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Can Lackey Still Be A Horse In 2010?

06.28.10 at 9:22 am ET
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So John Lackey signed the big contract with Boston and his lackluster 2010 performance thus far has led to whispers wondering whether the big righthander might be Theo’s biggest free agent mistake:

2008 – 3.75 ERA ; 1.231 WHIP
2009 – 3.83 ERA ; 1.270 WHIP
2010 – 4.69 ERA ; 1.574 WHIP

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Lefty/Righty splits: Right-handed hitters are hitting Lackey much better than they did last season, but nearly the same as they did in 2008 (Avg/OBP/SLG/OPS):

2008 – 301/353/493/846
2009 – 247/309/358/666
2010 – 287/333/494/827

But look at the trends in same slash stats versus lefties:

2008 – 221/279/379/658 (51% of batters)
2009 – 276/321/435/756 (56% of batters)
2010 – 306/389/421/810 (57% of batters)

Ouch. Lackey struck out 19.7% of lefties in 2008, 16.1% in 2009, but just 9.5% this season.

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Versus 7-8-9: The bottom of opposing batting orders (7th through 9th) have hurt Lackey this season much more than any other year:

2008 – 250/297/404/701
2009 – 207/271/283/553
2010 – 330/384/478/862

To put that in some context, here are the 2009 AL leaders in OPS allowed to opposing 7-8-9 hitters (min. 150 such BF):

.501 – Felix Hernandez, SEA
.553 – John Lackey, LAA
.580 – Scott Feldman, TEX

And here are the 2010 AL Trailers in that same category (min. 100 such BF):

.862 – John Lackey, BOS
.838 – Tim Wakefield, BOS
.831 – Joe Saunders, LAA

One other thing: The bottom of opposing batting orders have exactly as many RBI (16) against Lackey this season in 15 starts as they had last season against him in 26 starts.

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After Falling Behind 1-0:  While Lackey is not falling behind on the first pitch this season (36.0%) more than he did over the previous two seasons (36.1%), he has been able to recover much less often, walking 16.6% of batters this season after falling behind 1-0 versus just 12.4% the prior two seasons.

His strikeout rate (14.6%) this season after falling behind is comparable to the last two years and his batting average on balls in play (.340) should come down as it’s never been above .288 in these situations in any of the previous four seasons. So if Lackey can avoid the walks after throwing ball one, he should be OK.

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After Getting Ahead 0-1:  When Lackey gets the first pitch over for strike one, homers have been his undoing. He’s already allowed 6 HR after getting ahead 0-1, one more than he allowed in all of last season. His slugging percentage allowed after 0-1 (.450) is almost 100 points higher than his career mark and is on pace to post the 4th highest such mark by a Red Sox since they started tracking the stat in 1988 (min. 175 such BF):

.463 – Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, 1988
.461 – Curt Schilling, 2006
.453 – Tim Wakefield, 1999
.450 – John Lackey, 2010
.447 – Curt Schilling, 2005

One Other Thing: Lackey’s let a lot of batters off the 0-1 hook as well, walking 5.9% of those hitters, approaching twice his rate from the previous two seasons (3.2%).

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After Getting Ahead 0-2:  But here’s the “coup de grace” when analyzing counts that Lackey has faced. So far in 2010, Lackey has jumped ahead 0-2 against 58 hitters. In his career before 2010, he had allowed opponents to hit .171 after putting them in that deep of a hole. This season, those 58 batters have rallied to hit .327, the highest in the majors this season:

.327 – John Lackey, BOS
.319 – Rick Porcello, DET
.284 – Scott Feldman, TEX
.278 – Tim Wakefield, BOS

It would also easily be the highest ever by a Red Sox pitcher since at least 1988:

.327 – John Lackey, 2010
.278 – Tim Wakefield, 2010
.267 – David Wells, 2005
.245 – Paul Quantrill, 1993

Opponents just CAN’T continue to hit .415 on balls in play after 0-2 counts against Lackey, can they?

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Second Inning Struggles:  The second inning has been tough on Lackey so far in 2010 as he has allowed at least 2 baserunners in the 2nd inning in 9 of his last 10 starts and at least one hit in all 10 (dating back to May 5). Last year, he allowed multiple baserunners in the 2nd inning in just 6 of 26 starts. I guess to a certain extent this goes back to his struggles against the bottom of the order.

