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Red Sox vs. Orioles Match-ups, 6/29

06.29.09 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tonight, Jon Lester takes to the hill against the AL East cellar-dwelling Baltimore Orioles. The southpaw, who comes into the game with a 6-6 record, will face a lineup carrying a .273 average, good enough for fifth in the majors. Lester will get his first dose of rookies Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold if they’re in the lineup this evening.

Here’s how the Orioles hitters have done against Lester:

Nick Markakis (26 at-bats) .240 avg/.269 OBP/.400 SLG (4 2B, 1 RBI)
Brian Roberts (25 at-bats) .273/.360/.545 (HR, RBI)
Aubrey Huff (24 at-bats) .364/.417/.636 (HR, 2RBI)
Melvin Mora (18 at-bats) .176/.222/.176 (2 RBI)
Adam Jones (15 at-bats) .417/.533/.417
Gregg Zaun (9 at-bats) .143/.333/.143
Luke Scott (8 at-bats) .000/.000/.000 (3 SO)
Oscar Salazar (5 at-bats) .250/.400/.500
Ty Wigginton (5 at-bats) .600/.600/.800
Robert Andino (2 at-bats) 1.000/1.000/1.000
Felix Pie (2 at-bats) .000/.000/.000

The entire Red Sox lineup will get their first look at Orioles rookie righthander Jason Berken tonight. Berken comes into tonight’s game with a 1-4 record and 6.32 ERA. The Green Bay, Wis., native has fanned 19 batters in 31.1 innings this season for the O’s.

Red Sox at Braves Match-Ups, 6/28

06.28.09 at 10:34 am ET
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In 2005, Brad Penny bet a batboy that he could not down a gallon of milk in an hour. The batboy succeeded in doing so, but threw it up. When the team found out, they suspended the batboy. Penny was quoted as saying “It’s kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk.”

Anyway, that said here is what today’s pitchers in the Red Sox/Braves tilt have done against their respective opponents:

Brad Penny vs. the Braves

Chipper Jones – .310/.375/.452 (1 HR 10 RBI, 3 SO)      

Nate McLouth – .200/.200/.300 (0 HR 0 RBI, 1 SO)

Garret Anderson – .222/.222/.333 (0 HR 1 RBI, 1 SO)

Dave Ross – .111/.111/.222 (0 HR 0 RBI, 3 SO)

Jeff Francoeur – .286/.286/.714 (1 HR 2 RBI, 1 SO

Kelly Johnson (3) – .667/.667/.667 (0 HR 1 RBI, 1 SO)

Casey Kotchman (3) – .333/.333/.333 (0 HR 0 RBI, 0 SO

Matt Diaz (2) – .500/.500/1.000 (0 HR 1 RBI, 0 SO)

Brian McCann (2) – .500/.500/2.000 (1 HR 1 RBI, 0 SO)

Tommy Hanson, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, made his major league debut earlier this month on June 7th and has since taken no time to prove that he is going to be around for awhile. Through his first four starts in the big leagues, Hanson is 3-0 with an ERA of 3.13. In his last two starts against Cincinnati and the Yankees, he has not allowed a run.

Before he was called up, Hanson was leading the international league in ERA by just .25 over Clay Buchholz.

Lowrie resumes his rehab

06.27.09 at 7:16 pm ET
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Jed Lowrie absentmindedly rubbed his left wrist as he spoke Saturday in front of his locker before the Paw Sox home game against Syracuse. Now almost 10 weeks removed from the surgery to repair that area, the wrist — which Lowrie said was at 85 percent of his right wrist when he was last tested a few weeks ago — is less of an impediment to the shortstop’s return to the majors than is the need to simply get back in playing shape.

Lowrie returned to the lineup on Saturday night with Triple-A Pawtucket against Syracuse to resume his rehab with the PawSox. He was in just his third game since undergoing his surgery in mid-April on Tuesday when he was hit by a pitch in the left knee on Tuesday during his first at bat in Norfolk. He remained in the game singling in the top of the third eventually scoring on an Aaron Bates double.

With the three days off, Lowrie’s efforts to regain his timing at the plate and his game stamina have been slowed, at least temporarily.

‘€œI don’€™t have a timetable right now,’€ Lowrie said. ‘€œThe pitch to my knee didn’€™t help on Tuesday. It’€™s only my third real game back because of Tuesday so I’€™m just looking to get at bats.’€

The Sox followed a conservative course in getting the 25-year-old shortstop back into the field.

