|07.08.09 at 3:12 am ET|
Jonathan Papelbon has never read ‘Moneyball,’ and so he has never taken much time to think about what the Athletics did in the 2002 draft. But the Red Sox closer is aware of part of Oakland’s activities that year, since he was taken out of Mississippi State by the A’s in the 40th round that summer.
Papelbon, then the Bulldogs’ closer, was a draft-eligible sophomore. The A’s liked his makeup and were impressed by his fastball, but Papelbon admitted that he was raw and had no intention of turning pro ‘unless I had been a first or second rounder.’
‘I wasn’t ready to go, man,’ said Papelbon.
Now, of course, he is ready to go to St. Louis for his fourth straight year as an All-Star game, solidifying his credentials as one of the best closers in the game. Last year, Papelbon became ensnared in controversy when the game was hosted at Yankee Stadium because of his statement that he’d like to close in Mariano Rivera‘s home park.
(Papelbon later clarified that he was merely suggesting that he always wanted to close, but that he planned to defer any game-ending lead to Rivera. The matter became moot when the game went 15 innings, and the A.L. won in walk-off fashion.)
This year, Papelbon says that he would love to be the man on the mound in the ninth inning, with the opportunity to close out a victory and guarantee his league home-field advantage in the World Series.
‘Of course I want to close (the All-Star game). Every closer there is going to want to close. There’s no difference (among them),’ said Papelbon. ‘But (Rays manager Joe Maddon, the A.L. All-Star Game manager) is going to make the decision there.’
Papelbon, who struck out the side in the ninth inning on Tuesday, is now 21 of 23 in save opportunities this year, with a 1.70 ERA.
|07.08.09 at 12:56 am ET|
He uses his words as economically as he uses his devastating pitches when he’s on.
And while he wasn’t lights out on Tuesday night in earning his 10th win of the season in a 5-2 Red Sox win over Oakland, Josh Beckett was still at his very best afterward in summing up his performance.
‘I felt good,” Beckett said. “I made some mistakes. I got away with a few mistakes. We played pretty good defense. Nick Green made some pretty nice plays.’
“I think anybody wants to go out there and have a quality start and I think that’s the objective our our staff and he’s at the head of our staff and you’d expect that out of your ace,” his catcher Jason Varitek added.
His manager, Terry Francona, doesn’t hand out praise lightly. But Francona feels Beckett has earned it and then some.
‘I think he’s one of the best,” Francona said. “He’s fearless. Our guys look up to him. I think he enjoys that responsibility. I think he’s really grown into it and he’ll be out here tomorrow on day one working as hard, or harder, than anybody. That’s kind of a given.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|07.07.09 at 10:24 pm ET|
Josh Beckett became the Red Sox‘ second 10-game winner, joining Tim Wakefield, after the Red Sox bullpen blitzed through 2.1 shutout innings to close out a 5-2 victory over the Athletics. Hideki Okajima (0.1 innings), Justin Masterson (1 perfect inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (a shutout ninth) handled the relief relay, with Papelbon earning his 21st save of the season. Papelbon gave up a hit, but struck out the side in victory.
|07.07.09 at 9:46 pm ET|
Most pitchers would be fairly pleased to leave a game after 6.2 innings, having allowed just two runs on six hits. Josh Beckett is not among them.
Beckett seemed disgusted after Mark Ellis‘ infield single – a high chopper that Beckett fielded half-way up the third-base line and fired to first, a shade too late to get the A’s batter as he sprinted down the line. Beckett shouted words that would not be permitted in a PG setting as he saw Sox manager Terry Francona emerged from the dugout to take him out of the game after 107 pitches, with two outs and two runners on base, skulking off the mound and into the dugout for his inability to pitch seven full innings.
Nonetheless, he is in good shape for his 10th win of the year. After Hideki Okajima came on to retire Adam Kennedy via groundout, the Sox lead, 5-2, after seven innings.
For what it’s worth, Beckett has gone at least seven innings in eight of his starts this year, tied for 22nd most in the majors. Clearly, he wanted to move up in that ranking. He now has a 1.68 ERA in his last nine starts (dating to May 23), a mark exceeded by only Felix Hernandez (1.20) in the American League during that time.
Beckett’s evening was notable for the fact that he made the A’s ground one pitch after another into an out. Of the 20 outs he recorded, four were by strikeout, 11 by groundout and five by fly ball. He threw 107 pitches.
|07.07.09 at 8:58 pm ET|
Naturally, after a post about Beckett’s dominance through four innings, the A’s touched him for a pair of doubles – both with two outs – and a run in the fifth. The development was at least slightly surprising, since Beckett has been at his best this year with two outs, holding opponents to a .213 average and .546 OPS with two outs. He had previously allowed just four extra-base hits in 127 at-bats.
The Sox now lead, 4-2, after five innings.
|07.07.09 at 8:37 pm ET|
Josh Beckett gave up a solo homer – an absolute bomb – to new A’s outfielder Scott Hairston in the top of the first. Hairston banged a 96 mph fastball off the light stanchion down the left-field line for his first hit – and homer – since Oakland acquired him from the Padres two days ago.
But since then, Beckett has been little short of spectacular. He has retired 10 of the last 11 hitters he’s faced, allowing just an infield hit. Of the 10 outs, five have been on grounders and three have been by strikeouts.
Through four innings, the Sox lead 4-1.
|07.07.09 at 8:16 pm ET|
The Red Sox have been completely handcuffed by a couple of impressive young left-handed starters lately. Most notably, it was A’s starter Brett Anderson who fired a complete-game two-hit shutout against the Sox on Monday. That came just five days after the team had been dazzled by Brad Bergeson of the Orioles, who limited Boston to one run on four hits over eight innings.
