McAdam: Sox' littlest man comes up big

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McAdam: Sox' littlest man comes up big

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As Thursday night's game inched along, the game took on a numbing sameness. Each inning seemed to end the same way: with a Red Sox baserunner -- or, as was often the case, several -- stranded, representing one more lost opportunity to take the opener of their series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The 2-0 lead they had built was lost on a single pitch, the lone mistake Josh Beckett would make, and as extra innings beckened, then arrived, increasingly, it appeared as thought the Sox would squander not only Beckett's otherwise brilliant outing, but the game itself as well.

They left runners in scoring position in first, second, third, fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. They left the bases loaded in the eighth.

Then, as these kind of games often do, it quickly turned on several small moments, resulting in a 4-2, extra-inning victory for the Red Sox, their second in a row on the road and fifth win overall in the last six games.

Unsurprisingly, Dustin Pedroia was in the middle of it all.

Small hero. Big spot. Huge win.

First, Pedroia executed a near-perfect relay throw to third to cut down Erick Aybar, foolishly attempting to turn his eighth-inning leadoff liner into the right-field corner from a double into a triple.

Pedroia took the throw from outfielder J.D. Drew on the right-field grass, then pivoted and fired a one-hop bullet to Jed Lowrie, who slapped a tag on Aybar.

Rather than have the potential winning run in scoring position, the Angels had one out and zero momentum. And they had Pedroia to thank.

"Ive said this about Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, said Terry Francona. The Yankees want him to have something to do with the outcome of the game. Thats how we feel about Pedey, whether its offensively, defensively . . . hes a great player. But you see the best of him when the game is close and on the line.

Aybar, one of the fastest players in the league, used his speed to accelerate as he hit the second-base bag and then shifted into another gear as he headed for third.

Pedroia, of course, was prepared.

"We've played against these guys for a while,'' said Pedroia. "They're very aggressive and they run the bases well. It took a perfect play to get him.''

The execution, of course, was spot-on. But it was the preparation that made it happen.

"That's not just execution,'' said Francona. "There's a lot of will there, too.''

"That's why,'' explained Pedroia, ''in spring training, I don't screw around with that. I don't go 50 percent.''

Pedroia wasn't through either. After extricating the Sox from that jam, he singled in the top of the 11th, sending J.D. Drew to third with no out and Adrian Gonzalez at bat.

Gonzalez took a high cut fastball from Rich Thompson and turned on it, lacing a double into the right field corner which scored Drew and gave the Sox a one-run lead.

With the Angels' infield in, Gonzalez got caught breaking for third on an infield grounder behind the mound as Marco Scutaro reached and Pedroia was forced to remain at third.

Darnell McDonald followed with a hot shot to third, and Pedroia, going on contact, realized he would be an easy out at the plate. Halfway home, he quickly reversed direction as catcher Hank Conger returned a throw to Maicer Izturis.

Pedroia seemed to be caught again, but he neatly twisted away from Isturis's swipe and scampered back safelt into third. When Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly to center, Pedroia scored a critical insurance run.

"You can lose a game like that in this ballpark very easily,'' said Francona, taking note of the Angels' athleticism and aggressiveness.

Of course, it becomes a lot easier to win them when your smallest player comes up big.

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 326 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.