McAdam: It was Giveaway Night for the Sox

191542.jpg

McAdam: It was Giveaway Night for the Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE -- Between stretches of poor starting pitching earlier in the year and a lineup which, even now, has had difficulty producing timely hits, the Red Sox had seemingly cornered the market on ways to lose.

Then, Wednesday night, they discovered another.

In a brutal display of fundamentals, the Sox saw one outfield misplay result in a three-run fourth, then, with the game freshly tied in the eighth inning, a breakdown between pitcher and catcher led to the winning run crossing the plate.

Four of five runs scored by the Baltimore Orioles in the Red Sox' 5-4 loss were essentially gift-wrapped, as the momentum built on their recent five-game West Coast winning streak ebbed further with a second straight loss.

Worse, the setback was largely self-inflicted, or, at the very least, avoidable.

There was one out and nobody on in the fourth when Derrek Lee skied a ball into shallow center. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia broke back. Problem was, so did center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury -- at least for an instant.

Believing the ball had been hit harder than it had, Ellsbury's initial step sent him away from the ball. By the time Ellsbury recovered, sprinting toward the infield with Pedroia scrambling backward, the ball dropped between them, untouched.

Vladimir Guerrero followed with a soft liner to short that should have been the third out. Instead, starter Josh Beckett next surrendered a 423-foot two-run homer to Luke Scott and a solo belt by Adam Jones.

"I've got to limit the damage there," lamented Beckett. "Gotta make a better pitch to Scott."

But there was no getting away from the nagging feeling that the Red Sox should have, could have, been out of the jam without a run scoring.

"Obviously, that's a huge play," Terry Francona said of the ball that wasn't caught. "Any time you give extra outs . . . That ball was up there a long time. It's not an error. But you give them an extra opportunity and it turns out to be three runs.''

A still-frustrated Pedroia practically spat out his words.

"It's got to be caught," he said.

Asked if Ellsbury didn't see the ball well coming off the bat, Pedroia said: "I'm not sure. You'll have to ask him."

"The ball went up and I kind of broke back real quick," Ellsbury recounted. "I was playing him in the left-center gap. It was a split-second back and it fell in between us. We need to make that play for Josh."

In the eighth inning, Kevin Youkilis ripped a three-run homer to left-center to forge a 4-4 tie and suddenly, and it seemed like the fourth-inning mishap wouldn't be as crippling.

"We were scrambling and not doing much offensively,'' said Francona. "Then Youk hit the home run and we get to set-up man Daniel Bard and it's like, 'Let's go.' "

Except more breakdowns were on the way.

Bard allowed the first two hitters to reach in the bottom of the eighth. He then thought catcher Jason Varitek had called for a slider, when, in fact, Varitek had signaled for a fastball.

"We crossed up our signs," said Bard. "My mistake, not his. I didn't see the fingers he put down. I saw them wrong. He put down the right thing, but I saw 'breaking ball' and threw the wrong pitch."

Predictably, it got past Varitek and the wild pitch led to both runners advancing into scoring position.

Next, a sinker handcuffed Varitek "just enough, where I didn't have my glove turned on either side," said the catcher.

Nick Markakis, attempting to score from third, was cut down when Varitek scrambled to corral the ball and flipped it to Bard, whose foot blocked the plate from the oncoming baserunner.

"I'm thinking strikeout of Guerrero for the second out, and then find a way to get the next guy out," said Bard.

The Sox, however, still had Lee at third, and he rode home when Guerrero lined a pitch through the drawn-in infield.

Bard blamed himself for mislocating ("I was yanking the ball over the plate") on all three base hits that inning.

The defeat stung.

"Kind of a roller coaster," grumbled Francona. "It turned in a hurry for us. It's a tough loss . . . Hurts. That could have been an exciting win."

"It sucks," concluded Pedroia. "We want to win."

Harder to do, of course, when they're playing as they did Wednesday night.

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

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

bullpene1463957324143_3450k_1280x720_690675267713.jpg

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

The Boston Red Sox' worst fears with Carson Smith have been realized: The reliever needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

The Sox announced this morning that Smith will undergo the procedure today in New York.

