Red Sox Learning To Take The Lead In Late Innings

One of the things that frustrated Red Sox Nation last year was the team’s inability to come from behind. An opposing team would outscore them, and the Red Sox couldn’t catch up. They’d load the bases but their hitter would strike out. Or they’d leave runners in scoring position inning after inning. In fact, they led the American League last year in runners left on base. With the Red Sox learning how to take the offensive in later inningRed Sox learnings fans are finally seeing a different tone.

Four of their eight wins as of April 17th were come-from-behind victories. Red Sox found themselves behind the Pittsburg Pirates during their makeup game on the 13th. Down 3-1 going into the 8th, Hanley Ramirez’s doubled home the winning run. The Red Sox did it again on Easter Sunday three days later against Tampa Bay. Down 5-4 in the seventh, the Red Sox rallied to pull ahead 7-5 by the ninth inning.

Even in instances where they didn’t win, they still showed strong effort. In an April 12th game against the Orioles, the Red Sox were down 9-0 going into the third. Despite losing the game, they finished the game 12-5. Win or lose, this was an issue the Red Sox sorely needed to work on from last season.

“The one thing that’s starting to show is that we’ve come from behind a number of games already,” manager John Farrell said in an article posted to Full Count on Weei.com.

With The Red Sox Learning To Come From Behind, Pitching Remains a Problem

I don’t think anyone anticipated the problems that the Red Sox rotation would have going into the 2017 season. We expected to see David Price at this point but he’s still down and out. Rick Porcello and Steve Wrignt have already taken their fair share of devastating losses. The Matt Barnes fiasco with Manny Machado isn’t helping things either.

Last year’s pitching was strong. Price dominated with strikeouts and Porcello became a 20-game winner. It was the offense that struggled at times. Now that the offense is heating up. it’s the pitching that’s struggling. If Farrell can find that balance the team needs, the Red Sox will be able to capture and hold onto first place.

Sea Dogs Earn Series Victory Over Trenton

After splitting a twin bill on Saturday afternoon, the Portland Sea Dogsseries victory entered Sunday’s rubber match with an opportunity to earn the series victory against the Trenton Thunder and take over the #1 slot in the Eastern League.

However, it did not start out looking that way. Early in the game, Trenton got to Portland starter Trey Ball. They scored two runs apiece in the second and fourth inning. In the fifth, Mike Ford doubled for Trenton to bring home Thairo Estrada, extending the lead to 5-0. That would be all for the Sea Dogs tall lefty. He was replaced by Luis Ysla.

As the innings waned, Portland’s bats emerged. In the bottom of the sixth, former Chicago Cub Mike Olt led off the inning with a solo home run. It would be a sign of things to come from the journeyman infielder. Later on, shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin also hit a towering home run; this one down the right field line.

After Heiker Meneses hit into a line drive double-play to end the seventh, Austin Maddox threw a scoreless eighth to keep the game at 5-2. However, the heart of the Sea Dogs order—Olt, Rafael Devers, and Nick Longhi—went down in order in the eighth.

Following another scoreless inning by Sea Dogs reliever, Jamie Callahan, the home team had one final chance to come back and earn the victory. To begin the inning, Lin reached first on an errant throw. Catcher, Jake DePew, then popped out. However, #9 hitter, Joseph Monge, smacked a long 2-run home run down the left field line that barely stayed fair, prompting a visit from Trenton manager. Finally, the top of the order was up with only one out and only a one-run deficit. The speedy Aneury Tavarez doubled on a softly hit ball through the left infield gap. Meneses followed with a single and advanced on a stolen base after a Cole Sturgeon strikeout. This put both the tying and winning run in scoring position with two outs for Mike Olt.

And wasting no time, Olt smashed the ball into right-center field, but it was almost caught by Trenton’s Rashad Crawford. However, the ball fell to the warning track and plated both Meneses and Tavarez, giving Portland the victory.

The fog horn blew and Portland improved to 9-5, giving them sole position of first place in the division. They opened up a series against last-place Hartford on Monday with Jacob Dahlstrand taking the mound.

Red Sox Have To Adjust Their Home Run Swings

It’s hard to hit a home run in Fenway, especially if you’re a visiting player. The Green Monster has robbed hundreds, if not thousands of home runs, from hitters. Right field isn’t much better with its deep unique corners. Red Sox hitters learn how to adjust their home run swings for the contours of Fenway. But they find it difficult to adjust in other ballparks.

