Jason Varitek, Edwin Encarnacion

Red Sox survive after blown call at home plate

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What looked like an easy win for the Red Sox suddenly got tense Tuesday, after Jonathan Papelbon came into a 3-0 game and gave up a two-run homer to Jose Bautista with none out in the ninth.

Papelbon went on to surrender a single to Edwin Encarnacion with one out, a walk to J.A. Arencibia with two outs and then a John McDonald single to left that seemed poised to tie the game.  The reason it didn’t is because Jason Varitek threw his left foot in front of home plate, blocking Encarnacion’s path to the base.

Sure enough, Varitek blocked Encarnacion’s left foot from the plate.  However, Encarnacion’s right foot, trailing the left, clearly touched home before Varitek could apply the tag.  Umpire Brian Knight called him out anyway, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 victory.

Despite losing Jon Lester to a strained lat after four innings, the Red Sox took a no-hitter into the sixth, when Bautista singled to break it up.  The Jays had just two hits through eight before collecting four against Papelbon in the ninth.

It was the first time this season that Papelbon had given up four hits in an appearance, and he allowed his first runs since June 4.  He’s 18-for-19 saving games this season despite a rather bloated 4.02 ERA.

Dustin Pedroia homered for Boston.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.