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Sox far from shining in All Star balloting

05.24.10 at 4:44 pm ET
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The preliminary numbers were released Monday in All-Star balloting and the Red Sox aren’t even close to being represented in the field.

Dustin Pedroia is behind only Robinson Cano for the starting nod at second base, but his 279,452 votes aren’t even in the same galaxy as Cano’s 491,188. Victor Martinez, currently third among catchers with 119,997 votes in a futile category (see Mauer’s votes below), is the only other Red Sox hitter among the top three in voting at his position.

The leaders at each position are as follows:

1B – Mark Texiera, Yankees: 396,034
2B – Robinson Cano, Yankees: 491,188
3B – Evan Longoria: 541,253
SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees: 639,227
C – Joe Mauer, Twins: 644,533
DH – Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers: 374,333
OF – Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 366,903
OF – Carl Crawford, Rays: 319,953
OF – Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 307,928

Unfortunately for the 2010 Red Sox, today’s news isn’t as big a slap in the face as may initially meet the eye. In fact, the numbers would dictate the Red Sox shouldn’t have a starter in the infield, outfield, or behind the plate.

There are certainly cases of hard luck. Adrian Beltre leads American League third basemen with a .325 average, though his power numbers don’t touch those of current-vote leading Rays third-baseman Evan Longoria. Similarly, Beltre’s average is head and shoulders better than second-place Alex Rodriguez‘ .291, though Rodriguez has the edge in homers (six to Beltre’s three), RBI (32 to 26), OBP (.375 to .360) and slugging percentage (.485 to .466), among other categories. Same goes for Michael Young, which is why Beltre and his stellar average haven’t cracked 100,000 votes.

The most unfortunate case may be that of Kevin Youkilis, who finds himself fifth among first basemen with 150,702 votes. The injustice isn’t that he trails Justin Morneau, whom he does in all fairness (Morneau’s numbers rival those of only Paul Konerko, another snub who unlike Youkilis does not rank in the top five vote-getters at first-base). The head-scratcher is that Teixeira, currently batting just .209 with seven homers, leads all first baseman, including Morneau and his .701 slugging percentage.

That may be about it though. As well as Pedroia has hit for power early on, the fans are trusting the numbers — and Cano has Pedroia beat in every traditional category — by choosing the Cano. The Yankees second baseman leads Pedroia in homers (nine), RBI (28), average (.335), and OPS (.956).

The 81st All Star Game will be played at Angel Stadium on July 13.

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Uncovering the value of Adrian Beltre

05.24.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Figuring out Adrian Beltre isn’t always easy. Take for instance …

Coming into this season no visiting player in the history of Tropicana Field had a worse OPS (.475) when playing at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. So, one would expect more doom and gloom when the Red Sox visit The Trop for the first time this season, correct? Hold your horses.

Upon further evaluation, since the beginning of 2008 Beltre has actually performed well in at Tropicana Field, carrying a five-game hit streak into Monday night’s game. During the stretch the third baseman has an OPS of .909, with .350 batting average.

Deceiving, isn’t it? And it is because of Beltre’s perception of deception that you don’t get the sense that Red Sox fans have truly found their happy place when it comes to the 31-year-old.

Perhaps it’s because they know there is a strong likelihood that Beltre is one and done in Boston, ultimately drifting into the free agency sunset with his agent, Scott Boras. Or maybe it was all of that defensive promise (hat tip to Joe Maddon here) that was called into question when Beltre made his seventh error on May 8 (his last, by the way). Then there was the fact he is replacing one of the team’s more popular players in Mike Lowell, who had earned the benefit of the doubt the new third baseman still hasn’t been afforded.

But as we sit here right now, Beltre has been worth the Red Sox’ investment. In fact, if you were to make up the team right now, he would be in the conversation to be making his first All-Star appearance, leading all American League third basemen in batting average (.325) and doubles (14).

The fact is that when it comes to looking at the engines that are making this somewhat surprising offense go, Beltre has been one of the most underrated, yet important.

You might look at Beltre and see a corner man who has fewer home runs (3) than every other starter except Marco Scutaro. Or the fact that nobody in the major league’s most patient lineup is as impatient as the third baseman. But Beltre’s value has been equally as important as those working counts or amping up their slugging percentage.

Beltre has hit when it counts, in his own unique way.

- He his hitting .533 with runners in scoring position and two outs (8-for-15). (By the way, Jeremy Hermida leads the AL with 19 RBI in this situation, having gone 7-for-19.)