Smith injured his elbow during spring training and was able to pitch in only three regular-season games after being activated on May 3. His loss will probably step up the team's efforts to acquire more bullpen help, as Smith was expected to reduce the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as set-ups for closer Craig Kimbrel. In the short term, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree will probably help in that role.

Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

red_sox_porcello_buccholz_kelly_052316.jpg

Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

BOSTON -- Avoiding the big inning isn’t just a major concern for Red Sox pitching, it is for all pitchers, at any level.

They can be used as benchmarks for a pitcher’s worth, given one’s ability to minimize the damage, and are in general big momentum shifters.

In each game of the Cleveland series Boston’s starting pitchers were presented with an inning that had potential on running awry.

And each handled it differently.

Joe Kelly took care of business. Rick Porcello minimized the damage and moved on. And, in typical fashion, Clay Buchholz didn’t do well -- even though he managed to log a quality start.

Kelly’s big inning came in his 30-pitch fifth inning, where he lost his perfect game bid -- and gave him no chance at completing the game -- with three walks.

But despite a lapse in control and pressure mounting with runners in scoring position, he held down the fort.

He was able to stay in them moment and work through his worst inning unscathed.

“[I] just got a little bit out of my mechanics and tempo from the stretch,” Kelly said on his fifth inning struggles following Saturday’s 9-1 win. “The pitches still felt good. The life on the fastball felt good [and] the breaking stuff felt sharp. It was just a matter not getting that timing down with my mechanics and just being a little bit to late on getting my arm extended.”

The following day Porcello took the mound and was off once again. John Farrell credited it to a lack of sink on Porcello’s go-to pitch, which is definitely a problem if that’s the case.

But there’s a lot to be said about a pitcher who doesn’t have his best pitch, yet still goes out and pitches a good game (even if it doesn’t get marked as a quality start).

And there’s even more value in the fact that on a bad day, Porcello can still get out of a jam.

“I was overthrowing and out of my game a little bit,” Porcello said on his rough second inning in Sunday’s 5-2 win. “In the third inning I just tried to get the ball down and get some quick outs.”

He also explained that he tries to simplify his approach in starts when he doesn’t have everything working.

“[You] just regroup mentally and battle through it,” Porcello said. “[I was] just trying to keep the balls in the ballpark and let the defense make the plays behind you like they did today.”

Kelly and Porcello set a positive tone to end the series with the Indians after Buchholz had proven that even the Quality Start statistic is misleading at times.

“The one pitch to [Jason] Kipnis is the difference in this one tonight,” John Farrell said following Buchholz’s start Friday. “What we’ve seen is when it’ been a home run, it’s probably been a walk that’s mixed in . . .The home runs are going to happen I think we all look at the base runners leading up to where he puts himself into a little bit of a corner where you don’t have much margin for error with men on base.

“And then there’s been a fastball that’s leaked back to the middle. And that was the case again tonight. He’s trying to crowd Kipnis and to keep the ball in on him and it ends up on the inner half. To me I don’t know if it’s focus, it’s a manner of falling behind in the count and the walks are factoring. We’re working to get him over that hump.”

The “one pitch” being the issue for Buchholz got him a pass for a few starts -- not to belittle the issue, it still is one -- but putting runners on in excess is the righty’s big problem.

He’s clearly still not comfortable throwing from the stretch (never mind bring the game to a screeching halt) and that needs to change. Fact is pitchers throw out of the stretch more often than not.

And going back to the “one pitch” being the problem. It seems more often than not that it’s Buchholz’s “front-door” two-seamer that is supposed to start at a lefty’s hip and scrape the inner edge of the plate.

But once again it wound up catching too much plate, even more barrel and parking itself in the outfield bleachers.

The question beckons, “When will he stop using that pitch so frequently?” It is absolutely a valuable weapon, but if Buchholz has to see that the risk-reward isn’t in his favor.

Regardless, Buchholz needs to take a page out of Kelly and Porcello’s book. Simplify to minimize the damage.

He might even get a standing ovation like Kelly and Porcello when they got pulled.