Sox take hard route, win in 14th, 9-8

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Sox take hard route, win in 14th, 9-8

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Red Sox certainly didnt make things easy on themselves, but a win is a win even if it takes 13 23 innings and 5 hours and 17 minutes to secure.

With two outs in the 14th, Carl Crawford doubled to left. Guillermo Moscoso then issued an intentional walk to Jed Lowrie, opting to face J.D. Drew, who was 1-for-6 with four straight strikeouts, matching a career high for the fifth time. But Drew lined a Moscoso pitch into center field, scoring Crawford for the 9-8 win.

Seemingly on their way to cruising into a nice, comfortable win what would have been their third straight over the As going back to their two-game set in Oakland in April -- the Sox instead went the challenging route.

Jonathan Papelbon blew a four-run lead in the ninth as he and catcher Jason Varitek were both ejected in the ninth, after each had heated discussions with homeplate umpire Tony Randazzo.

The As batted around in the ninth, scoring four runs to tie the game.

Papelbon faced six batters before being tossed. He need 21 pitchers before recording his first out, on his third batter. He gave up a lead-off single to Mark Ellis and a walk to Daric Barton before striking out Landon Powell. Dustin Pedroias third error of the season, on Coco Crisps grounder appearing to be a made-to-order game-ending double-play ball -- scored Ellis with the As first run of the inning. Cliff Penningtons double to left scored Barton.

It was then that Varitek and Randazzo exchanged words behind the plate, with Varitek getting run. It was the fifth ejection of his career, and the first since May 28, 2009, in Minnesota. Varitek was replaced by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Pinch-hitter Conor Jackson singled to left, scoring Crisp and Pennington to tie the game, at which point Papelbon and Randazzo got into a heated exchange, with Papelbon getting his first career ejection.

With one out, Bobby Jenks entered, giving up a single to Ryan Sweeney, sending Jackson to third. But Josh Willingham struck out, his third of the game, for the second out of the inning, bringing Hideki Matsui to the plate. Matsui was in the midst of an 0-for-18 skid, the worst of his MLB career. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, an 87-mph slider from Jenks, Matsui swung and missed. But as the ball skipped away from Saltalamacchia, Jackson crossed the plate. Saltalamacchia recovered in time, though, to throw Matsui out at first, ending the inning with the score tied, 7-7.

Alfredo Aceves, the Sox seventh pitcher of the game, went four innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 3-1, with a 3.38 ERA.

Moscoso, who entered in the 14th, took the loss, falling to 2-1, with a 3.21 ERA.

One of the casualties of the game was Josh Becketts fifth win. He went six innings (plus two batters in the seventh), giving up three runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. He threw 102 pitches, 58 for strikes. His ERA climbed from 1.80 to 2.01 in the outing. In 12 starts, he now has six no-decisions, despite nine quality starts.

The teams combined to use 16 pitchers.

With the win, the Sox improve to 7-3-1 in home series, 11-7-2 overall.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alfredo Aceves
With the Sox down to one pitcher in the bullpen, Dan Wheeler, Aceves pitched the final four innings of the game to earn the win. Although Aceves, who entered in the 11th, allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base No. 9 batter Cliff Pennington on a walk and Conor Jackson on a double and let the As score the go-ahead run (albeit, temporarily, as the Sox tied the game again in the bottom of the inning.), he went four innings, allowing just the one run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 3-1, (3.38 ERA), the 12th straight decision he has won while pitching in relief.

He comes in his first inning, and walks a guy that scores, said manager Terry Francona. And then after that, he was lights out. As the game progressed, it gets hard to see the ball. You could tell. Guys were taking some funny swings, on both sides, with the shadows and everything.

He did a really good job. Were fortunate. Hes stretched out. Hes on one day short of what would be his day to start, but hes stretched out where he could do something like that, and ended up saving us the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Carl Crawford
Crawford went 4-for-7, with two runs scored and three RBI, raising his average from .235 to .246. His two RBI in the eighth inning accounted for the Sox' final runs in regulation. Then with two outs in the 14th, he doubled to left field and scored the winning run on J.D. Drews single to center.

Crawford, who matched his season high in hits and RBI, has driven in or scored the winning run in four of the Sox' five walk-off wins this season.

THE GOAT: Jonathan Papelbon
Although his team held on through 14 innings for the win, Papelbons implosion in the ninth inning made it much more difficult than it had to be. Staked to a four-run lead, he gave up four runs in the ninth.

Papelbon recorded just one out, giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk with one strikeout. His ERA ballooned from 3.28 to 4.32 in the outing.

Papelbon, who has acknowledged in the past that he has a different approach or a different level or adrenaline in non-save situations, entered the game with an ERA of 2.38 in save situations, 4.50 in non-save situations.

Incurring the first ejection of his career, from homeplate umpire Tony Randazzo, Papelbon was not able to see his outing through more than one-third of an inning.

I probably overreacted a little bit but its hard to say that because Im in the heat of a battle, Papelbon said. And then all of a sudden Im a base hit away from the game being tied up. Could I have done things or gone about things different? Yeah, of course. But in the heat of the battle thats a lot easier said than done. And looking back on it now, do I wish I had gone about it in a little bit better of a manner? Yeah. But between the white lines emotions always tend to get intensified and it is what it is.

THE TURNING POINT
While the debacle of the ninth inning could have proven to be the turning point if the Red Sox had lost, they held on to grind out a win the 14th inning. With two outs, Carl Crawford doubled, his fourth hit of the game, matching a career high. Jed Lowrie received an intentional walk from Guillermo Moscoso, who entered the game to start the inning, bringing up J.D. Drew, who was 1-for-6 with four straight strikeouts at that point, matching a career high. But, Drew broke his string, and deposited Moscosos second pitch, a 90-mph fastball, into center field, scoring Crawford and giving the Sox the win.

STAT OF THE DAY: 5
The 9-8 win was the Sox fifth walk-off win of the season. It was also the As fifth straight loss, their longest losing streak of the season. Jason Varitek incurred the fifth ejection of his career.
QUOTE OF NOTE
Obviously arguingballs and strikes. Actually you can't really do that and I lost my cool there I lost my cool a little bit on thestrike zonefor Pap We still got to maintain our poise out there andI lost mine today You know, it's hard to go into detail but I just felt like there were a few pitches with Papthat changed the course of that entire inning. I could've handled things a little different It's simple. I lost my cool on those things that happened in that inning where I thought Pap had made some pitches. -- Jason Varitek on his ninth-inning ejection, the reasons for it, and how he handled the situation.

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.