McAdam: Sox win with pitching -- imagine that!

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McAdam: Sox win with pitching -- imagine that!

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
For much of the season, the Red Sox have been so busy beating other teams into submission that the notion of winning game with their pitching seemed almost quaint.

This, despite having a rotation full of high-profile -- to say nothing of high-salaried -- starters. Often in the first three months, the starters were the recipients of such powerful offensive backing that they became almost afterthoughts. It may be too strong to suggest that the Sox were winning in spite of their pitching, but surely they often won independent of their pitching.

Of late, however, the offense has sputtered thanks to a cocktail of injuries (Carl Crawford, Jed Lowrie); interleague play and the absence of the DH; and plain old law of averages.

It didn't help that the Sox began treating the notion of putting Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield (to accommodate David Ortiz) as an exercise as fraught with as much danger as navigating a tightrope over shark-infested waters.

Suddenly the same team that had amassed double figures in runs six times in the spam of a dozen games as recently as mid-June was now desperate for a run, any runs.

Entering Thursday, Red Sox position players had not driven in a single run in the previous 20 innings.

What to do, what to do?

Enter Lester, who had the crazy notion of beating the Phils at their own game. Before Thursday, exactly one-third of Philadelphia's victories had come in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.

And beyond the desire to snap a two-game losing streak and avoid being swept, Thursday seemed as good a time as any to lean on the rotation since the lineup was missing both Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and feature Darnell McDonald hitting second and Jason Varitek hitting fifth.

Leater was brilliant on the early going. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth and by the end of the sixth had permitted just two baserunners.

(It should be duly notes that the Sox were aided by Gonzalez's smoking liner back to the mound with one out in the fourth which struck Cole Hamels on the right hand and forced him from the game the following inning).

Lester insisted that he didn't approach the start with the idea of singlehandedly beating the Phils.

"Obviously you want to have a quality start," said Lester, "and go out there and battle and not give up a lot of runs. But you can't worry about losing streaks or anything like that. You just have to go out and execute pitches."

Which he did, again and again.

"Jonny held on and kept us in the game long enough," said Jason Varitek. "Jonny was the story."

Eventually, the offense provided enough, albeit from some unlikely sources. Varitek slammed two solo homers and Drew Sutton and Marco Scutaro contributed four hits between them.

Still, for a change, this one was all about the starter.

Winning with pitching -- what a concept.

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

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

* Rick Porcello doesn't seem like a weak link in the rotation now.

Porcello blanked the Yankees for seven innings and is now 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA for the season. For the fourth time in five outings, he pitched into the seventh innings.

The Yankees threatened only once - in the fifth, when they had runners at the corners and two out. But Porcello got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, stranding two and was never in trouble again.

Porcello's command is improved over a year ago. In his first five starts last year, covering 30 innings, he walked 10. This year, he's pitched 32 2/3 innings and issued just five walks.

* Jackie Bradley is swinging it like he did last August.

Bradley went on an extra-base tear late last summer, rocketing doubles, triples and homers for a stretch of a few weeks that was completely unexpected.

The last week has been like that stretch, with seven extra-base hits in the last seven games. He knocked in the first run of the night with a double to left, then delivered another in the sixth with a triple to the triangle and two more in the seventh with a triple into the right field corner.

In the two games against the Yankees, he's got four extra-base hits, a walk and five RBI.

* David Ortiz has started 20 games this season. He's knocked in 19 runs.

Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights, to go along with a single and walk.

It's doubtful that he's going to keep up his RBI-per-game pace, but when he's locked in the way he is now, he impacts virtually the entire lineup from the cleanup position.

* If you think Pablo Sandoval was bad, maybe you haven't been watching Chase Headley.

The Yankee third baseman was a free agent the same winter that Sandoval was and some argued that he would have been a better fit for the Sox than was Panda.

But 22 games into the 2016 season, Headley has yet to collect a single base hit and has an OPS of .405. He's hitting .153 and has virtually no range to speak of at third base.

* A lot has changed for Junichi Tazawa.

