Francona satisfied with Red Sox bullpen

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Francona satisfied with Red Sox bullpen

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Sox manager Terry Francona isnt fond at all of ranking the best of justabout anything. The best bullpen hes ever had and if the current squad ranksanywhere at the top of that list is something he doesnt want to touch with aPesky Pole-sized object midway through a season.

I dont know. Were in August. Ill tell you when the season is over.Thats hard to do. I dont have any interest in going back to 2004, saidFrancona. Were just trying to win games. Weve had some good bullpens here,and when we havent thats when weve lost.

The Sox skipper will do his assessing, judging and ranking once theseason has ended and the baseball team has learned its ultimate fate, but onething he is pretty happy with is the two left-handers working out of hisbullpen. The Sox have had Javy Lopez, Billy Wagner and Alan Embree in theiremploy over the years among other southpaws, but Franklin Morales and RandyWilliams have given Francona all kinds of flexibility to utilize a relief corpsthats deep, talented and leads the American League with a .232 batting averageagainst this season.

FranklinMorales comes in and blows through two innings. Anytime somebody stays out forthe second inning theres a pretty good chance that hes throwing the ballreally well. First of all his pitch count didnt go up and he didnt give upany runs, so we wanted to send him out.

With Randy Williams the times that hes given up runs have been whenweve lengthened him out and hes had to face left-handers. Its probably nothis main role. So if his ERA is higher than it should be that doesnt mean hecant get left-handers out.

The Sox relievers have given up one hit in their last 4 13 innings ofwork in two wins against the Cleveland Indians, and theyve struck out sevenTribe batters while simply dominating both contests.

There have been plenty of contributors to the Sox bullpen ERA thatranks fifth in the AL with a 3.49 mark, but its pretty clear that things end up with the seeminglyinvincible 1-2 punch of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. Matt Albers has slidinto the role tailored for Bobby Jenks as a bit of a bullpen wild card, and theSox bullpen is winning ballgames while a tattered starting rotation regains itsfooting.

Youre going to lose the occasional game, but you wake up the next dayand you have a semblance of order. You just need to get to Bard and Papelbonand thats helpful, said Francona. I think Papelbon has been terrific. Waycloser to the Pap that we saw his first year here. Way more command on hisfastball and finish on it when throwing the split. Hes been terrific.

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.