Balanced offensive attack leading the way in recent Red Sox hot streak

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — In the three game weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were a combined 2-for-25. With the way the season has been going for the Red Sox, this might look like a three-game sweep, but in fact it was the opposite as despite not getting much production from their two leaders, they still were able to earn a weekend sweep, capped by a 6-0 win Sunday afternoon.

Sunday it was David Ross shining as he ripped a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give the home team a comfortable 6-0 advantage. Also having productive days were Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. who each picked up two hits and Nava had three RBI. Shane Victorino in his second game back after missing a month and a half with a hamstring and back injury, went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

“Daniel Nava with an outstanding day offensively for us,” manager John Farrell said. “Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley, multiple hits, we’re getting more consistent contribution up and down the lineup. (Victorino) coming back to us the last two days has been an added bonus. Kind of reminded us how much we’ve missed his play in right field.”

The Red Sox have now won four straight games and seven of eight overall to now at least give a glimmer of hope that they do in fact have a second half run in them. In their last eight games as a team they are hitting .291 and have outscored their opponents 43-18.

A number of players who weren’t swinging the bat well in May and June have now turned a corner and playing a major part in the recent success of the team.

Nava is hitting .382 in the month of July and since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 2, has an OBP of .421 and a .337 batting average. Brock Holt has hit safely in six straight games and has multiple hits in four of them. Bradley Jr. has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games and is hitting .372 during that span.

Along with those three, Jonny Gomes came through with a game-winning, pinch-hit home run Friday night, this coming right after Xander Bogaerts hitting his first home run and extra base hit since June 13. Finally, Saturday night belonged to Mike Napoli as his solo homer well over the Monster seats was the game-winner in the 2-1 Red Sox win.

“It’s everybody. It’s not just one person,” Ross said. “Guys are getting big hits. Jackie (Bradley) is getting big hits. Brock Holt is doing his thing. It seems to be a different guy everyday.”

Not only is it a good sign winning four straight and seven of eight, it’s the way they are winning as even with Pedroia and Ortiz (1 for his last 18) not contributing like usual, they are playing some of their best baseball of the season. With 13 straight games against the AL East on tap and the trade deadline on July 31, it may very well decide how the remainder of the season goes.

With how well the offense is clicking, they may have a run in them — something no one thought possible just over two weeks ago after being swept by Cubs at home.

What are you seeing as the key in the Red Sox lineup? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

 

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Rubby De La Rosa continues to shine with Red Sox

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — In just seven starts with the Red Sox this season, Rubby De La Rosa has certainly made a name for himself as possibly being a fixture in the Red Sox rotation not only for the remainder of this season, but for years to come.

The latest came Saturday night when he went seven innings allowing one run on five hits to earn his third win of the season — a 2-1 Red Sox triumph over the Royals at Fenway Park.

In four starts at home this season, De La Rosa is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA and has allowed one run or fewer in three of his four starts. The right-hander feels comfortable with everything that goes with pitching at Fenway.

“It’s fun to pitch here,” he said. “I feel comfortable here. Everything works. I like the mound here. I love the fans, I like the fans. I feel comfortable here.”

Saturday’s performance wasn’t as easy as the stat line would suggest as he needed to pitch out of a number of jams, some due to poor defense behind him (Jonny Gomes’ error in the fourth and misplay in the fifth). The Royals had base runners in every inning against him except the seventh. The Royals also ended innings with runners in scoring position in four of the seven innings he pitched, going 0-for-5 overall in the game.

“He was at his best with men on base here tonight,” manager John Farrell said. “He may have issued a few more walks than we’ve seen (four), particularly here at Fenway, which he’s been outstanding anytime he’s taken the mound here at home. Even in the couple of situations where we gave an extra base runner he shut it down and pitched with a lot of poise once again.”

De La Rosa’s best pitch Saturday was his changeup as he went to it in a number of hitters counts and was able to get back into a rhythm after throwing it. Overall, he threw 22 change ups and recorded four swings and misses on the pitch. This has been the pitch that has allowed him to have success at the big league level as with a fastball nearing 100 MPH, he has needed a second pitch to compliment his heater.

“I felt comfortable with my changeup so I threw a lot of changeups today because I know these guys swing at a lot of balls,” De La Rosa said.

His manager noticed it too.

