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Struggling bats, bad-luck bounce sink Red Sox

Weeks struck by ball at third base, thwarting ninth-inning rally

Struggling bats, bad-luck bounce sink Red Sox play video for Struggling bats, bad-luck bounce sink Red Sox

PITTSBURGH -- In a season that went irreversibly sour weeks ago for the Red Sox, a new chapter of frustration was added in the top of the ninth inning on Thursday night against the Pirates in a play that might not be seen again anytime soon.

Moments before a 3-2 loss that completed a three-game sweep, the Sox seemed on the verge of a comeback.

With runners at the corners and nobody out, Will Middlebrooks hit a grounder to third. As pinch-runner Jemile Weeks hastily retreated back to the base, the live ball hit him on the right leg in fair territory.

Just like that, the tying run was no longer 90 feet away. Instead, a stunned Weeks was ruled out after a fluke play in which he did nothing wrong.

"I didn't anticipate it going foul," said Weeks. "I anticipated it pretty much going either way. It was coming pretty much right in front of me at first, so I'm guessing the way he hit it, it kind of spun and came at me a little bit. So my natural instinct was to do what I was told, get back on a slow chopper. I tried to get back as fast as I could and I didn't think it was going to come right on top of me like that."

That's just the way it has gone for a Boston team that is now 66-87, and for a Pirates team that hopes to be playoff-bound at 82-70.

"I've never seen it in my life," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the play. "Never seen that play. Fitting."

Neither had third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who has been in the game for decades.

"Jemile made the right move," said Butterfield. "He made the right move. But that was the first time in my life I've ever seen that happen. Sometimes when it rains it pours."

The Pirates loved the type of fortunate bounce that the Red Sox got plenty of last year.

"Seen ball hit guys before, but never in a situation like that," said Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison. "I saw it right off the bat, and I was charging it -- and the next thing I know, he broke back to the bag, just hit him while he was diving back. The next hop probably would've made it bounce foul."

In your scorebook, the play goes down as a single and a putout at third. Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out for the second out. Mark Melancon retired Christian Vazquez on a grounder to second for the game's final out.

Over the three games, Boston mustered an aggregate of three runs.

Brandon Workman was the victim of a lack of run support in this one, scattering seven hits and two earned runs while striking out six over five innings. The righty (1-10, 5.17 ERA) took the loss to remain winless since June 10.

"All I can control is going out there and getting ready to throw the ball again next time," said Workman. "Try to start the game sharper than what I did this time and move forward from there."

The Red Sox also had a chance to come back in the eighth, when Vazquez and pinch-hitter Garin Cecchini opened the inning with singles, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. A sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts nipped Pittsburgh's lead to a run. But Pirates reliever Tony Watson struck out David Ortiz to end the threat.

An error by Middlebrooks on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the first helped the Pirates keep a rally going. With the bases loaded and one out, Workman walked Ike Davis to force in a run.

"Obviously, that's not the way you want to do it: put two guys on and walk in a run in the first inning," said Workman. "When it comes down to a one-run game and you walked in a run, that's one of those things."

Silent for most of this series, the Red Sox did generate something in the third. Vazquez started it with a one-out single. Workman did his job, moving Vazquez to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mookie Betts tied the game with an RBI single up the middle.

Davis started a rally in the fourth with an infield single. Jordy Mercer hit a double that was just fair over the third-base bag. Chris Stewart drilled an RBI single up the middle, and the Pirates were back in front at 2-1.

Starling Marte boosted the lead to two runs in the fifth when he launched a solo homer to left.

The Red Sox would knock on the door of a comeback a couple of times, but dumb luck left them just short.

"Just a crazy play," said Weeks.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sox optimistic after Holt meets concussion specialist

Sox optimistic after Holt meets concussion specialist play video for Sox optimistic after Holt meets concussion specialist

PITTSBURGH -- After Brock Holt visited with noted concussion specialist Mickey Collins on Thursday, there was more optimism that the super-utilityman would be able to play again this season.

"He's improved today," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He got some encouraging news from Dr. Collins and his staff with the battery of tests that he went through. We'll begin to incorporate baseball activities, likely when we get to Baltimore. It's still undetermined, but not out of the question that he would return before this season is out. But we still have to see how he responds to baseball activity that he takes in."

If Holt can't be cleared in time for the end of the regular season on Sept. 28, Farrell left open the possibility he would get a few at-bats in the Instructional League.

What would the purpose of that be?

"Just to answer the physical questions that we're all trying to get answers to right now," said Farrell.

Worth noting
• The offseason could be the perfect cure for slumping Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig to completely get over the left foot woes that have hampered him.

"He's had no ill effects from the previous injury in the foot," said Farrell. "That has not flared up since he's been back playing for us. And I think just an overall strength and conditioning and a normal offseason for him should set a foundation to be in a much better place than he was this year because of the delay due to the foot injury."

• One day after making his Major League debut, center fielder Rusney Castillo was not in Boston's starting lineup. Instead, Jackie Bradley Jr. played center field.

"Yeah, he's played the last couple of games," said Farrell. "A late travel night in here. He hasn't been on an everyday basis since he signed with us. We'll spread out his days of rest as we get through the final 10 days."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Webster gets the call for opener against Orioles

Club trails Angels as it begins three-game series with Webster, Sox

Webster gets the call for opener against Orioles play video for Webster gets the call for opener against Orioles

With the American League East title locked up, the Orioles are now moving on to their pursuit of the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Baltimore trails the Angels by 2 1/2 games with 10 to play in the race for the top seed in the AL, and the Orioles finish the season against the last-place Red Sox and two teams whose postseason hopes are quickly fading -- the Yankees and Blue Jays. That stretch begins on Friday against Boston with rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman (7-7) on the hill.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is being careful, though, to keep his team at full strength entering the postseason. It's a balancing act to accomplish that while chasing Los Angeles. Outfielder Nick Markakis had the day off on Wednesday. When he returns Friday, he'll likely find himself in a lineup without Adam Jones in it.

"We want to make sure we try to keep Detroit and Kansas City from catching us," Showalter said. "I was looking at Anaheim's schedule last night. They've got a pretty tough road there at the end.

"I talked to Adam, I talked to Nicky ... talked about what my plans were, but more importantly, what they thought would be best for them."

Boston's World Series defense fell flat early in the season and left the Red Sox with nothing more to do in September than get a look at some of their young players. On Wednesday, Boston recalled highly touted outfielder Rusney Castillo to make his debut. When they begin their series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, the Red Sox will have 24-year-old rookie Allen Webster on the mound.

Webster came to the Majors as the Red Sox were unloading talent at an unprecedented level toward the end of July. They sold off Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy in part to get a look at guys like Webster, who has gone 4-3 with a 6.02 ERA in nine starts since being called up.

"He was efficient, he was powerful," Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Webster's last outing, a quality start against the Royals. "It was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone."

Red Sox: Holt will resume baseball activities in Baltimore
The Red Sox are optimistic Brock Holt will play again this season after the utility man visited with concussion specialist Mickey Collins on Thursday. Holt hasn't played since Sept. 5.

"He's improved today," Farrell said. "He got some encouraging news from Dr. Collins and his staff with the battery of tests that he went through. We'll begin to incorporate baseball activities, likely when we get to Baltimore. It's still undetermined, but not out of the question that he would return before this season is out. But we still have to see how he responds to baseball activity that he takes in."

Holt could see at-bats in instructional league play if he doesn't play before the end of the season.