I noticed this when I was in Baltimore last weekend for their series against the Orioles.home run swings Pablo Sandoval hit a bomb to left field that would have cleared the Green Monster. But it’s between 333-364 feet to left/left center in Camden Yards. That’s another few dozen feet that a ball has to travel for a home run. Sandoval has already hit a few homers over the Green Monster this season. However, the can of corn he hit in Baltimore shows he needs to hit for a tad more power. If Sox players like Sandoval want to hit home runs, they have to remember that most outfields are deeper than Fenway’s.

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a home run in the second series game that traveled over 450 feet. The ball itself almost hit the B&O Warehouse that overshadows Camden Yards. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only MLB player who has hit the warehouse in Camden Yards’ twenty-five year history. But Bradley Jr. is a lefty and it’s 380 to right center field in Fenway. Bradley hits for power, hence the distance on the home run.

The way the Red Sox hit during the Baltimore series clearly showed that they’re used to playing in Fenway.

Red Sox Have to Adjust Their Home Run Swings When They’re On the Road

The Red Sox can hit for power. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are becoming home run hitters. Xander Bogaerts isn’t there yet but he will be. Andrew Benintendi still has a ways to go before he’s a power hitter. But players like Sandoval can’t hit to left thinking it’ll clear the wall when they’re in a different ballpark. The Wall, despite its height, its much closer to home than most left fields.

If these hitters want to add more runs to the board they need to look at each ballpark they play in and adjust their home run swings accordingly.

Spikes and Controversy Slide Into Pedrioa

Fans have seen little else beyond spikes and controversy slide into Red Sox news lately. It started Friday night in Baltimore. The O’s third baseman Manny Machado slid into second as Dustin Pedrioa attempted a double play. Machado slid and spiked Pedroia. It looked  unintentional. But Pedrioa’s teammates and fans alike believe that Machado did it on purpose.

Personally, I don’t agree.Controversy Slide

Pedrioa told the press after the game that he didn’t think Machado intentionally spiked him. Pedrioa is a tough player whose been around for years and knows the difference between an accident and a dirty play. In fact, from the stands it looked like an accident.

I was attending the game in Baltimore with my friend Taylor that night. We were sitting behind the visiting dugout. At first, it didn’t look like Pedrioa was hurt that badly. I didn’t see any animosity between Machado and Pedrioa following the slide. In fact, as Machado slid into second he wrapped his arms around Pedrioa in an effort to cushion the impact. To see this kind of controversy slide into the game was unwarranted.

There were a lot of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards Friday night. I didn’t hear any of them suggest that Machado spiked him intentionally. O’s fans seemed to feel the same way. As I left the ballpark I didn’t hear anyone mention it. I didn’t hear anything about it in the bars I went into for an after-game drink. No one was talking about it. In other words, this is nothing more than an effort to make something out of nothing.

Anger and Controversy Slide Into The Red Sox Clubhouse

This incident was about to blow over until reliever Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was immediately ejected, making Friday’s incident a much bigger issue. Now some are saying Pedrioa is partly to blame. Following Sunday’s game, the O’s Zach Britton called Pedrioa’s leadership into question. Britton suggested that Pedrioa can’t control his teammates. It’s one thing to call this a “mishandled situation,” as Pedrioa put it, but it’s another thing to question Pedroia’s integrity. There’s no better ambassador for the Red Sox than Pedrioa. He’s one of those players whose love for the game equals his efforts.

This isn’t something the Red Sox need right now. Barnes should have known better than to throw at Machado over a nothing issue. Pedrioa likely didn’t tell him to do it; it’s not his style. It was an issue that was about to die down until  Barnes made it worse. It was something he decided to do on his own. But that’s between Barnes, his teammates, and John Farrell. Let the Red Sox deal with Barnes and focus on getting Pedrioa back into the lineup.

The best way to deal with this issue is to refocus on baseball. The AL East is unusually competitive this season and the Red Sox need to move on. Instead of dwelling on this insignificant issue, let the Red Sox focus on capturing first place.

Teddy Stankiewicz Emerges As Sea Dogs Ace

In 2013, Teddy Stankiewicz was drafted in the 2nd round by the Boston Red Sox, one round after fellow Portland Sea Dogs teammate Trey Ball. He played college ball at Seminole State and finished his senior year with a 2.52 ERA upon being drafted. stankiewiczPreviously, he had been drafted by the Mets in 2012.