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Can we tell anything from Fangraphs‘ runs saved above average by pitch type?

Looking at Lackey’s repertoire (as classified by Fangraphs), he’s thrown about 59% fastballs and 24% curveballs this year (each very similar to the two prior years). His slider percentage (11%) is down some (from about 13% previously) while he’s used his changeup sparingly (5%), although that’s still more often than last season (3%) or the year before that (1%). That indicates that he’s TRYING to develop that change.

From an effectiveness standpoint, runs saved above average on his fastball is down in 2010 (about the same lack of effectiveness as in 2008), but it’s never been anything special (per 100 fastballs and keep in mind that a negative number denotes runs saved BELOW AVERAGE):

2008 – (0.18)
2009 – 0.16
2010 – (0.21)

But it’s his curveball that’s abandoned him so far in 2010 (runs saved above average per 100 curveballs):

2008 – 2.66
2009 – 0.62
2010 – (1.51)

Not only is that an alarming figure for 2010, the trend is quite a concern going forward. Can we look at Lackey’s 2010 monthly pitch effectiveness numbers for answers (per 100 of that pitch type)?

April: Fastball -0.12 ; Curveball -1.05 ; Slider +1.98
May: Fastball +0.22 ; Curveball -4.46 ; Slider +3.74
June: Fastball -0.80 ; Curveball +0.68 ; Slider -2.77

In May, Lackey’s minus-4.46 runs per 100 curveballs ranked 2nd to last in the AL while his slider (+3.74) ranked 6th best.

Although the slider effectiveness has cratered a bit in June, he historically doesn’t rely on that pitch like he does his curveball, and that positive number in June is a reason for optimism.

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A few more things from Fangraphs:

* – The percentage of Lackey’s pitches in the strike zone is down in 2010:

2008 – 54%
2009 – 47%
2010 – 45% (Apr 45% ; May 45% ; June 44%)

* – When opponents have chased pitches outside the strike zone, they’ve made MUCH more contact than they have in the past:

2008 – 54%
2009 – 60%
2010 – 70% (Apr 66% ; May 72% ; June 72%)

* – His swinging strike percentage is also down considerably this year:

2008 – 8.6%
2009 – 8.6%
2010 – 5.9% (Apr 6.2% ; May 5.2% ; June 6.2%)

None of those give me the warm fuzzies.

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There are lots of reasons why John Lackey has struggled in 2010, but there is lots of season left for him to right the ship. Considering the unfortunate injury to Dustin Pedroia (and now Victor Martinez), a much bigger burden is going to fall on the pitchers to pick it up heading into the middle of summer. A noticeable improvement by Lackey would be a big piece of the playoff puzzle for 2010.

Disharmony in Tampa Bay

06.28.10 at 6:08 am ET
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This should make Red Sox fans feel a little better …

Red Sox vs. Giants matchups, 6/27

06.27.10 at 10:05 am ET
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Coming off an important win in San Francisco on Saturday, the Red Sox look to capture their second win of the series on Sunday. Taking the mound for the Red Sox will be Jon Lester, who is 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA. In his last outing, Lester surrendered only one run and six hits, but received his third loss of the season against the Rockies.

Facing the Sox is the two-time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum. For perhaps the first time in his career, the Giants ace has appeared human of late. In his last six starts, he is 2-2 with a 5.20 ERA, and he has walked 22 in 36 1/3 innings. But he may have turned a corner in his most recent outing against the Astros, pitching eight innings and allowing just one unearned run while punching out seven and walking two batters. He is second in the NL with 113 strikeouts.

Red Sox vs. Tim Lincecum

Mike Cameron (7 plate appearances): .286 AVG/ .375 OBP/ .286 SLG, 1 RBI, 1 walks, 3 strikeouts

Bill Hall (2): .000 AVG/ .250 OBP/ .000 SLG, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

J.D. Drew, Adrian Beltré, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Víctor Martínez, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Reddick, Marco Scutaro and Jason Varitek have not batted against the San Francisco starter.

