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Closing Time: Mookie Betts continues to separate himself from pack, leads Red Sox to rout of Rays

Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam, Friday night. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam, Friday night. (Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is the one guy who is remaining true to the script.

With the player many perceive as the starting center fielder for the 2015 Red Sox — Rusney Castillo — ready to make his professional debut a couple of hours away in Fort Myers, Sunday, the guy who is making a pretty powerful impression at the position continued pushing his stock upward, Friday night.

Betts one of the few highly-touted Sox youngsters to actually offer the kind of standout performances once expected of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Will Middlebrooks and a cavalcade of young pitchers. The 21-year-old’s latest separator? A second-inning grand slam, making the outfielder the youngest Red Sox player to go deep with the bases loaded since a 20-year-old Tony Congliaro’s grand slam on Aug. 24, 1965.

(It was also Betts’ first grand slam as a professional.)

Just for good measure, Betts continued his ascension as a legitimate big league outfield by robbing Kevin Kiermaier of extra bases in the fifth inning with a leaping catch just before the center field wall.

The grand slam was the signature blow for the Red Sox in their 8-4 win over the Rays. It also played a key role in a pair of innings in which the visitors batted around  the order in the first two frames of a game for the first time since Aug. 14, 1962.

Coming into the series opener, Betts’ numbers since his most recent call-up weren’t electric, totaling a .242 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .784 OPS. But what offered encouragement even before the grand slam was how his approach had remained consistent from when he tore through the minors.

Betts has been successful in all three of his stolen base attempts, while drawing two more walks than strikeouts (8-6). He has also shown an ability to make adjustments, going 4-for-10 with a walk when facing a pitcher for a third time in any one game.

If one Red Sox youngster was to be identified as giving off the impression of a viable major leaguer for ’15, it’s Betts.

Also of note …

- Daniel Nava stole third with the Red Sox carrying an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning. It was the same exact score (with the Rays winning) and inning Yunel Escobar executed such a steal on May 25, leading to a bench-clearing fracas between the teams.

- Starter Anthony Ranaudo was solid in his third major league start, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out four and walking three in six innings. He finished throwing 99 pitches. In 18 big league innings, the righty has given up nine runs, improving to 3-0.

- Yoenis Cespedes had two more RBI (along with a pair of hits) to give him 22 in 25 games with the Red Sox.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Xander Bogarts ready to return to Red Sox starting lineup

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is ready to return.

The Red Sox shortstop  – who had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after being hit in the head with a Felix Hernandez change-up Aug. 22 —  is scheduled to return to the team’€™s starting lineup, Saturday.

“I really didn’€™t have too many symptoms,” Bogaerts said prior to Friday night’€™s game at Tropicana Field. “The only symptom I pretty much had was tiredness ‘€” like sleepy. Everything I did, I would just get sleepy. Maybe that’€™s because I wasn’€™t doing any baseball activities. Maybe it could have been the symptoms, too. The sleepiness is all I kind of got. No headaches, no anything like that.

“I took all my tests, I did pretty good. I didn’€™t have any problems with memory or focus, just a little bit of tiredness.”

Bogaerts said he adhered to doctor’€™s orders and refrained from much activity, letting the symptoms subside.

“Yeah, I just stayed at home and rested like the doctors said,” said Bogaerts, who wasn’€™t with the team during its series in Toronto. “I watched the games. That’€™s all I did. Obviously I couldn’€™t play or do any baseball activities, so I just tried to relax.”

Prior to his hiatus, Bogaerts was in the midst of a significant slump, having one hit in his last 23 at-bats. In 118 games this season, the shortstop is hitting .227 with a .627 OPS.