Orioles: Walker gets big league call
Christian Walker, the No. 4 prospect in the O's organization and its Minor League Player of the Year, made his debut on Wednesday and collected the first hit of his career, a double to left field in the seventh inning.

When the O's clinched the AL East on Tuesday, it meant Showalter could start resting some of his guys. Bringing Walker up gives Baltimore another capable first baseman to play during Chris Davis' suspension.

"[We] don't want to get to the end of the season, and then all of a sudden an injury you weren't counting on pops up," Showalter said. "Basically, a guy who's an option has been down getting a few at-bats against instructional league pitching. This is a better place for it."

Worth noting
• With three homers on Wednesday, the Orioles have 199 this season.

• Castillo sat Thursday night and Jackie Bradley Jr. took his place in center field.

"Yeah, he's played the last couple of games," said Farrell. "A late travel night in here. He hasn't been on an everyday basis since he signed with us. We'll spread out his days of rest as we get through the final 10 days."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rusney notches first hit, 'satisfied' with debut

Center fielder singles in fourth inning, not really tested in field

Rusney notches first hit, 'satisfied' with debut play video for Rusney notches first hit, 'satisfied' with debut

PITTSBURGH -- It took Rusney Castillo years to realize his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, but just one game to get his first career hit.

The Cuban outfielder went 1-for-4 for the Red Sox in Wednesday's 9-1 loss to the Pirates, as he came up with an infield single in his second at-bat.

"I'm pretty satisfied with that being my first game," said Castillo. "Obviously you'd like a better outcome in terms of winning the game. But I was pretty satisfied with my overall approach and the way I stepped in today and had some results. Overall, satisfied."

There wasn't much action for Castillo on defense, but he corralled the one flyball that came his way in center.

"He's aggressive. He's going to hit the ball where it's pitched," said manager John Farrell. "He wasn't really challenged defensively. Makes a decent running catch out in left-center field. For his debut, first action, he didn't look overmatched, didn't look overwhelmed in the situation."

The Red Sox signed the 27-year-old Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract on Aug. 23. After not playing organized baseball for more than a year, Castillo has spent the past couple of weeks playing for various Minor League affiliates, culminating in Tuesday night's Triple-A championship game, in which Pawtucket lost to Omaha.

Now, he is eager to see how his skills will play at the highest level.

"It was a great experience," Castillo said. "It was good to play, not only in Minor League games but to play in high leverage games and at that caliber. I think that will be beneficial for me being able to adapt."

Castillo was one of six players promoted by the Red Sox on Wednesday, joining outfielder Bryce Brentz, infielder/outfielder Garin Cecchini, left-handed pitcher Edwin Escobar, right-handed pitcher Heath Hembree and catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway. Cecchini, Escobar and Brentz are ranked among the club's Top 20 prospects.

"This is just the continuation of an effort to get him exposed and get him comfortable in the environment and just log at-bats," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He's missed a lot of time after the defection. We just want to make up for that, log as many at-bats as we can, and that will probably continue into the fall and the winter."

In 11 Minor League games, Castillo hit .293 (12-for-41) while compiling seven runs, five RBIs, four doubles, one homer, two stolen bases, five walks and nine strikeouts.

"I've been pretty happy with the way things have worked out, and not just the success on the field, but the relationships that I've been able to develop with the coaching staff, the clubhouse staff, other teammates, that's been really beneficial as well," said Castillo.

For the remaining 10 days of this season, Farrell will pick his spots with Castillo.

"Yeah, I don't expect him to be an everyday player here. He's going to get games played, that's for sure," Farrell said. "But we've got other guys here as well. We'll strike a balance with that."

Once the season ends, Castillo will play either in the Arizona Fall League or in Puerto Rico, if not both.

After hearing so much about Castillo, the Red Sox enjoyed being able to see him firsthand.

"I don't think it's the results that you learn from," said Cherington. "I think it's just watching him around the team, pregame, interact with people, the questions he asks. All that stuff has been very positive so far.

"He's been on a little bit of a whirlwind even if you just start from the time he was in Miami at the showcases -- to go from there to signing to Fort Myers to Binghamton and Portland and Pawtucket and now here. He's met a lot of people in a short amount of time and played games in a lot of places. He's handled it all well so far."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Despite slump, Red Sox want Koji back

Despite slump, Red Sox want Koji back play video for Despite slump, Red Sox want Koji back

PITTSBURGH -- Though Red Sox right-hander Koji Uehara went into such a funk in recent weeks that he's temporarily on leave from the closer's role, it hasn't changed the club's stance on wanting him back in 2015.

"It hasn't changed interest in our part in having him here," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He's went through a stretch which he's been through before. In his career, he's gone through a stretch kind of like the one he did earlier this month."

Uehara will be eligible for free agency when the World Series ends, unless the Red Sox prevent that by signing him earlier.

"He's done a lot of good things for this organization, obviously, and the way that he handled the recent period where he struggled a little bit, I think reflects on him positively," Cherington said. "Not only that he knew he had to figure something out but was part of the plan to do so. Other than that, we haven't had any other conversations and don't know that it's an appropriate time to do that in the season. But our interest is still there."

Uehara pitched in a low-leverage situation on Tuesday night against the Pirates and struck out the side.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Buchholz can't stop playoff-hungry Pirates

Making big league debut, Castillo notches first hit during fourth inning

Buchholz can't stop playoff-hungry Pirates play video for Buchholz can't stop playoff-hungry Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Just as he was settling into a nice late-season groove, Clay Buchholz was shelled on Wednesday night at PNC Park, as the Red Sox took a 9-1 loss to the Pirates.

Buchholz lasted just four innings, giving up six hits and five runs, four of them earned.

"He made some mistakes against some good hitters. Ran into some hittable counts and they took advantage of him," said pitching coach Juan Nieves.

The performance came on the heels of a brilliant four-start stretch, in which Buchholz went 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA.

"He's been really consistent for a long time now. He had a bad game tonight," said Nieves. "I'd expect him to pitch two more and finish strong, but he's showing some flashes of brilliance again for a long period of time. Very positive finish."

Especially compared to last season, when Buchholz was bothered by shoulder woes down the stretch.

"Never expected him to really start this season up to par because he finished the last season on a bad note, and the good thing about it is he's been pitching all year," said Nieves. "Health is not an issue anymore and we can take this and create a base for next year."

Meanwhile, center fielder Rusney Castillo made his Major League debut for the Red Sox, going 1-for-4.

There has been great interest in Castillo, considering the Red Sox signed him to a $72.5 million contract last month.

"I'm pretty satisfied with that being my first game," said Castillo. "Obviously you'd like a better outcome in terms of winning the game. But I was pretty satisfied with my overall approach and the way I stepped in today and had some results. Overall, satisfied."

The Pirates wasted no time getting to Buchholz, as Gregory Polanco belted a solo shot with one out in the first.

In the second, the normally sure-handed Mike Napoli dropped a throw by Xander Bogaerts for an error, and the floodgates opened from there, with the Pirates following with four straight hits to take a 4-0 lead.

"Actually, I felt my fastball velocity was better," said Buchholz, who dropped to 8-9 with a 5.29 ERA. "Felt good before the game. Last four or five games, I made mistakes during the game, but I didn't seem to pay for them. Every mistake I made tonight, I ran into a club that's swinging the bat real well right now. Everybody knows they have a good lineup. If you don't command the pitches like you're meant to against a lineup like that, that's how you get hit."

All eyes were on Castillo, who produced his first career hit in the fourth, an infield grounder that second baseman Neil Walker couldn't make a play on.