Giants vs. Jon Lester

Aubrey Huff (29 plate appearances): .276 AVG/ .323 OPB/ .483 SLG, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBI,  2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Pat Burrell (12): .176 AVG/ .231 OBP/ .167 SLG, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Edgar Renteria (5): .400 AVG/ .500 OBP/ .800 SLG, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Juan Uribe (5): .400 AVG/ .400 OBP/ .400 SLG

Bengie Molina, Nate Schierholz, Freddy Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres and Eli Whiteside have not faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Aubrey Huff, Jon Lester, Tim Lincecum,

For Sox, a not-so-fond farewell to interleague

06.27.10 at 9:16 am ET
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In 2005, Clay Buchholz did not know what his professional future held and he did not care. He just wanted to play baseball, and so it was immaterial to him whether that was as a pitcher (the role in which the Red Sox and other clubs envisioned him) or as a position player.

At a workout in Jupiter, Fla., the Cardinals let Buchholz know that they were less interested in him as a pitcher than a position player.

“I think they were looking to draft me in the third round as an outfielder,” Buchholz recalled recently. “I said I was going to go wherever I was drafted; I wasn’t going to pick or choose anything. ‘€¦ I knew if the Sox drafted me what I was doing, and I knew if I got drafted by the Cardinals I knew what I was doing.”

The pitching thing has worked out pretty well for Buchholz, and so he has no regrets about his career direction. Even so, he is among the most athletic pitchers in the game. The idea that he could have been a position player in the majors is not far-fetched.

That fact, in turn, made it fairly unsurprising to see Buchholz collect a hit in his first big-league at-bat, and fairly startling to see him pull up lame while running to second base on a double-play grounder. That the right-hander — who was a position player in college — could hyperextend his left knee while on the bases underscored the fact that, no matter how athletically gifted an American League pitcher, danger can loom whenever he dons a batting helmet.

Buchholz said that he felt a pop behind his left knee due to a moment of indecision. He initially planned to go hard into second base to try to break up the double play, but then decided to pull up to minimize risk. When he did so, ironically, he injured himself, and was forced to leave the game after pitching just one inning.

“Going into second, you can think all you want that you’ll just jog down there, but it’s hard to make yourself do something like that when you have a chance to break up a double play,” Buchholz told reporters. “It was indecisiveness on my part going into second base. I was either going to slide or bail off.”

Buchholz and the Sox appear to have averted major damage. A medical exam revealed no structural damage to the knee, and Buchholz might not even miss a start.

Still, the Sox have already experienced a damaging injury to a pitcher as a result of interleague play. Josh Beckett tweaked his back in mid-May while swinging a bat in preparation for hitting in a National League park. After missing a start, he aggravated the condition in his next outing, and will ultimately end up missing at least two months.

The Sox are perennially one of the best interleague teams in the game. This year is no different. They are 12-5 against NL opponents, tied for the third best interleague record in the game this year (behind only the White Sox, who are 15-2, and the Rangers, who are 13-4).

All the same, as they prepare for their final interleague contest of the 2010 season on Sunday, it would be hard to imagine that the Sox are misty-eyed at the prospect that their pitchers won’t have to pick up bats again this year unless they reach the World Series. For as much good as the Sox have done themselves in the standings by fattening up on National League opponents, the hazards of having pitchers wield bats and run bases might well outweigh that benefit.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, interleague, Josh Beckett,

Closing Time: Red Sox 4, Giants 2

06.26.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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For the second day in a row, it was a game that had disaster stamped all over it for the Red Sox. After enduring a loss and, more painfully, the loss of Dustin Pedroia to a non-displaced foot fracture on Friday, the Sox watched in what must have bordered on horror as starter Clay Buchholz pulled up lame while running the bases (following his first big-league hit) in the top of the second inning.

Buchholz left the game with what was diagnosed by the Sox as a hyperextended left knee. The Sox were relieved by the initial diagnosis, which suggested that the injury is not considered serious.

Still, with Buchholz (the team leader in wins with 10 and ERA with a 2.45 mark) knocked out after just one inning on the mound, the Sox were left to scramble for innings. In an impressive collective effort by the bullpen, a combined seven relievers did just that, steering the team to a 4-2 victory in San Francisco, giving the Sox their second win in the first five games of this road trip to National League parks.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–The bullpen’s tremendous effort was highlighted by a few key contributions:

  • Scott Atchison entered for the bottom of the second and logged 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one run. His ability to work through 42 pitches played a huge role in getting the Sox bullpen aligned.
  • Dustin Richardson inherited a first-and-third, no-out situation in the bottom of the sixth and the Sox leading, 4-1. In one of the pivotal sequences of the game, the rookie left-hander struck out Pablo Sandoval, got Buster Posey to fly out (for a sac fly) and elicited a fielder’s choice groundout from Aaron Rowand.
  • Hideki Okajima struck out a pair in a scoreless seventh, showing one of his better curveballs of recent weeks.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, in his first appearance since blowing saves on back-to-back nights in Colorado, was surgically efficient in a perfect ninth inning for his 17th save of the year.