Stankiewicz began his career in the Red Sox organization in 2013 with Lowell, where he recorded a 2.29 ERA at the age of 19. Over the next three years, Stankiewicz progressed through the ranks, spending a year at Greenville, Salem, and Portland respectively.

However, the first season in Portland was not as planned. In 2016, the 6’4’ righty went 5-9 with a 4.71 ERA in 25 starts. It was his third consecutive season with 25+ starts. That kind of consistency has been key to his progression through the minor leagues.

At one point, Stankiewicz was among SoxProspect.com’s Top 20 but has since fallen out of that list due to the constant income and outcome of prospects in the system.

But sometimes it’s the unsung heroes that contribute significantly.

So far in 2017, Stankiewicz has two no-decisions but has 13 innings pitched in two starts, a 2.77 ERA, and a 1.38 walk per nine innings ratio. Although teams spray hits against Stankiewicz, he has a 1.08 WHIP.

Stankiewicz’s Makeup

His stuff isn’t unhittable, but it gets the job done. He has a slider at about 81-84 MPH and a change-up at 84-86. His curve ball has an 11-5 break and can be thrown anywhere in the count to steal strikes. The fastball tops out in the low-to-mid 90’s and prevents him from walking hitters. Overall, he is confident on the mound and definitely has room for growth.

SoxProspects.com summarizes that Stankiewicz has the “Potential to be an emergency spot starter or long relief type. Won’t be flashy, but will throw strikes and utilize four-pitch mix to get outs. If [his] command doesn’t improve and secondary pitches don’t develop, will have to move to the bullpen. Lacks an above-average offering, which limits upside. Fastball and slider combination shows [the] most potential. Understands how to pitch. Strong makeup.”

Even though the Red Sox will obviously resort to Henry Owens or Brian Johnson before him for spot starts, Stankiewicz has emerged as the ace of the Double-A club. If he continues to improve his stuff and keep the ERA down, he could find himself in Pawtucket.

Rutledge Homers in PawSox Series Opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a star-studded night at BB&T Ballpark, the Pawtucket Red PawSox Series OpenerSox fell to the Charlotte Knights in the series opener, 3-1, on Tuesday.

In a game that featured a pair of big leaguers on rehab assignments (including a 2016 All-Star), a consensus top-5 prospect and a former first-round pick, the Knights (5-7) used a pair of first-inning home runs to coast by the PawSox (6-6) to kick off the three-game set. Pawtucket has now lost three in a row.

Before Tuesday’s series opener, the PawSox added a pair of players on MLB rehab assignments. Jackie Bradley Jr., who suffered a right knee sprain with the Red Sox in Detroit on April 8, batted second and played center field before leaving after his five scheduled innings. In the first inning, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Two innings later, Bradley struck out looking against Charlotte starter and 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer. Bradley tracked down two fly balls in center — one moving back and one jogging in during the third inning.

Rutledge, meanwhile, batted third as the designated hitter. The 27-year old, who suffered a left hamstring strain in late March during spring training, clocked a solo home run in the first inning. He later struck out swinging and grounded out to short.

Fulmer (W, 2-1) allowed just one run on five hits and a walk in six innings and outdueled PawSox starter Shawn Haviland (L, 2-1), who settled in after the first frame and logged seven innings. Haviland ceded just the three runs on nine hits and a walk to go along with eight punchouts.

Pawtucket, however, only mustered three singles after the second inning and hit into a pair of double plays. Flame-throwing Knights righty Zack Burdi (S, 2) secured the save in the ninth by striking out three consecutive PawSox hitters after allowing back-to-back singles to start the stanza.

PawSox center fielder Rusney Castillo (2-for-4) and left fielder Junior Lake (2-for-2, BB) each posted multi-hit nights.

In the top of the first inning, Rutledge lifted an opposite-field home run to right to crack open a 1-0 lead.

But, the Knights countered in the bottom of the first. Leadoff man and former Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada mashed a home run to right field. Two batters later, center fielder Willy Garcia pulled a two-run shot to left to vault Charlotte in front, 3-1.

The PawSox continue their three-game series in Charlotte against the Knights on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. Pawtucket right-hander Héctor Velázquez (0-0, 5.79) is scheduled to oppose Charlotte righty Lucas Giolito (0-1, 7.56). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 6:35 p.m.

The PawSox return home to McCoy Stadium April 25-30. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.