"You'd always like to hit the ball hard and maybe have it be a line drive. That being said, a hit is a hit and I'm happy I got one," said Castillo.

Bryce Brentz pinch-hit for Buchholz in the fifth and came up with a hit in his first career at-bat, a double into the corner in left.

"It's a dream come true," said Brentz, who is ranked the club's No. 20 prospect. "I think every player that comes up always wants to get their first one out of the way. I was more than happy to do that."

Knuckleballer Steven Wright faltered in place of Buchholz, getting belted around for five hits and four runs over one inning.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cherington forecasts rebound for Pedroia

Cherington forecasts rebound for Pedroia play video for Cherington forecasts rebound for Pedroia

PITTSBURGH -- Although Dustin Pedroia's power clearly tailed off the last two seasons as he dealt with hand injuries, general manager Ben Cherington is confident his second baseman will rebound.

Pedroia had left hand surgery last week, but he is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training.

"I'm very optimistic about what he's going to be," said Cherington. "If I was going to bet on one player in Major League Baseball, he'd certainly be in a very small group of guys I'd bet on. I think his ability to be productive playing through stuff is pretty remarkable. If he can get past the issues he's been fighting, which we think he will, I don't have any reason to think he's not going to be one of the very best second basemen in the game for a long time."

And even in his hampered state, Pedroia still found a way to help the Red Sox.

"Because he's been banged up, I don't think we've seen everything he's capable of doing on the field," Cherington said. "Now despite that, he's still been a very valuable player, including this year. In aggregate, he's clearly one of the better second basemen in the game. These injuries he's had, based on the information I have anyway, are not things that are chronic or lasting things. They are things he'll recover from."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Ranaudo allows two homers on quiet night for offense

Prospect has served up 10 home runs over first six starts in Majors

Ranaudo allows two homers on quiet night for offense play video for Ranaudo allows two homers on quiet night for offense

PITTSBURGH -- Anthony Ranaudo is doing a pretty nice job for the Red Sox when he keeps the ball in the ballpark. The problem is that the long balls are occurring too often.

The right-handed prospect gave up two more homers on Tuesday night, accounting for all of the runs he allowed in a 4-0 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. Over his first six Major League starts and 32 1/3 innings, Ranaudo has been taken deep 10 times.

Of the 19 runs he's allowed, 14 of them have come on home runs.

"If you look back at all my starts, the common theme is the home runs," said Ranaudo. "I obviously have to do a better job. That falls on me. Yeah, there were times I threw the ball well tonight. Ultimately we didn't score any runs and they did, and they wound up with the win."

Why do the home runs keep happening against Ranaudo?

"I think it's continuously mixing my pitches better and understanding the strike zone and just being more consistent with my pitches and understanding what some of these hitters' approaches are and things like that," said Ranaudo. "I think that's all going to come with experience, and obviously I'd like to be making the adjustments a little quicker, but it's something that's part of the learning process that I just have to do a better job of."

Meanwhile, after an eight-run outburst against the Royals on Sunday, the Boston bats went back into a familiar funk.

The Sox were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

"A number of opportunities," said manager John Farrell. "We had a big opportunity in the fifth and another in the eighth, and they were able to get key strikeouts with runners in scoring position. We created opportunities for ourselves throughout the ballgame tonight. We just couldn't cash in."

And the Pirates, in the thick of the National League postseason race, made the most of their opportunities.

Ranaudo put Neil Walker on with a walk to start the second, and Russell Martin followed by launching a two-run homer to right-center to snap the scoreless tie.

In the sixth, it was Starling Marte who took Ranaudo deep with a solo shot to left-center.

"Marte was a 2-2 changeup," said Ranaudo. "I thought it was a pretty good pitch out of my hand, too. I don't know if he was ready for it or he adjusted well to it. He put a really good swing on it."

The Red Sox produced perhaps their best threat of the night in the eighth, when Xander Bogaerts singled and pinch-hitter Allen Craig came through with a double to left, bringing the dangerous Yoenis Cespedes to the plate with two outs. But Tony Watson struck out the slugger on a 2-2 fastball in the dirt.

As for Ranaudo, he'll go back to the drawing board and try to keep the ball in the yard next time out.

"The young man actually pitched well," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "The breaking ball played well, and the fastball command showed up. Big swing from Russell -- that's close to a left-handed pull hitter driving the ball to right-center field, and obviously, Marte, when he hits them like that, they're fun to watch. It was enough for us to get out in front a little bit and create some separation."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Breslow named Sox's nominee for Clemente Award

Breslow named Sox's nominee for Clemente Award play video for Breslow named Sox's nominee for Clemente Award

PITTSBURGH -- Red Sox lefty reliever Craig Breslow hasn't had his best season on the mound, but he's been as committed as ever to making a difference in the community.

For the second straight year, Breslow has been selected as the Red Sox's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.

"It's humbling, it's an incredible honor," said Breslow. "I would also say it's probably a common thread among all the nominees that it's not the reason that we're doing the work that we're doing. Nonetheless, it's gratifying to be recognized."

Fittingly for Breslow, Roberto Clemente Day will take place on Wednesday, while the Red Sox are in Pittsburgh.

"Obviously Roberto Clemente is known as much for his work off the field as on, and that's not to discredit a Hall of Fame career," Breslow said. "But any time you can be mentioned in the same breath as him, and alongside some of the most philanthropic guys in the league, it's something I'm incredibly proud of."

Breslow started his Strike 3 Foundation in 2008 to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

"It's nice to know that we're making a difference," said Breslow. "Our organization is as strong as the volunteers we have helping and the loyal base that's willing to donate and support our cause. Again, it's not the reason we're doing the work, but the fact people are noticing must mean that we're making some kind of impact."

Beginning Wednesday, fans can vote for the award's national recipient at ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to next month's World Series. The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, from which the honoree will be chosen.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Holt to see concussion specialist in Pittsburgh

Holt to see concussion specialist in Pittsburgh play video for Holt to see concussion specialist in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Brock Holt is with the Red Sox during this three-game series in his old haunt of Pittsburgh, but he remains reduced to spectator status due to a concussion.

The most significant occurrence for Holt during this visit to Pittsburgh will be a meeting with concussion specialist Mickey Collins.

"While he's improving, he's still going through some vision exercises," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He has a re-examination and a battery of tests scheduled for Thursday with Dr. Collins. I think that will be a pivotal day. A pivotal day in the sense of where he's at and the projection for him going forward.

"And until we get that information, I have no real date marked for when he can be on the field. He'll be on the field when he's ready, but Thursday is going to tell us a lot."

Holt last played for the Red Sox on Sept. 5.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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PawSox between Omaha and back-to-back titles

PawSox between Omaha and back-to-back titles play video for PawSox between Omaha and back-to-back titles

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Down to its last strike in Game 4 of the Governors' Cup on Friday at Durham, Pawtucket rallied. Newly signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo hit an RBI single to tie the game and Pawtucket went on to win in 13 innings. It won again the next day in Game 5 to claim the International League title for the first time since 2012.

Omaha's situation against Reno in the Pacific Coast League championship series last week was never quite that precarious. But the Storm Chasers did need to win the final two games of the best-of-five series to repeat as PCL champions.

The comeback series victories for Pawtucket and Omaha set up a showdown on Tuesday in the Triple-A National Championship Game at Charlotte's BB&T Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET and can be seen on MiLB.TV.

With the hard work of winning their leagues' best-of-five championship series complete, both Pawtucket and Omaha enter Tuesday's championship game confident and loose.

