|05.15.11 at 12:02 pm ET|
After four straight wins and six straight quality starts, Jon Lester struggled on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He gave up five runs on seven hits and five walks over 5 1/3 innings and came away with a no decision. He’ll look to rebound from that start in Sunday night’s series finale against the Yankees.
Lester, who is 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA this season, is 6-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 12 career starts against the Yankees. He was especially dominant last year, when he went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts versus New York.
Current Yankees are hitting just .236 against Lester. Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson are all hitting under .200. Alex Rodriguez has three home runs and six RBIs in 26 at-bats, but he’s batting just .231. Derek Jeter has had the most success against Lester, as he is hitting .333 in 36 ABs.
Getting the start for the Yankees will be Freddy Garcia, who is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA this season. After getting saddled with back-to-back losses, he picked up his second win on Tuesday when he held the Royals to one run on six hits over six innings. He pitched an inning out of the bullpen against the Sox back on April 10 and gave up one run in one inning of work.
In his career, Garcia is 8-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 17 appearances against Boston. Current Sox are hitting .248 against him. Carl Crawford leads the way with a .333 average, one homer and two RBIs in 18 ABs. David Ortiz has two long bombs and six RBIs in 33 ABs, but he’s hitting just .242. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 11:35 pm ET|
NEW YORK — David Ortiz knows the challenges of being a designated hitter. For years, he hated the idea that, in his mid-20s, he was viewed as incapable of holding his own defensively to the point where his glove was taken away from him. Over time, he came to embrace the role of the designated hitter, but it took time.
Based on his experience, and on the respect that he has for the career of longtime Yankees catcher — and now DH — Jorge Posada, he had very clear feelings about what New York is doing. After the Sox beat the Yankees, 6-0, Ortiz inquired about what was going on with his longtime rival, who — after being slated to hit ninth for the first time since 1999 — took himself out of the lineup with what Posada described as back stiffness and a need to clear his head, and which the Yankees said was unrelated to health concerns.
“You want to know what I think? They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong,” said Ortiz. “You know why? That guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DH-ing sucks. DH-ing is not easy.
“From what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that he’s not even going to catch bullpens. That straight up will start messing with your head. And you’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man.”
Ortiz made clear that he did not endorse the idea of a player pulling himself out of a lineup. At the same time, he expressed sympathy for Posada’s position, suggesting that the change of role was confusing and frustrating.
“You don’t do that,” Ortiz said of a player taking himself out of the lineup. “But that’s what I’m trying to tell you guys. The confusion, the frustration that you’re living in, sometimes makes you make mistakes. He’s not perfect. He’s a human, just like everyone else. He probably [thought] it was the right thing to do, but now you see that [it wasn’t].”
Ortiz remained convinced that, while Posada has gotten off to a dreadful start, hitting .165 with a .272 OBP and .621 OPS, he is capable of more. Indeed, Ortiz felt that if his Yankee counterpart were to catch, it would help him improve his performance at the plate. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 10:40 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Josh Beckett entered his start against the Yankees on April 10 with a cloud of question marks hovering over him. His first start of 2011 — a five-inning, three-run effort against the Indians — had done little to dampen the doubts about whether a dreadful 2010 campaign represented an irreversible decline.
But then Beckett dominated the Yankees on that April night, logging eight shutout innings and punching out 10 while allowing just two hits, as he and the Sox beat New York and their ace, CC Sabathia, 4-0. It was the start of a run that has vaulted the right-hander back to top-of-the-rotation status.
‘That was obviously kind of a special night. It springboarded him,’ Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett prior to Saturday night’s game. ‘He’s had a lot of well-pitched games ‘ maybe not quite to that, that was a pretty impressive evening. But a lot of similar stuff. He’s throwing strikes with all three pitches. He’s softened up his changeup a little bit. He’s throwing his two-seamer to lefties. For me, seeing him the amount I have, that’s been a pivotal pitch. It backs the lefties out and opens up the plate and then he spins the breaking ball. He’s working quicker. He looks confident. He’s getting the ball and throwing it. I can see why, because he’s throwing strikes and he feels good about himself.’
Beckett delivered another outstanding start against the Yankees and Sabathia on Saturday night. He logged six shutout innings, permitting just four hits while striking out nine, to lead the Sox to a 6-0 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett, Beckett and Beckett. The right-hander became just the second pitcher since 2000 to have multiple starts against the Yankees in the same season in which he logged at least five shutout innings and struck out nine, joining Felix Hernandez, who did the deed in 2010 en route to his Cy Young Award. He has a scoreless innings streak of 18 1/3 innings (matching a career best, previously set in 2004), and he became the first Sox pitcher to go three straight starts without permitting a run since Tim Wakefield in 2007.
