McAdam: Rangers a daunting playoff foe for Sox

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McAdam: Rangers a daunting playoff foe for Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With the playoffs on the near horizon and the prospect of a Division Series matchup with the Texas Rangers a distinct -- and sobering -- possibility for the Red Sox, much of the attention has been focused on the team's struggles with the Rangers.

The Sox are 0-4 against Texas this year, have lost 10 of 12 and, since the beginning of 2009, they are 6-17 against the Rangers.

This, surely, looks like a playoff opponent the Red Sox would like to avoid, especially given the fact that the team is even more helpless against C.J. Wilson (4-0, 1.08 in five career starts vs. Boston). Add in the fact that Wilson would pitch the series opener and that the last 16 Division Series winners all won Game 1, and the task is even more daunting for the Sox.

Of course, it should be noted that the lineup Terry Francona used Monday night in the 4-0 loss will not be anything like the one he'll (presumably) have for the playoffs. The Sox are, for the time being, without their leadoff hitter (Jacoby Ellsbury); cleanup hitter (Kevin Youkilis); and No. 5 hitter (David Ortiz). Should the teams meet again in the Division Series, it's a safe bet that Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald will not be hitting first and second. Rookie Ryan Lavarnway will not be the team's DH.

But beyond the short-term injury picture and the team's recent struggles with Texas, there are more ominous trends emerging.

The shutout suffered by the Sox Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was the ninth this season, an alarmingly high number for a team with the top-ranked offense in the game. Translated, that means about one of every 5.5 losses the team has suffered has been by shutout.

That figure is alarmingly high, even factoring in random slumps and loss of manpower due to injury.

(Taking that figure further, Monday was the 29th time the Red Sox had been held to under three runs, or, an average of once every 4.4 games.)

A second, equally disturbing trend is the team's inability to grind out wins against top starters.

Remember the last two seasons when the Red Sox seemed capable of beating any starter in either league? On one interleague swing in 2010, the Sox beat Ubaldo Jimenez -- at the time, the hottest pitcher in the game -- and Tim Lincecum in the span of only a few days.

Apart from their well-documented success against CC Sabathia this season, the Red Sox haven't been nearly so successful against top starting pitchers.

It's possible to count on one hand the number of times the Red Sox have beaten a front-line starter this year. They've had success against Tampa Bay's James Shields and (before last week) David Price, and have won two games started by Seattle's Felix Hernandez.

But what do Tampa Bay and Seattle have in common? They are, statistically speaking, two of the weakest offensive clubs in the American League, often unable to provide much run support for their starters.

That's not the case with Texas, which can support Wilson (and others in the starting rotation) with some muscle. The same goes for Detroit and Justin Verlander, another potential first-round opponent.

Beyond their success against Sabathia, the Red Sox have shown little evidence that they can beat front-of-the-rotation starters who receive at least moderate run support.

That doesn't bode well for October when, by definition, the quality of the starting pitching improves and lineups must grind out wins in low-scoring games.

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

Carrabis: Not impressed by anyone else in A.L. East

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Carrabis: Not impressed by anyone else in A.L. East

Mike Felger grills Jared Carrabis on if he thinks the Boston Red Sox lead in the division will last the season and also why David Price has struggled so far this season.

Quotes, notes and stars: Farrell sticks with Price

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Quotes, notes and stars: Farrell sticks with Price

BOSTON – Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Yankees:

 

QUOTES

“I was talking to Chili Davis before he got to the mound, so I was trying to get a fastball.” - Christian Vazquez said on his game plan against Dellin Betances before he hit his go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh.

“He was still in good shape in terms of the number of pitches thrown. It didn’t seem like his stuff was backing up . . . I thought he was still strong . . . We knew what Alex had done in the previous couple of at-bats, but I just went out to check with him.” - John Farrell on his decision to leave David Price in the seventh to face Alex Rodriguez after he’d hit a home run and double in consecutive at-bats.

“I appreciate him leaving me out there in that situation against a guy that [had] hit the ball well against me twice . . . For them to stick with me today I really appreciate it.” - Price on Farrell leaving him in against Rodriguez in the seventh.

“He’d started me off with first pitch breaking ball both times. I was having a hard time picking it up all day. So I thought, let’s see if he does it again – and he threw it again.” - Travis Shaw on his two-run home run off Nathan Eovaldi in the fifth inning.

 

NOTES

* Of Travis Shaw’s 16 career home runs, seven have been on the first pitch. All three of his home runs against the Yankees have either tied the game or given Boston the lead.

* Both of Christian Vazquez’s career home runs have been two-run, tie-breaking shots at Fenway, with the other one coming in September of 2014.

* With his single to the left side in his second at-bat, Jackie Bradley, Jr. extends his hitting streak to eight games.

* Boston has stolen 22 bases in 24 attempts. The 2016 group is only the second Red Sox team in the last 20 years to steal as many as 22 bases in the first 25 games (2013 being the other team).

* Nathan Eovaldi notched three strikeouts, snapping his 6+ strikeout streak at eight games. He was tied with Rick Porcello for the longest active streak.

 

STARS

1) Christian Vazquez

His second career home run gave Boston the lead and insurance it needed.

2) Travis Shaw

After striking out twice against New York’s starter, Travis Shaw hit a no-doubt two-run homer to tie the game at 6-6.

3) Alex Rodriguez

After missing out on an RBI opportunity in his first at-bat, the Yankees’ DH took advantage of two big mistakes by David Price, blasting a homer and a double, knocking in three runs in the process.

First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

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First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

First Impressions from the Red Sox' 8-7 victory over the Yankees.

 

All of a sudden, David Price is having issues at Fenway.

When the Sox signed Price last December, they cited his past

success in their home ballpark (1.95 ERA) as evidence that he could thrive here. But six starts into his Red Sox career, his three worst starts have come here. He's pitched 22 2/3 innings and allowed 21 earned runs.

Even stranger is that so much damage was done by Alex Rodriguez, who previously had compiled a .237 career average against Price with just one homer in 57 at-bats.

 

It's highly unusual for John Farrell to go to the mound and not take the starting pitcher out.

But that's what happened in the top of the seventh. David Price was in the mid-90s with his pitch count and Rodriguez -- who had homered and doubled off Price in his previous two at-bats -- was due. It seemed obvious that Price was coming out of the game.

Instead, Price was left in and grounded out to second to end the inning. It says something about Farrell's trust in Price - or Price's powers of persuasion -- that the lefty stayed in the game.

 

Credit Travis Shaw with making some in-game adjustments.

In his first two at-bats against New York starter Nathan Eovaldi, Shaw struck out twice. Both times, Eovaldi started him off with a curve ball.

But when Eovaldi tried it again in the fifth, Shaw hammered the pitch deep into the right field seats for a two-run homer.

 

The Red Sox bullpen far outshone that of the Yankees in this series.

In the three games just played, Boston relievers tossed seven shutout innings in the series, while Yankees' righthander Dellin Betances twice yielded two-run homers to cost the Yanks both games.

 

Dustin Pedroia insists he's not focusing on hitting the ball the other way, but the results suggest otherwise.

Pedroia banged out three singles Sunday night and all three were hit to right. On the current homestand, Pedroia has a total of eight hits; five were hit to right field.