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

Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll


Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll

Knuckleballer Steven Wright will try to stay on a roll, as will the Red Sox, as they continue their three-game series tonight (9:20) against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

Wright (8-4, American League-leading 2.01 ERA) faces Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.94), in his first start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox rallied to win the series opener 8-7 with a four-run ninth inning.

The lineups:

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
Steven Wright RHP

Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Nomar Mazara LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Prince Fielder DH
Roughned Odor 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Mitch Moreland 1B
Robinson Chirinos C
A.J. Griffin RHP

Red Sox call up RHP Cuevas, send Marrero to Pawtucket


Red Sox call up RHP Cuevas, send Marrero to Pawtucket

With the Red Sox bullpen taxed in recent days by pitching 18 1/3 innings the past four games, including a short outing Friday night by starter David Price, right-hander William Cuevas was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and infielder Deven Marrero was sent down.

Cuevas, 25, made one relief appearance for Boston (allowing two runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings in his major league debut April 21) and had been starting at Pawtucket (4-3, 3.30 ERA in 12 starts). He pitched 5 1/3 innings on Sunday. He'll be available out of the bullpen tonight as the Red Sox continue their three-game series in Texas. 

Marrero, 25, appeared in four games and went 1-for-7 in his latest stint in Boston.