Red Sox bats awake after interleague lull

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Red Sox bats awake after interleague lull

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- With three-fifths of their Opening Day starting rotation on the disabled list, the Red Sox could be in panic mode.

Instead, they're in first place in the American League East.

The Sox offense more than picked up the slack Thursday night, combining for six home runs as they pounded their way to a 10-4 win over the Orioles that, coupled with the Yankees' loss to the Rays, moved them back atop the A.L. East. They hadn't hit that many homers in a game since July 4, 2003, at Yankee Stadium, when they connected for seven.

The biggest blast came from the smallest player in a Sox uniform. Dustin Pedroia hit his ninth homer of the season, a three-run shot in the third that cleared the Green Monster and landed on the parking deck across Lansdowne Street, turning a 2-0 Baltimore lead into a 3-2 Boston advantage. In the seventh inning, David Ortiz and Josh Reddick and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitback-to-back-to-back solo home runs as the Sox blew it open.

The guys did a great job, said manager Terry Francona. We scored and we added on. Pedey with a big hit early, put us back in it. Kept fighting and getting big hits the rest of the way.

I just got a ball, it was actually up and in, Pedroia said. It was out of the strike zone but I was able to get the barrel on it. So it worked out for us tonight.

Adrian Gonzalez had a solo shot in the fifth, his 17th of the season, and Jacoby Ellsbury added a two-run shot in the sixth.

In all, the Sox clubbed 13 hits, shy of their season-high of 20 but more than enough to get the job done.

Its a very good offense and I think we all talked about it before the season started, said Gonzalez, who collected his 17th homer of the season. Were just capable of putting up a lot of runs.

We saw the ball well today. It was a good game to start the series. Hopefully, we can continue Friday.

Which of the six home runs was most impressive? It depends on whom you ask.

I dont know, said Pedroia. We put some good swings. I dont know. You guys can figure that one out.

Ill take them all, said Ellsbury. We had a variety. One monster ball, two to dead center, a few to right. They were all pretty good swings. You can't go wrong with any one of them.

Pedeys, said Gonzalez. That one just because of the situation, putting us ahead. It put us ahead and we didnt look back after that.

The Sox have now won three in a row and seven of their last eight games. Finishing with interleague play, getting their DH back is a big factor.

I think getting out of the National League is helpful, said Saltalamacchia. We had nine games in a row without David. Thats our DH. We need him. So obviously that kind of killed what we had going beforehand. But now were back in our park and we got him back in there.

After some post-interleague struggles -- entering Thursday night, he was 2-for-28 since June 21 -- Ortiz went 2-for-4 against the Os. His home run, a laser to straightaway center field, was the 145th of his career at Fenway, tying him with Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr for fifth all-time.

Hes back, he said, in the groove he wants to be in.

Im back to normal, he said. And the more I play, the better I feel.

The homer, his 18th of the season, came off left-hander Pedro Viola, a sign of good things. It was just his fourth home run against a left-handed pitcher this season.

That swing against a lefty, thats pretty indicative, Francona said. When you hit a ball like that against a lefty you got to have a good swing."

Francona understood Ortiz' recent struggles, which were due in large part to being relegated to mostly pinch-hitting duties during the nine interleague road games.

"We did the best we could in interleague," said Francona. "We knew it was going to be tough.

But, now they are back in the American League, back at Fenway, and in first place.

What I want to do, said Francona, is win tomorrow.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

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Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

BOSTON — As has been well-documented, the Red Sox have tried any number of solutions at third base this season, with eight different players getting starts at the position.

Travis Shaw has the most starts of anyone, with 99. But with three games left in the season, it's become apparent that Brock Holt is being viewed as the likely starter in the post-season.

Holt started all three games in the recent series in New York and was the starter Friday night against Toronto, too.

"You look at the consistent quality to the at-bats," said John Farrell, "and they've been there for him. That's not to say the other guys aren't important to us. But this is the time of year where you're looking to put the best, current lineup on the field and his versatility has shown up a number of ways. He's a confident defender at third base and his skill set is a little bit different from the other guys.

"So against righthanded pitching, that could be the guy we're going with."

Holt came into Friday hitting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 24 games.

Shaw, meanwhile, has been streaky to a fault. In the second half of the season, Shaw has posted a slash line of .195/.260/.362.

"We've seen (the streakiness both ways) in short spurts," Farrell said. "He does have the ability to carry us. But we're trying to get there and we're at a point in the year where every game is meaningful. That's not to say you turn your back on what he did earlier in the season. But we're looking for sparks somewhere."

What's more, Farrell had Holt hitting second in the lineup, in an effort to produce more offense. The Sox were limited to just eight runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and over the last 11 games, scored more than five runs just once.

Holt hit second, with Xander Bogaerts dropped to sixth.

"This is to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively," explained Farrell. "We've been grinding a little bit. And also, (we want) to create a little more (left-right) balance up and down the lineup."

TIME TO PLAY

As the final few regular season games of his career wind down, David Ortiz acknowledged that it's becoming increasing difficult to focus on the games with all the tributes and ceremonies going on.

In the final 11 days of the season, Ortiz will have had five pre-game ceremonies held in his honor -- and it would have been six had not Ortiz asked the Tampa Bay Rays to cancel the ceremony they had planned in the aftermath of the death that morning of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

On Thursday night, Ortiz has his family on the field for a pre-game celebration hosted by the New York Yankees.

Minutes later, he had to step in to the batter's box against CC Sabathia. Sometimes, it's hard to flip that switch and be emotionally ready to compete.

"I'm not going to lie to you -- it has (gotten harder)," said Ortiz. "We're already in the playoffs, so for the next three days, I don't really have to worry about it. But the best thing about it is that once we get into the playoffs, there's not going to be all these distractions.

"I like to mentally focus when we play, especially when I'm playing for a reason. We work extremely hard during the regular season to get into the playoffs and once we get there, I don't want to blow that off. It's not easy to (do all the ceremonies) and play baseball at the same time. It can be a distraction."

Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

The A.L. East-champion Red Sox, still fighting for playoff position, field their usual lineup as they open David Ortiz's final regular-season series tonight (7:10) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (92-67) are two games behind the Texas Rangers (94-65) in the race for the best record in the A.L., with the Cleveland Indians (91-67) a half-game behind Boston.

Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA), the likely Game 1 starter in the ALDS, will try to add to his Cy Young Award resume tonight. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53).

The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (both 87-72) are tied for the A.L. wild-card lead with the Detroit Tigers (85-73) 1 1/2 games back.

It’s the final regular season series for Oritz, with ceremonies planned to honor the retiring Red Sox DH prior to each of the final three game this weekend. 

The lineups:

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Brock Holt 3B

Mookie Betts RF

David Ortiz DH

Hanely Ramirez 1B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Jackie Bradley CF

Sandy Leon C

Andrew Benintendi LF

Rick Porcello P

 

BLUE JAYS

Eziquiel Carrera LF

Josh Donaldson 3B

Edwin Encarnacion DH

Jose Bautista RF

Russell Martin C

Troy Tulowitzki SS

Justin Smoak 1B

Kevin Pillar CF

Devon Travis 2B

Marco Estrada RHP