For the year, Beckett (3-1) now has a 1.75 ERA. Opponents are hitting .175 against him, the lowest mark against any AL pitcher. Beckett now has held his opponent scoreless in four starts this year, most in the majors. In short, he has been about as good as any starter in the majors.
—Adrian Gonzalez continued his ridiculous home run binge. After going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and double play grounder with the bases loaded to start the game against CC Sabathia, Gonzalez unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and drilled it into the right field grandstand for his eighth homer in his last 11 games. He has now gone deep in four straight contests, one short of the Red Sox team record, accomplished five times by: Jose Canseco (’95), George Scott (’77), Dick Stuart (’63), Ted Williams (’57) and Jimmie Foxx (’40).
|05.14.11 at 6:45 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Red Sox will look to take a second straight game against the Yankees on Saturday night, as Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia face each other for the second time this season. In the first, Beckett was brilliant, logging eight shutout innings and leading the Sox to a 4-0 victory over New York on April 10.
“That was obviously kind of a special night. It springboarded him,” Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. “He’s had a lot of well-pitched games — maybe not quite to that, that was a pretty impressive evening. But a lot of similar stuff. He’s throwing strikes with all three pitches. He’s softened up his changeup a little bit. He’s throwing his two-seamer to lefties. For me, seeing him the amount I have, that’s been a pivotal pitch. It backs the lefties out and opens up the plate and then he spins the breaking ball. He’s working quicker. He looks confident. He’s getting the ball and throwing it. I can see why, because he’s throwing strikes and he feels good about himself.’
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|05.14.11 at 6:06 pm ET|
NEW YORK — By now, the storyline has been hashed and rehashed ad nauseum. In 2010, Jacoby Ellsbury was limited to just 18 games while trying to recover from rib fractures. As he missed almost 90 percent of his team’s games, his toughness came into question, and with it, there were those who wondered about his commitment to the team.
Fast forward to 2011. Those conversations aren’t occurring anymore.
To the contrary, Ellsbury joins Adrian Gonzalez as the only Red Sox players who have appeared in all 38 games thus far this year. The center fielder has started 35 of the contests, entered two as a pinch-runner for David Ortiz and been in one more as a pinch-hitter. His ability to remain on the field at this stage of the season is particularly noteworthy given that his job description — center fielder and base-stealing leadoff hitter — requires physical punishment.
Friday night’s game illustrated that notion. On a two-run fifth-inning homer by Russell Martin, Ellsbury slammed into the wall while making a leaping attempt at the ball. After he bounced to the warning track, he required a moment to pull himself off the dirt.
“I thought I had a chance at it,” said Ellsbury. “Just ran out of real estate.”
Then, in the ninth, he stole second base on a pitchout. When Russell Martin‘s throw bounced off of his legs, Ellsbury hopped back up and started towards third. But then, when the ball didn’t trickle far enough for him to advance, Ellsbury slammed on the breaks. His ankle rolled and he felt a sudden pain just below his right knee, yet he stayed in the game.
“I think it just comes with the territory. There’s going to be times you’ve got to go in hard. It’s just part of stealing bases,” said Ellsbury. “You’re going to hit the second baseman. You’re going to hit the shortstop. Balls are going to hit you. It’s what you take with stolen bases I guess.”
On Saturday morning, Ellsbury reached out to manager Terry Francona to let him know that he was fine and ready to play again. The gesture — and Ellsbury’s role as one of the most durable players on the team in 2011 — was appreciated.
“I think he understands that by being out there, whether he’s at full strength or not, especially batting leadoff, he can impact the game in a lot of different ways. And that’s an admirable trait,” said Francona. “You probably remember how much I talked about Johnny Damon and how he did that. As a manager and coach, you really appreciate that in players. I think Jacoby’s done a tremendous job, because there are some days when he’s been a little bit beat up, and that’s going to happen when your game is speed and you’re hitting walls and diving into bases.”
Thanks to a 19-game hitting streak that came to a conclusion earlier in the week, the outfielder entered Saturday with a .295 average, .344 OBP, .450 slugging mark and .793 OPS with four homers. He was leading the American League at the start of the day with 12 steals. In what he has done thus far this year, Ellsbury has helped to render the 2010 season an afterthought.
Francona suggested that both his performance and his durability to date have been meant to offer a message.
“I think it’s a priority [for Ellsbury],” said Francona. “However you want to say it, whether he wants to prove it to whoever ‘ maybe to himself, or [the media] or me ‘ but yeah, I think he definitely wants to be out there.”
|05.14.11 at 9:48 am ET|
Saturday night features the premier pitching matchup of this weekend’s series, as Josh Beckett squares off against CC Sabathia. They’ve already met once this season. Back on April 10, Beckett shut the Yankees down in a 4-0 Red Sox win, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out 10 over eight innings. Sabathia gave up just one run, but the Sox made him work and chased him from the game in the sixth inning.