“Really good stuff for one. A changeup that he has gone to – even a couple of times tonight where he got down in the count where it was 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 he used a changeup to get himself back in sync from a delivery standpoint and it didn’t allow their hitters, who are a very good fastball hitting team to sit one one pitch,” Farrell said.

De La Rosa has now gone at least seven innings while allowing one run or less in four of his seven starts this season, which is the second most on the team, trailing only Jon Lester who has five. Even more impressive is De La Rosa has made just seven starts this year, while Lester has made 19.

With Felix Doubront moved to the bullpen and not pitching in a game since July 7, it would seem certain De La Rosa has taken a firm hold on the No. 4/5 starter’s role in the Red Sox rotation.

What have you thought of Rubby De La Rosa? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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Jonny Gomes comes through in the clutch again for the Red Sox

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — There were two outs in the sixth inning with a runner on second base and the Red Sox trailing 4-3. The Royals replaced starter James Shields with lefty reliever Scott Downs with lefty Jackie Bradley Jr. coming to the plate.

In what normally might be too early to call upon a pinch-hitter, manager John Farrell called upon the right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes and the veteran outfielder rewarded his manager with a two-run home run to center field, which proved to be the game-winning hit in the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Royals.

“For me that’s an opportunity I need to feast on,” Gomes said. “Knowing they have two lefties in the bullpen, so that at-bat effectively started at about 2:00 for me today. That’s the opportunity when my number is called on I need to feast on the opportunity.”

For Gomes, it was his second pinch-hit home run of the season and his sixth overall since joining the Red Sox last season. The six pinch-hit home runs as a member of the Red Sox puts him in second place on the Red Sox all-time list, trailing only Ted Williams who had seven. Gomes made it clear he isn’t chasing any of Teddy Ballgame’s records.

“Go ahead and get it out there – I’m not chasing any of Ted Williams’ records,” he said. “To break it all down I am just extremely fortunate, lucky and grateful to wear the same uniform that guy wore. Individual records don’t matter, I’m here trying to collect championships.”

Being a platoon outfielder, Gomes knows his role and needs to be ready when his name is called upon for pinch-hit situations like Friday night. He knows his playing time is somewhat limited and needs to make the most of it — if he doesn’t, his playing time could be cut down even more. He points to that as being the reason for his ability to hit in the clutch.

Gomes’ clutch hitting has done a lot for the Red Sox in the past year and a half. In games he’s homered as a member of the Red Sox, the team is 16-4 in those games. The biggest came in Game 4 of the World Series last year when he belted a three-run home run in St. Louis to allow the Red Sox to tie the series at two.

“I wouldn’t say I thrive, to tell you the truth, it’s something I have to do,” said Gomes. “If you take that away from my tools and what I bring to the club, you might not be seeing much No. 5. It’s one of my tasks, one of my jobs that I have here and I just have to do my best to succeed in this role.”

Hitting against left-handers is what Gomes does best as after Friday he is hitting .313 against left-handers (31-for-99) this year, compared to just .154 against righties (14-for-91).

For the Red Sox as a team, it was big win as they entered the sixth inning trailing 4-1 and the four runs led them to a win. It was their 18th comeback win of the season and they have now won five of their last six games overall and starting to finally build some momentum. Entering the day 9 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, Gomes and the team know where they stand, but also know there is still a lot of baseball left to be played and no one should be counted out.

“Before the break and first day after the break our goal hasn’t changed, so our goal is still win the division, win that last game of the year, our goal hasn’t changed one bit,” said Gomes. “Obviously we understand the date and we understand we dig ourselves in the hole a little bit, but we’re not trying to turn the corner by any means, we’re just trying to win as many games as we can.”

What do you think of Jonny Gomes? Should the Red Sox hold on to him, or look to trade him? Voice your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Shane Victorino could return Saturday, Will Middlebrooks this weekend too?

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — Shane Victorino could be back to the Red Sox a lot sooner than many expected after going 2-for-4 with two singles and two runs scored while playing all nine innings Thursday night with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“He came out of last night in good shape physically,” manager John Farrell said. “He ran the bases aggressively going from first to third a couple of different times, slid head first, a couple of base hits, made three plays in right field, so last night was a very good night for him and we anticipate him getting through tonight in a similar fashion physically. There’s a scenario which has him active for us tomorrow.”

