Red Sox make no adjustments in ugly loss

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How is the best way to deal with an inconsistent, pitcher-friendly strike zone?

Apparently, it’s to keep the bat on one’s shoulder or maybe just swing halfway and hope for the best.

The Red Sox succeeded in running up Anibal Sanchez’s pitch count in Saturday’s 1-0 loss, but that was their only victory of the night. Even though they were no-hit until there was one out in the ninth, the outcome wasn’t finally decided until Xander Bogaerts’ popup to short.

It was just the 10th ball put into play by the team all night.

Mostly, the Red Sox relied on umpire Joe West in the hopes of reach base via the walk. It worked six times, and with another ump, they might have been the beneficiary of one or two more free passes. But putting the game in the ump’s hands is never the best of plays.

It’s no surprise the Red Sox were a bit rusty after three days off, and while the Tigers may call Sanchez their third starter, the guy did lead the AL in ERA this year. It was no easy assignment with the way Sanchez’s slider was working. Still, the Red Sox took more half-swings than swings in the first six innings. It was a poor display from the team that led the AL in runs scored this year.

The Red Sox also took zero advantage of the terribly hobbled Miguel Cabrera at third base. Only two players showed bunt in the game. David Ross did it twice in an at-bat, pulling back both times before coaxing a walk. Shane Victorino finally dropped one down in the sixth, but incredibly, he pushed it down the first line and did it terribly, giving Sanchez an easy, one-pitch out. Cabrera, the likely AL MVP, looks like he can hardly move out there, but the Red Sox never tested him.

The Red Sox will probably come out better in Sunday’s Game 2, but with Max Scherzer on the mound, the runs won’t come much easier. It’d help to get on the board early, maybe by putting bat to ball once in a while.

Pirates looking for outside outfield help

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.

Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.

Matt Barnes ejected after throwing at Manny Machado’s head

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On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.

MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”

Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.

The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.