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Red Sox vs. Indians matchups, 6/7

06.07.10 at 12:18 pm ET
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Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox were primed to sweep the Orioles, the last-place team in the AL East. They were able to come back from a one-run deficit in the top of the ninth to send the game into extra innings, but a walk-off RBI single by Nick Markakis allowed Baltimore to grab a 4-3 win in 11. One day after the tough-luck loss, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Sox will face the tough luck-loser of a near perfect game, Fausto Carmona and the Indians, the last-place team in the AL Central.

Carmona (4-4, 3.53 ERA) has been the Indians’ workhorse, lasting at least six innings in all but one of his starts (he pitched five innings in a 4-0 win against the Royals on May 12). The 26-year-old right-hander had a fantastic start to his season, winning three of his first four starts while posting a 2.96 ERA, but lately things haven’€™t been going his way. Carmona has lost his last three starts, with the most recent one a 3-0 loss to the Tigers, the game in which Armando Galarraga nearly pitched the third major league perfect game in a month if it weren’€™t for umpire Jim Joyce‘€™s blown call at first base. Galarraga shut down the Indians offense and overshadowed Carmona’€™s excellent performance. In his first complete game in two years, Carmona gave up two earned runs on nine hits and walked none on only 96 pitches.

If Carmona’€™s statistics show a sharp divide between a good and a bad season, Matsuzaka’€™s statistics show a sharp divide between good and bad starts. Since the beginning of his season a month ago, Matsuzaka (4-2, 5.49 ERA) has wavered between every start:

‘€¢ May 1 (Orioles, L) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 7 runs (6 earned), 7 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 6 (Angels, W) ‘€“ 5 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 11 (Blue Jays, W) ‘€“ 7 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 0 walks
‘€¢ May 17 (Yankees, ND) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 7 runs, 9 hits, 3 walks
‘€¢ May 22 (Phillies, W) ‘€“ 8 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 4 walks
‘€¢ May 27 (Royals, L) ‘€“ 4 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 2 hits, 8 walks
‘€¢ June 2 (A’€™s, W) ‘€“ 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 10 hits, 0 walks

The Red Sox hope that Matsuzaka can buck the trend and pick up another win. He has done well against the Indians, pulling a 2-1 career record against them. Of the eight current Indians who have ever faced the Japanese pitcher, none have gone beyond second base and five have yet to get a hit off him. Travis Hafner has had the most success, getting two doubles, but pay special attention to Jhonny Peralta ‘€” he has yet to get on base in nine plate appearances against the 29-year-old righty.

For the Red Sox, their experienced hitters have had the most success off Carmona. Expect to see David Ortiz continue his recent offensive explosion as he has a .500 average against his fellow Dominican, with a home run, a double and four RBI. Jason Varitek also stands to continue strong against Carmona; he has a .500 average of his own with a double and two RBI.

This will be the first game of a four-game road series for the Sox against the Indians before they return to interleague play, starting with a nine-game homestand.

Red Sox vs. Fausto Carmona

Marco Scutaro (18 career plate appearances against Carmona): .389 BA/.389 OBP/.389 SLG, 2 strikeouts

Adrian Beltré (8): .250/.625/.250, 3 walks

David Ortiz (8): .500/.500/1.000, 1 HR, 1 double, 4 RBI, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (8): .167/.375/.333, 1 double, 1 walk

Jason Varitek (7): .500/.571/.667, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis (6): .000/.500/.000, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (3): .333/.333/.667, 1 double, 1 RBI

Jeremy Hermida is 0-for-3 and J.D. Drew is 0-for-4 against Carmona. Mike Cameron, Bill Hall, Víctor Martínez, Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick have never faced the Cleveland starter.

Indians vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Travis Hafner (9 career plate appearances against Matsuzaka): .375 BA/.444 OBP/.625 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Jhonny Peralta (9): .000/.000/.000, 3 strikeouts

Mark Grudzielanek (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk

Luis Valbuena (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Trevor Crowe (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 RBI

Matt LaPorta is 0-for-3 with a strikeout while Russell Branyan and Shin-Soo Choo are 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts against Matsuzaka. Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Austin Kearns, Lou Marson and Mike Redmond have never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, fausto carmona, Indians, Red Sox

What to make of John Lackey

06.07.10 at 12:58 am ET
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During the winter, the Red Sox signed the biggest free agent pitcher on the market in John Lackey for five years and $82.5 million. We heard whispers of possible deals for Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez, but both deals would have meant that the Sox would have had to part with many of their prized possessions in the minor leagues. If they decided to make the deals, the Sox would then have to sign both to long-term deals. It was a move that the Sox were obviously not comfortable with.

