Haggerty: Red Sox offense historically good

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Haggerty: Red Sox offense historically good

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON So many around the Red Sox are accustomed to hulkingoffensive numbers and punishingly professional at bats over the last decade.

Some have probably become a bit spoiled at this point in the golden era of baseball in Boston, and simply expect offensive prowess and hitting greatness as an automatic right.

But relative newcomers like John Lackey and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have witnessed offenses outside of the Friendly Fenway confines firsthand, and know just how good they have it playing pepper with theGreenMonsteron Yawkey Way.

Weve got a lot of good players, man," Lackey said. "We got some guys that can swing it. Its fun to watch, for sure. "Youre okay sitting over there on the benchfor some extra home half innings to watch ralliesand get a lot of offensive run support. I was hoping for things like that. Thats one of the reasons I came here. I spent so many years in Anaheim and it wasnt exactly like that. So its fun to watch.

The Sox have always scored a ton of runs and fared exceedingly well at Fenway Park this season, but theyve taken it to ridiculous levels over the last month. Not only are the Sox 18-4 during the month of July, but theyve also mercilessly beaten down mediocre pitching staffs during the dog days of the season. They've averaged 5.56 runs per game during the season and lead all of baseball with 567 runs scored, but they're averaging a shade under seven runs per game in July.

It happened again on Wednesday night as Bruce Chen was reminded just how fringe a journeymen he really is by an efficient Red Sox attack that cranked out double-digit hits for the 11th straight game at Fenway. The Sox have posted double-digit hits 52 times this year to tie them with the Texas Rangers for the lead in Major League baseball, and theyve posted double-digit runs 16 times this season with the latest coming inthe 12-5 drubbing of Kansas City.Much of the effectiveness comes from their unrelenting lineup depth.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia have wreaked havoc on opposing teams pitchers and defense at the top of the lineup. The trio of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz have formed the pitchers version of a meat grinder in the heart of the order and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marco Scutaro have given the Sox opportunistic offensive playersat the bottom third of the lineup.

Ortiz has his ideas about the special sauce thats making the Sox perform so well when they walk up to the dish.

I think it's Ellsbury and Pedroia," he said. "Theyre making it tough on everyone else. What theyre doing at the top of the lineup is ridiculous. You dont get that on daily basis from your first and second-hole hitter. It puts so much pressure on the pitcher that Im pretty sure it will get the pitcher out of control a little bit.

There is no weakness, no safe haven and no escape for all but the best of big league hurlers toeing the rubber against Boston, and the Red Sox know it each time they dig in to hit. David Ortiz has taken part in some historic offensive lineups in Boston during his time playing tag team partners with Manny Ramirez, but even the designated hitter admitted this one might just be the best.Not the 2003 team that ranks among the best Sox hitting lineups of all time, or the 2004 and 2007 teams dangerous enough to capture the World Series. But the very Sox team that's taken up residence during the summer of 2011.

Its fun. It is fun especially the way we started out the season, said Ortiz. Everybody around here gets ready to play and win ballgames. I dont know, don't want to talk about it too early because weve got two months left, but everything Ive seen from head to toe is what you really want to be a part of.

The numbers back it up as well. The Sox are first in nearly every important offensive category, and their robust month of July has seen them post an .886 OPS during the prolific month a mark that is the teams highest since putting up a .945 OPS during June of 2003 and ranks up with their best months of the 1996 (.904 in June) and 1950 (.914 in May) Sox seasons.

Thats exactly the kind of total base and run-scoring machine GM Theo Epstein envisioned when he coaxedall the pieces together this winter, and the players are recognizing just how unique things are right in the middle of their batting binge.

Weve got a good ball club from top to bottom," Saltalamacchia said. "The one thing we have is confidence and were going to go out there and play our game. "Getting guys comfortable and getting guys at bats, thats when youre going to start seeing things like this. We just needed to get healthy.

Youve got guys here that are established. We had a couple of guys in Texas that were established like Mike Young, but here youve got guys that have been around the game for a long time. They bring a lot to the game and help each other out.

The only thing not getting helped out right now: the ERA of opposing pitching staffs unlucky enough to come across the Red Sox hitters during one heck of a hitting spree.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.