Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

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Weiland can't buck the starting-pitching trend

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Kyle Weiland, the Red Sox rookie right-hander who had just 19 major-league innings heading into game one of Mondays doubleheader against the lowly Orioles, was giventhe unenviable task of being asked to do what veteran starting pitchers have been unable to do: Stop the September bleeding.

But like most of the other Sox pitchers this month, Weiland was unable to put a stop to the September collapse the Sox are in. After falling, 6-5, to the Os who entered the game with the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst overall the Sox are now just 4-14 this month. In their last 15 games they have suffered six one-run losses.

Their once comfortable lead over the Rays for the wild card is down to just 1 games. The Sox entered September with an AL-best record of 83-52 and a 1 -game lead over the Yankees. They now trail New York, who beat the Twins Monday afternoon, by 5 games for the division lead.

In 18 games this month, starting pitchers have gone just 86 innings, averaging less than five innings a game. They have given up 68 runs (61 earned) on 100 hits and 43 walks with 75 strikeouts and 13 home runs. The starters have posted a combined 6.38 ERA while pitching just three quality starts.

Weiland, who was returning to the mound on short rest after throwing 61 pitches in Thursdays loss to the Rays, took the loss, dropping his record to 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA. He went 4 23 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The three home runs he gave up were one shy of the Orioles single-game high this season. He left with the Sox trailing, 6-2.

Weiland went through the first seven batters in the Orioles lineup smoothly with four strikeouts, not allowing a runner on base. But when left fielder Darnell McDonald lost two consecutive fly balls in the sun, the game quickly unraveled for Weiland.

Kyle started out really keeping his pitches down, with movement, missing some bats, manager Terry Francona said. Then the second time through the order we didnt help him because we lost a ball, then Mac couldnt catch the second one. Then he got up with too many pitches, fastball, breaking ball. Couple of them left the park.

So its kind of a different once through the order than the second time through the order.

Weiland said the two balls lost in the sun, putting runners on second and third with one out, did not cause him to lose focus.

No,he said. Thats stuff that I kind of expect in the game of baseball. Some things are going to go your way, some things arent. You cant help that the sun is right behind home plate, and obviously both sides are having trouble with it. So you cant think about that stuff. Its my job to go back out there when stuff like that happens and pick up my teammates because nine times out of 10 theyre going to pick me up more than Im going to pick them up. So its definitely something that pitchers try to really step up when stuff like that happens topick up guys because theyre saving us all the time.

But the loss the Sox first to the Os at Fenway this season -- can hardly be blamed on Weiland

Darnell McDonald was in left field, a late addition because Carl Crawford was scratched shortly before game time with a stiff neck. He had the unfortunate luck of trying to field the two balls in the sun. The first, a Nolan Reimold drive was ruled a hit, despite falling out of McDonalds glove. The next batter, Josh Bell, was given a two-base error. Both runners eventually scored in the inning, giving the Os a 2-0 lead.

The first one was a tough sun, McDonald said. I lost it in the sun. I saw it off the bat and after that I didnt see it. The second one I got there and took my eye off it at the last minute and didn't make the play. Its a situation where I feel terrible putting my team in the hole like that. But you got to bounce back and play the game. It was a tough day for me. It was terrible out there today. Youre paid to play baseball. I was ready. It was just one of them days whereI didnt make the plays.

McDonald led off the bottom of the third with a home run, his sixth of the season, cutting the Sox deficit in half. But the bats could not get the job done today. The batters, despite 12 hits in the game, were just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Sox had an opportunity to add another run in their two-run fifth when David Ortizs drive down the right field line appeared to be fair but was ruled foul. When Ortiz eventually flied out to center, Dustin Pedroia was stranded on third base, his third triple of the season.

Very frustrating, Ortiz said. Nothing we can do but come back the second game and try to hit the ball fair. Its a mistake that happened. You got to deal with it.

I guess the reason why we have umpires down the line is so they can read the ball better because from distance sometimes it gives you some trouble and . . . that reviewing thing I think it was good for home runs and things like that. But I guess a situation like what happened today you should give it a shot because were trying to win a baseball game and its not the right call.

But there was plenty of blame to go around.

We need to pitch better, we need to hit better, we need to play better D, Pedroia said. We need to do everything better, so when youre losing you can point fingers at everybody. We just got to go out there and play hard and play winning baseball. We do that, theres not a team in the world that can beat us. So we got to play better.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.

Quotes, notes and stars: Price says season has been "terrible"

Quotes, notes and stars: Price says season has been "terrible"

Quotes, notes and stars from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES

* “It’s been terrible . . . Just awful.” Price on how his season has gone.

* “Tough night from the mound -- obviously.” John Farrell on Red Sox pitching in the loss.

* “Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those. It’s me going out there and making pitches. It’s what I’ve done for a long time now -- and I haven’t done this year. That’s why this year’s been the way it has been.” Price said when he was asked if he felt his problems boiled down to physical or mental issues.

* “Given that [we] had to stay away from [Matt] Barnes and [Junichi] Tazawa today, [Clay Buchholz] was a guy that was going to be needed to hopefully multiple inning to bridge us to where were able to match up a little bit more in the eighth inning to get to Ziegler. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.” Farrell said on why he turned to Buchholz -- not Barnes – despite having the lead.

* “It was crazy. When the fly ball [went] into the sky it turned into like a twister of some sort and you didn’t know where the ball was going to fall. I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Michael Martinez on dealing with the howling wind in right field.

* “It wasn’t much wind. I went and looked at it, definitely should have made the play. Just running at it full speed -- it was one of those things I didn’t know how close I was getting to the wall so I went into a slide. And it was an early slide, so it kind of threw me off a little bit . . . Just thought I was closer to the wall than I really was.” Brock Holt on the fly ball he misplayed.

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. knocked in two runs, becoming the fourth Red Sox hitter to reach the 60 RBI mark this season -- the most in the MLB. Bradley also had a double, marking is 46th extra-base hit of the season -- with 99 hits overall.

* Dustin Pedroia reached base for the 26th consecutive game with his double in the second inning. He has a .402 OBP during this stretch and a .311 average.

* The Red Sox have lost consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month (6/26-27). Both losses were comeback victories for Minnesota. Boston’s record drops to 3-3 against the 37-60 Twins this season.

STARS

1) Eddie Rosario

Rosario finished 4-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored, bumping his average from .244 to .262.

2) David Ortiz

Ortiz finished 3-for-3 with a walk, double, two RBI and two runs scored -- giving Boston just about as much offense as anyone can hope for.

3) Miguel Sano

The burly Twins third baseman finished 3-for-5 with a long ball, two runs scored, a walk and an RBI in Minnesota’s win.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar