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30th Sep 2018
Boston’s big hitters have consistently done the job this year
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, helping the Red Sox post the best record in the majors.
It’s been a very different story for the Washington Nationals, and that’s been abundantly clear through the first two games of their interleague series.
Xander Bogaerts hit a three-run homer during a six-run fifth inning, J.D. Martinez and Eduardo Nunez also went deep, and Boston beat Washington 11-4 in sweltering conditions Tuesday.
”A lot of guys stepped up,” Bogaerts said. ”The weather’s not the best. It’s hot. It’s better than cold. A lot of guys swung at good pitches and had good at-bats.”
Martinez drove in four and leads the majors with 26 homers and 71 RBIs. Boston has won 17 of its last 19 interleague games, including 11 of its last 12.
Washington has lost four straight and 16 of 21 to fall to 42-42, its first time at .500 since it was 17-17.
”It’s hard to play from behind,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. ”Our starting pitching right now is not giving the offense a chance. When we do try and make a run and come back, we got to have shutout innings. It’s not happening.”
Red Sox starter Brian Johnson allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings. Brandon Workman (1-0) pitched a perfect seventh.
Boston scored first, opening the second with consecutive singles before Nunez homered into the left field bullpen off starter Tanner Roark (3-10). Mark Reynolds and Roark had RBI singles in the fourth to pull the Nationals within 3-2.
The Red Sox responded in the fifth, collecting five consecutive singles before Bogaerts ripped Roark’s fastball to center to make it 9-2.
”We did a good job today against Roark,” Nunez said. ”I think he made a lot of mistakes up with the sinker and we took advantage.”
Brian Goodwin and Pedro Severino hit solo homers for Washington.
Roark allowed a career-high nine runs in seven innings and is 1-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) since May 5.
”Other than two pitches I feel like they just base hit me to death
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, so what are you going to do?” Roark said.
Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland left in the third inning with back spasms and is day to day. ”I wasn’t planning on playing him tomorrow, so definitely he won’t play tomorrow now,” manager Alex Cora said. … LHP Drew Pomeranz (biceps tendinitis) allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings Monday for Triple-A Pawtucket in his first rehab appearance since Boston placed him on the disabled list June 5. … 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee inflammation) is likely to remain in New York all week for further testing.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (shoulder inflammation) threw about 60 pitches Tuesday. Martinez said Strasburg’s next step could be a simulated game sometime this weekend. … Martinez said 1B Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) could begin a rehab assignment this weekend. Zimmerman has not played since May 9.
ROSTER MOVE COMING
Cora said Boston will activate RHP Tyler Thornburg (shoulder surgery) on Wednesday. Thornburg was acquired from Milwaukee in December 2016 but has not pitched in the majors since. The Red Sox intend to send RHP William Cuevas to the minors. Cuevas allowed a run in two innings Tuesday in his first appearance with Boston this season.
NATS SIGN TOP PICK
Washington signed first-round pick Mason Denaburg on Tuesday. The right-hander was selected No. 27 overall out of Merritt Island High School in Florida in last month’s draft.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (9-3, 4.11 ERA) faces Washington for the first time as the three-game interleague series concludes.
Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (1-3, 6.00) is coming off his first career victory and gets the nod for Washington’s annual Independence Day morning start.
The impact made by Jimmy Butler on the Minnesota Timberwolves was obvious from the start, transcending the two ends of the court where he’s made his mark as a four-time All-Star.
Perhaps no better example of the leadership he contributed to a long-languishing franchise trying to find its way came during a three-day stretch in mid-December.
With Butler playing through back spasms, the Timberwolves lost at home to a Phoenix Suns team that ultimately finished with the NBA’s worst record. Afterward, Butler was flat on the floor in the locker room, in enough discomfort that moving around was a difficult proposition.
Two nights later, Butler powered past the pain to score 37 points and carry the Wolves to victory over the Portland Trail Blazers , who finished third in the Western Conference this season.
”If you go out there and show them how hard you have to play in this league until the end on a constant basis,” Butler said then
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, cajoling his young teammates, ”that’s when they follow suit.”
In case there was any lingering mystery about the 28-year-old Butler’s value to these Wolves, his absence while recovering from a meniscus injury in his right knee quelled them for good. They went 8-9 while he was out, nearly squandering their spot in the playoffs until reeling off three straight wins upon Butler’s return to end an NBA-most 14-year stretch of missing the postseason. Factoring in the six games he missed earlier to an illness and a sore knee, the Wolves were 10-13 without him.
”He’s changed everything for us,” said coach Tom Thibodeau, without a hint of hyperbole.
Butler pitched in 31 points on Wednesday in the win-and-get-in, lose-and-go-home game against the Denver Nuggets that gave the Wolves a taste of the playoffs. He played 42 minutes.
”He’s an animal,” fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns said. ”I don’t think anyone has ever thought anything else of him. He’s a cyborg from another place, built in the lab, and we’re very glad that we’ve got him.”
Thibodeau, who has full control of the roster as president of basketball operations
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, was fixated last summer on reuniting with Butler from their time together with the Chicago Bulls. Not only were the Wolves in the market for another scorer around their cornerstone Towns and young wingman Andrew Wiggins, they needed a lock-down defender who could take on the opponent’s best player with unwavering confidence. Plus, his mental toughness was a critical component in the overall attitude adjustment of a team transitioning from low-pressure losing seasons to heightened expectations under the no-nonsense Thibodeau.
”I wanted to go to a contender. I wanted to go somewhere where I was familiar with the coach, and being here was the perfect situation,” Butler said this week. ”We have a young team. I don’t believe they know how good they are. I believe the city doesn’t know how good the team is. We can bring that excitement, not only to the team, but to the city.”
Butler ranked fourth in the NBA this season with a 6.06 real plus-minus rating. That advanced statistic attempts to assess a player’s on-court impact on team performance as measured by net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions, while also factoring in teammates, opponents and other variables. The only players ahead of him were Chris Paul, Steph Curry and James Harden.
As the Wolves approach the daunting assignment of a first-round matchup with Paul, Harden and the league-leading Houston Rockets, the intangible contribution Butler can make to the cause is as valuable as any. His experience in the playoffs
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, with 38 career games, and his tenacity on the court provide the kind of comfort food a team can rely on against an opponent that beat the Wolves handily in all four matchups in the regular season.
This leadership comes from others, too, with the summer additions of Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford, and the recent signing of Derrick Rose coming in handy when Game 1 tips off in Houston on Sunday night.
”You have to believe in your teammates. That’s why it’s good to have a coach like Thibs who comes in and gives you a strong talk, because he understands the reality of the game and the ups and downs of how the game goes,” Gibson said after practice Friday, before the team boarded a flight for Houston. ”You’ve just got to go out there and fight.”
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