"This game is big, but this is just gravy on a season," Omaha right-hander Christian Binford said. "We've both won our rings, we've both had great seasons. Everybody here has had a great season. So this game is really just a prize for both of us."

"I think the hardest part was getting into the playoffs, that was the toughest thing," Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said. "I think guys got comfortable in the first series. We played a lot more relaxed."

The Storm Chasers will turn to Binford, the Royals' No. 8 prospect, as they looks to win back-to-back National Championships. Omaha defeated Durham, 2-1, in last year's game.

Binford's rise to be in position to start the National Championship Game has been meteoric. The 21-year-old began the season with Class A Advanced Wilmington and had an All-Star first half to earn a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. His success continued at his new level, and the Royals bumped him up to Omaha in August and moved him to the bullpen in case they needed to call on him in that role during their playoff push. Along the way, he represented the club at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

"It's been incredible; I can't really explain it any more than that," Binford said. "Seeing three different leagues, three different pitching coaches, learning from all of them, meeting three groups of guys -- all of them have been absolutely amazing.

"It's been a huge season."

Opposing Binford on the mound will be Pawtucket left-hander Edwin Escobar, the Red Sox's No. 8 prospect, who has had an eventful season of his own. The 22-year old began the year as a member of the Giants' organization, pitching in Triple-A Fresno. The Red Sox acquired him in July as a part of the Jake Peavy deal, a move that Escobar said he anticipated.

"During July I heard the Giants were looking for some trades and when I heard that, I think if they trade someone, they're going to send a prospect," he said. "When I got that call, I feel like I knew it was going to happen. It was another opportunity and I feel blessed over here."

In seven starts for Pawtucket (including the playoffs), Escobar posted a 3.35 ERA and struck out 32 batters while walking eight in 43 innings. He also made his Major League debut, appearing in one game for the Red Sox in August.

Just as both teams had their backs against the wall in their League Championship Series, the season is now down to a winner-take-all game. Having both just won a championship in the same situation, both teams believe they can celebrate one more victory this season if they play the same way they did over the weekend.

"You can't expect these guys to change their approach," Omaha manager Brian Poldberg said. "You've got to stay with what got you there."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Owens waiting his turn to get a taste of the Majors

Boston's top prospect understands why he wasn't called up this year

Owens waiting his turn to get a taste of the Majors play video for Owens waiting his turn to get a taste of the Majors

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- It has sometimes felt like 2014 was the year of the prospect at Fenway Park. From Mookie Betts to Christian Vazquez to Xander Bogaerts to Jackie Bradley Jr. to Anthony Ranaudo to Matt Barnes to Rubby De La Rosa, there were chances for the team's upper-level youngsters to show their stuff.

But for the highly intriguing Henry Owens, the call to Boston never came. Allow Boston's No. 1 prospect to explain why.

"I haven't been throwing well, so I didn't really deserve it," said the lanky lefty starter. "At the same time, I understand that. Maybe if I was pitching better or had a less amount of innings, I'd be up there. I'm proud of the fact that I've remained healthy and logged a lot of innings. Hopefully next year, I can pitch not only in September, but October as well."

This year, Owens has lived vicariously through good friends like Ranaudo and Barnes.

"It's pretty surreal and awesome at the same time," said Owens of watching those players get their first shots at the highest level. "I texted Ranaudo on his birthday, but I didn't even realize he was also pitching that night, so it was kind of funny. I watched him between innings of our game."

Ever the competitor, Owens wishes he could have joined them for their first foray into life in the big leagues.

"I was definitely hoping I would get an opportunity, but it didn't come," said Owens. "I'm not disappointed. I'm not mad."

If Owens is disappointed about anything, it's that he didn't pitch better following his promotion to Triple-A in early August. On Aug. 4, his first start with Pawtucket, Owens was nothing short of dazzling, allowing no runs and just two hits in 6 2/3 innings, with nine strikeouts.

When that start was complete, Red Sox fans were already buzzing about Owens' imminent move to Boston. But the next few starts revealed a pitcher who still had work to do, mainly with his fastball command.

Inconsistency might have been the best thing that could have happened to Owens; going through adversity taught him invaluable lessons.

"I'd say I learn something from every single outing I pitch in," said Owens. "You learn more in the ones you fail than the ones you just kind of cruise through. When you're succeeding at a high level, you don't really think you're doing anything wrong. There's always something to be learned in this game."

Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur probably had the perfect temperament to help guide Owens through a somewhat rough patch.

"[Owens has] got a very high ceiling -- there's no doubt about that," said Sauveur. "He's human, and that's actually what I said to him the the second outing, when he gave up four runs in an inning in Charlotte. I came out just to loosen things up, and I said, 'You are human, huh?' He laughed.

"I think he's ahead of schedule. He was a youngster coming out of high school. I think he's far ahead of schedule, and I love the guy."

There's much to love. Owens' fastball is currently in the high 80s to low 90s, but it should improve as he continues to grow into his body. The changeup is already a certifiable weapon and, without question, his best pitch. The curveball is the separator. If Owens can consistently flip those into the strike zone, he could become an upper-echelon starter in the Majors.

"You've got to command the fastball and learn how to pitch, learn how to use your secondary pitches. That's something [Owens has] got to do," said Sauveur. "He's got two very good secondary pitches with the curveball and the changeup. The changeup, I think, is way ahead of the curveball, because it's that good. But I don't want him to fall in love with it. It's a pitch that he can get people out with at any time, and he throws it to lefties and righties.

"I just don't want him to fall in love with it, because If you're not commanding the fastball, then he's going to start throwing the changeup. If a smart hitter is up there and sees that he doesn't command the fastball, he's going to sit on the changeup. That's what good hitters do."

Sauveur has seen a lot of prospects during his years in player development, but he gets noticeably animated when he talks about Owens.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's going to gain some velocity, and he's going to get a sharper breaking ball," said Sauveur. "Don't misunderstand me. That first night he pitched here, I gave him a plus curveball in the report. It was a better-than-Major League-average curveball. It hasn't been consistent."

The one thing extremely consistent with Owens is his demeanor. Talk to him for a few minutes and there's no air of overconfidence or arrogance. But Owens has a firm belief in who he is and what he can be.

"I feel like all three of my pitches are ready to play at the next level," said Owens. "It's just a matter of executing and competing at the same time."

Keep in mind that Owens was drafted out of high school in 2011, so his development is probably right on schedule. Jon Lester was drafted by the Sox in June '02, and he made his debut in the Majors in June '06.

What has Owens heard from his friends at the next level?

"I've heard the spread is a lot better, before and after games," quipped Owens. "No, our clubbie does a great job. Everyone says the same thing -- the big leagues is far superior to the Minor Leagues, and I look forward to getting an opportunity some day."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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PawSox stacked entering Triple-A title game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Triple-A rosters are often fluid, with players coming and going from Major League parent clubs. Even by those standards, however, Pawtucket's roster has been changing all year.

A total of 63 players have played for Pawtucket this year (including the postseason), and the club has made 214 roster moves. That led manager Kevin Boles to use 141 lineups in 144 games during the regular season.

Going into Tuesday's Triple-A National Championship Game against Omaha, Pawtucket's roster is loaded with the Red Sox's top prospects. Left-hander Edwin Escobar, No. 8 on Boston's list, is scheduled to take the mound in the winner-take-all game, and third baseman Garin Cecchini (No. 3), shortstop Deven Marrero (No. 10), first baseman Travis Shaw (No. 18) and outfielder Bryce Bentz (No. 20) are all likely to join him in the starting lineup.

