Yankees bring out the best in Sox

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Yankees bring out the best in Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Baseball. Go figure.

The same team which couldn't buy a big hit against the Cleveland Indians for three days found a way to score nine runs against the New York Yankees Friday.

The same team which saw its bullpen implode in successive games at Progressive Field Wednesday and Thursday got four scoreless innings of relief from its relievers Friday against a much tougher New York lineup.

And the same team which became the butt of jokes in its first two series of the season more closely resembled a powerhouse, bashing out a season-high dozen hits in the start of its third.

This was more like it for the Red Sox, who were in the midst of digging themselves an early-season hole before completely reversing course and overpowering the Yankees 9-6 in their home opener.

This was what they had had in mind with all the spending, all the upgrading done in the off-season.

"We did some good things today,'' pronounced Dustin Pedroia after the Sox finally had a win to call their own. "It was fun, man.''

Fun? Where had that been for the first week, a period during which they spun their tires and splattered themselves with early-season mud. Until Thursday's back-breaking 1-0 loss to the Indians, most of the losses hadn't been close.

The Sox were outhit, outpitched, and outplayed. And they knew it.

Friday, it was time to play the way they should. They had endured the taunts in Cleveland, the embarrassment of endless statistical precedents ("No team has ever lost its first six games and still...") and the uneasiness that filled them as they headed for home.

Partly out of desperation and partly as a premptive strike, they had appealed to their fans to get behind them instead of piling on. Player after player issued the same call-to-arms to the loyalists: We need you. Now.

The strategy worked like a charm. Disarmed, the fans welcomed the Sox onto the field as they might have had the team returned undefeated instead of winless.

Before they even took the field, the players listened to general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona in the clubhouse. In a brief address that lasted only a few minutes, Epstein and Francona delivered words of encouragement.

The players were reminded of the talent that existed in the room and that six games didn't make a season. They were told that they were better than they had showed and assured that, working together, they could pull out of the first-week nosedive.

"It was refreshing,'' said Mike Cameron. "I think as players, sometimes, we need reminding how challenging it is to be real good. They kind of reminded us that we're a good team and it didn't come to an end in the last six games. We just needed to work a little harder, try to relax and go out and play ball. The talent will show here and we know the victories will come.

"The timing was good because we made it difficult on ourselves in Texas and Cleveland. But at the same time, the first six games didn't represent who we are and the first six games didn't represent the season. We just had a bad start.''

A bad start in Boston means more than a bad start in, say, Kansas City. The danger came in the players feeling overwhelmed by all the questions, all the historical references, all the negativity.

So the Sox went out and shed the bad baseball like a warm coat on a spring day. The hitters hit, the relievers slotted in nicely and the fans roared.

That the return to normalcy came against the Yankees only made it sweeter.

It wasn't perfect of course. You know the old saying about momentum being your starting pitcher? Not Friday, with John Lackey handing the Yanks a 2-0 lead in the first, then spitting back a 6-3 cushion after the Sox had scored five times in the bottom of the second.

But it all worked out. No more references to losing streaks in 1945, no more admonishments about how no team that began a season this poorly ever did this or did that.

"It was good for us,'' said Pedroia. "We needed it.

One win. Just one.

But it seemed like a lot more Friday, about as far from the feeling they had leaving Cleveland 24 hours earlier.

Go figure.

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

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.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”