Pedroia insists: 'We're happy as expletive'

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Pedroia insists: 'We're happy as expletive'

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON The Rays came to Fenway Park on Thursday trailing the Red Sox by four games in the American League wild-card race. For the Red Sox, it represented an opportunity to open some distance between themselves and Tampa Bay, and to prove they deserved a playoff spot.

They failed on all fronts.

Tim Wakefield, just one start after earning his 200th career win, was the latest Sox starter to fall victim to the Rays aggressive lineup, as Tampa Bay beat the Sox, 8-5, Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Rays took three of four games this weekend. They also took the season series, 12-6, winning 9 of the last 10 games.

The Rays scored first in each of the four games this weekend, just as they did in 14 of 18 games in the season series, including the last 10 straight and 12 of the last 13. On Sunday, the Rays built a 4-0 lead before the Sox could get on the scoreboard.

Wakefield went five innings, giving up six runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He also had a wild pitch and hit a batter. He threw 103 pitches, 65 for strikes.

Not a lot of clean innings, said manager Terry Francona. You look at a hundred pitches after five . . . it signifies that it's hard. Just never got in a real good rhythm. Threw some real good knuckleballs. You see catcher Jarod Saltalamacchia having trouble catching it, but Wakefield seemed to be working out of the stretch a lot.

It doesnt help. Stating the obvious. But thats what happens sometimes when Wakes pitching. You kind of have to be a little patient when he gets a strikeout and it goes back to the backstop allowing the batter to reach. Tough way to start the inning but thats the way it goes. Try to find a way to not let it affect the outcome of the game.

Saltalamacchia had a career-high four passed balls.

It was real tough, Saltalamacchia said. I think the wind might have played a little factor on the ball the way it was moving. I thought his ball was moving a lot. But no excuse. You got to do the best you can with it. I never gave in. I felt like I just gave it the best job I can give. We just got to go out there and turn the page and go for tomorrow.

In the Rays' three-run second inning, Casey Kotchman led off by striking out, but reached first base on a passed ball. In Tampas two-run fifth, Desmond Jennings led off with a single, then moving around the bases to score on a stolen base, wild pitch, and passed ball on three consecutive pitches.

Meanwhile, the Sox had just one hit off Rays' starter David Price through the first three innings a Mike Aviles double in the first. But it was Aviles liner off the Prices upper right chest in the third that went for a 1-5-3 out that knocked the Rays left-hander from the game after four innings for precautionary reasons. The Sox had just two runs on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts off Price.

Price was not in the game long enough to earn the win, which went to Jake McGee.

The lost weekend was a combined effort or lack thereof. Other than Josh Becketts win on Friday, Sox starters went a combined 15 innings, giving up 14 runs (10 earned) on up 14 hits, 7 walks, 2 wild pitches, and a hit batter with 2 home runs and 11 strikeouts in the series, for 6.00 ERA.

But it wasnt just the pitching that failed to show for the Sox. The Rays outscored the Sox, 24-14 in the series. The Sox hit just .233 (30-for-129). This season, Rays pitchers held Sox batters to a .178 average (89-for-501). The mark replaces the Sox previous low against an opponent since 1966 (with a minimum of 10 games) when they hit .204 against Baltimore. The Rays have held the Sox to a .162 average (30-for-185) at Fenway this season, also a new low.

I think we know the situation were in, said Saltalamacchia. I think we know what type of team we got. Just seemed like in this series, no breaks really went out way. But we got to turn the page and worry about tomorrow.

The Sox entered September with a record of 83-52, with a 1 12-game lead over the Yankees in the division. The have gone 4-13 since then. They are 2-9 in their last 11 games and 3-11 in their last 14.

Its been frustrating for all of us in here, Wakefield said. We just need to play better baseball. Its staying the obvious that were not playing very well right now. But we got two tomorrow against Baltimore and hopefully we can gain two.

Things happen, man, you know, David Ortiz said. You get caught into this sometimes and you got to find your way up. We need to find out way up. That's it.

The Sox insist the mood in the clubhouse is good, the team is confident, no one is panicking.

Not me, Ortiz said. We could win and pretty much everybody around here feels the same. Got to come back and play better, man.

Were happy as expletive, said Dustin Pedroia, who went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts Sunday. We got a two-game lead with 10 to go. Were ready to go. We just havent played very good. Thats basically it. Were not going to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves for playing like crap. We got to go. Nobodys going to give us anything.

While the Rays head to New York to face the Yankees, the Sox will host the last-place Orioles for four games, including Mondays doubleheader. The Sox face 7 of their final 10 games of the regular season against the Os, who have suddenly become players in the wild-card and A.L. West races after taking two of three from the Rays at the beginning of the week and two of three from the Angels.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.