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: 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.

First impressions: Benintendi injured in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Benintendi injured in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

The injury to Andrew Benintendi looked ominous.

Benintendi's left leg buckled as he tried to elude a tag on the bases in the seventh inning. He left the game with the help of two trainers, hobbling badly.

The Sox later announced that Benintendi suffered a left knee sprain, and will be further evaluated Thursday.

It's impossible to determine how serious the injury is. The prognosis could be anywhere from a few days, to, potentially, a season-ending issue.

Regardless, it's a blow to the Sox, who clearly have benefited from Benintendi's athleticism and energy in the three weeks since he's been promoted from Double A.

 

Rick Porcello is gobbling up innings in the second half.

Porcello gave the Sox 7 2/3 innings Wednesday night, allowing three runs. It marked the sixth straight start in which Porcello provided the Sox with a minimum of seven innings.

Through the end of June, Porcello had pitched seven or more innings just four times. Since the start of July, he's done it seven times -- and came within an out of doing it in another start.

Porcello also extended his streak of pitching at least five innings to 34 straight starts, dating back almost a calendar year to Aug. 26 of last year. Of those 34, he's pitched at least six in 31 of those.

In fact, Porcello leads the majors in innings pitched since that streak began.

 

David Ortiz continues to amaze

In the first inning, Ortiz walloped a pitch into the right field seats for his 30th homer, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead three batters into the game.

The homer was significant beyond that, too. With it, Ortiz reached two milestones -- 30 homers and 100 RBI for the season.

It marked the fourth straight season in which Ortiz has reached both, and it also marked the 10th time as a member of the Sox that he had hit both plateaus.

The homer also meant that Ortiz is now the oldest player - at 40 years, 280 days old -- to hit 30 homers in a season. And finally, it gave Ortiz 100 RBI seasons with the Sox, passing Ted Williams, with whom he had shared the record of nine.

And, remarkably, there's more than a month left in the season to add on to those achievements.