McAdam: Bard saves the day in the sixth

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McAdam: Bard saves the day in the sixth

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Clay Buchholz had hit the proverbial wall, having thrown 103 pitches, loading the bases with two consecutive walks, and placing the Red Sox' bid for their first road win of the season in jeopardy.

And here was the biggest problem: it was only the sixth inning, far too soon to go to closer Jonathan Papelbon, and yet too risky to trust to the team's group of middle relievers.

Daniel Bard, then, to the rescue.

Bard inheirted a bases-loaded, one-out jam, with the Oakland A's threatening to dismantle the three-run lead the Red Sox had at the time. He struck out Cliff Pennington, then retired Coco Crisp on a flyout, leaving the baserunners exactly where they were when he entered the game.

Just for good measure, Bard added a scoreless seventh inning, leaving only six outs for Bobby Jenks and Papelbon to record. As it turned out, both late-inning relievers allowed a run each, but Bard had steered the Sox through the biggest threat of the afternoon.

"That was the game right there,'' marveled Terry Francona after the 5-3 win was in the books. "You've heard me talk about it, time and time again - the game can be won in the sixth or seventh. For me, that was it. He came in and stopped it. That's what he's there for.

"It's a big weapon. That's what it is. We have the ability to pitch him with the game on the line and he's one of the best in the league. He can get left-handers, he can obviously get right-handers. He holds runners . . . With runners on base, that's who we want to bring in.''

Whenever Papelbon falters, fans clamor for a job switch in the Red Sox bullpen, clamoring for Bard to become closer with Papelbon shifted to a set-up role.

But that ignores the fact that each is probably better suited for their present role. And it also glosses over how demanding Bard's job is.

While Papelbon often has the luxury of starting an inning clean -- i.e., with no baserunners -- and in possession of a two- or three-run lead, Bard can be summoned, as he was Wednesday, with a mess in progress, asked to perform cleanup duty.

"His ability to hold runners is very good,'' said Francona. "His ability, from the first pitch he throws, to become engaged in the game is also unusual. It doesn't take him a hitter or two to get ready -- he's ready to go. I know he's a young kid, but he's been in those circumstances an awful lot already.''

Through the first 16 games, however, Bard hasn't always been as consistent this season as he has been in the past. On Opening Day, after the Sox had worked to come from behind and tied the game on David Ortiz's solo homer, Bard promptly handed the Texas Rangers four runs, absorbing the loss.

In Cleveland, he was on the mound when the Sox lost a heartbreaking 1-0 pitcher's duel as the Indians used a suicide squeeze in bottom of the eighth to extend the Red Sox' early-season losing streak.

But on Wednesday, Bard was nearly faultless. And he had to be, given that the margin for error was narrowing even as he took the mound.

"That's what I'm here for, I guess,'' said a satisfied Bard afterward. "That proves that games can be won -- or lost -- in an inning after the starter is out. I'm glad they called on me there.''

The key under such circumstances, said Bard "is to focus pitch-to-pitch.''

Even so, Bard had to take a deep breath when Crisp lined a pitch to left, only to have the ball fall inches foul from the left field line. For Bard and the Red Sox, it was eerily similar to an at-bat from another former Sox outfielder.

In the opener, David Murphy had sliced a two-run double to left after his liner landed on the line and kicked up chalk. The baseball gods were with Bard Wednesday, sending Crisp's shot just beyond the foul line.

"It was good to have some luck like that after what happened earlier in the season for me,'' said Bard.

The pressure of those leveraged situations -- middle or late innings, game on the line, but no save situation -- is something Bard revels in.

"I'm not getting any save opportunities,'' he said, "so I've got to savor those when I get them.''

And road wins, too, which had been non-existent for the Red Sox until Bard came in and did what he does as well any reliever in the game.

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

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.