Pawtucket's roster also includes three more starting pitchers ranked on the Top 20, including left-hander Henry Owens, the Red Sox's No. 1 prospect, as well as Blake Swihart (No. 2), who was the team's starting catcher before landing on the disabled list during the playoffs.

Boles said the prospects, the oldest of whom is the 25-year-old Brentz, have fit in well with their more experienced teammates. Boles credits older players such as catcher Matt Spring and outfielder Justin Henry, both of whom are 29, with holding the team together even as the roster has turned over time and again.

"We've got some veteran leadership in that clubhouse," Boles said. Those guys have led the way; guys that have been in Triple-A before, guys that have been in the big leagues, they've helped out these younger guys. The guys that came from [Double-A] Portland, they're well prepared. They handled it; they handled the tight situations. I think it's just been a good blend overall."

The players agree with their manager's assessment. Escobar said he believes Pawtucket's prospect-laden rotation is the best in Triple-A. And Cecchini credited the veterans for helping the younger prospects get acclimated to Triple-A and make the clubhouse a fun place to go every day.

"Those are guys that have been through what we've been through," Cecchini said. "There's no substitute for [experience]. It was good that we had those guys in the clubhouse, because they've definitely kept us together."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cecchini learned perseverance, toughness from down year

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On its face, 2014 does not seem like it was third baseman Garin Cecchini's most successful year as a professional. The 23-year old did make his Major League debut during a brief stint with the Red Sox in June and he helped Triple-A Pawtucket win the International League championship series and advance to Tuesday's Triple-A National Championship Game against Omaha.

Despite those achievements, Cecchini's statistical resume with Pawtucket didn't match the lofty standards of his first three years in the Minor Leagues.

This, however, is precisely why Cecchini, the Red Sox No. 3 prospect, says it was "the best year I've had."

Overall, Cecchini, ranked No. 56 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, finished the regular season hitting .263/.341/.371 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases in 114 games with Pawtucket.

Cecchini will look to close out the year with a victory Tuesday when Pawtucket plays Omaha at 7:05 p.m. ET. But he already has learned a vital lesson he believes will help him in the years to come -- the mental approach necessary to overcome a slump.

"Don't change anything. Nothing's wrong. Sometimes pitchers make good pitches," Cecchini said. "These guys are trying to put food on the plate too. These guys are good and you're good. Just because you get out doesn't mean anything's wrong with your swing. Don't change, just be Garin Cecchini. That's good enough."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Nava's go-ahead slam lifts Red Sox over Royals

Bogaerts also goes deep as part of career-best four-RBI effort

Nava's go-ahead slam lifts Red Sox over Royals play video for Nava's go-ahead slam lifts Red Sox over Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Daniel Nava's second career grand slam might not have come with the historical significance that his first did, but it was equally, if not more, pivotal.

Nava erased a 4-3 sixth-inning deficit with a slam off Royals reliever Aaron Crow in Boston's 8-4 series-finale win on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Red Sox took three of four from Kansas City, which entered the series atop the American League Central.

Xander Bogaerts joined Nava on the offensive attack with a three-run jack off starter Jason Vargas in the third inning, and a career-high four RBIs. The two homers were enough for Sox starter Joe Kelly, who shook off a four-run KC second inning for his second win with the team.

Nava's first career grand slam is rather famous. The switch-hitter launched it on June 12, 2010, in his first Major League game, at-bat and pitch faced.

"I think the first one holds a little more personal significance than today did. Not to diminish what happened today -- that's just your first at-bat," Nava said.

Back-to-back singles by Mookie Betts and Bogaerts in the top of the sixth set up the go-ahead blast. Vargas retired David Ortiz for the first out, but with two right-handers due up, manager Ned Yost opted to go with Crow.

Crow walked Yoenis Cespedes and then struck out Allen Craig, bringing up Nava. Batting from his stronger left side, Nava skied the first offering from Crow to right field, the ball barely slipping out to put Boston ahead, 7-4.

Yost chose not to bring on a left-hander to face Nava -- who entered Sunday hitting .158 versus southpaws -- for fear that Red Sox manager John Farrell would have countered with Mike Napoli as a pinch-hitter.

"Nava wasn't going to face a lefty. With the bases loaded there, I thought we'd have seen Napoli," Yost said.

Nava can thank the resiliency of Kelly, who rebounded from an early three-run homer from Eric Hosmer, for his opportunity to play hero. After the four-run, five-hit second, Kelly held Kansas City scoreless and hitless through the sixth.

"He had a five-hitter span where they did a pretty good job of getting into some fastball counts, and I think after the second inning he and [catcher] David [Ross] clearly made an adjustment by using his curveball a little bit more," Farrell said. "He's got such electric stuff that he settled in and pitched a solid six innings for us."

While Kelly gained steam as the game progressed, Vargas was strongest from the onset. When Bogaerts dug into the batter's box in the third, Vargas had five strikeouts. Against the 10 batters he had faced to that point, he collected nine swinging misses, including five on his changeup.

Vargas started the duel by coaxing whiff No. 10 on Bogaerts with a sinking change. The left-hander then returned to the pitch on his 0-1 offering, but Bogaerts was prepared this time.

"I swung at the first one, and I missed it," Bogaerts said. "I just thought, 'Let's get a base hit right field' so I could see the ball a bit longer, and I saw it a lot longer and hit it out.'"

Bogaerts cut the deficit to 4-3, as his 12th dinger of the season extended his hitting streak to eight games. He has three home runs during that stretch.

Bogaerts tacked on the Red Sox's final run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Ortiz left the game in the seventh inning to attend to a personal matter.

"He got called away from this game -- there was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon," Farrell said. "He should meet us in Pittsburgh, but this is something he had to get to."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Wright impressing Red Sox with knuckler

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KANSAS CITY -- Steven Wright, and his dancing knuckleball, represented the lone bright spot in the Red Sox's 7-1 loss to the Royals on Saturday.

Wright relieved starter Rubby De La Rosa in the fifth inning and blanked Kansas City for three frames. He allowed just three hits with no walks and two strikeouts on his floating, mid-60s knuckler.

After watching Wright toss eight straight scoreless innings, Red Sox manager John Farrell mulled Wright as a candidate to start one of Boston's remaining 12 games.

"He's a possibility, wouldn't rule it out," Farrell said. "He's done an outstanding job strike-throwing, changing the speed of the knuckleball. It's been impressive to see him handle the innings he's pitched."

Wright previously appeared last Saturday against the Orioles, saving Boston's bullpen with five fantastic innings. He entered in nearly the exact situation as he did vs. Kansas City: fifth inning, with the Red Sox trailing and De La Rosa previously on the mound for the first four. Wright shut out Baltimore, surrendering just a pair of hits and striking out six.

"I think the biggest thing I've been able to do in my last couple of outings is throw strikes with [the knuckleball]. I feel like if I throw strikes, it's going to get them having to swing," Wright said.

Wright has made three appearances in 2014, with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Owens projects as mid-rotation starter for Boston

Owens projects as mid-rotation starter for Boston play video for Owens projects as mid-rotation starter for Boston

Due to his size, 6-foot-6, 205-pound Boston Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens may remind some people of a young Randy Johnson. Johnson was four inches taller and threw harder. But it would be understandable for people to see some Johnson in Owens. Tall, lean lefties often remind people of the potential Hall of Famer.