- He is leading the AL with a .48o batting average (12-for-25) after getting the count to 0-2.

- He is slightly behind former teammate Ichiro Suzuki for the batting average on two-strike counts, hitting .355 to Ichiro’s .360.

Even when Beltre started out the first month as one of the few Red Sox hitters carrying a batting average north of .300, the talk was of how most of the hits were singles, and the needed punch wasn’t there. Well, since May 1 Beltre leads all Sox hitters with 12 extra-base hits (tied with Kevin Youkilis).

It may not last, or perhaps we simply remember Beltre as a chip at the trade deadline. But as we sit here, these are the facts when it comes to the third baseman. Just a simple reminder.

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Red Sox vs. Rays matchups, 5/24

05.24.10 at 9:45 am ET
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Clay Buchholz

Heading into the weekend, there was very little optimism regarding the Red Sox and their ability to win a three-game series against the Phillies. The Phillies, after all, have one of the best offensive teams in all of baseball and a great pitching rotation to boot. However, with the return of Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list and great pitching from Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, the Sox won twice in their first interleague matchup of the season.

Now with their sights on Tampa Bay, the best team in all of baseball, the Sox hope to continue to climb up the standings and back into playoff relevance with Clay Buchholz on the mound Monday night.

Buchholz, who is 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA on the season, pitched extremely well his last outing, stifling a very good Minnesota team over eight innings. Having won five games already, which is good for second best in the American League, Buchholz has been the Sox’ most reliable pitcher all season.

The Rays turn to Wade Davis to pad their impressive division lead and prove they are the new kings of the AL East. The young righty, who is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA, has pitched consistently well all season, helping solidify one of the best rotations in the game. The Rays’ league-leading team ERA of 2.87 has allowed them to coast to a 32-12 record, building a comfortable lead on the Sox and Yankees in arguably the best division in baseball. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Phillies 3

05.23.10 at 4:17 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield recorded his first win of the 2010 season thanks to eight shutout innings against the Phillies.

When John Lackey got cuffed by the Phillies on Friday night, the weekend outlook for the Red Sox looked dark. With the inconsistent Daisuke Matsuzaka on the hill on Saturday night and rotation fill-in Tim Wakefield getting a start against Phillies ace (and longtime Sox nemesis) Roy Halladay, winning the series seemed like a tall task.

Yet Matsuzaka dazzled on Saturday, going 7 2/3 innings before conceding his first and only hit of the night in a 5-0 victory. And Wakefield enjoyed similarly exceptional results, delivering eight shutout innings of his own in the Red Sox’ 8-3 victory over the Phillies. With the win, the Sox took two of three in the series, and in what appeared to be a brutal stretch against the Yankees, Twins, Phillies and Rays, the Sox are now 5-2, allowing them to improve to three games over .500 (24-21) for the first time all year.

Meanwhile, the Sox roughed up Halladay in his worst start as a member of the Phillies. Kevin Youkilis led the charge, reaching base in all three of his at-bats (triple, homer, walk) against Halladay as the Sox plated seven runs (six earned) against the Phillies ace in his worst start as a member of the Philies. He is now 14-15 in his career against the Sox, making the Sox the only American League team against whom Halladay has a losing record.


–Wakefield, in the rotation while Josh Beckett is on the disabled list, proved tremendous against the formidable Phillies lineup. Though he recorded just one strikeout, he permitted Philadelphia little solid contact, allowing just five hits in eight shutout innings of work. In the process, Wakefield finally earned his first victory since last July 8. The game marked the first time since Sept. 12, 2008, that Wakefield had thrown eight shutout innings in a game.

Wakefield is now 4-1 in his career against Halladay, and he continued to excel in his swing role. In his last three starts — spread out over four weeks — he has a 2.08 ERA.

–Youkilis furthered his case as the best hitter in the majors against Halladay. In three at-bats against the perennial Cy Young candidate, he had a homer (his team-leading ninth of the year), a triple (his team-leading second of the season) and a walk (his major league leading 24th of May).

His numbers against Halladay are outrageous: .375/.446/.661/1.107. Against players with at least 30 at-bats against Halladay, Youkilis ranks sixth in average, fourth in OBP, second in slugging and second in OPS.

He is now hitting .397 with a 1.391 OPS and six homers in May.

