON'T LOOK NOW . . . but the Rays -- fresh off a 14-strikeout performance from David Price in a 12-0 win over the Jays (St. Petersburg Times) -- are only six games behind the Yankees in the wild-card race.

MILESTONES: Derek Jeter has now played more games as a Yankee than anyone in history (mlb.com) . . . The Tigers' Justin Verlander is MLB's first 20-game winner this season. (Detroit News)

GOOD LUCK: Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice-president of operations, agrees that the relationship between players and umpires -- which improved in the wake of the Richie Phillips fiasco -- is deteriorating, and he's determined to fix it. (si.com) Interesting note: He says don't believe the computerized strike zones you see on TV, which frequently show the umpires missing ball-and-strike calls. Writes Mel Antonen: "Torre said the problem with the TV networks is that their strike zonetechnology is set up for one strike zone, to a batter that stands sixfeet tall . . . 'TV is not accurate' said Torre."

OLD FRIENDS: Wil Ledezma -- yes, he belonged to the Red Sox once upon a time -- was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays (bluejays.com) . . . That was one ugly outing for Brad Penny yesterday in what is fast becoming one ugly season (rotoworld.com) . . . Hanley Ramirez says he'll be back in the Marlins' lineup Wednesday against the Mets (Twitter) . . . Nick Hagadone, whom the Sox sent to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade, was quietly recalled by the Indians Friday for his first taste of the big leagues (cleveland.com) and just as quietly sent back to the minors yesterday (Rotoworld) . . . Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens can't figure out Jason Bay (New York Post) . . . Adrian Beltre doesn't think he needs a rehab assignment, but the Rangers insist so he'll go (AP via SI.com).

NEW FRIENDS: Andre Ethier-to-Boston rumors have been circulating forever, so it's interesting when a) he seems to complain about the Dodgers making him play through a knee injury (Los Angeles Times), and then b) backs off those comments (mlb.com).

THE QUIET MAN: Joe Buck's voice problem has been evident to anyone who's watched a Fox game this season, and he explains what's wrong -- thankfully, it's nothing serious -- to the New York Times.

AND FINALLY . . . Looking for an athlete who'll inundate you with Tweets? R.A. Dickey's your man. (The Wall Street Journal)

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

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Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “He had quality stuff, but the story of this one is not being able to contain (Josh) Donaldson. Big night for him . . . I though Joe had quality stuff . . . [He] wasn’t as sharp with the overall location as he was the first time out for us.” John Farrell on Joe Kelly’s second start since his return from the disabled list.

 

* “He’s such a good player and does it in critical moments.” Farrell on Josh Donaldson after his two-homerun, 4-5 performance for Toronto.

 

* “He throws hard and has a lot of sink on his ball. Not much you can do with it. Just try to put it in play and see what happens.” Xander Bogaerts on facing Toronto’s start Aaron Sanchez.

 

* “Bottom line is the results. I think there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell before the game on moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen to make room for Eduardo Rodriguez.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Following Friday night’s performance, Josh Donaldson is now 12-20 in his career against Joe Kelly with a double, two home runs and nine RBIs.

 

* The Red Sox’ five runs brings their season total to 38 on the road, averaging 3.8 per game through ten road games. At home, Boston has averaged 7.8 runs through 18 games.

 

* Despite a rough start, Joe Kelly still didn’t record a loss. He hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision since 7/22/15.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his streak to 20 games in his second at-bat against Aaron Sanchez. Boston’s shortstop now has the longest active streak in the league.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Josh Donaldson

Toronto’s third baseman dominated not only Joe Kelly, but Koji Uehara, launching two balls over the fence in a 4-5 day.

 

2) Aaron Sanchez

Although he got tired late, Toronto’s starter only had three earned runs through 6.2 innings against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

 

3) Xander Bogaerts

After teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. saw his streak die Thursday night, Bogaerts squeaked one up the middle, bringing his streak to 20 games, against a starter who’s caused problems for him before.

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

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First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

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Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move.