|Third inning: More crooked numbers for the Sox||04.18.09 at 8:17 pm ET|
Josh Beckett seemed like he was in a nice groove, but after retiring the first two hitters of the third (Brian Roberts – fly to left; Adam Jones – 5-3) he lost the strike zone. Eight of his next 10 pitches were for balls, leading to walks of Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff. (It would have been 8 of 9 pitches, but the Doug Eddings strike zone reached Brookline, gifting Beckett a called strike on a fastball that missed the outside corner by more than six inches.)
Ty Wigginton, after a first-pitch ball, inexplicably decided that it would be an excellent idea to swing at an 0-1 curveball down. He flied meekly to right, allowing Beckett to escape the jam. Even with the control lapse, Beckett has thrown 50 pitches through three innings, suggesting that he might be able to make it into the seventh inning, a rare event for a Boston starter this year.
The Sox rotation has simply not found a rhythm thus far. Entering today, the team has gotten six or more innings out of starters just twice – Josh Beckett on Opening Day and Tim Wakefield on Wednesday. The Red Sox bullpen is good, and can pick up some of that slack, but as Terry Francona said, “We don’t want them throwing 110 innings.” He wasn’t speaking entirely facetiously – entering tonight, Manny Delcarmen (7 innings) was on pace to throw 113 innings this year, and Ramon Ramirez (7.1) was staring at a 115-inning load.
BOTTOM 3: RED SOX 1, ORIOLES 0
After Jacoby Ellsbury opened with a fly-out to right, Dustin Pedroia dumped a single into right that was abetted by what seemed like an out-of-position Nick Markakis in right. Markakis plays a verrrrrry deep right field, even for Pedroia, whose opposite field pop isn’t much to speak of. Last year, just 10 of his 73 extra-base hits were to right.
David Ortiz fell behind Orioles hurler Adam Eaton, falling to 0-2. But he stayed back on a curve, and plunked it into left just in front of O’s left-fielder Felix Pie. That brought up Kevin Youkilis with two-on and one-out: not good times for Eaton.
Eaton left a changeup at the belt. Youkilis jumped on the batting practice, 82 mph offering, parking it into the Monster Seats for a three-run homer. Youkilis has now reached base in all 11 Red Sox games this year, and he has eight multi-hit games, most in the majors. Just putting it out there: is he the best hitter in the American League right now? (Others on the short list might be Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria. The Yankees third baseman may end up back in that discussion when he comes back from injury.) Youkilis is hitting .452 with a 1.283 OPS.
J.D. Drew struck out looking thanks to the Eddings-colored glasses (a fastball six inches outside), but the Sox kept pushing.
Jason Bay walked on four pitches and stole second. His first steal of the year put him in scoring position, allowing him to score on Mike Lowell‘s single off the Wall. Bay must have drawn some satisfaction from the turn of events: he suggested this spring that one of his goals was to reintegrate steals into his game. He stole 21 bags in 2005, but since has recorded seasons of 11, 4 and 10.
Jason Varitek followed by flying out to center, but the Sox put up a four-run fourth. The Sox have now scored 21 runs in their last 13 innings.
RED SOX 5, ORIOLES 0
|2nd inning: Beckett Escapes a Jam, Varitek Gives a Lead||04.18.09 at 7:48 pm ET|
The two pitchers would do well to offer home-plate umpire Doug Eddings a pint after the game.
Adam Eaton was the beneficiary of the ump’s interpretation of the strike zone in the first inning, but it was Josh Beckett who really capitalized on what seems to be a liberal definition of the outer edge of the plate in the top of the second. After Ty Wigginton opened the inning with a ground out, Luke Scott rapped a single and Gregg Zaun whacked a double off the Wall in left-center to put runners on second and third with one out. That brought Felix Pie to the plate with a chance to plate a run even on an out.
Pie fell behind 0-2, then laid off a couple pitches out of the strike zone. On a 2-2 pitch, Beckett delivered a curveball away that never appeared to bend over the plate. Eddings, however, felt otherwise, punching out Pie for the crucial second out. Cesar Izturis then ended the threat by grounding a ball up the middle; Sox shortstop Nick Green ranged far to his left to pick the ball, and Kevin Youkilis made an excellent stretch to keep his toe on the bag while receiving the throw to record the third out of the inning. To this stage of the season, Beckett has held opponents to a 4-for-17 (.235) average with runners in scoring position. He has yet to give up an extra-base hit with a man on second or third.