Beckett, who is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA this season, has continued to pitch well since then, but he has registered just one win in his last five outings to go along with four no-decisions. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 innings, most recently holding the Twins scoreless for seven on Monday.
Beckett is 11-7 with a 5.90 ERA in 23 career starts against New York, and current Yankees are hitting .272 against him. Robinson Cano has had the most success, as he is hitting .339 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and five walks in 66 career plate appearances against Beckett. Mark Teixeira is hitting just .205 with 15 strikeouts in 39 at-bats, but he also has two homers and eight walks.
Sabathia is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA this year, but he has give up three or more runs in each of his last five starts. In his last start against the Rangers on Sunday, Sabathia allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks over six innings, but he still ended up with the W.
With the loss back in April, Sabathia fell to 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 career starts against Boston. Current Sox are hitting .258 against him. Kevin Youkilis has done the most damage with a .433 average, two homers, five RBIs and six walks in 37 plate appearances. At the other end of the spectrum, Dustin Pedroia is hitting just .188 with no RBIs and eight strikeouts in 32 ABs. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.14.11 at 12:04 am ET|
NEW YORK — Sports nutritionists may cringe to know what fueled Adrian Gonzalez in his latest dazzling exploit as a member of the Red Sox. Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a homer (his fourth in three games and seventh in his last 10 contests), a walk and a sac fly, playing a huge role in the Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees.
And after the contest — after he had turned on a Bartolo Colon fastball up and over the middle and driven it into the right field stands — Gonzalez had an explanation.
“I had a great cheesesteak before the game that got me ready. They make some great cheesesteaks here. They definitely rival the Philly ones. I told them if I did good, it was going to be because of that cheesesteak,” said Gonzalez. “I feel good at the plate.”
Right now, even Gonzalez’ double-entendres are flying effortlessly into the night. But obviously, it is more than plays on words that have the Sox dazzled.
Gonzalez is hitting as well as anyone in the majors. His success is clearly a byproduct not just of incredible natural talent — hand-eye coordination and a powerful, graceful swing — but also a remarkable approach. The homer against Colon was evidence of the latter.
Gonzalez is typically looking for a pitch up and away to drive to the opposite field. His three homers in two games in Toronto all left the park to left field. But on Friday night, he altered his approach not to the ballpark (Yankee Stadium has an infamous jet stream to right field) but instead to the pitcher’s approach.
“Bartolo was going to pound me in. I knew that. he wasn’t going to give me much to go the other way with,” said Gonzalez. “My gameplan was to pick and choose my spots to look for a pitch middle-in that I could drive to right field. After ball one, I thought that would be a good spot, and I think he left it more middle than he wanted to.
“Success or not is not going to be because of the park,” Gonzalez added. “This is a game of execution. If a pitcher doesn’t execute his pitch, I’m going to be able to put a good swing on it. If eh executes pitches, pitching dominates hitting everytime. If a pitcher is able to make his pitches, they’re going to get me out more often than not. So I’m just going up there looking for a pitch I can handle, looking to put a good swing on it. I’m never worried about the ballpark. I learned that early, playing in San Diego, that you can’t let the ballpark get in your head. So I just go out there, try to execute a gameplan.”
Read the rest of this entry »
|05.13.11 at 10:43 pm ET|
But he has still mustered his share of timely hits even amidst this slump, and on Friday, he delivered a huge one against a pitcher against whom he has enjoyed tremendous career success. With Jacoby Ellsbury on first in the top of the seventh, Pedroia came to the plate against reliever Joba Chamberlain. Ellsbury took off for second, and Pedroia shot a single to right — through the hole that Robinson Cano had vacated at second to cover the bag.
The hit improved Pedroia to 12-for-20 (.600) in his career against Chamberlain, and more importantly for the Red Sox, positioned the team for its key game-winning rally. Ellsbury was able to advance to third on Pedroia’s hit and score easily when Adrian Gonzalez delivered a sacrifice fly to deep left. Then, with two outs, Kevin Youkilis gave the Sox breathing room by launching a fastball into the right field seats for a two-run homer.
And with that, thanks to the dazzling work of Clay Buchholz, the Sox claimed an impressive 5-4 road win against the Yankees that brought the Sox within three games of their AL East rivals in the standings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Clay Buchholz was, for much of his night, exceptional. The right-hander featured a remarkable array of swing-and-miss pitches, getting the Yankees to come up empty on 15 hacks. There were swings and misses on changeups (5), cutters (4), four-seamers (3), two-seamers (2) and one on a curveball. Over seven innings, he permitted just two runs on five hits, and of his 21 outs, seven came by punchout and 11 more were on groundballs.