‘€œIt tightened up on him so we’€™re obviously taking our time on it,’€ said Paw Sox manager Ron Johnson. ‘€œHe rehabbed for a couple days and yesterday he went out for a full pre-game. I talked to him this morning at the airport and he flew back today, not with us, and he said he was ready to go tonight.’€

“He hasn’€™t played a lot,” Johnson continued. “The focus with Jed is to make sure he’€™s ready. This is almost like a ‘€˜re-spring training’€™ for him.

While Lowrie is eager to return, he also recognizes that he will do himself few favors by rushing his rehab or becoming frustrated by the pace of his progress.

‘€œI know I’€™m a major league shortstop and I believe in myself,” said Lowrie. “I’€™ll be back as soon as I can get back.’€

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Red Sox at Braves Match-Ups, 6/27

06.27.09 at 2:34 pm ET
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Javier Vazquez didn’€™t get a chance to face the Red Sox when the Braves were in Boston last week, and perhaps that was just as well for the pitcher. For his career, Vazquez is 2-6 against the Sox. He seems to have a weakness for throwing homerun balls to his batting Boston counterparts, having given up 11 homers in just 10 games pitched.

Mike Lowell (out of the lineup again today due to hip discomfort) and David Ortiz both have two career homeruns a piece against Vazquez, but look for J.D. Drew to flash his elusive smile as he goes to bat against a pitcher who he’€™s homered off of four times. Well, maybe a smile is a lot to ask of Drew, but at least he’€™ll be happy on the inside.

(The only pitcher against whom Drew has homered more often is Claudio Vargas. Drew has taken Vargas deep five times.)

In his last two starts against Boston, Vazquez has allowed 12 runs in 11 2/3 innings.

On the other side of the ball is 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, who’€™s tied for the most number of wins this season on the Sox pitching staff with Josh Beckett. Wakefield (9-3, 4.47 ERA) will be looking to become the first Boston pitcher to 10 wins in 2009 as he faces a Braves team that didn’€™t go down easy against him last week in Boston. (Wakefield allowed four runs and got a no-decision.)

Ignited by David Ortiz’€™ recent surge and a pitching staff with a 3.38 in their last 23 games, the Sox are 7-3 in their last 10 games and currently hold the American League‘€™s best record at 45-28. The Sox are also 38-24 all-time against the Braves.

BRAVES VS. WAKEFIELD

Garret Anderson (70 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .275 average/ .286 OBP/ .536 slugging, 5 homers, walk, 6 strikeouts
Casey Kotchman (18): .294/ .333/ .529, homer, walk, 2 strikeouts
Chipper Jones (17): .333/ .529/ .500, 5 walks, 2 strikeouts
Gregor Blanco (3): 1-for-3
Yunel Escobar (3): 2-for-3
Brian McCann (3): 1-for-3
Nate McLouth (3): 1-for-3
Martin Prado (3): 2-for-3, strikeout
David Ross (3): 1-for-3

RED SOX VS. VAZQUEZ

Mike Lowell (48 career plate appearances against Vazquez): .283 average/ .313 OBP/ .522 slugging, 2 homers, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Mark Kotsay (39): .200/ .282/ .286, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Julio Lugo (29): .296/ .345/ .444, homer, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
J.D. Drew (28): .417/ .500/ 1.000, 4 homers, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (26): .304/ .385/ .652, 2 homers, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (20): .105/ .150/ .158, walk, 9 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (14): 1-for-14, 7 strikeouts
Jason Bay (13): 2-for-12, walk, 5 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (11): 7-for-10, walk, 2 strikeouts
Rocco Baldelli (6): 1-for-6, 3 strikeouts
Brad Penny (6): 1-for-5, 3 strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (4): 0-for-3, walk, strikeout

Read More: javier vazquez, Tim Wakefield,

Red Sox at Braves Match-Ups, 6/26

06.26.09 at 4:38 pm ET
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RED SOX vs. JAIR JURRJENS

The last time the Red Sox faced Jair Jurrjens (in case you can’t remember five days back), they defeated the Braves, 6-5, in a walk-off thriller courtesy of Nick Green‘s ninth-inning blast. Jurrjens wasn’t particularly tough on the Sox, giving up five runs (though only two were earned) through six and allowing a two-run homer to David Ortiz as part of a four-run first. He was only charged with two of the runs on a technicality, as the error that caused the inning to continue was his own.

On the season the 23-year-old righthander is 5-5 with an ERA of 2.89, which currently ranks sixth-best in the National League. He has struck out exactly twice as many hitters as he’s walked (62:31 K/BB) through his 87.1 innings for the Braves this season.