“Hopefully it benefits me,” he said of the time off. “I got some rest — rest that I needed. Ill try to finish the season strong.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players in preseason

James White

James White

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “offensive touches,”€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for the 2014 preseason:

RB Jonas Gray: 37 (37 rushes)
RB James White: 33 (29 rushes, 4 catches)
RB Roy Finch: 20 (13 rushes, 7 catches)
RB Stevan Ridley: 19 (19 rushes)
RB Shane Vereen: 14 (7 rush, 7 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 11 (11 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 11 (11 catches)
WR Julian Edelman: 10 (10 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 8 (7 catches, 1 rush)
FB Taylor McCuller: 6 (2 rushes, 4 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 (6 catches)
QB Ryan Mallett: 5 (5 rushes), 3 sacks
TE Tim Wright: 4 (4 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 4 (4 rushes), 3 sacks
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 3 (3 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 3 (3 rushes)
RB Stephen Houston: 3 (3 rushes)
FB James Develin: 3 (3 catches)
WR Jeremy Gallon: 2 (2 catches)
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 (2 catches)
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 (1 catch)
QB Tom Brady: 1 (1 rush)
TE Steve Maneri: 1 (1 catch)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Tracking opportunities in Patriots preseason passing game

Brian Tyms

Brian Tyms

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game for the 2014 preseason:

WR Brian Tyms: 11 catches on 18 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 7 catches on 17 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 11 catches on 15 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 catches on 13 targets
RB Roy Finch: 6 catches on 12 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 10 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 catches on 9 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 7 targets
FB Taylor McCuller: 4 catches on 6 targets
TE Tim Wright: 4 catches on 6 targets
RB James White: 4 catches on 5 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 3 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 4 targets
WR Jeremy Gallon: 2 catches on 4 targets
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 catches on 2 targets
TE Steve Maneri: 1 catch on 2 targets
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 catch on 1 target
TE Justin Jones: 0 catches on 1 target

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Aaron Dobson’s performance in preseason finale sparks optimism about his second year with Patriots

Aaron Dobson

Aaron Dobson

When it came to the preseason finale, one of the most encouraging thing for Patriots fans was the fact that wide receiver Aaron Dobson saw game action for the first time all summer. The second-year Marshall product — who has struggled with foot issues at the end of the last season, which ultimately prompted him to have offseason surgery, caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown Thursday against the Giants.

“€œAt that point in time, I’€™€™m not really worried about my foot, I’€™€™m just playing football,” said Dobson after the game. “It was long process: from sitting out the offseason to sitting in the film room to starting to run. It just feels really good to get back out there on the field and be with my teammates.”

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Dobson, who was sidelined for the duration of the spring workouts, as well as a sizable portion of training camp.

“I do think Aaron has done a good job keeping up with everything mentally — and he’€™s a smart kid, that’€™s not really been a big problem with him anyway,” Belichick said. “I think the main thing now, well, twofold: one, last night was for him to actually play and get hit and catch the ball and get some confidence that he’€™s going to catch the ball and get hit and get up and everything is going to be alright. He certainly had a number of those last night. Now, it’€™s a continuation of refining his technique and timing with the quarterbacks. That process already started.

“I mean, we’€™re well underway in the last couple weeks, but it’€™s always a little different in the games and it was good that he was able to get that process started this week and for him to know where he is and for us to know where he is and the to build on it. I’€™m sure it will be better in succeeding weeks here as we do it more. It’€™s good to see him out there, good to see him be productive and make some plays. We’€™ll just continue to rep it in practice and the opportunities he gets during the games, hopefully we can build on some of the things that happened [Thursday] night.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Bill Belichick: Tim Wright played ‘pretty well’ in Patriots debut

One day after his Patriots’ debut, Bill Belichick said tight end Tim Wright “handled the situation [Thursday] pretty well” for someone who had two days of practice with his new team.

Wright, who had four catches for 43 yards in the preseason finale, was acquired from the Bucs earlier in the week in exchange for offensive lineman Logan Mankins.

“I think the big thing for him and for the rest of the team, for us, is just that chance we had to get him to actually play in our system,” Belichick said of the Rutgers product. “Even though it was an abbreviated way of doing it, it’€™s a lot better than next week being the first time that all those things happen. So that was good.