Jacoby Ellsbury had a two-run single (his first hit in two games since coming off the disabled list) and also made a diving catch in center field to start the seventh inning. The defensive play, in particular, was promising for the Sox, since it represented a good test of Ellsbury’s ribs.

Adrian Beltre went 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly for his fourth multi-hit contest in the last five games. He is hitting .500 (9-for-18) in that span, and is now tied with Youkilis for the team lead in batting average at .325.


–The slump continued for Dustin Pedroia, who was 0-for-4 to run his hitless streak to 19 at-bats. He is now hitting .103 (4-for-39) in his last 10 games.

Jeremy Hermida went 0-for-5 and left seven runners on base. He is now hitting .148 (4-for-27) in his last nine games.

Ramon Ramirez got hammered in the ninth inning, allowing three runs on a pair of doubles and a homer. In fairness, he was pitching for the first time since May 18.

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Red Sox vs. Phillies matchups, 5/23

05.23.10 at 11:07 am ET
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Tim Wakefield

With the Red Sox and Phillies trading terrific performances by their starting pitchers to split the first two games of the interleague series, two familiar faces will be on the mound for the rubber match on Sunday afternoon. Tim Wakefield will look to build off Daisuke Matsuzaka’s near no-hitter on Saturday night, while Roy Halladay will make his first career interleague start pitching in the National League.

Despite it being an interleague game, Halladay will be no stranger to the Boston lineup. From his days with the Blue Jays, Halladay has faced the Red Sox more than any opponent with 41 games and 38 starts. Unlike most other opponents, Boston has given the former AL Cy Young Award winner problems. Halladay’s 14-14 career record vs. the Red Sox makes Boston one of two AL teams he does not have a winning record against.

In his first season in the NL, Halladay has carried over the success he had in Toronto which made him one of the best pitchers in the majors. Not having to face a designated hitter and having a potent Phillies lineup behind him, Halladay has already emerged as an early Cy Young candidate. In nine starts, he’s compiled a 6-2 record with a 1.64 ERA. In all but one of his outings, Halladay has allowed two or fewer runs and pitched at least seven innings.

As was his reputation in the AL, he’s been a workhorse with four complete games and two shutouts, tops in the majors this year. Look no further than his last start for evidence, when Halladay went the distance and allowed two runs to the Pirates. Despite earning the loss, he tossed 132 pitches – just one shy of his career high.

On Sunday, Halladay will have a recognizable counterpart in Wakefield, who was on the mound in his final game with Toronto. Halladay pitched a three-hitter in a 12-0 win, while Wakefield allowed four runs in only three innings of work. That contest, however, marked the only loss Wakefield has endured when facing Halladay. In six such starts, Wakefield is 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA, while Halladay is 2-3 with a 5.90 ERA.

This season has been rocky for Wakefield though, with him making appearances both as a starter and out of the bullpen. May 17 in New York was the last time Wakefield pitched, but it was back on May 12 against Toronto when Wakefield made his last start. He allowed three runs in seven innings and suffered his second loss, pushing his record to 0-2 with a 5.31 ERA for the season.

Boston will attempt to win its first interleague series before facing Philadelphia again in a three-game series beginning at Fenway Park on June 11. The Red Sox continue their road trip on Monday against the Rays before heading home to play four games with the Royals to close out May.

Red Sox vs. Roy Halladay

David Ortiz (109 career plate appearances against Halladay): .273 average/.330 OBP/.515 slugging, 6 doubles, 6 home runs, 24 RBI, 7 walks, 16 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (84): .205/.262/.333, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 10 RBI, 6 walks, 23 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (62): .352/.419/.519, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 7 RBI, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (41): .211/.250/.368, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (34): .300/.382/.400, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (31): .233/.258/.533, 3 home runs, 9 RBI, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (25): .167/.200/.292, 1 double, 1 triple, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (18): .333/.444/.467, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (7): .429/.429/.571, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Hermida (4): .667/.750/.667, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall is hitless in three at bats against Halladay with two strikeouts. The Philadelphia starter has never faced Darnell McDonald, Angel Sanchez, or Jonathan Van Every.

Phillies vs. Tim Wakefield

Raul Ibanez (29 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .286 average/.310 OBP/.536 slugging, 4 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Placido Polanco (17): .067/.176/.067, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Ross Gload (8): .125/.125/.125, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jayson Werth (8): .500/.500/.875, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jimmy Rollins (7): .143/.143/.143, 2 strikeouts

Chase Utley (6): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Juan Castro (3): .667/.667/.667

Greg Dobbs (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI

Shane Victorino (3): .500/.667/.500, 1 strikeout

Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco are each hitless in three plate appearances against Wakefield. The Boston starter has never faced Paul Hoover or Carlos Ruiz.

