Rick Porcello Praises Offense, Bullpen For Lifting Red Sox To Win

Rick Porcello didn’t have his best stuff Thursday night.
The Boston Red Sox right-hander allowed four runs on eight hits over five innings against the Chicago White Sox. Luckily for Porcello, his teammates picked him up.

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Boston’s offense came alive late, scoring nine unanswered runs, while the bullpen closed things out with four scoreless frames to lock down a 9-4 win.
After the game, Porcello praised his teammates for their resilient performance. To hear what he had to say, check out the video above from “NESN Sports Today,” presented by People’s United Bank.

Red Sox Notes: Boston Not Getting Complacent As Regular Season Winds Down

It would have been easy for the Boston Red Sox to rest on their laurels.
The Red Sox have boasted the best record in Major League Baseball for the bulk of the season and are poised for a deep playoff run. But thanks to a brief scare last week, the Red Sox aren’t taking it easy as the final month of the campaign rolls around.
Boston labored to split a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians and proceeded to suffer a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, which prompted the Sox’s American League East lead to be trimmed to 6 1/2 games.
Since then, however, Boston has kicked itself back into gear.
The Red Sox took care of business in a two-game set against the lowly Miami Marlins, and despite trailing by seven runs in the seventh inning Thursday night, Boston managed to come back and blow past the White Sox in Chicago 9-4. Series opener starter Rick Porcello knows what awaits the Red Sox, who plan to keep their foot on the gas.
“I think we’re aware we have 27 games left,” Porcello said, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “I think that series in Tampa maybe woke us up a little bit and we understand that even with whatever lead we have against New York, we still have a bunch of games with them and some really good teams in September. There’s no time to rest or relax or anything like that. We have to continue to push and hopefully close out this division and get prepped for the postseason.”
Mookie Betts echoed Porcello’s sentiments.

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“You know you’re closing on the last month, but I don’t think we think anything of it,” Betts said. “It’s just one game at a time. Just have to make sure we get to the playoffs and anything can happen. But we have to get there first.”
In terms of “getting there,” the Red Sox’s magic number sits at 20 following Thursday’s win.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-White Sox:

— Ian Kinsler arguably had his best night at the plate in a Red Sox uniform going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
— The Red Sox love the seventh inning. After posting an 11-run seventh in Wednesday’s win over the Marlins, Boston notched a four-run frame Thursday to erase the White Sox’s lead.
— Blake Swihart continues to make his opportunities count. The young catcher smacked a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh to plate the Red Sox’s first run of the game.
— Boston’s starting pitching hasn’t been very strong of late. Rick Porcello continued that trend Thursday when he allowed four runs on eight hits over just five innings. The Red Sox haven’t received a quality start since Aug. 23.

Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox Look To Extend Win Streak To Four Friday Night

It’s been a rough go of it for Nathan Eovaldi of late.
The right-hander has struggled in his last three starts, allowing 13 total runs (10 earned) over just 14 1/3 combined innings and hasn’t logged a win since Aug. 4.

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Eovaldi will look to turn it around Friday night when the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox square off in Game 2 of their four-game set at Guaranteed Rate Field.
For a preview of the pitching matchup, check out the video above from “Red Sox Final,” presented by Rodenhiser Heating & Cooling.