“I think he learned a lot. We saw some things that for him ‘€“ in other words, what are going to be the biggest differences? What are things that are going to be things that are pretty similar, pretty familiar, not really a problem? What are going to be some things that are going to be a little bit more of a learning curve for him? And a lot of that really crystalized [Thursday[ night that he can feedback for us and we can see in working with him that he’€™s pretty far along on these things and maybe not as far along on maybe something else, so I think that was the benefit last night for that particular player.”

After the game, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo called Wright a “very intelligent player.” Belichick acknowledged Friday that Wright was able to do well when it came to absorbing a lot of information in a relatively short time.

“I mean, it certainly wasn’€™t perfect,” Belichick said. “But he picked all that up pretty quickly, and when he got into the game, didn’€™t forget it.

“Sometimes it’€™s one thing to sit in the meeting and go over it and feel like yeah, you’€™ve got it, and OK, you hear this you’€™re going to do that. It’€™s another thing to actually go out there and do it at full speed in a game situation. He handled quite a bit of information in a short amount of time pretty well, so that was good. Now this week, obviously, he’€™ll be starting at the beginning like everybody else will in terms of our game plan and preparations for Miami, so we’€™ll just take it day by day and see how it goes. But I thought he handled a lot of information pretty well.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

 

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Friday’s Three for All recap: MLB host predicts walkoff home run, hosts forget to his ‘send’ on texts, ‘Saved By the Bell’ expose to air Monday

Here are the highlights from Tuesday’s Three for All on Middays with MFB with Lou Merloni, Christian Fauria and Tim Benz. To hear the segment, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

– Greg Amsinger of the MLB Network made an impressive prediction Wednesday night, calling Buster Posey‘s walkoff home run that gave the Giants a 4-2 victory over the Rockies.

“Not only does he call what’s going to happen with Buster Posey at the plate, but he’s also going to call what the play-by-play guy is going to call,” Benz explained.

“It was the next pitch ‘€¦ It was literally like seconds,” Merloni marveled.

– Merloni said he recently typed a text message to his wife but forgot to hit “send,” making the message moot.

“Do you guys ever do that?” Merloni asked. “I find myself doing that like all the time. I answer the text and once I’m done typing it, boom, I’m done. And then I go back like two hours later and I realize I never his send, that it’s still sitting there. Am I the only one who does that?”

Said Benz: “Invariably it’s the wife, and invariably it’s something in her world that’s important.”

Added Fauria: “That happened to me this morning. This very morning.”

– Fauria called attention to the fact that Lifetime network’s behind-the-scenes look at “Saved By the Bell” is set to air Monday night.

“All the hookups, all the fights, all the jockeying for position on camera,” Fauria said.

Fauria noted that the show will air repeatedly on Monday night: “In case you miss it, you have lots of opportunities to watch it.”

Said Merloni: “Make sure you text me. Hit send.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Jerod Mayo on MFB: ‘It’s tough to lose a brother’ in Logan Mankins

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined Middays with MFB on Friday, following the team’s final preseason game of the season Thursday night. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The big news around the team this week was the trade of stalwart offensive lineman Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers.

“It’s always tough when you lose a brother like Logan, a guy who’s been here his entire career,” Mayo said. “At the end of the day, we still recognize that it’s a business, and decisions have to be made. Coach [Bill] Belichick obviously felt that was the best thing for this team for now and for the future.

“It’s tough. Anytime you go through multiple training camps, multiple seasons with a guy, it’s tough to lose a brother.”

Mayo communicated with Mankins after the trade.

“Obviously he was hurt a little bit,” Mayo said. “Like I said, we’re a family here. As his teammates we stick together through thick and thin. But he also recognizes that it’s a business. Sometimes moves have to be made, and we all have a time. NFL they always say stands for ‘Not For Long.’ We have to enjoy these moments that we have with each other, because you never know when it’s your last.”