Owens doesn't throw with Johnson's velocity. He doesn't have Johnson's wicked fastball/slider combination. In his best days, Johnson could hit 100 on the radar gun. Owens throws a sinker/changeup combination that sits at 91 and 79 mph respectively. When he's commanding those pitches, he is very effective. When Owens' command eludes him, the walks cause him some hiccups. But this year at Triple-A Pawtucket, the walks were fewer than in the past. In fact, he walked only about two men per nine innings this year. That compares with 3 1/2 per nine innings last year. Progress. Excellent progress, at that.

The Red Sox signed Owens after selecting him in the 2011 First Year Player Draft out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. He was a supplemental first-round pick, going No. 36 overall in the Draft.

My first scouting look at Owens came at the 2014 SiriusXM Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis this past July. Owens started the game for the U.S. Team and worked the first inning. He yielded one hit, to the Braves' Jose Peraza, and struck out the Twins' Kennys Vargas.

Like many tall, thin pitchers, Owens can sometimes have difficulty making all the parts move in synch. The hitter sees arms and legs coming at him, but if his mechanics are off a bit, Owens' long limbs can spell an unwanted change in his delivery. His shoulder can fly open, and he will not be able to control where the pitch is going.

When Owens repeats his delivery, he's solid. A slight increase in his weight last year may have helped him better control unwanted and uncoordinated movement in his mechanics. But Owens can still stand to put even more pounds on his frame. Still only 22, an increase in body depth and muscle could be likely. And very welcome.

In addition to his fastball, sinker and changeup, Owens throws a curveball that is slow moving and fairly deceptive at 72 mph. He has to continue to gain confidence in that pitch, as it's another way to change the eye level and balance of hitters. I do think there is hesitation about the curveball, because leaving the pitch high in the zone could be the net result.

Owens' sinker/changeup combination really helps him keep the ball down in the zone. The changeup in particular is a tough pitch for hitters to time. They don't make solid contact with that pitch, often striking out swinging. No doubt, Owens can rack up the strikeouts. He has an outstanding career average of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

Owens began his career as a 19 year-old at Class A Greenville. He threw 101 2/3 innings, starting 22 of 23 games. The big guy struck out 130 hitters for an average of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Owens threw to an ERA of 4.87 with a WHIP of 1.44.

Owens had a considerably improved sophomore season last year. He had a combined 2.67 ERA pitching at Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland. Owens returned to Portland to start this season. He pitched there until July 29, taking a midseason record of 9-1 and an ERA of 1.99 to his start at the Futures Game. While Owens wasn't as sparkling in a limited sampling at Triple-A Pawtucket, he still pitched very well and made progress.

Owens projects to be a mid-rotation starter. Both left- and right-handed hitters have a tendency to scuffle against his offerings. Therefore, if Owens' secondary pitches don't develop to fulfill a complete repertoire, he could become an outstanding lefty reliever using that wicked fastball/changeup tandem of pitches to induce ground balls or strikeouts when they are most needed in a game. But I still like him as a starter.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Couch pitches PawSox to Governors' Cup title

Couch pitches PawSox to Governors' Cup title

KANSAS CITY -- Triple-A Pawtucket claimed its second Governors' Cup title in three years with a 4-1 win over Durham in the series' decisive Game 5 on Saturday night.

The PawSox used a superb effort from starter Keith Couch and offensive contributions from outfielder Rusney Castillo and catcher Ryan Lavarnway to advance to the Gildan National Championship on Tuesday.

Couch, with Double-A Portland for most of the season prior to Saturday, earned the win for the Sox, shutting out the Bulls over 6 2/3 innings.

Castillo, the leadoff hitter, finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs. Lavarnway also collected a pair of hits, including a solo home run. His performance helped earn him the Governors' Cup MVP.

"Regardless of the level, if you're the last team standing, there's significance to it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Miguel Celestino cleaned up the final 2 1/3 innings for the save.

The Red Sox move on to face the winner of the Pacific Coast League final (Omaha or Reno) for Triple-A bragging rights.

"In the message exchanged with [Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles] last night, it was clear excitement on his part, and to walk away after a long season with a lot of work done, congratulations to them," Farrell.

Castillo and four other Pawtucket players yet to be named will be joining Boston on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Offense, De La Rosa struggle in Kansas City

Cespedes notches RBI; Wright tosses three scoreless frames of relief

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KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox finally discovered their own mortality against the Royals on Saturday.

Boston dropped a 7-1 decision to Kansas City, its first loss in six games against the Royals this season. The Red Sox can still win the series in Sunday's finale.

Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie stymied a Boston lineup that was lively in the first two games -- wins of 6-3 and 4-2, respectively. He held Boston to one unearned run on three hits over eight innings.

"He was very good," manager John Farrell said. "We really didn't manufacture anything against him."

The poor defense that afflicted play in the first two games -- particularly for the Royals -- made an appearance early Saturday.

Boston fell behind, 2-0, after one inning on an RBI single by Nori Aoki, who then scored when catcher Christian Vazquez clanked a pickoff attempt off Aoki's back at third base.

Farrell viewed the play as simple bad luck.

"That's a good aggressive play. If the throw's a little bit on the inside of the base line, Aoki's out. It just happened his return to third base was inside the base line, and it clipped him," Farrell said.

The inning put Boston behind for only the second time all series. Kansas City took the lead first, after falling behind from the get-go in games one and two.

But the Royals gave a run back in the third. Mike Moustakas bungled a Mookie Betts ground ball, and Boston made him pay as Yoenis Cespedes knocked Betts in with a sacrifice fly.

Kansas City padded its lead with three runs in the fourth, highlighted by RBIs from Salvador Perez (double) and Omar Infante (groundout). Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa balked in a run to make it 5-1.

Farrell came out for a heated discussion with the umpires about whether timeout was called while De La Rosa balked.

"Rubby dropped the ball as he was coming to his set position," said Farrell. "I was just trying to get some clarification on the timing of the whole play."

De La Rosa exited after four frames, having thrown just 65 pitches. He allowed six hits and five runs, while striking out two.

His early exit revolved around Boston's cautiousness with his workload. De La Rosa's thrown 156 innings between the Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014.

"We are limiting his innings pitched, but we don't want to shut him down," said Farrell. "There's some benefit to be had by continuing through his work routine through the end of the season, and that's a primary goal right now."

Steven Wright relieved him and tossed three scoreless innings. The knuckleballer's previous appearance came last Sunday, when Wright threw five shutout innings against the Blue Jays.

"I think the biggest thing I've been able to do in my last couple of outings is throw strikes with [the knuckleball]. I feel like if I throw strikes, it's going to get them having to swing," Wright said.

No. 11 prospect Matt Barnes pitched the eighth, letting in a pair of runs, but he also struck out the side. It was the rookie's second MLB appearance.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked play video for Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Betts returns to natural position of second base

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KANSAS CITY -- Two days ago, Red Sox manager John Farrell announced that Mookie Betts would shift to second base.

The move became official on Saturday as Betts started his first career big league game at second base, the position Betts played at the apex of his meteoric rise through Boston's farm system.

The Sox put Betts in the outfield for his first 37 Major League games, and Farrell said Thursday that Boston still views him as an outfielder long-term. The rookie started 28 games in center field and eight in right field, including the first two of the Red Sox's four-game series against the Royals.

"As much as I said before about not moving him out of center field, here we are putting him at second base," Farrell said.

With Dustin Pedroia out for the remainder of the season due to left wrist surgery, Farrell expects to stick with Betts at second base.

"I'd want to minimize the amount of back and forth. I just think in fairness to him that would be the approach," Farrell said.