Green, by the way, is as improbable a starting shortstop for the Sox as Mark Kotsay was a starting first baseman during last year’s playoffs. When Green signed with the club, he assumed he would be in Triple-A, serving as a backup in case Dustin Pedroia was injured at second. The Sox knew that he had some shortstop experience on his resume, but the club viewed him primarily as a second baseman until they saw how strong his arm was in the Grapefruit League season. They started giving him some time at short with Julio Lugo out, and were convinced he could handle the position. To this point, nothing has suggested otherwise.
Tangent: Lugo continued his rehab in Fort Myers today, playing four innings at short and getting six at-bats. A rehab assignment next week seems like a reasonable expectation.
BOTTOM 2: ORIOLES 0, RED SOX 0
Kevin Youkilis apparently took personal offense at his 0-for-4 night on Friday, lining a fastball up in the zone down the left field line for a double. Youkilis, it is worth mentioning, said that he was suffering no ill effects after getting a Danys Baez pitch off the helmet on Saturday.
J.D. Drew followed with a lineout to center, and then Orioles starter Adam Eaton proceeded with kid gloves against Jason Bay. Bay walked for the 12th time this year. His OBP is better than .500.
Mike Lowell (a career 0-for-10 against Eaton) followed with a lineout to center, but with two outs, Jason Varitek (batting left-handed against the right-handed Eaton) ripped a double down the right-field line to score Youkilis with the game’s first run. Nick Green‘s comebacker ended the inning, but the Sox have an early lead, and Eaton’s pitch count is at 39 after two innings.
All three of Varitek’s RBIs this year have come while batting left-handed. He’s now hitting .227 from that side of the plate.
RED SOX 1, ORIOLES 0
|1st Inning: Beckett, Eaton make quick work of first||04.18.09 at 7:33 pm ET|
Josh Beckett, as is per his wont, came out firing. In the first inning, 12 of his 15 pitches were fastballs registering from 94-96 mph. He added in a couple of curves and one swing-and-miss change to the very impressive Nick Markakis. Beckett struck out the first two batters of the game (Brian Roberts and Adam Jones, both on 94 mph fastballs), gave up a single to Markakis on a curveball that stayed up, then got Aubrey Huff on a first-pitch fastball that led to a groundout.
Adam Eaton, no doubt relieved not to see Josh Beckett (4-for-8, three doubles, a walk) in the lineup, was nearly as impressive in the bottom of the first. He took advantage of a strike zone that the Sox considered generous to rifle through a 1-2-3 inning, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on a lineout to right, Dustin Pedroia on a strikeout looking (Pedroia did not like the call) at a 91 mph fastball and David Ortiz looking on a nice curve that may or may not have caught the outer edge of the plate.
Pedroia has struck out just four times thus far this year, so for him, his early-season slump seems a matter of balls finding holes. Ortiz is another story, as he has now struck out 12 times and walked just six times. He seems to be getting crossed up at the plate quite a bit.
ORIOLES 0, RED SOX 0
|Red Sox vs. Orioles Matchups, 4/18||04.18.09 at 1:20 pm ET|
David Ortiz is struggling. What to do?
If the Red Sox truly wanted to think outside the box, they could consider sitting Ortiz for a day and abandoning the designated hitter in order to let Josh Beckett hit.
Obviously, that fictitious scenario is not going to happen in this lifetime. Nonetheless, it’s not quite TOTALLY ABSURD in the Ignatius Reilly sort of fashion. Beckett, after all, has achieved totally absurd success in the batter’s box against Adam Eaton, who starts for the Orioles on Saturday. Beckett is 4-for-8 with three doubles and a walk against his counterpart, good for a .500 average, .556 OBP and .875 slugging mark against Eaton.
Beckett is one of the few members of the Sox with any experience against Eaton, who has spent most of the non-injured portion of his career in the National League as a member of the Padres and Phillies. Here are the numbers of the four position players on the Sox who have faced the right-hander:
Rocco Baldelli (3 plate appearances): .333 average / .333 OBP / .333 slugging
Jason Bay (3): .500 / .333 / 2.000
J.D. Drew (9): .500 / .667 / .500
Mike Lowell (11): .000 / .091 / .000
Here are Beckett’s numbers (as a pitcher) against the Orioles:
Adam Eaton (6): .000 / .333 / .000
Ryan Freel (3): .333 / .333 / .333
Aubrey Huff (31): .300 / .323 /. 433
Cesar Izturis (10): .125 / .300 / .125
Adam Jones (12): .250 / .250 / .333
Nick Markakis (28): .269 / .321 / .423
Chad Moeller (8): .125 / .125 / .250
Brian Roberts (28): .308 / .357 / .577
Luke Scott (10): .625 / .700 / 1.000
Ty Wigginton (23): .364 / .391 / .909
Gregg Zaun (9): .111 / .111 / .222
|Ninth inning: Sox Win, 10-8||04.17.09 at 10:46 pm ET|
For a couple moments, the crowd at Fenway was left to hold its breath. After Ty Wigginton’s infield single to third base to lead off the ninth, both Luke Scott and Gregg Zaun flied out to deep-ish right. But their shots landed harmlessly in the glove of J.D. Drew, and with two outs, closer Jonathan Papelbon elevated a 96 mph fastball, blowing it by pinch-hitter Felix Pie for his third save of the year.