That continued the pitcher’s recent excellence. He has won each of his last three starts, forging a 1.93 ERA while striking out 15 in 18 2/3 innings. He has also walked just one hitter in back-to-back outings. The seven punchouts represented a season high.
—Adrian Gonzalez continued to be a force for the Red Sox in the month of May. He launched a Bartolo Colon fastball into the second deck in right field for his major league-leading seventh homer of the month of May, and he drove in a pair of runs to improve his American League-leading total to 31. Right now, his plate coverage is tremendous, as he is driving pitches on both sides of the plate. The Yankees, out of respect for that fact, issued an intentional walk to Gonzalez in the top of the ninth.
–Prior to Friday, Kevin Youkilis had found little success on the road. He entered the day with a .317 average, .481 OBP and 1.014 OPS at Fenway. On the road, his marks were .154/.286/.651. (His average was 210th of 218 major leaguers with at least 50 plate appearances on the road.) But Youkilis unloaded on a fastball from Chamberlain, hammering it to the opposite field for his first career homer against the Yankees reliever for what proved to be vital insurance runs.
It is worth noting that Youkilis had never actually been hit by a pitch from Chamberlain, but he had been buzzed several times by the hard-throwing right-hander. That being the case, there was no doubt satisfaction to be derived from delivering a blow that ultimately proved decisive.
On another count, however, Youkilis was less productive. He had a golden opportunity to give the Sox another insurance run in the ninth, with runners on the corners and one out. But he stuck out, and so the Sox cleanup hitter is now 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts with a runner on third and less than two outs this year.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Daniel Bard, entrusted with what should have been a relatively clean eighth-inning situation, could not command any of his pitches. He gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson (the only hitter with a three-bagger against Bard — Granderson, in fact, now has two triples against the reliever), couldn’t throw his fastball for strikes in walking Alex Rodriguez with one out and hit Robinson Cano with a slider to put two on with one out — a situation that became even dicier when the Yankees executed a double steal.
But Bard ultimately recovered to stifle the rally, punching out Nick Swisher with a 99 mph fastball and getting Jorge Posada (now 0-for-6 against Bard) to ground out to second. Even so, Bard has now allowed runs in back-to-back outings for the first time in 2011.
—Jonathan Papelbon, in his first outing since suffering a tough blown save on Monday, endured a choppy ninth inning. He got two quick outs, punching out Russell Martin on a 94 mph fastball that painted the outside corner and then getting Brett Gardner to ground out to first. But with two outs, Derek Jeter lined an opposite-field single to right, advanced to second on defensive indifference and scored on a single to left by Granderson.
But Mark Teixeira skied a first-pitch fastball to third for the final out of the game, with Papelbon collecting his sixth save of the year.
–Buchholz continued to be a victim of Yankees catcher Russell Martin, giving up a two-run homer to him. Interestingly, of the seven homers that Buchholz has allowed this year (nearly matching his 2010 total of nine — in about 130 more innings), only two have come with men on base. And both of those have been with Martin at the plate. He hit a three-run homer against Buchholz at Fenway Park on April 9, and drilled a two-run homer just to the left of straightaway center in the fifth inning of Friday’s game.
–Though Crawford had an RBI groundout, he went 0-for-4 to end his hitting streak at 11 games. The outfielder is now 1-for-19 (.053) against the Yankees this year.
–Though he stayed in the game, Jacoby Ellsbury came up limping in the top of the ninth inning. He stole second base on a pitchout, and when catcher Russell Martin‘s throw bounced into him, Ellsbury started to break for third. However, he quickly recognized that the ball didn’t stray for enough for him to advance and so the leadoff hitter broke back to second. As soon as he changed direction, Ellsbury grabbed at his leg, just below his right knee.
|05.13.11 at 8:14 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein would rather be on the road right now, continuing to scout amateur talent in anticipation of a 2011 draft in which his club has four of the first 40 picks. Instead, he is in the Bronx for a first-hand look at his 17-20 club which is, by his own account, “underperforming as a team.”
The question that he and the Sox decision makers have been puzzling over for the season to date is how (whether?) can the team improve? How can the pattern of underperformance and the inconsistency be fixed?
For now, the trade market offers few solutions. The Sox look for upgrades on a year-round basis — whether the offseason, spring training, the first month of the season, the days leading up to July 31. But the trade market has yet to truly take shape. And so, even if there were an opportunity for the club to improve by going outside the organzation, it likely won’t present itself until after May.
Only once under Epstein (in 2003, when the team traded for Byung-Hyun Kim in May) have the Sox enacted a major deal in the season’s first two months. The GM did not seem to expect that the 2011 season would mark the second such occasion. Instead, he believes that it is up to the current Sox roster to improve its play in order to vault the team from its season-long sub-.500 malaise into a level spot with the cream of the AL East crop. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.13.11 at 7:03 pm ET|
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