McAdam: It's a start for the Sox

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McAdam: It's a start for the Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK - There were, of course, no celebrations or back-slapping in the Red Sox clubhouse late Sunday night.

True, the Red Sox had finished off a sweep of the New York Yankees, capped by a 7-5 victory, a win which left them with a 20-20 record and enabled them to reach the elusive .500 mark.

But for a team established as the consensus favorite in the division, burnished with a 165 million payroll, this was no monumental achievement. Rather than letting loose with a congratulatory cheer, the night called for a sigh of relief.

"It actually feels good," said Terry Francona with a slight hint of self-consciousness. "This is not really what our goal is. But we're making strides. We played a good series."

Mediocrity, at last.

And yet, however modest the accomplishment, it hadn't been easy.

Three times previously, they had been within a game of .500, only to lose the next game, as if the break-even point was some carrot at the end of a stick they could not quite grasp.

When they tripped over themselves at the start, going 0-6 en route to a 2-10 record, Francona warned it would take some time to clean up the mess they had made. But surely not even Francona thought that it would take more than six weeks.

In a sense, the Sox had spent the first month-and-a-half running uphill, a sort of extended spring training. They were fortunate that no one in the division sprinted too far ahead, allowing them to keep within three games of first place in the American League East.

As they had last month, the Yankees had served as a catalyst -- rather than an obstacle - for the Red Sox. Typically, these series bring out the best in both teams, but in two series now, the meetings have boosted only the Red Sox, who have dominated their rivals, winning five of six.

"It's definitely a positive," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who chipped in with two hits, including his first homer of the season, Sunday night. "But we can't focus on trying to get to .500 or trying to get through this week. We've got to focus on the next game.

"I think that's what we tried to do too early. We thought about what we were going to do, instead of just going out there and playing. That's what we starting to do - play game-by-game."

The schedule offers them an opportunity. Thirteen of the next 20 games are at Fenway, and of those 20, just nine of those are against teams with winning records.

Now would be a good time for the Sox to go on the kind of roll they experienced in late April - when they went 8-1- and build some actual progress.

Not that they are without some remaining issues. Until back-end starters John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka gain some consistency, it will be difficult to sustain any forward momentum.

And it would help for the offense to begin fully clicking, enough to at least occasionally overcome some less-than-quality outings from their starters. To date, the Sox have averaged slightly less than 4.5 runs per game, hardly the kind of powerhouse attack they expected.

Still, as they packed for home, there was the feeling that, at last, they were ready to engage. Like back-of-the-pack marathoners, they had taken a long time just to reach the starting line.

"It's not what we're shooting for," emphasized Francona of the break-even point. "But we're coming. We're getting better."

Much later than expected, it should be noted. But better, nonetheless.

Forty games in, it's a start.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"It's one of those freak things. You don't plan on it happening, but it's one of those things. So we'll just see what the results say and move on from there.'' - Andrew Benintendi on his knee injury.

"That's kind of a routine 3-1 play. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when you've got two outs and a guy on the move. But that's a routine play.'' - John Farrell on the deciding play in which Heath Hembree couldn't hold onto the ball at first.

"I felt good. I felt strong.I felt good out there the whole game.'' - Rick Porcello, asked how he felt going back out for the eighth inning.

"I think everybody in the ballpark knew that that ball was leaving.'' - Porcello, on the hanging curveball to Evan Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The loss snapped a five-game winning streak against the Rays for the Red Sox.

* Three of the four Red Sox walk-off losses this season have occurred because of errors.

* The homer by Evan Longoria was his first off Rick Porcello in 40 career at-bats.

* Rick Porcello has now pitched seven innings or more in six straight starts, the longest run for a Red Sox starter since John Lackey did it in 2013.

* David Ortiz is now the oldest player to ever hit 30 homers in a season

* Ortiz has now reached the 30-homer, 100-RBI level 10 times with the Red Sox, including the last four years in a row.

* The loss was the first of Heath Hembree's career, in his 67th major league appearance.

* Dustin Pedroia tied a career high with two stolen bases, the 12th time he's swiped two bases in the same game.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

The Rays were down to their final five outs when Longoria struck, hitting a game-tying homer off Rick Porcello.

2) Brad Miller

Miller's two-run double in the third enabled the Rays to stay close until Longoria's homer tied things up five innings later.

3) Rick Porcello

Porcello gave the Sox length and was brilliant in getting out of some early jams before settling in through the middle innings.

 

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Dan Shaughnessy joins Sports Tonight to discuss Rick Porcello giving up a game-tying homerun in the 8th, and explains why John Farrell has been very unlucky with any decision he makes.