Simply put, moving forward, signing Lackey was the healthiest thing to do for this organization.

But who is John Lackey? Is he the guy that shut down the Sox last year in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, or is more like the John Lackey that we have seen so far this year this year?

Lackey is currently 6-3 with a 4.72 ERA on the year, but over his last six starts he’s 3-2 with a 5.50 ERA. Keep in mind, other than Sunday’s start against Baltimore, he has gone up against teams that have been playing good baseball (Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Oakland). But Red Sox Nation, as they often do, look at the money the Sox payed and expect him to be better. I think that its safe to say that we haven’t seen the best of John Lackey. In looking at his previous three years in Anaheim compared to this year, there are a few glaring differences …

BB/9    H/9    WHIP    K/9

2007 2.1         8.8        1.210       7.2
2008 2.2         8.9        1.231       7.2
2009 2.4         9.0        1.270       7.1
2010 4.3        10.7       1.663       5.2

You can come to your own conclusions but keep in mind that the AL West is not the AL East, especially this year. The Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays are in the top four in all of baseball in runs scored. But is that the only difference?

After Lackey’s start against Oakland, I talked to A’s second baseman Mark Ellis, who has 66 career plate appearances against he big righty. “He didn’t have that explosive fastball. The curveball also wasn’t as tight as I had seen it in the past. He always had that 95 mph, four-seemer in the tank when he needed it and today I didn’t see it, he pitched at 90-91,” Ellis said.

So what does Ellis think is wrong? “Nothing, I’ve seen this before. If I faced him five times a year, he’d have his good stuff for three of them and then the other two would be like what I saw from him last night. But even though he doesn’t have his best stuff, he grinds it out and gives his team a chance. He battles.”

Thats the John Lackey we’ve seen thus far. Nothing has come easy. He’s “battled” his way through the first two months of the season.

But John Lackey will continue to compete because all he wants to do is win, at any cost. Sometimes those emotions get in his way. As we’ve all seen this year, Lackey can be very emotional on the mound whether its reacting to a call he didn’t like or showing displeasure when one of his teammates make an error behind him. The first one happens, then second one shouldn’t. I talked to Lack about that and he swears that he’s not trying to show anybody up, but lets just say this, it doesn’t look good. Showing up Darnell McDonald is one thing, but when you slam your glove to the ground after a Dustin Pedroia error … not good.

I understand that fans are trying to put their finger on exactly what they have in John Lackey. I can tell you this from my own experience, you haven’t seen his best yet. I loved the signing back in the winter, and even though so far this season he has underachieved in some fans’ minds, when it is all said and done, you will love the signing too. Just give it some time.

Postgame reaction to Sox’ loss

06.06.10 at 7:23 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The Red Sox suffered a 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Orioles on Sunday, dropping the team’s record in extra-inning contests to 1-7 on the season. Nonetheless, the general tenor of the postgame clubhouse was upbeat following a series win.

“Somebody plays the game like [the Orioles] played the game today, you’ve got to tip your hat,” said David Ortiz. “Come back and play the game tomorrow.”

“We’re doing fine,” said John Lackey. “It’s always disappointing to lose a game, but we’ve been playing good baseball and we played good baseball today.”

A few postgame subjects of note:


Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron had suggested before Sunday’s game that he wanted to bring “sexiness” to his club, and, in a sense, he did.

With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cameron made a striking over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track on a Lou Montanez drive to preserve a 3-3 and send the game into extra innings. That Cameron was able to track the ball down suggested that he can offer athleticism and defensive skill to the Sox so long as he is on the field, even at less than 100 percent.

“Just had to try to make a play on it,” said Cameron. “I knew I was getting close to the wall, but the ball was high enough where I had time to kind of make a decision on what I was going to do. I guess I shouldn’€™t say that, because it’€™s all just reaction when you’€™re out there playing.

Off the bat, Dustin Pedroia didn’t think that Cameron had a chance at the play.

“He kind of turned on the burners. … That was a pretty special play,” said Pedroia. “He made some great plays out there. With the thump in his bat, it’s going to be nice when he’s healthy and out there everyday for us.”

