Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz

Red Sox trounce Blue Jays again, win ninth straight game

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A day after scoring 16 times, the Red Sox settled for 14 runs in this one while beating the Blue Jays for their third straight series sweep.  With nine straight victories, they’ve put together the longest winning streak for a major league team this season, overtaking the Indians’ streak from back in April.

What’s really incredible is just how many runs this team is scoring.

On May 25-26, the Red Sox became the first team since the 2008 Rangers to score 14 runs in back-to-back games.  Now, less than three weeks later, they’ve done it again.  Before they did it in May, they hadn’t had back-to-back games like that since July 1998.

Today’s victory came with homers from Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis.  Gonzalez has driven in runs in every game during the winning streak and is now up to 60 RBI in 65 games for the season.

But as good as the offense has been, the biggest bright spot today was Jon Lester’s performance.  He entered with a 6.17 ERA in his previous six starts, but he won four of them anyway because the offense has been so strong.  In this one, he completely shut down the Jays, limiting them to one run and two hits over eight innings.  The lone run came on a Jose Bautista homer that Jacoby Ellsbury just missed catching as it bounced off the top of the center-field fence at Rogers Centre.

In torching the Blue Jays, the Red Sox probably punched Kyle Drabek’s ticket back to the minors.  Drabek gave up three of the four homers and and a total of eight runs in four-plus innings.  He’s struggled mightily in three straight starts, and his ERA is up to 5.70 ERA for the season.

The Blue Jays are expecting Jesse Litsch (shoulder) back by the end of the month, but they probably can’t wait for him to replace Drabek.  They may bring up Brad Mills from Triple-A Las Vegas to serve as their fifth starter until Litsch returns.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.