Lavarnway steps up big in must-win game

191542.jpg

Lavarnway steps up big in must-win game

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

BALTIMORE -- Each postseason seems to offer some unlikely heroes. Tuesday night, Ryan Lavarnway got a bit of a head start.

In the second-to-last game of the regular season, Lavarnway was called on to step in for the injured duo of Jarrod Salatalamacchia (bruised collarbone) and Jason Varitek (right knee contusion), making his first career start behind the plate.

Lavarnway more than rose to the challenge, clubbing two homers and knocked in four runs in the Red Sox' 8-7 thriller over the Baltimore Orioles.

"That was exciting," said Terry Francona. "Besides what he did offensively, I thought he ran the game, I thought he had a lot of poise. That was one of the more exciting things to watch. We've seen a lot of interesting things here over the years, but that was right at the top."

Unaccustomed to the spotlight, literally, Lavarnway was surrounded by reporters after the game and asked: "Where do I look? There's a lot of bright lights."

But he had no problem sharing the joy he felt in contributing in such a big way to a critical Red Sox win.

"It feels good," he said. "It feels like I can wear the jersey with pride, especially now that I've helped out, I'm contributing. That's what I wanted to do when I got here. I didn't want to have a September call-up that was meaningless, so I'm glad I could help today."

In his second at-bat of the night, Lavarnway came to the plate in the fourth with one out and two on against rookie lefty Zach Britton.

"I caught myself cheating a little bit on the 3-and-1 pitch," recounted the former Yale star, "and ended up checking my swing, so I just tried to stay short to the ball and stay up the middle."

He drove a pitch into the seats in left-center to turn what had been a slim 2-1 Red Sox to a 5-1 cushion.

In the fifth, he hit a tailing fly ball down the right-field line with the bases loaded. With the baserunners off with the swing, it seemed Lavarnway might have himself a three-run double, but Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis laid out and caught the ball just inside the foul line for the third out.

Three innings later, Lavarnway took no chances, homering to left for the second time and becoming the youngest Red Sox player to homer twice in the same game since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 1997. At the time of the homers, both were exactly 24 years and 51 days old.

He also did his share defensively. When the Orioles tried to run on him early in the game, Lavarnway cut down Adam Jones attempting to steal third base for the first out in the second.

Then, in the ninth, with the Sox protecting a two-run lead and a baserunner on third, Matt Wieters hit a dribbler between home and the pitcher's mound.

"I was going after it and I looked at Pap to see if he was going to get it or not," said Lavarnway. "The look he gave me was, 'You better field the ball.' I went after it. I kind of tripped a little as I was throwing it, but I got the ball to first base."

A run scored as he did, but Wieters was out and when Papelbon got Adam Jones at the end of an epic at-bat, the game was secured.

"To come up here in a tough situation like this," said Saltalamacchia, "and do so well -- he handled the staff well, called timeouts when he needed to, slowed the game down, the great play in the last inning -- was impressive."

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

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

snc_mcadam_0528161464489191251_3450k_1280x720_694941763909.jpg

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss the Red Sox bullpen giving up a 4-run lead in the late innings of their loss to the Blue Jays.

Watch the video above.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

red_sox_blue_jays_what_we_learned-overlay-master.png

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

boston-red-sox-hanley-ramirez-misplay-052816.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win.