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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Even Mookie can't explain it


August 17. 2017 11:34PM
Boston's Mookie Betts is interviewed after his game-winning hit against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park on Wednesday. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

The numbers just don’t add up.

How can Mookie Betts be hitting just .269 overall and .390 with runners in scoring position and .382 with runners in scoring position and two outs?

“I have no idea (why),” Betts said after his game-winning double Wednesday night. “That just seems kinda how this year is going, guys are on (and) I tend to do better. … I try and do good all the time.”

His manager, John Farrell, says focus is the key, but Betts said, “I can’t even explain what’s going through my head when I’m stepping in the box. Right now, I can tell you something but when I’m in the box it’s something different. I’m not exactly sure if it’s extra focus or anything so I really don’t know how to answer it.”

“I think it’s his focus in those moments and none bigger than here tonight,” said Farrell.

Betts is hitting .348 in his career with RISP, .332 with two outs and RISP.

Regardless of whether it’s focus or not, 39-for-100 with runners in scoring position is impressive and further shows how this is the Red Sox’ best player. And he needs to be better than .269 overall.

New name?

If you didn’t think this whole confederate statue thing would hit home, think again. Red Sox owner John Henry is trying to get Yawkey Way renamed to further distance the Red Sox from their racist past. Former longtime team owner Thomas Yawkey has been denounced as a racist.

“I discussed this a number of times with the previous mayoral administration and they did not want to open what they saw as a can of worms,” Henry told the Boston Herald via email. “There are a number of buildings and institutions that bear the same name. The sale of the Red Sox by John Harrington helped to fund a number of very good works in the city done by the Yawkey Foundation (we had no control over where any monies were spent). The Yawkey Foundation has done a lot of great things over the years that have nothing to do with our history.”

A new name? Henry is thinking “David Ortiz Way” or “Big Papi Way.”

“The Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets,” Henry said. “But for me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multi-cultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can — particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully. The Red Sox Foundation and other organizations the Sox created such as Home Base have accomplished a lot over the last 15 years, but I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Sale loves the rivalry

Chris Sale, who opens the series against the Yankees at Fenway tonight, felt something special when he pitched in the Bronx last Sunday.

“You can feel it,” he told WEEI. “People in New York have never been really nice to me, but they hate me now. I heard some pretty interesting things out in the bullpen last time warming up. … I don’t go to New York to make friends.”

Special anniversary

Seeing Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Lonborg, Rico Petrocelli, Hawk Harrelson and Reggie Smith among those at Fenway Wednesday had to bring back so many memories for Red Sox fans. Me? I was a Twins fan that season and watched my ’65 AL champs go down the drain, with Jim Kaat getting hurt on Saturday and Dean Chance shaking his way through Sunday.

The Red Sox, in their press release for the occasion, noted Yaz was 7-for-8 the final two days, while Lonborg picked up the 22nd win of his Cy Young season and started a winning rally with a bunt single.

Being careful

Farrell on the workload of his bullpen: “One of the things you’re not proud of as a manager is to see a reliever in the top five in appearances, I’ll be honest with you. It means they’re good for one. But two, it means you’re going to them maybe a little bit too frequently so you pick spots where hopefully you can back off and even out some of the rapid pace of appearances guys are going to make. So you try to do that a little judiciously.”

When he said it, Matt Barnes was tied for fifth, at 55, just two off the American League lead, and then worked in his 56th game.

Still no telling when or if David Price will return this season. If he winds up needing Tommy John surgery, he will waste next season, too.

We give you a Rafael Devers update by giving you his notes package after Wednesday night’s win:

— (1-for-3, 2B, BB) recorded his 4th double to extend his hitting streak to 6 games...Has 5 XBH over the streak (.409/9-for-22, 2 2B, 3 HR).

— Is the 1st Red Sox hitter in the last 100 years to hit safely in as many as 15 of his first 18 games, all before turning 21...Is just the 6th major leaguer to do so in that time, joining Preston Ward in 1948, Roberto Clemente in 1955, Johnny Callison in 1958, Ivan Rodriguez in 1991, and Omar Infante in 2002.

— His 24 hits are the most by any Red Sox hitter through 18 career games since Johnny Pesky in 1942 (25).

— Has hit safely in 11 of his first 12 games at Fenway, going 18-for-46 (.391) with 8 runs, 3 2B, 4 HR, and 8 RBI.

Impressive.

Pastrnak staying

Former player, exec and agent Brian Lawton, now an NHL Network guy, threw it out there this week that the Bruins, unsuccessful in their bid to sign David Pastrnak, might deal the talented young winger.

“There certainly was no intention to trade David,” team CEO Charlie Jacobs told WEEI. “Our intent is to sign David to a long-term extension.

“I think by virtue of it being the middle of August, some of the writers may feel compelled and come up with something interesting to sell a paper perhaps. I wanted to ask Brian Lawton who his source was, but I’m not sure he’d give it up.

“We certainly haven’t had any discussions with any other teams about trading David. The only discussions that we’ve had are between David and David’s agent, and frankly conveying just what I shared with you, that our intention is to sign him to a long-term deal. When I say long term, six or more years, that’s on our radar.”

On his teammates

Tom Brady doesn’t hesitate to let his teammates have it if things aren’t going well in practice. He is also hard on himself.

“I’m always pretty frustrated throughout the day in practices,” he said. “You’re just trying to create some urgency. I ask guys to dig a little deeper. It goes like that. Sometimes things don’t go great in the first quarter of games, sometimes they don’t go great in the first half, sometimes they don’t go great for the first three quarters, but you’ve got to keep grinding. You’ve got to keep digging deeper. A lot of times football is a lot about momentum. Things don’t go well early and then you find a little rhythm, start making some plays, scoring some points and then you can rattle off 28 points. That’s football.

“I think what you realize with this team is they’re not going to make it easy on you. There is no easy play, there is no easy throw, there is no easy run. They’ve got good players, they’ve got a good scheme, so it’s really challenging and has forced us to raise our game.”

The Patriots are practicing against the Texans this week in West Virginia and play the Texans in Houston on Saturday night.

Irving talk

The Celtics open their season at Cleveland, amid talk Kyrie Irving could be on either, or neither, Eastern Conference contender.

Gene Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote this week:

“Boston has expressed interest in Irving and could offer the best combination of short-term (Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder) and long-term (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum picks) assets. The Celtics have made no formal offer, and it is against Boston’s front-office DNA to push out front with the most generous offer. Boston knows that Cleveland is mostly intrigued with Tatum, but the sides have not formally discussed that deal, league sources said.”

Look, any chance of the Celtics going after Irving depends on what the organization’s plans are for Thomas. Do they want to make him a $200 million man when they back up his “Brink’s Truck?”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL

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