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.

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

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McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss the Red Sox bullpen giving up a 4-run lead in the late innings of their loss to the Blue Jays.

Watch the video above.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

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Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win.