McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future

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McAdam: Low-scoring wins key to Sox future

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
As bad as the Red Sox' offense has been of late -- no more than four runs scored in each of their last seven games -- some context is important here.

The Sox still have the second-best record in the American League and only three teams in all of Major League Baseball have more wins.

The offensive dip is partly attributed to the stretch of games in N.L. parks where the Sox must play without their DH and some injuries which have impacted the lineup's depth.

Those are temporary shortcomings.

"It's the way the season is, man," said John Lackey, who would have won with better run support Wednesday. "You play 162 games and it goes in runs in both directions. You can't expect to get 12 every night. Things happen. We've got a great offense and they'll be back soon."

But here's the troubling aspect of the recent swoon, indeed, the red flag that has existed since the start of the season: the Red Sox seem wholly incapable of winning close, low-scoring games -- exactly the kind of games teams have to win in September and in the post-season.

Sure, the Sox have 45 wins. But many of them have come when they've clubbed the opposition into submission, as they did recently when they reached double figures in run scored six times in the span of 12 games.

But know how many games the Red Sox have won scoring three runs or fewer in 2011? Four, or, roughly once every three weeks.

Contrast that with the Phillies, owners of the best record in either league, who won four of those low-scoring games in the first 18 games of the season and have won a staggering 17 games in which they didn't score more than three runs.

That, too, requires context. The Phillies were built around their starting rotation, which features, arguably, three of the best 10 starters in the game -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Moreover, they play in the National League, where offenses are nearly as potent, and, as the Red Sox would be only too eager to point out, they don't have to face a DH.

But that huge discrepancy reflects how different these teams are and how harder it is for the Sox to win when they don't hit.

"You know how it is," said Dustin Pedroia. "When we all get together and swing the bats well, we score a lot of runs. When we don't, we're not going to score a lot. We've got to do a better job of, when we're not all swinging it well, finding ways to score runs."

And that's at the heart of the matter. The Sox aren't going to always be the offensive juggernaut they were at times in May and June. There are going to be stretches like the first three weeks of the season, and more recently, the last 10 days, when they have to figure ways to win without scoring seven or eight runs.

Maybe the Sox are too powerful for their own good, so dependent on big innings and extra-base hits that they can't find a way to play small ball and win pitching duels.

Maybe it's not realistic that a team with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez can eek out low-scoring victories.

Other good teams seem to have figured it out. If the Red Sox don't, eventually it's going to cost them.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels ofAnaheim

Quotes:

"I tried to get two (outs) before I got one. That can't happen." - Hanley Ramirez on his throwing error which cost the Red Sox the game.

"Executing pitches - that's the name of the game." - David Price on improvement he showed from his last start.

"Fourth time through the order, middle of the lineup. . . Price had done his job. In a one-run game, we felt it was best to start a clean inning with a reliever." - John Farrell after lifting David Price after eight innings and 108 pitches.

Notes:

* Reliever Brad Ziegler was charged with the loss for the second straight game.

* Each of the last seven Red Sox losses has been by one or two runs.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 31 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox four-game losing streak is their longest of the season.

* The Sox are now 9-23 in their last 32 meetings with the Angels.

* David Price did not allow a run for the second time this season.

Stars:

1) David Price

After a stretch of shaky outings, Price did his job with eight scoreless innings, getting 14 outs on groundouts while walking just one.

2) Jered Weaver

At times, the radar gun made Weaver's pitches look like softball offerings. But mixing junk, he held the Sox to a single run over 5 1/3 innings

3) Mookie Betts

He had just one hit - single in the eighth - but his sacrifice fly in the third produced the only run of the night.

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

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First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1) David Price pitched in the truest sense

Price wasn't necessarily overpowering with only six strikeouts in eight innings, but he succeeded in keeping the ball down in the zone, resulting in a ton of groundouts.

In eight innings, the Angels produced just two fly outs to the outfield, both of them routine.

Otherwise, Price deftly mixed his changeup, slider and two-seamer to produce ground balls. His location was more precise and he induced weak contact in at-bat after at-bat.

2) The danger of a closer like Brad Ziegler was on display

The throwing error by Hanley Ramirez resulted in two runs scoring but Ziegler allowed three base hits to set the stage.

Ziegler doesn't get a lot of swing-and-miss with his sinker; what he gets is a lot of balls put in play. When things are going well, that results in groundouts; when they're not, it means baserunners and strange things happening.

As inconsistent as Craig Kimbrel has been in some non-save situations, he at least has the ability to record strikeouts and keep balls out of play.  That's not the case with Zieger, as the Red Sox learned the hard way in Anaheim Thursday night.

3) The Red Sox wisely took advantage of Jered Weaver on the bases

Weaver's high leg kick and reliance on off-speed pitches make for a slow delivery time to the plate. Dustin Pedroia would have easily stole second in the first but made the mistake of going into his slide too far ahead of the bag, and though initially ruled safe, was deemed out after a replay challenge.

In the sixth, Xander Bogaerts, was more successful in his stolen base. Neither steal led to a run, but the Sox did put some additional pressure on Weaver