Mike Cameron finally hit his first homer as a member of the Red Sox, and his three-run homer in the top of the second eventually proved crucial, since it was the Sox’ last offense of the day. Cameron also made a tremendous catch while fighting the sun in the bottom of the eighth, covering a ton of ground to haul in a Pablo Sandoval drive on the warning track while falling down.

Darnell McDonald once again proved formidable against left-handed pitching, jumping on Giants starter Madison Bumgarner for a first-inning homer. Of McDonald’s five homers this year, four have been against southpaws.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Buchholz’ departure threw a scare into the Sox, though the initial signs of his knee injury were that it was not a devastating one. Still, his early exit torched the Sox bullpen, which will be running on fumes on Sunday. The Sox are no doubt eager to arrive at Monday’s off-day.

–For the first time in his career, Daniel Nava was kept off the bases, going 0-for-3. Thus ended a run of 13 straight games reaching base to start his big league career.

Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre — the heart of the order on whom the Sox will rely even more for offense with Pedroia out — went a combined 1-for-12, a particularly surprising development given the group’s tremendous success to this point in the season against left-handed pitchers.

WHAT WAS WEIRD FOR THE RED SOX

–With the Sox dealing with a short bench and a need to pinch-hit early and often for pitchers, the team sent John Lackey to the plate in the top of the fifth to pinch-hit for fellow pitcher Ramon Ramirez. Lackey grounded out, but in the process he became the first Sox pitcher (not counting position players who took an occasional mop-up turn on the mound, or Dave McCarty, who made a few relief appearances in 2004) to pinch-hit since Pete Schourek delivered a pinch-hit single against the Orioles on June 28, 2000.

WHAT WAS A ROSTER SCRAMBLE FOR THE RED SOX

–The Sox placed Dustin Pedroia on the 15-day disabled list due to a non-displaced fracture of the navicular bone in his left foot. Pedroia said that he had no idea how long he would be sidelined for.

–With Pedroia sidelined, the Sox called up infielder Angel Sanchez from Triple-A Pawtucket to serve as a backup middle infielder.

–The Sox moved to further reinforce their middle infield depth by acquiring second baseman/outfielder Eric Patterson from the Athletics in exchange for 21-year-old left-hander Fabian Williamson. For more on that deal, click here.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, darnell mcdonald, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon

Pedroia: ‘We’ll be fine’

06.26.10 at 8:55 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia met with the media in San Francisco on Saturday, the same day the All-Star was placed on the DL with a non-displaced fracture of the navicular (mid-foot) bone in his left foot .

“I’m upset,” said Pedroia. “It’s pretty tough. But I’ll try to get back in there and heal as fast as possible.”

The 2008 AL MVP isn’t going to set a timetable for his return.

‘€œYeah, I asked them [the doctors] that,” said Pedroia of a possible return date. “They don’€™t know. I could feel fine in two weeks and then play. Or maybe I can’€™t walk until six weeks. They don’€™t know. I don’€™t really know that. In the past, I’€™ve healed pretty quick. Hopefully I do that this time.’€

There is a history in sports of injuries to the navicular bone leading to long absences (Frank Thomas, Yao Ming, Bill Walton). Pedroia, however, was quick to dismiss any worst-case scenario thoughts.

‘€œNot really,” said Pedroia when asked about any long-term worries.”One thing is they said if they had to, they’€™d put a pin in there and it would actually speed up my recovery. Who knows? I’€™m supposed to get checked out by Dr. Gill on Monday and we’€™ll have a better idea of what we’€™re doing then.’€

In Pedroia’s stead, the Sox will (at least in the short term) most likely feature Bill Hall and Angel Sanchez at second base. Pedroia has confidence that the pair will fill in ably.

