McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

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McAdam: A second-guesser's delight

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - It was a game, naturally, that seemed to have an endless number of turning points, and, correspondingly, innumerable opportunities to second-guess strategy.

If you could stay awake long enough to watch the Red Sox' maddening 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels Thursday morning, you could pick apart a dozen or so plays or sequences or moves.

We'll keep it to a three.

Twice, Terry Francona lifted middle-of-the-order hitters for pinch-runners.

In the eighth, after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a swinging bunt (which scored the first Boston run) and took second on reliever Fernando Rodney's throwing error, Francona lifted him for pinch-runner Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro got to third when Kevin Youkilis lined a hard single to left, but was stranded there when David Ortiz flied to center.

That left Scutaro, hitting .197 when the game began, hitting in the third spot in the order. His spot would comeup two more times when the Sox would have liked Gonzalez's bat there. But that's the tradeoff made for the short-term gain in speed on the basepaths.

Ironically, Scutaro made the biggest out of the game when he was cut down at the plate in the 12th trying to score from first on a Wall double from Kevin Youkilis with one out.

It took a perfect relay, but left fielder Vernon Wells to shortstop Erick Aybar to catcher Jeff Mathis did the trick.

"We were all on the top step of the dugout, thinking maybe we'd get to go home," said Francona. "It turns out we didn't."

Also, Francona chose to lift Ortiz for Darnell McDonald in the 10th after Ortiz worked a two-out walk.

McDonald would get stranded at home in that inning, then came up in the 12th after Scutaro was thrown out at home. He got an infield single, moving Youkilis to third, but Jed Lowrie grouding out to first for the final out of the inning.

Mike Cameron seemed to be overly aggressive in the ninth, though his manager absolved him of any blame after the game.

Cameron was on first and Jed Lowrie was on second with no outs when Jordan Walden tossed a wild pitch. As catcher Hank Conger scrambled to get the ball, Lowrie took off for third and Cameron for second.

Conger threw to third hoping to get Lowrie, but the ball got past third baseman Alberto Callaspo and struck third-base umpire John Hirchbeck on the foot, with the ball tricking to short.

That was enough for Lowrie to score. But Cameron, motoring from second, was thrown out sliding into the bag for the first out of the inning. And though it's
impossible to think that the inning would have unfolded the exact same way had Cameron eithe been safe or remained in scoring position at second, the out seemed more costly when Carl Crawford followed with a double to left-center.

"I thought their guy shortstop Erick Aybar made a pretty good play,'' said Francona. "He's running, full-speed, barehands it . . . when that ball goes by third, Cam's going. It's unfortunate because if it doesn't hit the umpire, it probably rolls into the corner.

"Again, it's unfortunate, but it's hard to blame Cam for running right there. The result was terrible. I don't second-guess what he was doing. Aybar ended up making a pretty good play.''

In the ninth, Hideki Okajima began his third inning of relief, having come into the game with one out in the seventh.

Appearing to tire, Okajima gave up back-to-back hits, putting runners on the corners.

Francona opted for Tim Wakefield from the bullpen when hard-throwing Daniel Bard might have been the more logical choice.

Wakefield walked Peter Bourjos to fill the bases, then allowed a sacrifice fly to Aybar.

Had Bard came in there, he might have been able to get Aybar on a strtkeout, keeping what was then an insurance run off the board.

Then again, knowing that Bobby Jenks (arm cramp) was unavailable, Francona knew he would have to use his relievers sparingly, holding Bard out until the 11th and, as it turned out, 12th inning, too.

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

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

While some reports nationally have the Red Sox in search of a dramatic deal in the run-up to next Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski hardly sounded like someone seeking a blockbuster to improve his club.

"I'm not necessarily looking to make something significant,'' said Dombrowski, ''because we've already added. We have five solid starters. Could they be better? If we have five All-Stars, we're better. But we have five guys we like. Our offense is the best in baseball as far as run production is concerned. Could we better? Sure. Will we be open-minded? Sure. But I don't see that there's a driving force (to do something).''

Certainly, there seem to be plenty of interested trade partners, as Dombrowski revealed that on Monday alone, the Sox received five different trade proposals that they hadn't received before.

"So that's why this time is year is interesting,'' said Dombrowski. "We also have some very good young players in our organization, so some teams are looking for those players. And I can say we're not close to making any trades right now.''

If the Sox have an area of weakness at this point, it's the bullpen, thanks to a season-ending injury to Carson Smith, a long-term injury for Koji Uehara and the current DL stint for closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I think our bullpen will be fine,'' Dombrowski predicted. "We're dealing with a tough situation, for the simple fact that we've had a lot of injuries. (Junichi) Tazawa's up and he's back and pretty much getting to the point where he can get back to his normal routine. Kimbrel threw the ball very well today; I wouldn't be surprised if he joined us relatively soon.

"So all of a sudden, you've got (Matt) Barnes, (Brad) Ziegler, we brought up (Joe) Kelly, (Robbie) Ross has thrown the ball very well for us. Can it be better? Sure. You listen to anything at this point. But. . . I know people keep saying 'They've got to add somebody, they've gotta add somebody.' But they forget that we're getting Kimbrel back and we just got Tazawa back.

"You look at it and if those two guys weren't back. My answer would be yes, we need to do something. But I think we're more in a position where we're open-minded but it's not a necessity.''

Some teams have called on Clay Buchholz, currently relegated to a mop-up role in the bullpen. But Dombrowski said Buchholz still has value to the Sox.

"He's real good protection for us (in the rotation),'' he said. "I thought he threw the ball the other day as well as I've seen him throw it all year. And I know, if you just looked at the stats, you'd say, 'He didn't do very well.' Unfortunately, we missed a couple of balls that were catchable. I thought his stuff was outstanding so he's got a place to help us.''

 

Farrell: Sox may have to manage Betts' knee condition for rest of season

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Farrell: Sox may have to manage Betts' knee condition for rest of season

BOSTON -- After missing two-and-a-half games due to soreness in his right knee, Mookie Betts was back in the lineup for the Red Sox Monday night.

Betts was removed from Friday night's game after four innings when he experienced soreness in the knee. The knee had been bothering him since the beginning of the second half of the season.

The training staff drained some excess fluid from the knee Saturday, reducing the swelling that had taken place.

"I was able to run at full speed [Monday],'' said Betts. "We were able to get the swelling out with ice and whatnot. I tried to stay off of it (for the weekend).''

"He feels better than he has the last couple of days,'' said John Farrell.

Farrell said the Sox might have manage the condition for the rest of the season.

"I don't fully expect this to vanish,'' said Farrell. "The biggest thing is that there was a little buildup of swelling. Once that subsided and was removed, that's where he's feeling the freedom in his knee and he's ready to go tonight.''