Jurrjens was acquired prior to the 2008 season from the Tigers with in a heist trade that sent Edgar Renteria to Detroit. He finished third to Geovany Soto and Joey Votto in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year. He works mainly with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball as well as a changeup and slider.
Jurrjens, a native of  Curaçao, pitched in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands in 2006. (Alex Speier wrote an interesting piece about the Red Sox’ scouting efforts in the Netherlands and Holland, where “honkbal” is played. … Not that that has anything to do with Curaçao.)
He is the first ever native of Curaçao to pitch in the majors. Here’s how Red Sox hitters have fared against Jurrjens, almost completely based on Sunday’s contest:

Jason Bay (7 career plate appearances vs. Jurrjens): 1-for-5, RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO
Dustin Pedroia (4): 1-for-4
Mark Kotsay (3): 2-for 3
David Ortiz (3): 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, SO
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3. 2 SO
Kevin Youkilis (3): 1-for-3, SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 1-for-3, SO
Nick Green (3): 0-for-2, HBP
George Kottaras (2): 1-for-2, RBI

BRAVES vs. JOSH BECKETT

On the hill for the Sox tonight is Josh Beckett, who is coming off his best start of the season and perhaps one of his best in a Red Sox uniform.

Beckett was extraordinarily efficient on Saturday against this same Atlanta club, needing only 94 pitches to toss a complete-game shutout at Fenway, his first complete game of the year, and his first-ever shutout with the Sox. He struck out seven Braves over the course of the night while giving up just five hits and walking none.

Boston’s ace enters the game with an 8-3 record to go with his 3.74 ERA. He’s gone at least six innings deep in each of his nine starts since May 5. With the exception of a June 14 hiccup in Philadelphia in which he was touched for six earned, he has been brilliant since May 16, posting a 1.60 ERA in seven starts while fanning 47 through 50.2 innings.

Beckett is on pace to reach the 200-inning mark for the third time in four seasons in Boston. Before coming to the Sox he had never reached 180 innings in a season.

Here’s how the Braves have done against Beckett. Aside from Garret Anderson, Atlanta batters have had a miserable time against the Sox ace:

Chipper Jones (30): 179 BA / .233 OBP / .393 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO
Garret Anderson (22): .450 / .500 / .700, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Brian McCann (14): .214 / .214 / .286, 4 SO
Jeff Francoeur (11): .100 / .182 / .100, BB, 3 SO
Greg Norton (11): .111 / .273 / .444, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Casey Kotchman (10): .200 / .200 / .200, 3 SO
Kelly Johnson (8): 1-for-7, BB, 3 SO
Nate McClouth (4): 0-for-4
Yunel Escobar (4): 1-for-4, 2 SO
Omar Infante (3): 0-for-3, 2 SO
Martin Prado (3): 0-for-3
David Ross (2): 0-for-1, BB
Matt Diaz (2): 0-for-1, BB

Read More: Jair Jurrjens, Josh Beckett,

Five innings, five runs, and 71 text messages

06.25.09 at 11:12 pm ET
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WASHINGTON — Here is John Smoltz after his five-inning outing, in which he threw 92 pitches and surrendered five runs, four of which came in the first inning: 

(Rough start, good finish) “I can’€™t be disappointed. I lost a little rhythm there in the first inning, which has happened three different times when I’€™ve been gone for a year and tried to slow down as much as I can. But I’€™ve got to give them credit. They battled me on seven, eight, and nine-pitch at bats. Made one bad pitch each at bat to give up a hit.

“But very encouraged by how good I can be, and how good I felt, and the stamina and everything going forward. I was really disappointed on the bloop hit. Two runs is two runs. Going to give up two runs. Felt like that was pretty much the unfortunate hit that put their young pitcher in a nice position to have a four-run lead against our lineup. All in all, most times if the line score is the way it is I’€™m going to be very disappointed, but I really can’€™t be at this point.

 “A lot of hard work. Although I’€™d like that mulligan in the first inning, that’€™s the way it happens. Now everything will be normal for me.”

(On his velocity) “Yeah, there’€™s still some room for that to improve. I got a little anxious and jerked some pitches that is normal and that’€™s the thing, when you go through this process, everyone wants to come out and throw great, but I threw so many quality iptches I was pleased with that I know within a matter of a few starts I’€™ll be honed in to where I want to be, and hopefully not have, when I hit Nick Johnson, kind of sped things up a little bit. All in a all, lot of hits product of poor placement and good placement by them. Before you know it, it’€™s 4-0 and I’€™m saying here we go again. Fortunately, could have gone another inning. Felt that strong.”