Patriots Notes: Cyrus Jones Pleased With Final Audition For 53-Man Roster

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Some leftover notes and nuggets from Thursday’s preseason finale between the New England Patriots and New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, which the Patriots won 17-12.
— Cornerback Cyrus Jones played nearly the entire game for New England, returning every kickoff and punt and serving as the Patriots’ slot cornerback.
It was just Jones’ second game back since suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Week 4 of the 2017 preseason.
“(Friday) will mark a year since my injury,” the third-year pro told reporters. “It’s been a long process. I’ve put in a lot of work. A lot of people have helped me out along the way, and it felt really good to get back out there through a whole game and see how my knee held up for a whole game. I thought it was a solid performance.”
Though he wasn’t given much room to impress as a returner (10 total yards on three punt returns; touchbacks on all three kick returns), Jones played well in coverage, allowing three catches on five targets for 14 yards.
“I felt like I covered really well (Thursday night),” he said after the game. “… I felt like I had solid coverage the whole night.”
Jones, a 2016 second-round draft pick, has risen to the occasion in his few opportunities this summer. The question now is whether the Patriots will have a spot for him on their 53-man roster, which must be finalized by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Complicating matters for him is the fact that wide receiver Riley McCarron ran through a pregame workout Thursday and was given the night off — usually an indication that a player has made the team. McCarron has been Jones’ top competition for the role as fill-in punt returner until wideout Julian Edelman returns from his four-game suspension.
— Wide receiver Braxton Berrios dressed for the Patriots after missing the last two games but never saw the field. The sixth-round draft pick played just 16 snaps this preseason — all in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins — and caught one pass for 3 yards. He won’t be making the roster.
— Corey Bojorquez’s Patriots tenure will end without him ever appearing in a game. The undrafted rookie punter did not take a single snap in any of New England’s four preseason contests. Ryan Allen will keep his job.
— There were plenty of hugs and high fives to go around during pregame warmups as the Patriots reunited with former teammate Nate Solder.
Solder, New England’s starting left tackle from 2012 to 2017, signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants this past spring.

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Lots of laughs with an old friend. #NEvsNYG pic.twitter.com/blOj4lklM2
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 30, 2018

Patriots O-line reunion. David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason catching up with Nate Solder. pic.twitter.com/CaHQcNNKJw
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 30, 2018

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady glowingly spoke about his relationship with Solder last week during an interview with WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan.”
— For players who already have locked down spots on the 53-man roster, the fourth preseason game is a time to kick back, relax and have some fun.
Case in point:

Life is good tonight for guys who don’t have to sweat their roster status. Here we have TE Dwayne Allen taking a snap from RB Jeremy Hill, faking a handoff to SS Patrick Chung, evading the rush from WR Phillip Dorsett and throwing deep to Chris Hogan. pic.twitter.com/frkxbNvnVJ
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 30, 2018

Patrick Chung burns Phillip Dorsett deep. Jeremy Hill with the dime. pic.twitter.com/mbKdw1mn8N
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 30, 2018

Patriots Veterans Not Surprised By Rookie JC Jackson’s Breakout Night

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Ho hum, another undrafted rookie cornerback is set to make the New England Patriots’ roster.
JC Jackson looks like he’s set to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Jones, Malcolm Butler and Randall Gay and crack the Patriots’ 53-man roster this summer. He capped off an impressive offseason with two interceptions and two pass breakups Thursday night in the Patriots’ fourth and final preseason game against the New York Giants.
“He’s been competitive all the way through whether he’s been at the OTAs in the spring, training camp, preseason games,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “Not perfect. He has some things to learn, but he competes hard, tackles well. He made a couple good plays on the ball.”
And Belichick’s right. Jackson didn’t have a perfect performance. He got caught up while trying to avoid a pick play and allowed a 41-yard touchdown to Giants wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. But the interceptions and breakups more than made up for it. Overall this preseason he’s allowed just a 68.1 passer rating.
And after watching him throughout the spring and summer, Jackson’s veteran teammates aren’t surprised that he broke out in a big way Thursday night.
“Not at all,” safety Duron Harmon said. “We’ve seen what he’s been able to do. He’s been playing those fade balls like that all year. When he gets a good jam and runs, he’s either there knocking it off or he’s picking it off. I mean, it was good to see him have some success tonight and play the way he did, because he’s a capable player. He’s a good football player.”
Jackson is competing for a roster spot behind cornerback locks Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Duke Dawson with fellow rookie Keion Crossen, veteran Jason McCourty and former practice squadders Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz.

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Even McCourty had to give it up to Jackson.
“The kid can play,” McCourty said. “I remember asking him in the middle of training camp, ‘Why the hell weren’t you drafted?’ Just seeing him out there covering, I think throughout camp, him and Keion both really, really good athletes, can cover. And they’ve done a good job of learning just more football. I think for both of those guys, that was the big thing for them of understanding every defense, ways the offense is trying to attack you. I think those are the things those guys have done a really good job of improving on because covering 1-on-1 was something that both of those guys could do in their sleep when they got here. It was just picking up the rest of the defense and football in general. I think they’ve both done a really good job of that.”
Jackson went undrafted because of off-field issues that got him dismissed from the University of Florida. He kept himself clean through a year at Riverside City College and in two seasons at the University of Maryland, but a team still didn’t want to take a risk on drafting him.
The Patriots were smart to snag him up when they could.
“He’s played really well throughout camp,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I think he’s showed a great skill set of just going out there and being able to lock up guys. Really competitive with whoever we put him on throughout camp, and I would say throughout all the preseason games. I was happy for him. For a young guy to come and have a game like that, I think he knows he’s been playing well, but to go out there and be able to walk away with some stats to show is always a good feeling.”
The Patriots must trim their roster from 89 players to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. It would be a surprise at this point if Jackson is left off the roster.