“Great catch,” added Sox manager Terry Francona. “He looked really healthy.”

Cameron also went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks, and scored the game-tying run in a ninth-inning rally. He was unsure whether he would be available to play on Monday in Cleveland.


Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen left in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game due to a stiff lower back.

“I’ve got old man back,” he suggested afterwards.

Delcarmen was able to generate velocity, hitting 95 mph on the radar gun, but he was unable to follow through on his pitches, resulting in an inability to work down in the strike zone. He said he felt it most acutely on the last five pitches he threw: a run-scoring double by Scott Moore, and a four-pitch walk to Craig Tatum.

Delcarmen pitched 1/3 of an inning and allowed a run, throwing just three of 13 pitches for strikes. Following the game, he said that he was feeling much better after a massage treatment.

“I’m fine right now,” he said.

Delcarmen said that the issue was one that he has been dealing with on and off for the past three weeks, but that he felt fine while warming up on Sunday. He was hoping that he would be available to pitch in Cleveland on Monday.


David Ortiz was hit on the back of the left hand by a pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning, and was attended on the field by a Red Sox trainer. The incident had echoes of his partially torn tendon sheath in his wrist in Baltimore almost exactly two years earlier (May 31, 2008). But in this instance, Ortiz was able to stay in the game, and had one more at-bat, lining out in the ninth inning. He proclaimed the injury insignificant.

“Sore. A little sore,” said Ortiz. “I’ll be fine. It’s a big boy thing.”

Read More: David Ortiz, manny delcarmen, mike cameron,

Lackey plays the role of the horse

06.06.10 at 7:19 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The results have been inconsistent for John Lackey, but there have been two common denominators to his outings. First, he is a fiery competitor who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Secondly, whether he is operating with his best stuff or something short of that, he has worked deep into games, preventing his bullpen from being overly taxed and, more often than not, giving his team a chance to win.

On Sunday against the Orioles, Lackey allowed two runs in seven innings in a no-decision, leaving the game in a 2-2 tie. Though Baltimore eventually won the contest, 4-3, in extra innings, the big right-hander had done all that his team could have hoped for on a muggy day in Charm City.

It marked the 10th time in his 12 starts that he has gone at least six innings, the most starts of that length by any Sox pitcher this year. He takes pride in that consistent workload, viewing it as a key component of his job description.

“I think that’s one of the reasons I’m here. It’s something that I’ve taken pride in my whole career. I’ve been a guy that pretty regularly gets deep into games. You keep your bullpen in line. It helps a lot of things,” said Lackey. “I can’t guarantee a lot of things, but I can guarantee that I’ll get after it,” said Lackey.

Lackey also threw 124 pitches, marking the third time this year that he has gone 120 or more pitches into a game.

“You want to stay out there as long as you can, for sure,” said Lackey. “I don’t put a lot of stock in pitch count I guess. I felt like I was still strong.”

His teammates were impressed.

“Obviously he takes pride in [working deep into games],” said Jon Lester. “That’s what he’s made a living on, pitching a lot of innings. He’s a big believer that outlasting the other guy will get you a lot of W’s. He did that today, and he deserved a ‘W.'”

“He’s a horse,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’s out there eating up innings and giving us a chance to win. That’s all we can ask for. … We’re glad he’s over here now. He gives it everything he has, every start. It’s pretty awesome.”

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Closing Time: Orioles 4, Red Sox 3

06.06.10 at 5:58 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The Red Sox suffered an anticlimactic conclusion to their three-game series in Baltimore. After hammering the Orioles by counts of 11-0 and 8-2 in the first two contests, the Sox could not capitalize on a strong start by John Lackey. After he left a 2-2 contest, his efforts (7 innings, 2 runs) were squandered in a 4-3 defeat..

Manny Delcarmen allowed an eight-inning run and then, after the Sox rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth, Hideki Okajima continued his year-long struggles. Okajima pitched a strong 10th inning but quickly let the game slip away in the 11th. He walked leadoff hitter Cesar Izturis, allowed a sacrifice bunt by Julio Lugo and then, with one out and a runner on second, after an intentional walk to Miguel Tejada, Nick Markakis lined a single to left-center for the winning run.


Manny Delcarmen had little feel for his pitches. He entered a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth, and promptly issued a leadoff walk and then, after an unsuccessful sac bunt, a run-scoring double by Scott Moore. He walked the next batter (Craig Tatum) on four pitches, resulting in a visit from both Sox pitching coach John Farrell and a team trainer. He was pulled from the game after throwing just three of 13 pitches for strikes.