‘€œThey’€™ll be fine,” Pedroia said of Hall and Sanchez. “They’€™ll do a good job. Billy’€™s been around for a while. Hopefully he gets hot and swings the bat great and just plays well.’€

Pedroia, who was on a tear prior to the injury (.491 batting average since June 10), is also certain that the Red Sox will continue to stay in the AL East race as he recovers.

“We’€™ll be fine,” said Pedroia, who hit .374 with an OPS of 1.075 in June. “Not one guy makes the team. We have a lot of great players on our team. Hopefully they can weather everything and wait for everyone to get back healthy and we’€™ll take off.”

Red Sox trade for 2B/OF Eric Patterson

06.26.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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In an effort to bolster the organization’s second base depth, the Red Sox struck a deal with Oakland for second baseman/outfielder Eric Patterson, acquiring the 27-year-old in exchange for minor league pitcher Fabian Williamson.

Patterson is hitting .204 with a .255 OBP, .408 slugging mark and .662 OPS in 45 games with four homers and six steals for the A’s this year. He has a career line of .224/.301/.340/.641. In parts of four big league seasons, he has played 32 of his 134 games at second base, the position where the Sox are seeking reinforcements after Dustin Pedroia landed on the disabled list.

Patterson, an eighth-round selection of the Cubs in 2004, has a solid minor league resume, having hit .303/.368/.478/.846 with 59 homers and 175 steals in his five minor league seasons. He spent most of his time in the minors at second base, playing 446 of his 572 minor league games there.

Williamson was acquired by the Sox prior to the start of the 2010 season from the Mariners in exchange for reliever David Aardsma, who has since become the Seattle closer. Williamson, 21, turned in a tremendous performance last year for Single-A Greenville, going 10-5 with a 2.42 ERA. With Hi-A Salem this year, the left-hander was 4-3 with a 3.72 ERA.

Here is the complete press release from the Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox today acquired infielder/outfielder Eric Patterson from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for left-handed pitcher Fabian Williamson. Patterson is expected to join the team tomorrow in San Francisco. With the move, the Red Sox 40-man roster is now at 40.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Patterson, 27, has appeared in 45 games for the A’€™s this season, batting .204 (21-for-103) with five doubles, two triples, four home runs, nine RBI, 13 runs and six stolen bases. He’€™s appeared in 25 games (22 starts) in left field, seven (two starts) in center field and five (one start) at second base, committing just one error overall for a .985 combined fielding percentage at the three positions.

Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Patterson has hit .224 (75-for-335) with 15 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 35 RBI, 44 runs and 22 stolen bases in 134 Major League games over parts of four seasons with the Cubs (2007-08) and A’€™s (2008-10). He is the younger brother of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson.

Williamson, 21, has compiled a 4-3 record with a 3.72 ERA (27 ER/65.1 IP), 40 strikeouts and 34 walks allowed in 14 starts this season with Single-A Salem. The left-hander has held opponents to a .242 (58-for-240) batting average in 2010, the fourth-best mark in the Carolina League. Acquired from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-handed pitcher David Aardsma on January 20, 2009, Williamson is 24-13 with a 3.17 ERA (105 ER/297.2 IP) and 288 strikeouts compared to 141 walks in 68 career appearances (50 starts) over four minor league seasons between the two organizations.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, eric patterson, fabian williamson,

Buchholz leaves game with hyperextended knee

06.26.10 at 8:30 pm ET
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Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz left Saturday’s game against the Giants after the top of the second inning due to an apparent injury. Buchholz, after pitching a scoreless first inning, collected his first big league hit in the top of the second. But on a double play ball hit by Marco Scutaro, Buchholz pulled up lame while running to second, grabbing the back of his left knee as he neared the bag.

Manager Terry Francona said during the Fox broadcast that the injury was a hyperextended left knee, but said that an initial exam by Red Sox team medical staff was promising.

“It scared us all watching him walk off,” Francona said during the broadcast. “He checked out pretty well. … [The trainer] seems to think he’s OK, which is a relief, but we’ll certainly get him checked out more.”

Buchholz is 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA. He was replaced in the bottom of the second inning by reliever Scott Atchison with the Sox leading, 4-0.