(How he felt at the end) “Yeah, said  I was good, but the situation in my first start and 90-something pitches, that’€™s what I was most disappointed about. I pitched myself out of a potential good game in that first inning with 35 pitches. I never felt couldn’€™t make a pitch, repeat a pitch, make an adjustment on a pitch.

“Once I got past the first inning, felt normal again. All encouraging signs for the future.”

(Going through all of his pitches) “I check them all off, except for the first inning, I started to feel for some pitches instead of throwing, and it cost me a couple of times. The best way to describe it is you get in that moment, you knmow it counts, trying to mak ehte best pitch you can. With some of those hitters, Josh Bard especially, he just battled me until I hung one. I made seven really, really good pitches in the at-bat and the one bad one he hit.

“Every time I got on the mound felt I can make those pitches. What’€™s happened fo rme was I made a lot of really, really good pitches early in the count with no conact, and with two strikes, have to make those pitches. That’€™s where I said my famiilarity will come back really quick in two to three starts.”

“Unfortunately it started out this way a few times in my career. Don’t get too worried about it. I was very encouraged by the stuff that I had tonight.”

(How this comeback was different than others) “It felt different because I had 71 texts today. It felt different because so many people were and have been rooting for me that’€™s what frustrates you. That’€™s what sturggled with most in first start. Wanted to do well for those people who have been so supportive.

“My buddy joked he flew up from Miami for one that last 1 2/3 innings. At least I got five innings today.”

“So much for going on eight days. I’m glad it’€™s over so I can resume the five-day rotation and do what every pitcher does, make improvements from game to game.”

“That’€™s what I feared most coming into this game, wanted to do so well for everybody involved, find self going, ‘How did I get here? How did four runs just happen?’ No matter if I’m 42 or 22, I feel like I can accomplish whatever I want this year. That’€™s why I came back, rehab went the way it did, now it’€™s just a matter of going out there and doing it like I did before.”

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Farrell on Smoltz’ outing

06.25.09 at 10:53 pm ET
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After John Smoltz five-inning, five-run debut with the Red Sox, Thursday night at Nationals Park, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell analyzed the starter’s outing:

(On giving up four runs in the first inning) “I’m sure there were some emotions and adenaline that was certainly flowing and I think that had an impact on certain pitchers that inning. He really gathered himself and really allowed some rhythm to take over and allow him to gather himself over the rubber and throw the ball downhill. I thought he was very good. The velocity was better than some games he has pitched in rehab. All in all I thought it was a very encouraging outing. Certainly enough to be successful at this level, to be sure.”

(On what was said between the first and second innings) “It was just a very simple reminder about things we have talked about on the side things we have given for feedback in his rehab starts, just buying some time over the rubber to allow his arm to get up and throw downhill. Once he did that the next four innings went as I think he had hoped, and certainly we hoped. We can’t leave out the first inning but all in all I think it was a very good starting point.”

(On what worked best for Smoltz) “The ability to throw three and four pitches at time for strikes. He still commanded his fastball better as the game went on. I think he realizes that he can use his fastball. There’s some similarities here we’ve seen from Schill as a veteran pitcher transitions or makes adjustments after a certain time. Where he has the ability to trust his fastball even more, not having to pitch to his secondary stuff. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a 90 percent fastball guy, but I think they fouled off a lot quality offspeed pitches down in the zone when he had enough velocity to keep guys honest.”

(On if there is room for greater velocity after topping out at 93 mph) “There may be. He’s now got 35 innings under his belt. You see it with the guys in our rotation now. The power pitchers don’t get their stuff until the fifth, sixth week of the season. Not to say that’s the case with John. I don’t know that. But typically guys who pitch with above average velocity it’s a few starts into their regular turns. Keep in mind, John’s just coming out of spring training as far as we’re concerned.”

(On if the Sox were able to see the real Smoltz in the fifth, when he struck out the side) “I think we’ve felt that way the minute we took the mound. We don’t expect him to go out and strike out every hitter he faces. But there was no hesitation, there was an aggressivenes to the zone. I think it was a very encouraging outing.”

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Join the Virtual Pressbox for John Smoltz’ Start – LIVE!

06.25.09 at 4:55 pm ET
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John Smoltz will make his first start as a member of the Red Sox tonight, facing the Washington Nationals. Join WEEI.com in the Virtual Pressbox for real-time insight, updates, polls and conversation. Rob Bradford will be on the scene in Washington, D.C. He’ll be joined by a host of WEEI.com personalities, including Curt Schilling, Gary From Chapel Hill, and you! First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.; the pressbox opens at 7. Be there.