A year ago, Tazawa was overworked in the first half of the season. On Saturday night, he got an inning of work in the ninth in a blowout game because he hadn't pitched since last Sunday -- thanks to strong starting efforts from the rotation over the past two series.

Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

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Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

David Ortiz has hit 507 career homers during the regular season. Some of them have won games. Some have come in extra innings, sending the Red Sox to immediate victory.

But it's doubtful that Ortiz has hit a homer that's meant more to an individual fan than the one he hit Friday night against the New York Yankees.

Former teammate Kevin Millar told Ortiz about a young boy named Maverick who has been battling a life-threatening illness. The two sent Maverick a video before Friday's night game that closed with Ortiz pointing to the camera and saying: "I'm going to hit a home run for you!''

Then, in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox and Yankees tied 2-2, Ortiz did just that, driving a first-pitch curveball from New York reliever Dellin Betances into the Monster Seats in left field.

"I would say this is just God putting his hands on things like that,'' Ortiz said, "because we all know that it is not that easy to come through like that. I've been able to get things done like that on a few different occasions. I guess I've been lucky.

"I would say God is the one who takes over this stuff.''

Said manager John Farrell: "It's a storybook situation. You can say that the legend of David Ortiz is far-reaching. I don't know if players fully understand their impact and how far-reaching their impact can be. But to have it play out like that is really a cool thing.''

Ortiz recalled a similar situation from a few years ago, when he visited a young girl dealing with brain damage at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"When she got a little better,'' Ortiz recalled, "she came to Fenway and we celebrated her birthday here in the family room. We lit up some candles with the cake, sang Happy Birthday to her and that day I told her I was going to hit a home run for her. And I ended up doing it.''

Once the game began, Ortiz was focused on his at-bats. The fact that he was facing Betances in the eighth inning, against whom he was 0-for-7 lifetime with four strikeouts, didn't make it any easier.

"Everyone knows how good Betances has been through his career,'' Ortiz said. "When things like that happen, it makes you believe that there's something special out there that we should believe in.''

Ortiz said he wasn't focused on hitting the homer during the game.

"Listen, the promise is not a guarantee,'' he said. "This is baseball. This is not, 'I'm going to shoot a free throw' when no one's playing defense on you. Or 'I'm Steph Curry and I'm going to shoot a three-pointer.' You know that's going to happen regardless. This is baseball. What you're trying to do was make Maverick feel better, have that connection with him. And you throw that out there to make sure he has a friend that he can count on right here.

"But while the game is going on, I'm not thinking about it, to be honest with you. But I can get away with it because I'm a power hitter and if I put a good swing on it, it can happen. But everybody on planet earth understands that it's not that easy. But that when it happens, everyone understands. Me personally, I'm a huge believer in God and I think he had a lot to do with this.''

In fact, it wasn't until Ortiz rounded the bases, crossed home plate and was trotting back to the dugout that he saw Millar and Millar's own kids sitting right next to the dugout that he recounted his pre-game video to Maverick.

"That's when I started thinking about it,'' said Ortiz.

Maverick sent a video back to Ortiz -- via Millar -- after the game-winning homer.

"After the game,'' Ortiz recounted, "Millar came to me and he was crying when he showed me the video that Maverick sent. It was very touching. I started thinking about it right after. When I got home, I was like, 'I can't believe this really happened.' Millar told me that his parents haven't seen (Maverick) him that happy in a long time. He has been very sick. But I always say there's something special out there. I'm a huge believer in God.

"I'm crazy about kids. When you see a sick kid and see what he's going trough I can't imagine. I don't think I'm prepared to see my child struggle like that. It's good. It's a good thing when you can put a smile on a child."

Saturday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

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Saturday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

Christian Vazquez is behind the plate catching Rick Porcello (4-0, 3.51 ERA), who looks to remain unbeaten, as the Red Sox continue their three-game weekend series with the Yankees on Saturday night (7:10) at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox won the series opener 4-2 on Friday night with a rally from a 2-0 deficit capped by David Ortiz' two-run homer in the eighth inning.

The full lineups:

YANKEES
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Starlin Castro 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
Chase Headley 3B
--
Michael Pineda RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Christian Vazquez C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
--
Rick Porcello RHP