Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

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Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
The Red Sox' troubles, it now seems obvious, go beyond trying to find ways to find at-bats for David Ortiz on the upcoming nine-game tour of National League ballparks.

In the bigger picture, the offense has sputtered in recent days. The Sox managed just five runs in the final two games of their interleague series with the San Diego
Padres, and even when they struck for 14 runs in the opener Monday, much of that was the result of the Padres' bullpen largesse and not anything the Sox were doing with the bats.

And the issues, which pre-date the whole dilemma surrounding the DH for the next week a a half, are likely to remain for the forseeable future.

The loss of outfielder Carl Crawford is a significant one. Sidelined with a hamstring pull on the first night of the recent homestand, Crawford had emerged from his April
slump as a big contribtor who had helped provide length to the Boston lineup.

From May 1 until he was injured last weekend, Crawford hit .295 with a slugging percentage of .476, piling up 16 extra-base hits over a span of 43 games.

Gone, too, is shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was limited by a sore shoulder for the last few weeks, but still offered some pop in the seventh hole of the batting order.

Suddenly, the Red Sox face the prospect of playing most of their games with the likes of Darnell McDonald, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro hitting fifth, sixth and seventh rather than the trio of Ortiz, Crawford and Lowrie.

And the same lineup which seemed to routinely be scoring double figures in runs only a while ago, now feature a dramatic falloff after the cleanup position.

The prospect of a sputtering offense highlights how unproductive the bench has been since the start of the season. McDonald, a valuable role player a year ago, has contributed almost nothing this season. His paltry OPS of .364 is less than half of his .766 OPS a year ago and he has just one extra-base hit in 40 plate appearances this season.

Then there's Mike Cameron, whose .161.227.287 line speaks volumes. At 38, less than a year removed from abdominal surgery, Cameron appears, frankly, to be done.

Moreover, the unavailability of Lowrie has further depleted the team's reserves. Instead of having Marco Scutaro serving as a quality and experienced utility man, the team is left with Drew Sutton, a journeyman 4A player whose limitations are
increasingly evident the more he plays.

None of this would matter as much if the Sox were getting somethinganything from J.D. Drew, who has been both unproductive and disinterested for much of the season.

Drew's .656 OPS is more than 200 points below his career figure of .878. and his play continues a pattern of general decline that began last season.

"I don't get it,'' said a talent evaluator from an American League team when recently asked about Drew. "There doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with him and I don't see anything has changed in terms of his bat speed. But he's clearly not the same player he was.''

All of which puts greater pressure on the top four hitters in the lineup -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis -- to continue carrying the offense for the forseeable future.

Ellsbury and Gonzalez have been locked in almost from the beginning, while Pedroia and Youkilis have ramped up of late. Since getting confirmation that his knee was structurally sound (and receiving an injection of Synvisc), Pedroia has been streaking, scoring 11 runs over those 12 games while compiling a line of .413.525.696.

In roughly that same stretch, Youkilis has been equally hot, taking full advantage of Pedroia being on base more and driving in runs at nearly 1.5 per game (17 in the last 12) while fashioning an OPS of 1.123.

If there's any consolation, it's two-fold.

First, the Red Sox have built the best record in the American League since May 11, going a blistering 27-10 in that span, and, as such, have something of a cushion to protect against a mid-season slump.

Second, the competition isn't exactly daunting. Other than a three-game visit with the Phillies the next week, the Red Sox face the Pirates, Astros and Orioles in 10 of their next 16 games leading up to the All-Star break.

Just as the hitting carried the team in its recent five-week stretch, it's time for the pitching to chip in and get the Sox to the break in one piece.

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

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.