The team must reduce the roster to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday. Despite his status as one of the veteran leaders, Mayo said he still gets uncomfortable when a staff member walks through the locker room to contact players who will be cut.

“Honestly, and I know you guys will probably think I’m full of it, since my rookie year I’ve always had this: Anytime a guy goes around grabbing people, I never look him in his eye. Because you never know when your time’s up. You never know when your time’s up,” he said. “I just always keep my head down and go to work every day and try to go out there and do my job, man, and hopefully everything falls into place.”

Mayo did not see any preseason action, although he has been practicing with the team and looking forward to playing again soon.

“I’m very excited to get back out there on the field,” Mayo said. “Obviously I didn’t get a chance to play in any preseason games. It’s up to coach Belichick, whatever he wants do to. … I feel good, I feel good. The team, they’re looking good, It’s almost time when the games really count.”

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whom Mayo said the team calls “Pancho,” got a chance to show what he can do in Thursday’s game against the Giants, and there have been calls for him to unseat Ryan Mallett as the No. 2 QB on the depth chart.

“Jimmy, he can make all the throws,” Mayo said. “He’s a very mobile guy. He hasn’t had a lot of scrambles, but he can move around in the pocket well, he’s very athletic, he’s young. And who better to learn from than Tom Brady. Tom is a Hall of Famer and someone that’s great to learn from. I think he’ll be pretty good.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Patrice Bergeron is in the weirdest NHL 15 commercial

There’s no two ways about it: This NHL 15 commercial, starring Patrice Bergeron, is the weirdest.

Bergeron, who was voted the cover athlete of the EA Sports video game, beat out P.K. Subban to get on the cover. That means more bright lights for the quiet and humble center, and, apparently, poetry. This is a far cry from Bergeron’s license plate commercial from when he was a rookie in 2003-04.

As I’m posting this, I remember that GIFs exist. This is going to be interesting.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Friday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Anthony Ranaudo vs. Chris Archer

Chris Archer

Chris Archer

With the Red Sox and Rays holding firm in the bottom two spots in the American League East, Friday’s game in St. Petersburg, Florida, holds little importance in terms of postseason implications. However, with Chris Archer on the mound for Tampa — opposite young Sox hurler Anthony Ranaudo — there could be some intensity to the series opener.

When Archer (8-6, 3.09 ERA) last faced the Sox on July 27, he surrendered a three-run home run to David Ortiz and lost the game 3-2. Afterward, Archer echoed then-teammate David Price‘s assertion that Ortiz “feels like he’s bigger than the game” because the slugger “pimped a home run off me.”

Ortiz, who is 5-for-12 against Archer, said the 25-year-old is “not the right guy to be saying that. I don’t think, you know, you’ve got two days in the league, you can’t be just [whining] and complaining about [expletive] like that.”

Archer has struggled again the Sox, going 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six career starts, but he’s pitched well of late. When he held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings in his last outing Sunday, it was his eighth quality start in 10 appearances. He has a 1.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts over his last four appearances, encompassing 25 2/3 innings.

Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50) will be called up from Triple-A to pitch in Friday’s game. The 24-year-old last pitched in the majors Aug. 13, allowing four runs in six innings to the Reds.

On Tuesday Ranaudo was named the International League‘s Most Valuable Player. He is 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket.

Red Sox vs. Archer (RHP)

Dustin Pedroia (17 plate appearances): .231/.353/.231, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (14): .417/.500/.667, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (11): 100/.182/.100, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (11): .429/.636/.857, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts

Brock Holt (6): .167/.167/.333, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Will Middlebrooks (6): .000/.667/.000, 4 walks

Kelly Johnson (5): .250/.400/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Christian Vazquez (3): 333/.333/.333

Rays vs. Ranaudo (RHP)

No Rays batters have faced Ranaudo.

Blog Author: 
WEEI