Victorino hasn’t played a game with the Red Sox since May 23.

Other Red Sox notes:

– Farrell was asked to clarify a comment made Thursday regarding Will Middlebrooks and Victorino returning at the same time.

“I wouldn’t say they are tied to one another,” he said. “We’re hopeful Will is fully healed over the things he is battling with the wrist, the finger and he gets back to us as a productive player. I can’t tell you sitting here right now that that would be tomorrow.”

The manager added it’s possible he returns before the upcoming road trip, which would be over the weekend, but he said, “with either move (Victorino and Middlebrooks) there’s corresponding moves and we have to work through those.”

Middlebrooks is rehabbing a broken right index finger suffered May 16 and has had set backs along the way with the thumb swelling up when making throws.

There is no easy corresponding move for either of the potential recalls. The likely move for Victorino would point to Mookie Betts, but there certainly isn’t an obvious one for Middlebrooks. It could come down to one of the outfielders being sent down or possibly traded. It is also possible the organization could send Xander Bogaerts back down to Pawtucket to allow for Middlebrooks to play third base everyday or even DFA or look to trade Stephen Drew.

– It is big stretch for the Red Sox coming out of the All-Star break as they currently sit 9 1/2 games behind the Orioles for first place in the AL East. With 13 of their next 16 games against AL East opponents, it will be a telling few weeks for the club in deciding which direction they will be going at the trade deadline — buyers or sellers.

“It could,” Farrell said. “We’ll take each day at a time and see where that lands us come later this month.”

For up to the minutes Red Sox news and updates, follow @RyanHannable.

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Amidst contract talks Jon Lester in the middle of dominating stretch

By Ryan Hannable

BOSTON — Besides being in the spotlight every five days he takes the mound, Jon Lester is in the spotlight almost everyday now being one of the biggest topics associated with the Red Sox and his impending free agency. Some guys, especially in a market like Boston, might have this affect their performance on the field, but not Lester. The veteran left-hander is in one of the best stretches of his entire career.

After dominating the White Sox lineup over seven innings, allowing one run while scattering seven hits, not walking a batter and striking out 12, Lester has now only allowed one earned run over his last three starts (23 innings) and over his last six starts he has an ERA of 1.01.

“I’m not here to make a statement. I’m here to win baseball games,” Lester said. “That’s all I’m worried about right now. The personal stuff will take care of its self. That’s far from my mind right now. I don’t hold any grudges against people. That doesn’t motivate my to pitch better. I’m a competitor and I want to pitch well regardless if I’m a free agent to be or if I have years left on my contract. That doesn’t motivate me, winning baseball games motives me.”

Lester’s 12 strikeouts without issuing a walk were the most of his career. It marked the 20th double-digit strikeout game of his career and third of the season. He has the seventh-most 10+ strikeout games in the American League among AL pitchers since 2006. More importantly than the personal accolades, the Red Sox have won six straight Lester starts and eight of the last nine. The six straight wins in his starts is the second-longest streak in his career as back in 2009 the Red Sox won seven straight games in which he started.

“Like I said, I just take the ball every five days and pitch,” he said. “Whatever the outcome may be, it its what it is. I try and do that every time I take the ball. Whether or not I give up five or six runs in five innings or do that today, the effort is always there, the game-planning is always there. The work in between starts is always there. Right now I am executing pitches well and the biggest thing is when guys are getting into scoring positions we’re able to make some pitches and get out jams and limit damage when we can.”

The guy who knows Lester as well as anyone on the team, catcher David Ross, isn’t at all surprised by the way Lester has thrown during this latest stretch even with all the contract talks. (It should also be noted, Lester now has a 2.88 career ERA with David Ross behind the plate. The best among catcher who has ever caught him)

“Not really, I feel like Jon is a strong individual,” Ross said. “I feel like he has a good head on his shoulders. He’s been in this market for a long time, which trains you a little bit to be a little numb to outside distractions. I feel like that was part of the reason we were so poised in the playoffs last year, is we go through live or die everyday when you come to the Boston Red Sox, it’s every win matters. That doesn’t surprise me at all he has a good head on his shoulders and goes out there and competes.”

Even if Lester isn’t making any statements by the way he’s pitching of late, he doesn’t have to — the numbers are doing all the talking.

When do you or do you think the Red Sox will re-sign Jon Lester? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.

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