Jackie Bradley Jr. Priding Himself On Competing At Plate Amid Hot Streak

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s offense was nowhere to be found in the first half of the season.
That certainly hasn’t been the case of late.

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The Boston Red Sox center fielder has been surging at the plate, including Thursday’s 9-4 win over the Chicago White Sox. Bradley went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single that gave Boston the lead in the ninth inning.
After the game, JBJ caught up with NESN’s Guerin Austin to talk about his approach at the plate amid his tear. To hear what he had to say, check out the video above from “Red Sox Extra Innings” presented by W.B. Mason.

Danny Etling’s 86-Yard Touchdown Run Puts Smile On Bill Belichick’s Face

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Bill Belichick was in an unusually jolly mood as he walked to the podium following Thursday night’s New England Patriots preseason finale at MetLife Stadium.
“Well,” Belichick said with a smile to kick off his postgame news conference, “that was one of the most exciting plays I’ve seen in preseason, I must say.”
He wasn’t exaggerating.
The play in question was the unlikeliest of Patriots touchdowns: an 86-yard sprint by seventh-round draft pick Danny Etling, New England’s third-string rookie quarterback.
With less than five minutes remaining in the Patriots’ 17-12 win over the New York Giants, Etling faked a handoff to running back Ralph Webb on a read option, pulled the ball back when he saw the defensive end bite and took off down the sideline, fooling the entire left side of New York’s defense.
Seconds later, Etling — who never was considered an elite athlete during his college stops at Purdue and LSU — was in the clear, galloping untouched for one of the longest touchdown runs ever by an NFL quarterback.
“I just took off down the sideline,” a grinning Etling said after the game. “It was a great job by the running back and the offensive line there to sell it and make sure that there was no one there to make a tackle on me, and then I think I looked back about seven times and finally crossed the end zone.”
“Great call by Chad (O’Shea),” Belichick added, referring to the Patriots wide receivers coach who handled play-calling duties Thursday night. “And Danny’s a little bit faster than maybe we thought he was. … When’s the last time a quarterback ran for 85 yards for the New England Patriots? At least 20 years, I know that. Maybe (Steve) Grogan, (Jim) Plunkett.”

— NFL (@NFL) August 31, 2018

The highlight-reel score was the obvious highlight of an otherwise uneven night for Etling, who had played just 19 total snaps over the Patriots’ first three preseason games. He sailed several passes in the first half, resulting in two interceptions, but settled after halftime, completing 6 of 8 passes over the final two quarters to finish 18 of 32 for 157 yards and one touchdown.

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Etling, who called his first start at a pro “a learning experience,” said his teammates and coaches helped him overcome some early anxiety.
“I just wanted to go out there and learn and continue to try to figure out how to do my job when the lights come on,” Etling said. “I thought I could have done better in the first half — just a little nerves. Credit to my coaches and my teammates. (They) just got me settled down, and I’m like, ‘All right, now let’s just play football.’ ”
Save for a 45-yard bomb to wide receiver K.J. Maye that set up New England’s first touchdown, the majority of Etling’s standout plays involved him scrambling outside the pocket. He evaded a rush to find wideout Devin Lucien for a first down early in the game, picked up first downs of his own with runs of 14 and 13 yards and even served as a lead blocker on a 16-yard gain by running back Khalfani Muhammad.