In Betts' 2013 breakout season, he played all 126 of his games at second base with Class A Greenville and Class A Advanced Salem. That year, he posted a .314/.417/.506 slash line and rose to No. 62 in MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list before becoming the organization's top prospect this season. Additionally, Betts logged 58 games at second in '12 with Class A Short Lowell, and 46 in 2014 with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

"The fact that he's had a lot of games played at the Minor League level, this should be a position of comfort for him, even though it's new at the big league level," Farrell said.

Besides losing Pedroia for the season, the Sox also lost Brock Holt to a concussion, necessitating the installation of Betts at second. This opens up a spot in the outfield, a welcome sight for the Sox considering an already crowded outfield will get more congested upon Rusney Castillo's arrival. Castillo could be with the team in its next series at Pittsburgh.

"As we get additional players to us and try and get the number of guys rotated through two outfield spot, it kind of points towards Mookie remaining at second base," Farrell said.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Webster's solid start keeps Sox tough on Royals

Rookie logs six quality frames, while Betts sparks key 3-run third

Webster's solid start keeps Sox tough on Royals play video for Webster's solid start keeps Sox tough on Royals

KANSAS CITY -- The antidote for Allen Webster's control issues, at least on Friday night, was simply an aggressive Royals lineup.

Webster entered Boston's 4-2 win with at least two walks issued in all eight of his previous starts this season, along with a 6.47 ERA. But Kansas City managed just one free pass off Webster, who logged six innings for the first time in three weeks.

"I'm really happy I did it ... next start, go for zero walks," Webster said.

The Red Sox, now 5-0 in the season series after taking the first two in a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium, dropped the Royals into second place in the America League Central. Webster has one other career MLB start where he walked just one hitter -- his debut on April 21, 2013, also against the Royals.

"We know this is an aggressive swinging team, and if you pitch to quality locations early in the count, chances are it can work in your favor," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

After making three errors in the Sox's 6-3 win on Thursday, KC received more shoddy play on defense -- leading to a pair of runs in a three-run third inning on Friday.

The first Boston run was the only clean one. Jemile Weeks doubled with one out and Mookie Betts drove him in for a 1-0 lead. Three batters later, Yoenis Cespedes hit a chopper to third base and Mike Moustakas' throw sailed over the head of first baseman Eric Hosmer, scoring Betts from second. Daniel Nava scored on a wild pitch by Royals starter Yordano Ventura, putting Boston ahead, 3-0.

"We made a couple of defensive miscues that ended up costing him some runs, but I thought [Ventura] threw good," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Webster breezed through three innings, allowing just one hit and zero walks, an encouraging sign considering he surrendered at least one walk in each of his first 15 big league starts.

But Webster began the fourth with a walk to Alex Gordon, his only free pass of the night. Then, he fell behind 2-0 to Hosmer, who launched a towering two-run shot to right field on a changeup, cutting the Royals' deficit to 3-2. It was the only hit Webster allowed on the changeup, while both of his strikeouts came on the change.

"He had a pretty good changeup against some left-handers to slow them down, with the one exception of the changeup that stayed up to Hosmer," Farrell said.

Weeks, filling in at second base for injured Dustin Pedroia, started another rally in the fifth inning by stroking his second double of the game, and third in this series. Weeks came around to score on a single by Nava and the Red Sox seized a 4-2 lead.

"We picked him up here recently, just because of some injury situations and he's stepped in, and he's certainly contributed," Farrell said of Weeks.

After a rough fourth, Webster logged 1-2-3 fifth and sixth innings, using just 15 pitches. Farrell brought in Tommy Layne to face the left-handed Moustakas to start the seventh frame, with Webster at only 83 pitches.

Webster dropped into just two three-ball counts all night, and went ahead 0-2 or 1-2 to nine of the 21 batters he faced.

"He was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see not only the number of strikes, but the overall command of the strike zone," Farrell said.

Koji Uehara pitched a flawless eighth inning. The right-handed reliever had not been on the mound since Sept. 4 when the Yankees clocked a pair of home runs off him.

"It was good to see Koji get back on the mound for us and attack the strike zone which he's done for a long period of time, but just to get him back in the flow of things was a positive here tonight," Farrell said.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Holt to miss further action due to concussion

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KANSAS CITY -- Brock Holt's quick trip to Pittsburgh confirmed the Red Sox's suspicions that the illness plaguing the utility player stems from a concussion.

After visiting concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins on Thursday, Holt returned to Kauffman Stadium for the second of a four-game set against the Royals with the news that his absence, now encompassing seven straight games, would be extended further.

"He's dealing with a concussion, to what degree, really, that is going to depend on the time needed before he gets back on the field for us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Friday's game. "He'll go through some exertion testing today, but he has not been cleared to get back on the field."

The strange nature of Holt's concussion complicates the timetable for his return.

The question remains over when exactly the injury occurred, however, the working theory is that it was caused during a collision between Holt and second baseman Dustin Pedroia in a 4-3 win at Toronto on Aug. 25. Pedroia inadvertently elbowed Holt in the side of the head, when the two converged on a ground ball.

Holt passed all the concussion tests after the collision and he went on to play the next 10 games, so Friday's revelation surprised Farrell and the Sox.

"We were," Farrell said. "And what was maybe a little more puzzling were the symptoms, how they persisted after the illness cleared up, because he was dealing with a couple of things simultaneously, as we know now."

Farrell continued: "You check in with every player, every day, and there was never anything revealing on his part that something wasn't right."

This is a hiccup in an otherwise successful season for Holt. By May, he had carved out a niche as Boston's leadoff hitter, playing every day at almost any position on the field. Holt has started at seven different positions this season -- all but catcher and pitcher -- and batted in the leadoff spot in 93 of his 105 starts.

The Red Sox hope the concussion does not end his breakout season.

"At least at this point, we do expect him to get back on the field before the year is done," Farrell said. "But we've got to take every precautionary measure prior to that."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Napoli, Papi slowed down by nagging injuries

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KANSAS CITY -- Two of Boston's most lethal bats, Mike Napoli and David Ortiz, were not in Friday night's lineup against the Royals due to minor, nagging injuries.

Napoli (finger, toe) missed the second of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium, while Ortiz rested his ailing right foot.

Both played in the Red Sox's 4-3 win over the Royals on Thursday. Ortiz delivered an RBI single that later proved to be the decisive run, however, he appeared visibly hampered.

"That soreness of the foot, certainly comes and goes and he felt it last night," manager John Farrell said. "You saw that he's not able to run full speed at times."

Napoli dislocated the ring finger on his left hand in late April, and a toe issue has bothered him of late.

"We're nursing him through some things he's been battling all year," Farrell said.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pedroia undergoes successful wrist surgery

Pedroia undergoes successful wrist surgery play video for Pedroia undergoes successful wrist surgery

KANSAS CITY -- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia underwent successful surgery on Thursday, a procedure that the club described as a first dorsal compartment release and a tenosynovectomy of his left wrist.

"All reports by the doctors and medical staff that it was a successful procedure," manager John Farrell said before the series opener against the Royals. "Dustin felt immediate relief from the tightness that he was dealing with, so an encouraging sign here today."

Farrell provided some specifics of the surgery.

"There was some scar tissue that had been built up in there, there was also some inflammation, so to me, it sounds like there was some release of that tendon," Farrell said, adding that the procedure "created more range of motion" for Pedroia's damaged left wrist, which plagued him for the entire season and limited his production at the plate.