Read More: Clay Buchholz,

Red Sox vs. Giants matchups, 6/26

06.26.10 at 1:51 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz (10-4, 2.47) gets the ball Saturday as he leads the Red Sox against the Giants in the middle game of the final interleague series of the Sox’ season. In his most recent victory, June 20 against the Dodgers, Buchholz pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while striking out four. It was win No. 10 for the righty, making him one of only five pitchers in the majors with double-digit wins this season.

Saturday marks Buchholz’ first matchup ever against the Giants. He has only faced four players on the Giants’ active roster: Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe. That group is a combined 3-for-20 (.150 average) against him.

Buchholz will be opposed by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants pitching prospect who is being summoned on Saturday for his first big league outing of the 2010 season. The 20-year-old, who was selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, was 7-1 with a 3.16 ERA with Triple-A Fresno this season — the only level where he’s ever had an ERA over 2.00. In his minor league career, he has a startling 34-6 record with a 2.00 ERA and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings, though there had been concerns that his velocity had dipped from the low-90s to the mid- to high-80s last season and in spring training.

In four appearances last year (one start), he did not record a decision and allowed just two runs for a 1.80 ERA. No Red Sox hitter has faced Bumgarner.

Giants vs. Clay Buchholz

Aubrey Huff (12 career plate appearances): .222 average/.333 OBP/.333 slugging, 2 hits, 1 double, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Pat Burrell (8): .143/.250/.286, 1 hit, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Edgar Renteria (2): .000/.000/.000

Juan Uribe (2): .000/.000/.000

The Sox starter has never faced Travis Ishikawa, Bengie Molina, Buster Posey, Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz, Andres Torres and Eli Whiteside.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, madison bumgarner,

Closing Time: Giants 5, Red Sox 4

06.26.10 at 1:32 am ET
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For the Red Sox, it was a game of missed opportunities. The team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 baserunners in suffering a 5-4 defeat to the Giants. But far more significant was the possibility of the loss of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who smashed a foul ball off the instep of his left foot in the top of the third inning. Pedroia saw one more pitch to conclude a walk, but then had to leave the game when he hobbled pitiably to first base.

Upon initial review, the X-rays were not characterized as negative. Sox doctors were continuing to review the results of those X-rays, with more tests for the second baseman planned on Saturday.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The potential loss of Pedroia would be devastating, particularly given that he entered Friday’s game against the Giants amidst a spectacular 13-game run in which he was hitting .500, including a three-homer eruption on Thursday night in Colorado. The most likely option to fill in for Pedroia as the Sox starting second baseman would be Bill Hall, with an unimpressive array of middle infielders (Angel Sanchez, Gil Velazquez, Tug Hulett, Niuman Romero) in Triple-A Pawtucket. Any of those alternatives would represent a significant offensive downgrade for the Sox.

–Many players contributed to the many wasted opportunities by the Sox, but a few at-bats proved particularly harmful. Mike Cameron, who entered the game in place of Pedroia, fouled out to first base on the first pitch he saw with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh inning. Victor Martinez ended up striking out with the bases loaded and two outs in that same inning, resulting in an inning in which the Sox failed to score a run despite having an opposing pitcher (reliever Santiago Casilla) issue three walks and uncork three wild pitches.

Ramon Ramirez came into a game in which his team trailed, 4-3, and gave up a run in relief of starter Tim Wakefield in the eighth inning. The insurance run proved immense, as the Sox pushed a single run across in the ninth, falling one run short.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Kevin Youkilis produced nearly all of the Red Sox offense on Friday. He cracked a three-run homer to left field, No. 15 of the season, in the top of the first inning. Then, in the ninth, he smashed a triple to deep right-center field, and came around to score the fourth Red Sox run.

–Starter Tim Wakefield gave a respite to a bullpen that was overtaxed during its stay in Colorado. He delivered seven solid innings, limiting the damage from 11 hits to allow four runs (three earned). He also worked a walk (his first since 1998), and had an impressive takeout slide at second base on a fielder’s choice to help prevent a double play.

–The Sox produced an impressive rally in the top of the ninth inning, as four straight hitters reached base. Youkilis tripled and then scored on Victor Martinez‘ single to left field. Adrian Beltre, after an 0-2 brushback pitch, jumped back to his feet and lined a single before Bill Hall worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. However, with two outs and the bases loaded, Darnell McDonald grounded out to end the game, resulting in the third inning in which the Sox left the bases loaded.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, san francisco giants, Tim Wakefield
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