Lead blocker: Danny Etling.#NEvsNYG | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/uwD2gfVDoP
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 31, 2018

Etling, who led all Patriots rushers both in this game (113 yards) and in the preseason as a whole (120 yards), absorbed big hits on two of his scrambles, impressing Belichick with his willingness to sacrifice his body.
“I thought the run he had on, whatever it was, third-and-10, 11, where he put his shoulder down, took on the tackler and got the first down, that was a big run, too,” the Patriots coach said. “He’s a tough kid. He competes hard. I thought he handled himself pretty well out there.”
While there’s a chance the Patriots decide to keep Etling on their 53-man roster, he’s much more likely to land on the practice squad, considering New England already has a superstar starting quarterback in Tom Brady and a reliable backup in Brian Hoyer.
That’s a worry for another day, though. Etling, whose parents made the trip from Terre Haute, Ind., for Thursday’s game, is going to enjoy this one first.
“I was just excited to play a football game again,” he said. “It was amazing. I feel humbled just to get another opportunity. Even at LSU, they would say, ‘Is this your last game ever?’ And I just got to play another one. So that was a pretty exciting feeling for me, and I hope I get to continue to play football for as long as I can. … I just love football.”

Jason McCourty Unconcerned With Patriots Roster Cuts On The Horizon

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty hasn’t been in this position since his rookie season. And no, we’re not talking about playing safety. Then we’d have to go all the way back to Pop Warner.
We’re referencing McCourty not being a lock for the 53-man roster. McCourty said he hasn’t played in a fourth preseason game since his rookie year. That was before Thursday night, when he played all the way into the second half of the Patriots’ 17-12 preseason win over the New York Giants, manning his new position, free safety.
Patriots roster cuts are Saturday, and he’s far from a sure thing to make the 53-man roster as he competes with JC Jackson and Keion Crossen at cornerback and Jordan Richards at safety. But McCourty isn’t sweating the looming cutdown date.
“No concern at all,” McCourty said. “I think I’ve played this game long enough to know that you control what you control. Whatever they decide is up to them, but I felt like throughout training camp, preseason like I’ve done my best. I feel like I’ve been able to execute, pick up the defense and do those things. But the ultimate decision whether I’m here or not is not in my hands. …
“I really don’t concern myself with what goes on, especially this being Year 10. I probably exceeded every expectation I had for myself going into my rookie year what my NFL career would be, so whatever happens here, happens. You put it in God’s hands. You play your best, and then however it goes down, it goes down.”
Don’t look too deeply into McCourty playing into the second half. McCourty had shed his helmet late in the first half and was hanging on the sideline comfortably with quarterback Tom Brady, safety Duron Harmon, wide receiver Julian Edelman and his twin brother, safety Devin McCourty. Then he was thrust back into the game in the second half.

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“At halftime, they were like, OK, you’re going back into the game,’” McCourty said. “A.J. Moore had got dinged up a little bit, so I went back in for a series.”
McCourty’s versatility to play cornerback or safety might be his key to a roster spot. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick served up some supportive words about McCourty’s play at safety after Thursday night’s game.
“I think he made a big jump this week,” Belichick said. “He did a good job last week, made some good tackles and I think just overall more comfortable this week. That showed up on the practice field and looked like it tonight too. That was encouraging.”
McCourty’s had plenty of help from his brother in the transition from cornerback to safety, a move Devin made back in 2012.
“That’s just been big through the whole process,” Jason said. “He’s been like my coach. Just coming over and being able to watch film with me, help me to understand. I know the defense well enough at corner to know what the safety’s job is on every play, but actually going out there and executing it, he’s been big of ‘make sure you get to your landmark in Cover-2. … You should be looking for this characteristic from the quarterback.’ Different small things of playing the position between Dev and Du, they’ve been very helpful to me.”
McCourty certainly hopes to play a full season with his brother in 2018, but he sounds comfortable with whatever decision the Patriots ultimately make. That the Patriots were willing to pull him off the field in the first half seems like an encouraging sign.

Red Sox Wrap: Boston Erases Four-Run Deficit, Blows Past White Sox In 9-4 Win

These Boston Red Sox never say die.
Despite trailing by four runs in the seventh inning Thursday night, the Red Sox rallied to cruise past the Chicago White Sox 9-4 in the series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Rick Porcello didn’t have his best stuff, allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks over just five innings. But the right-hander was bailed out by his offense, which posted a four-run seventh and five-run ninth.
With the win, the Red Sox improve to 93-42, while the White Sox fall to 53-81.
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito stymied the Red Sox over 6 1/3 innings, but the visitors hung tough to earn a comeback win.
— The White Sox jumped on Porcello right from the get-go. After the Red Sox starter issued a one-out walk to Nicky Delmonico, Avisail Garcia put the home team on the board by belting a two-run shot to straightaway center field.