It marked the second straight struggle for Delcarmen, who gave up back-to-back homers in 2/3 of an inning against the Athletics on Thursday.

David Ortiz was hit on the left hand by a pitch from reliever Mark Hendrickson. The moment was somewhat jarring, since it took place in the same ballpark where Ortiz suffered a partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist in 2008. Ortiz, however, was able to stay in the game.

Even so, it was not a good trip for Ortiz to Baltimore. He went 0-for-12 in the series, with a ninth-inning lineout with a runner on second in a tie game. Still, that brief slump was certainly of less consequence than the fact that he avoided significant injury.

Bill Hall had a rough day, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts and stranding four runners.

–The Sox left 11 runners on base and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.


Mike Cameron, in his first game in a week, delivered on his pre-game promise to bring a certain “sexiness” to the field. He made a game-saving catch for the Sox, racing back to haul in an over-the-shoulder drive to the warning track off the bat of Lou Montanez with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, preserving a 3-3 tie.

Cameron also played a key role in a game-tying ninth-inning rally. He singled to lead off the frame, and eventually came around to score the tying run. ON the day, he went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and two strikeouts.

John Lackey continued to assume a huge workload, throwing 124 pitches in which he allowed seven hits and two runs against the Orioles. He proved effective, working down in the strike zone with his fastball (resulting in 12 groundball outs, compared to seven flyouts), and though he only struck out a pair of batters, he showed good life on his slider and curveball.

The outing marked the 10th time (in 12 starts) that Lackey has pitched at least six innings, the most by any Sox starter. He has also thrown 120 or more pitches three times this year. Only one other Sox starter (Jon Lester) has done it even once.

In his last three starts, Lackey has a 3.72 ERA.

Victor Martinez continued to pulverize left-handed pitching, delivering the Sox’ only offense of the day against Orioles starter Brian Matusz. The switch-hitter fouled off a tough 2-2 changeup and then demolished a 90 mph fastball, driving it into the seats in left field for his eighth homer of the year.

Martinez’ numbers batting right-handed against left-handed pitchers are outrageous. After going 1-for-2 with a walk against Matusz, he is hitting .483 with a .516 OBP, .897 slugging mark and 1.413 OPS.

Read More: David Ortiz, john lackey, manny delcarmen, mike cameron

Cameron gets another chance

06.06.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — After another week on the side lines due to soreness in the left side of his abdomen, Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was enthusiastic about returning to the lineup for Sunday’s tilt against the Orioles. He felt confident that he expected to contribute “sexiness and color” through his return, and contemplated the fact that he, Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall will comprise the outfield on Sunday, marking the first time since April 20, 2001, that the Sox featured three African-American outfielders in their starting lineup. (On that date, it was Troy O’Leary, Carl Everett and Darren Lewis in the lineup.)

‘€œIt’€™s going to be kind of cool,’€ said Cameron. ‘€œI get a chance one more time to run out here and see if I can play some baseball.’€

Cameron recognized that there is an element of the unknown to his return, describing a return to games as being the “true test” of his condition. He recognizes that surgery “could be down the road,” though he said that was a medical decision for later in the season, and that for now, he was simply looking forward to the chance to play in his 17th game of the year. He has been determined by team doctors to be healthy enough to play, but he is not at full strength.

“There are some things I’m still trying to get over,” said Cameron. “Sometimes, it’s not conducive to a great healthy opportunity.”

The Sox are mindful of the fact that, after Cameron played in three consecutive games, he ended up missing the next week. As such, he will likely be placed under even greater restrictions than he was when he returned from the disabled list for an abdominal strain on May 25.

“I don’€™t know that we have answers for a week or 10 days or a year, but I think medically he’€™s been cleared to play. I don’€™t think he’€™s 100 percent,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Hopefully, he’€™ll be able to play today, help us win and then be able to bounce back, too. That’€™s the big question ‘€“ how he’€™ll bounce back.

“He’€™s not going to play everyday. That’€™s not going to be in his best interests, I know that,” he added. “I went to him right away [before last Sunday’s game] and said, ‘€˜If I play you three days in a row and that pushes you over’€¦’€™ He felt bad. He said, ‘€˜I felt good. I didn’€™t feel bad till the next day.’€™ So we kind of talked about having days off before you get to that point. None of us has a crystal ball, but we probably have to be cognizant of that, that that happened.”