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Reaction to Daisuke’s almost no-no

05.23.10 at 1:33 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka only allowed one hit in eight innings of work Saturday night. (AP)

Thanks to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, here is some reaction from the Red Sox and Phillies clubhouses to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s near no-hitter in the Sox’ 5-0 win over Philadelphia, Saturday night. (For more on the performance click here):

Terry Francona

“From the very beginning, you could see, he got in a rhythm. He got it, he threw it, that’s the best fastball we’ve seen. He established that. then his slider, he threw some of the better changesups we’ve seen. We made some defensive plays behind him. That was fun to watch.”

“That ball, we made some plays, Herm [Jeremy Hermida] caught a ball fairly deep. The ball [Adrian] Beltre caught, I don’t know how he did. The ball to Daisuke, maybre that ragball drill is worth it afterall. I know they hate it, but I don’t know if it’s self defense or he’s that good. But it seemed like the stars were aligned. And on the base hit,  I actually, my view, I thought he caught it, because his body kind of shielded it. I’m kind of yelling and everyone was yelling what are you yelling about.”

Marco Scutaro

“They call me Hanley Scutaro now.”

“What do you want me to say? If I was six feet, I’d probably get it. I’m [Dustin] Pedroia’s size, so …

(Did you think you had a shot on reaching the only hit against Matsuzaka) “Yeah, I did. What can I say? I know all the country of Japan is hating me right now. Sorry, sorry. My bad, my bad.”

“I didn’t notice this one until I was running on third. And I looked at the scoreboard and I see no hits. And Polanco told me too. He’s like, hey, tell Daisuke he’s throwing a no-hitter.”

(How close were to catching the base hit?) “I think I was very close. I don’t know, I haven’t checked the replay. I was kind of close.”

Adrian Beltre

“I thought in the seventh inning when he caught that line drive by Werth, I thought he definitely was going to get it. Normally when you get a play like that, it’s a sure base hit up the middle. He hit the ball really hard and I don’t know how he got it. After that I thought, ‘Man, this guy is going to get a no-hitter today.’”

(On his diving play in the eighth inning) ”You get a little more aggressive because you’d rather have an E-5 than a hit in that situation. You don’t get many chances to play behind a no-hitter and you want to do whatever you can to prevent any little single.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Phillies 0

05.22.10 at 10:15 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched no-hit baseball through 7 2/3 innings against the Philies Saturday night. (AP)

There was truly just one thing that dwarfed everything else when looking at the Red Sox’ 5-0 win over the Phillies Saturday night in Philadelphia — Daisuke Matsuzka’s performance.

The Sox’ starter went 7 2/3 innings without giving up a single hit before Juan Castro blooped a single over the out-stretched glove of Marco Scutaro, into left field, to break up what would have been the first no-hitter by an American League pitcher in a National League park since the advent of interleague play.

Matsuzaka managed to finished off his outing by inducing a fly out from Ross Gload, closing out his line having allowed just the one hit while walking four and striking out five. He threw 112 pitches, 73 strikes.

“Dice did a good job,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who has already caught four n0-hitters. “He stayed powerful through the zone. He stayed aggressive, continued to stay aggressive, and had a good mix of his pitches.”

We were kind of fastball cutter early and then mixed in some sliders

The no-hitter was almost ended earlier in the eighth when, after walking Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz lined a shot between third and shortstop. But Adrian Beltre not only managed to dive and stab Ruiz’ smash, but also threw over to first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the double play.

Matsuzaka also got a scare against the National League’s top hitting club when Jayson Werth rocked a line-drive back up the middle. But the Red Sox pitcher stuck up his glove and grabbed the shot to end the seventh.

The Red Sox’ offense was mostly supplied in the fifth inning, when they put up four runs against Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick. The runs came on RBI doubles from David Ortiz and Beltre, to go along with J.D. Drew’s run-scoring single. The Sox also managed a run in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jeremy Hermida.

Matsuzaka also contributed with a single of his own in the third inning, along with a sacrifice bunt, while Jacoby Ellsbury, playing for the first time since the sixth game of the season, went 0-for-4 with a walk and run.

For a complete recap click here.

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