Jacoby Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro

Jacoby Ellsbury saves Boston’s bacon with 14th-inning homer

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source: APThis story could have been about Terry Francona dropping the ball.  Fortunately for the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury was there to bail out his manager, with plenty of help from Boston’s bullpen.

Ellsbury, who hit his 29th and 30th homers in a 6-2 loss in the first game Sunday, delivered a three-run bomb off Scott Proctor in the 14th inning of the nightcap, giving Boston a 7-4 win over the Yankees and a one-game lead in the wild card with three games left to play.

It’s going to be a tough sell with Justin Verlander getting so much hype, but Ellsbury’ superb late-season run has made him a serious MVP candidate.  He’s hitting .368 with seven homers, 10 doubles, 20 runs scored and 19 RBI in 106 at-bats this month.  He has 20 homers, 55 runs scored and 54 RBI in 66 games during the second half.

The bullpen also stepped up big for the Red Sox.  With the score tied at 4, Jonathan Papelbon got Daniel Bard out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Austin Romine to end the ninth and then stayed in to pitch scoreless 10th and 11th innings.  It’s just the second time he’s pitched two innings this year and the second time in five years that he’s gotten as many as seven outs.

Relieving Papelbon in the 12th was Franklin Morales, who turned in two scoreless innings of his own.  Felix Doubront worked the 14th for a save.

The Red Sox may well have won this one in regulation if Francona hadn’t dropped the ball.  John Lackey bounced back from a three-run first to give the Red Sox a very solid outing, but for some reason, Francona sent him back out for the seventh with a 4-3 lead, even though Alfredo Aceves had already started warming up in the sixth.  Lackey gave up a leadoff single to Eric Chavez and was immeditely pulled.  The Yankees went on to tie the game after pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sac fly.

Four months ago, the shoe was on the other foot.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Bartolo Colon back out for the seventh in a 2-2 game against the Red Sox, only to pull him after Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to start the inning.  The Red Sox ended up with three runs in the inning and won 5-4.

As I wrote then, if a starting pitcher is just one mistake away from getting pulled, you don’t send him back out to make the mistake.  It’s a foolish way to manage, and while it didn’t cost the Red Sox a win tonight, it may very well cost them Monday after the team had to extend Papelbon, Morales and Bard in this one.

But the Red Sox will carry some momentum with them into the series against the Orioles.  It would have a morose flight to Baltimore had the Red Sox lost this one in extras.  Now they don’t have to depend on the Yankees beating the Rays this week; they can just go ahead and take care of business themselves.

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.