The sequence of events has been an unwelcome one for Cameron. Yet the 37-year-old suggested that it could have been worse — he could have run into the brick wall that is Adrian Beltre, whose collisions with Jacoby Ellsbury and then Jeremy Hermida left a pair of outfielders nursing their wounds.

“I told [Beltre] that I will never run into him. The ball will either drop, or I’€™ll punch him,’€ Cameron laughed. ‘€œThey carried me off the field on a stretcher one time [when he had a horrific collision with Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran that resulted in a concussion and skull fracture], and I said it would be the last time they carried me off the field.’€

(While Ellsbury remains on the disabled list as he recovers from his hairline fracture to four ribs, Hermida is likely available today as he recovers from soreness in his chest.)

As for the possibility that his current strain will require surgery, Cameron preferred not to dwell on that possibility.

‘€œI’€™ve gotten two strikes already, but it’€™s hard to say,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s a medical question that I don’€™t have the right answer for. That’€™s something that will come in a discussion, but to say that would be looking at it as a negative impact in my mind. I’€™m all about the positive and the good vibe. Can you feel it?’€

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Bonser throws 95 mph in relief appearance

06.06.10 at 12:00 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Red Sox pitching Boof Bonser‘s fastball registered at 95 mph in his inning of relief on Saturday night with Triple-A Pawtucket, according to manager Terry Francona. The relief outing was the first by Bonser in his 30-day rehab assignment, which concluded on Saturday with his perfect inning (2 groundouts and a lineout).

“He threw the ball really well,” said Francona. “[His velocity] played up for that inning, which we expected.”

Bonser has been returned to the Red Sox from his rehab assignment. There is no official date by which he must be activated from the disabled list, but it would appear likely that the Sox will activate him in the coming days. Bonser has a 6.34 ERA in nine rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket this year, but he allowed just one run in his final three appearances, spanning 14 innings.

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Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups, 6/6

06.06.10 at 10:53 am ET
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With the worst record in the major leagues, and having recently fired manager Dave Trembley in hopes of sparking some sort of turnaround, the Baltimore Orioles are ripe for the picking as the Sox head into the final game of their weekend series. The Red Sox will send offseason acquisition John Lackey to the mound in hopes of shutting down an offense that has had some success against him in the past. The Orioles will counter with young lefty Brian Matusz.

In their last matchup April 24 in Boston, Lackey (6-3, 4.95 ERA) pitched well, giving up three runs over seven innings to pick up his fifth win of the season. Although he was tagged for 10 hits, he limited the damage by inducing 11 ground balls while striking out three.

Matusz (2-6, 5.28 ERA) also pitched well, having given up three runs over six innings in a no-decision at Fenway. Matusz was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Orioles and was ranked as the ninth best overall prospect during the 2009 season. He has yet to have a dominating performance in his brief stint with the team,  but the expectations for him are still high as he continues to battle in only his second season. For Orioles fans, adding a young stud lefty to their rotation will go a long way in making them a relevant contender in an extremely tough division.

For the Sox, it will be interesting to see how Lackey handles the two and three hitters in the Orioles’ lineup. Both Miguel Tejada and Nick Markakis have had significant success against the big right-hander in the past, with each hitter batting at least .300 against him in their respective career’s. Orioles slugger Luke Scott has also handled Lackey well, having hit two home runs.

Lackey has had an up-and-down season to date, but has made a career pitching well in June and July. His ERA in those two months (3.42) is decidedly better than the first two-month stretch of the season. ( His ERA for the month of April is 4.79, while May is 3.92).

As the Orioles continue their season toiling away at the bottom of the standings, the Sox hope to close out the series and inch closer to the Rays for supremacy in the AL East.

Red Sox vs. Brian Matusz

Marco Scutaro (5 career plate appearances against Matusz): .250/.400/1.000, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 walk

Bill Hall (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Hermida (3): .500/.667/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell (3): .000/.000/.000

Victor Martinez (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 hit

Dustin Pedroia (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 hit

Jason Varitek (3): .333/.333/1.333, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Kevin Youkilis (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 hit

Darnell McDonald (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 hit, 1 strikeout

The Baltimore starter has never faced Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, and David Ortiz.

