Notes: McDonald, Varitek connect in the clutch

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Notes: McDonald, Varitek connect in the clutch

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard
BOSTON -- Few plays actually decide a ballgame. One which took place with two outs in the top of the ninth Tuesday night did.

Trailing 3-0 in the top of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays got a two-run homer from Jose Bautista to close within a run of the Red Sox, then put the potential tying run on second in the person of Edwin Encarnacion.

John McDonald flared a single to left. Left fielder Darnell McDonald charged the ball and threw a strike to catcher Jason Varitek who blocked Encarnacion from the plate while applying a game-ending tag and a 3-2 win.

"I was just trying to get the ball in as quickly as I could,'' recounted McDonald. "It was a great job by the captain (Varitek); it was a do-or-die play . . . It felt real good to close out a game on a play like that.''

Because of the potential game-tying run in scoring position, McDonald was playing in shallow left for just such an occasion.

"Sometimes a shallow throw is tougher than one from deeper in the outfield,'' said McDonald. "I was just trying to grab it and throw a four-seamer as fast I could to the plate.''

At the plate, Varitek was preparing for a bang-bang play, sticking his left leg out to impede Encarnacion while not sacrificing his entire body in a collision the way San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey did earlier this season, resulting in a season-ending injury.

"You've got to stay in there,'' shrugged Varitek of the position of danger. "You don't win in that battle.''

But Varitek credited McDonald with air-mailing him a perfect throw on the fly, allowing Varitek to swipe and tag almost in one motion.

"It's all about the throw,'' said Varitek, "because a perfect throw allows you time to brace yourself a little.''

Varitek also credited McDonald with great preparation, noting that the McDonald practices throws from all three outfield positions nearly every day in pregame drills, learning the proper angles.

Nobody in the Red Sox bullpen expected to hear thephone ringing in the fourth inning. Not while their starter was throwing ano-hitter.But that was the reality of Tuesday nights game at FenwayPark, and the Red Sox bullpen came through to pick up exactly where the injuredJon Lester left off.Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Daniel Bard, and JonathanPapelbon each got their shot to save the day against the Toronto Blue Jays, andpreserve a 3-0 lead that Lester walked off the mound with after the top of thefourth.Albers ended up getting the win his third of the season after pitching two scoreless innings of one-hit ball while striking out two andwalking two. It marked the 10th time Albers has pitched more than one inningthis season. Only, this call to the mound came out of nowhere.Albers was just glad he had time to warm up while the RedSox hit in the bottom of the fourth.It really wasnt too much different, said Albers afterBostons 3-2 win. Obviously, you dont think that Lesters going to come outof the game, but once we heard the phone ring, we kind of knew what thesituation was. They said, Youre in the game, so I was able to get pretty muchloose out in the bullpen, which helped, instead of just going on the field andhaving to get loose from scratch. It really wasnt too much different thannormal.Morales came in and pitched a scoreless seventh, and Bardpitched a scoreless eighth. But Papelbon allowed a pair of runs in the ninth,on Jose Bautista two-run home run that just got over the front of the GreenMonster.I actually felt like the one pitch I made to Bautista wasone of the better pitches that I made tonight, said Papelbon. Theres 29ballparks that that balls a can of expletive. Cant do nothing about it.Still, Papelbon picked up his 18th save of the season,capping the type of bullpen relief one dreams about when their starter getstaken out early with an injury.You cant speak highly enough for our bullpen, said Lester.They picked me up tonight. They picked the team up. Especially after a rough game Monday in which the bullpen worked 6 23 innings. I needed to eat some innings up today, and unfortunately, Iwasnt able to do that. Dustin Pedroia made his secondappearance of the season in the cleanup spot Tuesdaynight. He went 1-for-4 with a solo home run that gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead inthe third inning.Hes made six career starts as the No. 4 hitter, and has homered in each of his last four games as the cleanup hitter. The last Red Sox cleanup hitter to hit home runs in four straight starts wasManny Ramirez. Clay Buchholz (lower back strain) is going to North Carolina on Wednesday to get checked out, and manager Terry Francona made it known that they are going to be extremely cautious with his injury going forward.

Clay is going to go see Dr. Brigham Wednesday Francona said. He has an appointment at eight oclock. I think hes on a 5 a.m. flight. Hell be thrilled about that. And then hopefully well get him looked at, and then go from there.

I dont know that theres many players that play right now that dont have some soreness somewhere. But we want to make sure if he pitches because hes probably going to be sore for a while that hes not hurting himself. Not only for his sake, but for ours."

Jed Lowrie still has discomfort in his shoulder, which has prevented him from hitting. He has, however, taken grounders and is getting better, according to Francona.

Jed took some groundballs, said Francona. Hes done everything but hit. He still has that discomfort and he doesnt want to hit, but his strength is really improving, which is good.
Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

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Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.