Starting off with a bang. pic.twitter.com/I4Fgquet4v
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 31, 2018

It went from bad to worse for Porcello, as Daniel Palka followed Garcia’s blast with a single. Yoan Moncada logged a base knock of his own two batters later, and Matt Davidson plated the White Sox’s third run with an RBI single up the middle.
Chicago was right back at it in the second when Yolmer Sanchez laced a one-out single followed by a Delmonico double. With runners in scoring position, Garcia gave the South Siders a 4-0 lead with a sacrifice fly.
Porcello, as he so often does, settled down after getting roughed up, scattering just two hits over the next three innings. He came out for the sixth, but after allowing a leadoff walk Davidson, manager Alex Cora decided to tap into his bullpen.
— Brandon Workman induced a double play upon entering the game and struck out Adam Engel to get out of the inning.
— Joe Kelly tossed a scoreless seventh inning in which he struck out two.
— Ryan Brasier posted a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout.
— Heath Hembree turned in a scoreless ninth to lock down the win.

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— Boston didn’t register its first hit of the game until the fifth inning courtesy of a two-out single from Ian Kinsler (3-for-4).
— The Red Sox finally cracked the scoreboard in the seventh. Brock Holt worked a one-out walk, followed by Kinsler’s second single of the game. Blake Swihart responded with a pinch-hit RBI single that advanced Kinsler to third, and the second baseman proceeded to score thanks to a Jackie Bradley Jr. sacrifice fly that cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2.
It wasn’t long before the White Sox’s lead completely vanished, though, as Mookie Betts (2-for-4) followed JBJ with a two-run home run to tie the game.

We've got ourselves a tied ball game, folks. pic.twitter.com/6P6cWxto0h
— NESN (@NESN) August 31, 2018

— The Red Sox weren’t going to let their comeback go to waste, as the Sox rallied to break the tie in the ninth. Kinsler got it started with a one-out single and reached second after Swihart walked. Bradley then delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single to plate Kinsler.

Jackie Clutch Bradley Jr. pic.twitter.com/IQ7K1bMfrH
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) August 31, 2018

Andrew Benintendi gave Boston a two-run lead two batters later when he logged an RBI single of his own, but J.D. Martinez provided even more insurance when he walloped a three-run shot to give the Red Sox a 9-4 lead.

A little insurance never hurts. pic.twitter.com/7mgRdRSbA5
— NESN (@NESN) August 31, 2018

— Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Nunez, Sandy Leon and Holt all went hitless.
Winning is fun.

This smile never gets old. pic.twitter.com/KXWl18mhGS
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) August 31, 2018

The two teams will square off in Game 2 on Friday night. Boston will send Nathan Eovaldi to the hill, while Chicago will counter with former Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech. First pitch from Guaranteed Rate Field is set for 8:10 p.m. ET.

Jimmy Garoppolo Endorsed By Jordan Brand, Says His Dream ‘Came True’

The Jordan Brand welcomed its newest member to the team Thursday.
San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told ESPN of the endorsement deal, saying it’s a dream come true.
“Since I got in the league, it was one of my dreams to be with Jordan and it came true, so I’m pretty excited about it,” Garoppolo told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.
It certainly makes sense for the QB to be excited over the deal, of which an official announcement is expected to come next week, considering the 26-year-old grew up in Illinois. Garoppolo was just a kid during Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls, but he told Wagoner of fond memories of his family watching the Hall of Famer.

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“I was pretty young, but even when they were winning those championships, I can remember staying up with my three brothers, mom and dad — we’d all be in the living room watching it,” Garoppolo said. “It was so exciting. Ever since I was a little kid, he’s been my favorite athlete, so it’s pretty cool to be part of his brand now.
“Ever since I was a little kid, he’s been my favorite athlete, so it’s pretty cool to be part of his brand now.”
Garppolo generated interest from other popular shoe brands such as Under Armor, Nike and Adidas, but ultimately decided on the Jordan Brand. Jordan, of course, is a subsidiary of Nike.
The Eastern Illinois product said he has something “new and special” for the 49ers’ Sept. 9 season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.