Orioles vs. John Lackey

Miguel Tejada (40 career plate appearances against Lackey): .308/.300/.436, 1 HR, 2 doubles, 6 RBI, 9 strikeouts

Nick Markakis (31): .357/.419/.429, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts

Cesar Izturis (24): .167/.167/.167, 4 strikeouts

Julio Lugo (20): .222/.300/.278, 1 double, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Ty Wiggington (19): .250/.368/.438, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Adam Jones (18): .222/.222/.333, 1 triple, 7 strikeouts

Luke Scott (12): .300/.417/.1.000, 2 HR, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Matt Wieters (12): . 333/.333/.333, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Corey Patterson (11): .091/.091/.091, 4 strikeouts

Garrett Atkins (6): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Luis Montanez (4): .000/.000/.000

Scott Moore (3): .500/.333/.1.000, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Craig Tatum has never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Brian Matusz, john lackey, Orioles, Red Sox

Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Orioles 2

06.05.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — There may not be an American League hitter who is better, year-in, year-out, than Kevin Youkilis.

Since 2008, the numbers suggest that there are few in his company. He entered Saturday’s contest against the Orioles with a .972 OPS since the beginning of ’08 that ranked third in the majors and first in the American League. The only players ahead of him on that list were Albert Pujols (1.090) and Manny Ramirez (.978). Youkilis was well ahead of players such as Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. His .409 OBP is second only to Mauer among American Leaguers. His .563 slugging mark was, once again, better than anyone else in his league over the three-year span.

All of that was before Saturday’s game, when Youkilis delivered the key blow of the game. With the contest between the Red Sox and Orioles at a 0-0 impasses, Youkilis jumped on the first pitch that O’s starter Jeremy Guthrie threw in the top of the seventh inning. He lined the 90 mph fastball into the left-field seats at Camden Yards for his 12th homer of the year, a shot that gave his club a 1-0 lead.

Youkilis later helped the Sox to blow the once-tight affair open. In the top of the ninth, he added a two-run double, finishing the night having gone 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in his club’s 8-2 victory over the Orioles.


–Reliever Daniel Bard recorded the two most significant outs of the night. After starter Jon Lester lost the strike zone in the seventh, walking a pair of batters and allowing a single, Bard entered the game with the bases loaded and one out, and the Sox leading, 1-0.

Bard stranded all three runners by getting a pair of pop-outs, retiring a pair of left-handers in the process. First, he got Luke Scott to fly out to very shallow center, too close to the plate to score Adam Jones. Then, with two outs, Bard got Corey Patterson to foul out to third.

Bard retired all five batters he faced. He stretched his scoreless appearances streak to 12 games and 13 innings. On the year, left-handed hitters have an .074 average against Bard.

Jon Lester was again dominant, going 6 1/3 shutout innings while allowing four hits and three walks. He struck out four batters.

The southpaw has now allowed four or fewer hits in seven of his last nine outings, a run in which he is now 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He remained perfect in his career against the Orioles, improving to 11-0 in 13 career starts against the AL East team.

Josh Reddick, called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, went 1-for-3 with a triple. He also drove a rocket to the warning track in left-center. Reddick suggested before the game that his poor numbers in Triple-A (a .191 average, .241 OBP and .603 OPS) were misleading, and that he had been hitting the ball well, but at people. (He mentioned that he had been robbed of homers by wall-climbing centerfielders on three occasions.) His day suggested as much.

Dustin Pedroia stole his first base since April 26, swiping second after singling with two outs in the sixth inning. The swipe snapped a streak of 34 straight games without a steal for Pedroia, the second longest drought of his career (after an 84-game run to start his career). Pedroia also extended his modest hitting streak to five games.


Joe Nelson, brought into the game for the ninth inning with an 8-0 lead, could not complete his team’s shutout. For that matter, he could not spare his bullpen from additional work.

Nelson allowed two runs, two hits and two walks while retiring just one batter.

Victor Martinez entered Saturday on a tear, having gone 10-for-13 (.769) in his prior three games and 21-for-40 (.525) over an 11-game span. But the switch-hitter continued a trend in which he’s been much better against left-handed pitchers than right-handers. He went 0-for-4 with a walk in five plate appearances against Orioles right-handers. Martinez is now hitting .203 with a .597 OPS against righties.

That said, Martinez had a tremendous defensive game at first base. In his first appearance at that position in 2010, he made a diving backhanded catch of a liner in the first inning, and ranged well to his right on a pair of grounders in the eighth for a couple of groundball outs.

