Red Sox: Philly series not a World Series preview

191542.jpg

Red Sox: Philly series not a World Series preview

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PITTSBURGH After losing two of three to the Pirates, the Red Sox head to Philadelphia to face the team with the best record in baseball for a three-game series that has some prognosticating a World Series match.

"It's a good challenge," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Like I said in spring training, I think the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. It's going to be two good teams playing against each other, and hopefully we're up for the challenge."

But over the weekend, manager Terry Francona was hesitant to look ahead.

I think its a little dangerous pointing to series because then you got a chance to stumble somewhere else, he said.

I havent really looked at the Phillies as much as you . . . We know the obvious. Their starting pitching, they got dangerous bats, they got some guys nicked up. Theres some guys that we dont know that well have to learn quickly. But theyre good. Theyre veteran."

The Sox are scheduled to face left-hander Cliff Lee on Tuesday. On May 31 Lee was 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA. In four starts since then, he is 4-0 with an 0.27 ERA.

"Were going to see their best on Tuesday," said Francona. "I think hes their best, isnt he? One of their best."

Lee has thrown a combined 33 innings in those games, giving up just one earned run, with complete-game shutouts against the Marlins and Cardinals in his last two. He has not given up a run in his last 23 straight innings.

While the Phillies offense has struggled at times, manager Charlie Manuel knows he will have to rely on his pitching against the team with the American Leagues most potent offense. The Sox, a half game behind the Yankees in the AL East, are batting .277 with 409 runs scored, both tops in the league.

I think we measure up good if our pitchers pitch like hell, Manuel said to the Philadelphia Daily News. If were seeing a better offense, thats where our pitching would have to shine.

As proof that the Sox arent looking past the Phillies, at least one player was surprised to learn who they would face in the series opener.

Cliff Lee? Didnt he just pitch Saturday? Kevin Youkilis said before Sundays game. Are we really going to talk about Philly now? I wasnt even ready to answer questions about today, let alone Philly. I guess go in, and Cliff Lee is a good pitcher but, weve faced him a bunch of times being in Cleveland and Texas. So we know what he has and hopefully we can jump on him early.

Youkilis isnt looking at the series against Phillies as a chance for the Sox to make a statement.

We just try to go out and win ballgames, he said. We dont care who its against. At the end of the season, if you finish in first place, youre winning games against a lot of different teams, youre losing games against a lot of different teams. So, it really doesnt matter. Its just about going out there and playing good ball and trying to win a series.

Im not really interested in the series other than just going out there and playing baseball. I dont look at it as foreshadowing. I dont look at it as something thats going to happen because both teams still have to play a lot more baseball to make it in the playoffs, let alone the World Series. If its in October and were both in the playoffs and were both playing well, then we can talk about it. Until then, its just a series where we got to go out and play some good baseball and hopefully try to take two out of three and hopefully win the series.

But that is something the Sox have not been able to do in their last two series, against the Pirates and Padres. Still, the Sox wont change their approach against the Phillies, Jason Varitek said.

You got to approach it like always, he said. Theyre a very good team and there are a lot of good teams right now. Still, no matter what we do, we just try to focus on ourselves and play good baseball.

We are who we are. So, I dont think it changes. We have to focus really on us and how we play.

But, could this series be a preview of things to come in October?

Well see. Time will tell on that one, Varitek said with a smile.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

red_sox_hanley_ramirez_072816.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Ramirez knows error 'can't happen'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels ofAnaheim

Quotes:

"I tried to get two (outs) before I got one. That can't happen." - Hanley Ramirez on his throwing error which cost the Red Sox the game.

"Executing pitches - that's the name of the game." - David Price on improvement he showed from his last start.

"Fourth time through the order, middle of the lineup. . . Price had done his job. In a one-run game, we felt it was best to start a clean inning with a reliever." - John Farrell after lifting David Price after eight innings and 108 pitches.

Notes:

* Reliever Brad Ziegler was charged with the loss for the second straight game.

* Each of the last seven Red Sox losses has been by one or two runs.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 31 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox four-game losing streak is their longest of the season.

* The Sox are now 9-23 in their last 32 meetings with the Angels.

* David Price did not allow a run for the second time this season.

Stars:

1) David Price

After a stretch of shaky outings, Price did his job with eight scoreless innings, getting 14 outs on groundouts while walking just one.

2) Jered Weaver

At times, the radar gun made Weaver's pitches look like softball offerings. But mixing junk, he held the Sox to a single run over 5 1/3 innings

3) Mookie Betts

He had just one hit - single in the eighth - but his sacrifice fly in the third produced the only run of the night.

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

angels_nava_072816.jpg

First impressions: Ziegler can't finish Price's strong start

First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1) David Price pitched in the truest sense

Price wasn't necessarily overpowering with only six strikeouts in eight innings, but he succeeded in keeping the ball down in the zone, resulting in a ton of groundouts.

In eight innings, the Angels produced just two fly outs to the outfield, both of them routine.

Otherwise, Price deftly mixed his changeup, slider and two-seamer to produce ground balls. His location was more precise and he induced weak contact in at-bat after at-bat.

2) The danger of a closer like Brad Ziegler was on display

The throwing error by Hanley Ramirez resulted in two runs scoring but Ziegler allowed three base hits to set the stage.

Ziegler doesn't get a lot of swing-and-miss with his sinker; what he gets is a lot of balls put in play. When things are going well, that results in groundouts; when they're not, it means baserunners and strange things happening.

As inconsistent as Craig Kimbrel has been in some non-save situations, he at least has the ability to record strikeouts and keep balls out of play.  That's not the case with Zieger, as the Red Sox learned the hard way in Anaheim Thursday night.

3) The Red Sox wisely took advantage of Jered Weaver on the bases

Weaver's high leg kick and reliance on off-speed pitches make for a slow delivery time to the plate. Dustin Pedroia would have easily stole second in the first but made the mistake of going into his slide too far ahead of the bag, and though initially ruled safe, was deemed out after a replay challenge.

In the sixth, Xander Bogaerts, was more successful in his stolen base. Neither steal led to a run, but the Sox did put some additional pressure on Weaver