McAdam: Starters digging Sox out of hole


McAdam: Starters digging Sox out of hole

By SeanMcAdam

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They're still a game under .500 and even with their recent surge, remain closer to last place in the American League East than first.

But it's hard not to be impressed with the roll the Red Sox are on (8-1) and how quickly and dramatically they have pulled out of their early-season nosedive which, for a while, threatened to sabotage their season almost before it started.

On Sunday, the Sox finished off a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels -- their first four-game sweep here in 31 years --- with a 7-0 blanking of the Angels.

They outscored the Angels 20-5 and never once trailed in the series. If they're not fully back, they're certainly on their way.

"We're playing good baseball,'' said Adrian Gonzalez, who drove in the first run of the game and the last. "The pitching's doing great, the defense has been good, we're scoring runs . . . things have been going well here.

"I don't think we ever lost confidence. If anything, we were kind of wondering what was going on. But we're starting to play like we knew we were capable of playing all season long.''

The most dramatic turnaround, of course, has been with the starting rotation.

After John Lackey (2-2) held the Angels scoreless for eight innings, the starters' ERA over the last nine games is a microscopic 0.88. In that nine-game stretch, no starter has allowed more than two runs; in fact, four times, the starter has been unscored upon.

Since the 8-1 streak began, opposing hitters are batting just .159.

"It's been impressive,'' said Gonzalez. "They've been going out there and pitching seven or eight innings consistently and not giving up runs.''

The consecutive shutouts Saturday and Sunday to cap the sweep were the first back-to-black shutouts since 2007. And not since 2002 have the Red Sox had three starters in a row not allow a run.

"I don't know the numbers,'' said manager Terry Francona, ''but I get back to what I've been saying -- when we pitch like that, it's a good way to play the game.''

Because Lackey was able to go deep (Dan Wheeler pitched the ninth to complete the shutout), the Sox were able to stay away from their most important relievers -- Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon.

"That means on Tuesday, they're back to where (they should be in regards to being rested),'' said Francona.

There are signs, too, that the offense is starting to rumble to life. Sunday, they provided Lackey with three runs even before he took the mound. In the last nine games, they've scored 46 runs; in the first 12, they had managed just 47. In the first six games -- all losses -- they were either shut out or limited to a single run half the time.

Carl Crawford (single, homer) has hit safely in six of his last seven games and had multihit games in the last two. Jacoby Ellsbury has five hits and a walk since being returned to the top of the lineup three games ago.

Again, there are no congratulations in order for a team with big expectations to get within a game of the break-even mark. But it sure beats where they were 10 days ago, when the club was in an alarming freefall.

"We dug ourselves a hole,'' said Francona, "and now we're trying to dig out of it. It's kind of like a hitter with a low batting average, but is starting to feel better about himself. We're starting to do some things better.''

Most obviously on the mound.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Kimbrel ninth-inning meltdown doesn’t alarm Farrell


Kimbrel ninth-inning meltdown doesn’t alarm Farrell

NEW YORK -- John Farrell isn't necessarily alarmed by Craig Kimbrel's poor outing Wednesday night, viewing it as an aberration. But just the same, he'd like to get his closer into a game on the final weekend to flush the bad taste of Wednesday's ninth.

Until the clincher, Kimbrel had allowed just two hits in the previous 23 at-bats (.087) since Sept. 4. And since being re-instated from the DL on Aug. 1, Kimbrel was 13-for-13 in save opportunities with 32 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched and a .113 batting average against.

Kimbrel was brought into the game in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner before issuing three straight walks, the last of which forced in a run.

He threw 28 pitches and didn't record an out before being lifted in favor of Joe Kelly, who allowed Mark Teixeira's walk-off grand slam in a 5-3 Yankees victory.

"He was erratic, there's no doubt,” said Farrell. "The command was not there. The power was there, obviously, but the command was not. It turned into a situation where he gets to [almost] 30 pitches. Could we have let him go further, or could the decision have been made to leave him in the game? Sure

"But [Wednesday] night was more of an aberration. Certainly, since he's come off the DL, he's been stingy in those situations. That was a one-time outing last night [given the unusual circumstances].”

Farrell said it's "important” to get all of the Red Sox relievers into games before the season ends Sunday.

"How often, how high stress...the games will dictate that,'' Farrell said. "But yeah, it will be important to Craig back on the mound before we end, regardless of whether it's a save situation.”



Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound


Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound

The day after clinching the A.L. East title despite a loss, the Red Sox send out a semi-makeshift lineup Thursday night as they look to avoid a three-game sweep by the Yankees in the Bronx. 

Reserve third baseman Aaron Hill is leading off, Dustin Pedroia gets the night off, Deven Marrero starts at second base, and David Ortiz is, somewhat surprisingly, back in there at DH against left-hander C.C. Sabbathia (8-12, 4.02 ERA).

Left-hander Henry Owens (0-1, 7.79) gets the start for the Red Sox in place of Drew Pomeranz, who is bothered by tightness in his left forearm and will work out of the bullpen, if at all, for the final four games of the regular season.

The lineups:


Aaron Hill 3B

Andrew Benintendi LF

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Chris Young RF

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Ryan Hanigan C

Travis Shaw 1B

Deven Marrero 2B

Henry Owens LHP



Brett Gardner LF

Jacoby Ellsbury CF 

Gary Sanchez DH

Starlin Castro 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

Chase Headley 3B

Brian McCann C

Aaron Hicks RF

Tyler Austin 1B

C.C. Sabathia LHP