Those games notwithstanding, however, the Sox have actually been quite good this year against left-handed pitchers. On the year, the Sox are 18-11 in games started against left-handers, good for a .621 winning percentage that is better than the team’s record (31-22, .585) in games started by right-handers.
The Sox entered tonight hitting .271 (7th in the A.L.) with a .360 OBP (3rd), .467 slugging (3rd) and .827 OPS against southpaws this year. (For the league numbers against lefties, click here.) But it appears that the absence of Mike Lowell has done the team few favors offensively, and that has been no different with left-handed starters on the mound.
Lowell played in 65 of the Sox’ first 67 games before he was relegated to the bench and then the D.L. by his hip soreness.With him as an everyday player (through June 19), the Sox were hitting .275/.365/.481 against lefties. Since he was sidelined, the Sox were hitting .248/.335/.400 against left-handers entering Tuesday.
But, of course, that has been in a very limited sample (164 plate appearances, to be exact), and tonight, the Sox are showing signs of breaking out against left-hander Dana Eveland of the A’s in the early going.
Jason Bay absolutely crushed a homer to left-center in the bottom of the second, reaching the first row of the Monster Seats for his first homer in two weeks and his 20th of the season. David Ortiz followed by smashing a double to left-center, and eventually scored.
J.D. Drew, meanwhile, doubled to lead off the third inning, and the Sox took a pair of walks against Eveland to load the bases for a second straight inning. Jason Varitek hit a two-run single back up the middle and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a check-swing single to load the bases.
That was it for Eveland, who left after 2.2 innings, four runs, six hits and three walks (worth stating: 8 outs, 9 baserunners). The Sox’ numbers against left-handers in the era without Mike Lowell just spiked.
Sox lead the A’s, 4-1, after three.
|07.07.09 at 2:22 pm ET|
Though they still have the best record in the American League, the Red Sox are amidst a struggle. They’ve dropped three of their last four games to Seattle and Oakland, both of whom occupy the AL West’s cellar, and were shut out Monday night at Fenway, 6-0. What’s more, their lead in the ever-competitive AL East is down to one game over the Yankees.
Tonight, the Sox look to regain their composure as they send ace Josh Beckett to the mound against the A’s Dana Eveland. Coming off of a rough outing against Baltimore in which he gave up five earned runs in seven innings, Beckett is looking to finally notch that elusive 10th win and join the ranks of fellow AL pitchers Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Kevin Slowey and teammate Tim Wakefield.
In five career starts against Oakland, Beckett is 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA.
The 25-year-old Eveland went 9-9 for the A’s last season, but has been with Triple-A Sacramento since May after he struggled early. He has two career starts against the Sox in which he’s gone 0-1 with an 18.90 ERA in only 6.2 innings pitched.
ATHLETICS VS. JOSH BECKETT
Orlando Cabrera (39 career plate appearances against Beckett): .250 average/ .256 OBP/ .389 slugging, homer, walk, 4 strikeouts
Jason Giambi (33): .231/ .364/ .462, 2 homers, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Matt Holliday (15): .429/ .467/ .857, homer, 2 strikeouts
Mark Ellis (14): .231/ .214/ .462, homer, 5 strikeouts
Bobby Crosby (11): .200/ .273/ .200, walk, 2 strikeouts
Adam Kennedy (5): 0-for-5, strikeout
Jack Cust (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
Nomar Garciaparra (3): 1-for-3
Scott Hairston (3): 0-for-3, strikeout
Kurt Suzuki (3): 1-for-3
Ryan Sweeney (3): 1-for-2, homer, strikeout
Edgar Gonzalez (1): 0-for-1
RED SOX VS. DANA EVELAND
Jason Bay (5 career plate appearances against Eveland): 2-for-3, homer, 2 walks
J.D. Drew (5): 3-for-5, strikeout
David Ortiz (5): 1-for-5
Dustin Pedroia (5): 2-for-5
Kevin Youkilis (5): 3-for-4, homer, walk
Jacoby Ellsbury (3): 0-for-3
Jason Varitek (3): 0-for-2, walk, strikeout
Nick Green (2): 0-for-2, strikeout
|07.07.09 at 12:12 am ET|
As Nomar Garciaparra strolled to the plate to lead off the second inning Monday night in an Oakland A’s uniform, he had an idea of what to expect from the fans.
What he didn’t realize was just how long he was going to have to savor the moment. The fans rose to their feet and cheered him for well over a minute.
“It went on and on,” Garciaparra said afterward. “It was just something special and a memory I’ll have with me for the rest of my life.”
He not only thanked Jason Varitek at the plate for the chance to take over a minute for the crowd to cheer him as he tipped his helmet, but he thanked home plate umpire Greg Gibson for pausing and then getting over home plate to clean it so that he could enjoy it a little longer. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.06.09 at 9:44 pm ET|
Entering Monday, Brett Anderson’s season had offered little to write home about. The Athletics’ starter had a 4-7 record and 5.45 ERA. But the highly regarded prospect pitched to his hype on Monday, dominating the Sox en route to a complete-game, two-hit shutout and leading Oakland to a 6-0 win. The A’s out-hit the Sox, 15-2. Anderson needed just 109 pitches to dispatch and overmatch the Sox.
The Sox have now been shut out twice this year, tied for the fewest times in the majors. They were previously blanked by Matt Garza and the Rays on April 30.
The last pitcher to throw a complete-game while allowing two hits or fewer against the Red Sox was John Lackey, who took a no-hitter into the ninth last July 29 before Boston finally got a pair of hits in the second-to-last game of Manny Ramirez‘ career with the Sox. The last pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout while holding the Sox to no more than two hits was Rays starter James Shields, who threw a two-hitter in Tampa on April 27, 2008.
Nomar Garciaparra went 2-for-4 in his return to Boston.
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