The Red Sox wiped out a 7-0 deficit thanks to an offense that came to life and a bullpen that allowed no runs in six innings. Manny Delcarmen got a well-deserved ‘W.’
For the Orioles, who entered 6-3, the contest offered a reminder that the promise of their lineup will go for naught if they don’t have pitching to match. Even before the game, O’s skipper Dave Trembley sighed that “it’s pitching – pitching and defense is what it’s all about,” and in this game, his team lacked both, resulting in defeat.
|8th inning: Okajima Escapes Peril, Drew Matches Career High||04.17.09 at 10:29 pm ET|
It’s not looking good for Hunter Jones’ debut. For Jones and his mother, that’s probably a bit disappointing. For the Red Sox, not so much.
Thanks to outstanding work from Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez, the Sox are traveling a surprisingly direct path from Brad Penny‘s horrific outing through the bullpen assembly line.
Ramirez returned for a third inning of work at the start of the eighth. He appeared to tire, however, as Cesar Izturis lined to left to start the inning, preceding a single by Brian Roberts and a Wall-scraping single by Adam Jones. Jones has now been on base four times, continuing his run as a darling of fantasy baseball in April.
With runners on first and second, the Sox went to Hideki Okajima, an interesting decision for two reasons: 1) Jonathan Papelbon was also warming in the bullpen; and 2) Okajima allowed 13 of the 25 runners (52 percent) whom he inherited last year to score, resulting in an effort to avoid him in situations where the bases weren’t empty for a couple months last year.
But, in his first situation with inherited runners in 2009, Okajima stifled the O’s. He got Nick Markakis to fly to the warning track in center (runners advancing to second and third) and then, in a fashion worthy of the Japanese comic-book “Ace” from which his delivery draws its inspiration, he struck out Aubrey Huff on what appeared to be his split-change to end the inning.
If +/- was measured in baseball, Huff would be roughly -5 tonight.
BOTTOM 8: RED SOX 10, ORIOLES 8
J.D. Drew‘s hopes of a cycle have been dashed by his patience at the plate. He has coupled his homer and triple with three walks. Drew has matched a career high, achieved seven previous times (most recently last August 1), by reaching base five times. Feeling peckish, Drew got caught stealing.
The Sox went relatively quietly against Albers in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon is making the final paces to the mound where he hopes to close out a Red Sox win.
RED SOX 10, ORIOLES 8
|7th inning: Relievers remain in charge||04.17.09 at 10:09 pm ET|
In many ways, one would have thought that the fact that Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez have often been the first relievers into the game for the Red Sox would suggest that their contributions have been relatively unimportant. Not so.
According to Baseball Prospectus, no reliever for the Sox has been more valuable than Ramirez, who has been worth roughly half a win more than an average reliever thus far this year owing to the highly leveraged situations in which he’s been operating. Ramirez has continued that trend tonight, wiping out a two-on, two-out rally in the sixth and then going 1-2-3 to preserve the Red Sox’ 10-8 lead in the seventh. Ramirez has now started his Red Sox career with seven scoreless innings spanning five appearances. (Coco Crisp, for what it’s worth, is hitting .226 but with a staggering .965 OPS thanks to a homer and THREE triples thus far this year.)
BOTTOM 7: RED SOX 10, ORIOLES 8
Apparently, the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area has made a collective effort to get good-hit/no-field first baseman. Adam Dunn of the Nationals and Aubrey Huff of the Orioles would make formidable competitors in an effort to determine who that turn of the phrase more aptly fits.
Huff continued his rough glove night, diving sloppily in an effort to field a Nick Green chopper, and instead eflecting the ball for a single. Reliever Matt Albers (another Astros castoff, part of the Miguel Tejada trade that now appears obscenely lopsided) then gave up a single to left-center by Jacoby Ellsbury and walked Dustin Pedroia to load the bases.
But David Ortiz once again was overmatched, striking out for the third time of the game by swinging through on a fastball up. Albers then completed a Houdini by getting Kevin Youkilis to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
So the Red Sox do not add to their lead, but still enter the eighth inning with a two run lead.
RED SOX 10, ORIOLES 8
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