John Smoltz’ Return – LIVE!

Red Sox at Nationals Match-Ups, 6/25

06.25.09 at 4:49 pm ET
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You may have heard: John Smoltz is starting for the Red Sox.

It’s been 388 days since Smoltz last tried to pitch in the majors. Last June 2, he gave up three hits and two runs in an inning of work out of the bullpen, blowing a save in the process. It was that outing – his first after a rehab stint, and the last of his illustrious career with the Atlanta Braves – that convinced him to undergo season-ending surgery on his torn labrum.

And now, almost 13 months later, he is back… The details:

NATIONALS VS. JOHN SMOLTZ

Here’s pretty much everything that we’ve learned about Smoltz since he came to the Red Sox, including the fact that he is a decorated accordionist.

Smoltz has pitched more innings against the Washington Nationals franchise (formerly the Montreal Expos) than any other club. He’s compiled a whopping 310.1 innings against the Expos/Nats — roughly two seasons of work for some starters — going 21-12 with a 2.55 ERA against a former divisional foe when Smoltz resided in the N.L. East. His 21 wins against the franchise are his most against any club.

As a result, several members of the Nats have seen quite a bit of Smoltz.  Interestingly enough, Nick Johnson has faced Smoltz more than any other pitcher during his career with a total of 37 plate appearances.

Ryan Zimmerman (39 career plate appearances vs. Smoltz) ‘€“ .270 average / .308 OBP / .514 slugging (2 HR 9 RBI, 11 SO)
Nick Johnson (37) ‘€“ .188/.297/.375 (1 HR 2 RBI, 8 SO)
Austin Kearns (29) – .276/.276/.517 (1 HR 3 RBI, 10 SO)
Cristian Guzman (21) ‘€“ .250/.250/.400 (0 HR 1 RBI, 3 SO)
Ron Belliard (17) – .176/.176/.176 (0 HR 1 RBI, 5 SO)
Adam Dunn (15) – .167 AVG./.333 OBP/.500 SLG (1 HR 1 RBI, 8 SO)
Josh Willingham (11) ‘€“ .250/.364/.250 (0 HR 1 RBI, 2 SO)
Willie Harris (6) ‘€“ .667/.667/1.167 (0 HR 2 RBI, 2 SO)
John Lannan (4) – .000/.000/.000 (0 HR 0 RBI, 3 SO)
Wil Nieves (3) – .667/.667/.667

RED SOX VS. JORDAN ZIMMERMAN

For the third time this series, the Sox will face a Nationals pitcher whom they’ve never seen before, so there’s not much by way of match-ups to offer.

Jordan Zimmerman, a native of Auburndale, Wisconsin, made his major league debut on  April 20th of this year. He has now made 11 starts, going 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA. When speaking at a public event shortly after his major league debut at ESPN Zone in D.C., Zimmerman spoke of the shaving cream pie-in-face ritual that is given after a pitcher’€™s first win.

As recounted by the Washington Post, Zimmerman was special delivered by John Lannan and Scott Olsen, with an assist to a TV sideline reporter, who apparently staged a fake interview to set Zimmerman up for the kill. “I knew something was up,” Zimmerman said. “All of the sudden she’s like, ‘Let’s face this way.’ As soon as I turned, bam, right in the face.”

Jared Shafran contributed to this post.

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Smoltz: ‘It will be a success’

06.24.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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WASHINGTON — Speaking prior to the Red Sox‘ game against the Nationals, Wednesday, John Smoltz touched on his expectations heading into his first start of the season, Thursday, among other things:

(On expectations) ‘€œLet’€™s see, how about no runs, as many innings as they’€™ll let me pitch. Basically I want to go out there and do what I’€™ve done the last few starts and that’€™s command my pitches and see what else happens.’€

(On velocity) ‘€œThe biggest thing is I have enough pitches to get hitters out and the stuff that everyone is talking about might be different, so be it. But I think the ability to pitch and get guys out will be the same.’€

(On reinventing himself) “Absolutely. This is not the old or the new or the done. This is just a new chapter of which, when I have a baseball in my hand, I feel like I can make a pitch and do the things I have to do to hopefully take the sting out of the bat and if that’€™s the case, we’€™ll progress and keep getting better every time out. Tomorrow is just one rung on the ladder to try to climb as far as I can to see how good I can be and really, at the end of the day, be in a position to pitch in the playoffs.’€

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