David Ortiz has cooled off since coming to Baltimore. The designated hitter is 0-for-8 with a pair of walks in the series.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jon Lester, josh reddick, Kevin Youkilis

Lowell’s shrinking role and other pregame notes

06.05.10 at 8:16 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — First Mike Lowell lost his full-time job at third base when the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre to man the position everyday. With Beltre and Kevin Youkilis, both right-handed bats, entrenched at the corners, his role as a backup came with few matchup-based guarantees of playing time. Then, with David Ortiz re-emerging as one of the most ferocious power hitters in the game, Lowell’s regular days of serving as a DH against left-handed pitchers also started disappearing.

On Saturday, there was a new wrinkle to Lowell’s dwindling role. Though Beltre was out of the lineup to rest a sore knee, groin and ankle following his collision with outfielder Jeremy Hermida on Friday night, Lowell’s name remained absent from the lineup. Instead, manager Terry Francona elected to have Victor Martinez play first, with Youkilis moving across the diamond to third.

“[The lineup was written] to get some left-handed bats in the lineup,” explained Francona. “We’€™ve got a day game tomorrow. We get Victor in there, we’€™ll let [Jason Varitek] catch. Youk at some point will probably play third in interleague. I kind of mentioned to him last night that we might do this. I kind of knew ahead of time where we were going.”

Still, the move was somewhat surprising, given that just two weeks earlier, while the Sox were in Philadelphia, Francona had suggested that he didn’t want to shuffle Youkilis across the diamond anymore.

“I don’t want to move Youk over to third,” Francona said at the time. “I don’t think that’s in our best interest right now. He’s been playing first. I know he could do it. We’ve got enough third basemen.”

But, with the right-handed Jeremy Guthrie on the hill for the Orioles, Francona had an apparent change of heart. (Martinez, it is worth noting, entered the game with one hit in six career at-bats against Guthrie; Lowell was 4-for-23 (.174) with a homer.)

Obviously, an individual game need not serve as a binding precedent. Even so, on a night when it would have made sense to start Lowell, the 36-year-old once again sat, an indication that his role on the team is becoming ever more limited.

Some other pre-game notes:

–Red Sox outfielder Jeremy Hermida said that he found the results of a CT-scan on his chest on Saturday afternoon to be reassuring following his collision with Beltre on Friday night. Initially, Hermida felt more discomfort in his left forearm than his chest, but after leaving the park on Friday, the pain in the chest worsened while the forearm improved.

Given that Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a hairline fracture of four ribs in an April collision with Beltre, Hermida wanted to make sure that he was not dealing with anything beyond soreness. The results of the scan were negative, suggesting that Hermida is dealing simply with a deep bruise in his chest, rather than a more significant issue.

“Just knowing it was a similar situation [to Ellsbury], similar thing, similar spot, you just want to rule out anything like that, especially when it comes to bones and those kinds of things. We just wanted to rule it out and eliminate that thought and know in my mind that we can push it. As soon as I can go, I can go,” said Hermida.  “It’s just a deep bruise. The CT scan was fine. That’s the most important thing. We’ll just get the inflammation and the swelling out of there and go from there.”

Hermida suggested that he would seek treatment from the Sox’ medical staff, and that he hoped to be available to return to action as soon as Sunday.

–Right-hander Boof Bonser is scheduled to throw an inning of relief for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. The game marks the last appearance of his 30-day minor league rehab assignment.

–Francona suggested that the Sox did not give much thought to the possibility of promoting outfielder Ryan Kalish to the majors when a need was created by the injuries to Mike Cameron and Hermida.

“Do we think he’€™s a really good player? Yeah,” said Francona of a player who was promoted to Pawtucket on Monday. “He just went to Triple-A a few days ago. I don’€™t think it’€™s in his best interest.”

Mike Cameron is getting closer to a return. He took batting practice for the first time since going out with a strained abdomen. Still, Francona felt compelled to have a conversation with the 37-year-old when Hermida was injured on Friday.

“[Friday] night during the game, Cam was pacing the dugout. He was seeing guys getting banged up. I told him, ‘€˜Quit pacing ‘€“ you’€™re not going to play. We’€™re not going to do something that’€™s not in your best interest because we’€™re running short,’€™” said Francona. “He’€™s such a conscientious kid. He sees what’€™s going on. We’€™re not going to let that get in the way.”

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Jeremy Hermida, mike cameron, mike lowell
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