Red Sox' streak snapped vs. Rays, 4-0

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Red Sox' streak snapped vs. Rays, 4-0

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com Red SoxInsider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- The Red Sox' mighty offense, which had averaged slightly better than nine runs in the last week and a half, ground to a halt at Tropicana Field, and with it came an end to the team's nine-game winning streak.

The Sox were held to just five hits by James Shields as the Tampa Bay Rays posted a 4-0 shutout. All five of the Boston hits -- three by Adrian Gonzalez -- were singles.

Carl Crawford, returning to Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays last December, was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers, and went hitless in three plate appearances.

Tim Wakefield pitched well, allowing just four hits over seven innings, but was saddled with his first loss since May 6.

Wakefield threw 119 pitches, the most he's thrown in a single outing since Sept. 18, 2003.

The Rays got a solo homer from Jason Ruggiano for their first run in the fifth and later added a second when, with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was charged with a passed ball as Evan Longoria crossed the plate.

They added two more runs off Tommy Hottovy and Alfredo Aceves in the eighth.

STAR OF THE GAME: James Shields
Shields tossed his third complete-game shutout of the season, limiting the Sox to just five hits all night -- all of them singles.

In so doing, Shields became the first American League pitcher to post three shutouts by mid-June in 17 seasons.

HONRABLE MENTION: Tim Wakefield
Wakefield got absolutely no run support, but deserved a better fate than to be left with the loss.

He limited the Rays to just two runs over seven innings and one of those was unearned, scoring on a passed ball. It was Wakefield's first loss since May 6.

GOAT OF THE GAME: Kevin Youkilis
The Sox were punchless at the plate most of the night, but Youkilis struggled more than most.

In the first, he struck out with runners at first and third. Then, in both the third and sixth, he hit into inning-ending double plays.

In all, Youkilis stranded five baserunners.

TURNING POINT: In the third inning, with runners at first and second, Youkilis hit into an inning-ending double play. After that, the Sox never put a baserunner in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: Wakefield threw 119 pitches, the most he's thrown in an outing since Sept. 18, 2003.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "I'm going to try to make tomorrow feel as normal as possible. Today, I can't lie, it didn't feel like a normal day for me.'' -- Carl Crawford after returning to Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.