McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

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McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- Slumping teams need to catch a break occasionally. But the way the Red Sox are going in the first week of 2011, they seem incapable of either making their own good luck, or knowing what to do with it when they get some.

Case in point: the sixth inning of Wednesday's 8-4 debacle at Progressive Field.

It was bad enough that Dennys Reyes, making his fourth appearance in the first five games, couldn't find the strike zone. He threw 12 pitches, and 11 for were balls. Of the three hitters he faced, two were hit by pitch and the third was walked.

Walked while he was trying to get a bunt down. Walked while he was trying to, quite literally, give the Red Sox an out.

Then, things went from bad to downright bizarre.

Dan Wheeler, on in relief of Reyes, got Michael Brantley to hit a liner right at -- more or less -- third baseman Kevin Youkils.

That's when the craziness began.

"It's one of those plays where, if you catch the ball, it's bases loaded still," recounted Youkilis. "You try that play a lot of times where you drop the ball on purpose. Sometimes it works. Usually they call it a dead ball. But right there, we almost had it worked out."

Like teammate J.D. Drew, who last year couldn't quite make up his mind on whether to catch a ball in foul territory or let it drop with a runner on third, Youkilis seemed to be indecisive.

At first, Youkilis thought he would drop the liner intentionally. But as the ball began to tail to his glove side as it got closer, Youkilis was caught in between. The ball -- intentionally or not -- fell out of his glove, creating chaos everywhere.

Youkilis scooped up the ball a few feet away and stepped on third base, creating a force play on Matt LaPorta, advancing to third. He then fired home to Jason Varitek, who was waiting to make a play on Travis Buck, the Cleveland runner breaking from third.

One problem: Varitek didn't see that Youkilis had stepped on the third-base bag, thus taking the force off a home. When Youkilis's throw arrived, Varitek merely stepped on home plate, thinking he had recorded an out.

In fact, he hadn't. Buck continued and crossed the plate, giving the Indians a two-run cushion.

"I didn't yell to Varitek to tag Buck," said Youkilis. "I guess Adrian Gonzalez was yelling at him from first base, but it was loud and all that, because the play was kind of crazy. It was just one of those things where it didn't work out."

"Obviously, I had no idea Youkilis had stepped on third," said Varitek. "I'm still trying to learn that one right now. I should have gone ahead and tagged him also. We were trying to secure an out and get the one out at the plate, but the way the ball richoched and where it was, I just never saw it. It was totally my fault.

"It's probably the weirdest play I've ever been a part of. I'm trying to learn what what I could have done different, besides, obviously, tagging him. But I didn't actually see the play."

Things then snowballed. Wheeler threw a sinker to Asdrubal Cabrera, about where he wanted it, but Cabrera went down and drove it out to right for a back-breaking, morale-sapping three run homer.

From down by a run when the inning began, the Sox were suddenly trailing by five, with another loss as their pennance.

"We've had a lot of different things happen," said Varitek in a bit of understatement.

Indeed, starting pitching was the culprit in the first two losses, with the punchless offense to blame for the next two.

Wednesday night, it was poor bullpen work and an uncharacteristic flubby one of the team's most fundamentally sound players.

One bad inning, one more bad loss. One they could hardly afford.

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

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.

 

Expect Red Sox call-ups to come in two waves when rosters expand

Expect Red Sox call-ups to come in two waves when rosters expand

BOSTON - On Thursday, rosters will expand for major league teams, enabling them to add as many as 15 more players -- if they so choose.

The Sox, of course, won't be adding nearly that many. In fact, they'll probably only promote three or so players by Sept. 1, with additional players added after minor league seasons end on Labor Day.

The Sox call-ups will come in two waves. A look at who might be called up and when.

FOR FRIDAY: (the Red Sox are off Thursday)

* catcher Ryan Hanigan

* reliever Joe Kelly

* outfielder Bryce Brentz.

Hanigan is finishing up a rehab assignment and will provide the Sox with a third catcher, enabling John Farrell to either pinch-hit or pinch-run for one of his two catchers (Bryan Holaday and Sandy Leon) without worrying that he's putting himself in a potential bind.

Kelly would give the Red Sox another swing-and-miss bullpen option, though he's yet to establish himself as big league reliever.

Meanwhile Brentz would give the Sox another outfield option with the injury to Andrew Benintendi and further free up Brock Holt for infield duties.

FOR TUESDAY: (Day after International League season ends):

* reliever Heath Hembree

* infielder Deven Marrero

* reliever Noe Ramirez

Hembree has been effective in spurts and could offer some match-up options against righthanded hitters.

Marrero was a September call-up last year and could be a late-inning defensive replacement for Travis Shaw at third, or spell Xander Bogaerts at short if the Sox want to rest Bogaerts in one-sided games.

In the bullpen, Ramirez would serve as a long man in games in which a starter is knocked out early.

 

Davis Mega Maze unveils corn maze tribute to David Ortiz

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Davis Mega Maze unveils corn maze tribute to David Ortiz

STERLING, Mass. -- Nothing quite measures up to the latest tribute to retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

A corn maze dedicated to the player known as Big Papi was unveiled at a ceremony Tuesday in Sterling, Massachusetts.

Ortiz had a message for his legions of fans at the unveiling: "I love corn."

The 8-acre maze was created by Davis Mega Maze and features a cornstalk rendering of Ortiz's trademark home run pose of pointing two fingers to the sky. It's accompanied by the phrase "Thanks Big Papi."

The maze opens to the public on Saturday.

Davis Mega Maze has been carving a different design into the field every year for about 20 years. This year marks the first time a living celebrity has been featured.