Pedroia finished 2014 with a .278/.337/.376 slash line, all career-low figures since he became a full-time starter in 2007.

Farrell put Pedroia's recovery time at six weeks.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Betts will get full-time duty for Sox at second

Betts will get full-time duty for Sox at second play video for Betts will get full-time duty for Sox at second

KANSAS CITY -- With Dustin Pedroia out for the season, and Brock Holt still dealing with a head injury, Red Sox manager John Farrell revealed on Thursday that Mookie Betts will likely fill the second-base job for the remainder of the season.

"It's based on the changes that have taken place to the roster," Farrell said. "When [Pedroia] went down, Brock was going to get the remainder of the reps at second, but now with that being in question, this is a chance to keep Mookie on the field every day."

Pedroia underwent successful season-ending left wrist surgery on Thursday, and the Red Sox fear Holt is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, leaving a void at second base, the position Betts played the majority of his first two seasons in the Minors.

Betts started Thursday's series opener with the Royals in right field, with Jemile Weeks filling in at second. But Farrell insisted that installing Betts at second was imminent.

"It could be as early as tomorrow," Farrell said, adding that Betts would man the position "fairly regularly."

Farrell made it clear that the organization still views Betts as an outfielder long term, but with Rusney Castillo's promotion coming soon, an already crowded outfield is about to get tighter.

Moving Betts to second for the remainder of the season allows the club some much-needed flexibility.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sox opportunistic in beating first-place Royals

Buchholz fans seven, while offense cashes in on three KC errors

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KANSAS CITY -- The case could be made that this final month for the Red Sox amounts to an opportunity for youngsters and for identifying silver linings from a disappointing season. The late emergence of Clay Buchholz would fall under the latter.

Buchholz impressed for the fourth straight time in Boston's 6-3 win over the Royals on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium. He allowed three runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings and fanned seven to earn his third straight victory.

"As we've seen over the last four starts, he's been very efficient, he's had multiple pitches," said manager John Farrell, whose club snapped a four-game losing skid. "I thought he had a great changeup to go along with a well-located fastball tonight, and he continues to pitch very effectively, very consistent."

After scuffling through most of the season, while owning a 6.20 ERA through his first 18 starts, Buchholz has posted a 3.18 ERA in his last seven outings. That figure shrinks to 2.10 spanning his last four.

Farrell attributed Buchholz's resurgence to a combination of confidence and velocity and location of the fastball.

"Those two factors are really what's allowed Clay to get back really get back [and] regain the form that we saw last year," Farrell said of Buchholz, who posted a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts last season.

Boston backed Buchholz with four runs in the first four innings and a pair of tack-on runs in the eighth. Relievers Tommy Layne, Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica dispatched the final eight Royals in succession.

"Those guys came in and retired every guy they faced," Farrell said. "It was a very clean effort on their part."

The Sox scored first on a Royals miscue in the second inning. Christian Vazquez slipped a ground ball under the glove and through the legs of first baseman Eric Hosmer, scoring Will Middlebrooks -- who was 2-for-4 with a walk -- from second after his leadoff double.

"[Middlebrooks] had a good night tonight … probably one of the better offensive nights he's had in quite some time, offensively," Farrell said.

Boston repaid the favor in the bottom half with its own error. Alcides Escobar tied it with a bloop single just passed the outstretched glove of second baseman Jemile Weeks. The Royals went ahead, 2-1, when Mike Napoli made a throwing error on an attempt to catch Escobar veering too far off third base after Nori Aoki's single.

Royals starter Liam Hendriks' defense cost him a run in the second, while he cost himself a pair in the third. The right-hander walked Xander Bogaerts, hit Yoenis Cespedes, then he walked Napoli with the bases loaded to tie the game at 2. Middlebrooks pulled Boston ahead, 3-2, when he stroked a single to left and ended Hendriks' night after just 65 pitches.

David Ortiz made Kansas City pay for a pair of errors in the fourth by lacing an RBI single to center to push Boston's lead to 4-2.

"Any time you give a club an extra out, you're likely walking a tight wire, and that was the case on both sides tonight," Farrell said.

While the Red Sox built their lead, Buchholz held KC's offense in check. He allowed zero hits from the start of the third until the end of the sixth, when a couple of Royals hits cut the deficit to 4-3. But even in this rare moment of turmoil, Buchholz shined. He stranded runners on second and first by striking out Escobar for the final out.

Buchholz departed with one out in the seventh after walking Omar Infante. Weeks put the game out of reach with a two-run double in the eighth, scoring Middlebrooks and Vazquez, who coaxed walks off of reliever Aaron Crow.

Mujica worked the ninth for his fifth save.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Big day of firsts, but Boston bows out

Butler gets first three big league hits; Rivero launches homer

Big day of firsts, but Boston bows out play video for Big day of firsts, but Boston bows out

BOSTON -- For undrafted free agent Dan Butler and veteran Minor League journeyman Carlos Rivero, there were some satisfying moments to be taken even as the Red Sox suffered a 10-6 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Not only did Butler break up Wei-Yin Chen's bid for a perfect game with a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth, but the shot off the Green Monster was his first career hit. Butler's second hit, another double, came two innings later. And his three-hit day was capped with a single in the ninth.

The 27-year-old Butler, a backup catcher at the University of Arizona who had been bypassed in the First-Year Player Draft, has been with the Red Sox organization since 2009.

"Yeah, a big day for him," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Obviously getting his first one out of the way, and the three base hits, and when you look back at the path he's taken, which is not a common one, it's a big day in his baseball career."

The same could be said for Rivero, who clubbed his first career home run, a three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth. This, after Rivero spent most of the last 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues.

"It's something really special to me," said Rivero, who sparked a five-run bottom of the ninth for Boston. "Such a long road. To be able to hit my first home run here at Fenway Park was something that really meant a lot to me and is something I'll never forget."

Prior to the outburst in the ninth, Boston had scored a total of three runs over 37 innings.

The defeat officially eliminated the defending World Series champions from the postseason race, though that had stopped being a realistic goal at the end of July.

But there was another positive development for the Red Sox, as Xander Bogaerts continued his recent hot streak, producing two hits and belting a homer for the second straight day.

"Yeah, I've been working a lot with the hitting coaches, just trying to get back to who I am, the kind of player that I am," said Bogaerts.

For the 10th consecutive start, Brandon Workman (1-9, 5.27 ERA) was unable to get a win. This time, he didn't come close.

The righty was pounded for six hits and six runs over three innings, with all of the damage coming in one highly unfortunate top of the third inning.

The Orioles scored six times and sent 11 batters to the plate.

"I have to do a better job of limiting damage," Workman said. "Seems like lately, it's been one inning that's gotten me. In Seattle, at New York, or today, it's one inning that all my runs have come in."

Alejandro De Aza's RBI single to right opened the scoring. Adam Jones lined a two-run RBI double to left. Workman didn't do himself any favors when he walked Steve Pearce to force in a run. Caleb Joseph and Ryan Flaherty rounded out the damage with RBI singles.

Craig Breslow gave up a two-run homer by Joseph in the fifth that narrowly cleared the Monster.

At this time last year, Workman was evolving into a reliable setup man, one who would pitch key innings in the postseason. But he got back to his original path as a starter this season, and it has been rocky to say the least.

"I still believe in myself 100 percent," said Workman. "That doesn't change after a bad outing or a couple of bad outings. I do what I need to do on the mound and execute my pitches and I'm fine. It just comes down to execution and I haven't been as sharp."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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