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Red Sox vs. Marlins Match-Ups, 6/18

06.18.09 at 12:29 pm ET
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The Red Sox head into Thursday’s game playing some of their best baseball of the season. Their starting rotation is firing on all (six?) cylinders (ignoring Matsuzaka’s struggles for the pun’s sake), they’ve scored at least six runs in their last four games, and they’ve got a big stick back in the form of one David Ortiz (.400 BA, .920 SLG, 4 HR since June 6).

MARLINS VS. JON LESTER (5-5, 4.76)

All eyes will be on Jon Lester tonight as he continues what has been an incredible strikeout run. After striking out 11 Phillies Friday night, Lester became the first southpaw in Red Sox history to strike out at least 10 batters in three consecutive games. Entering tonight, Lester has 96 K’s on the season, placing him behind only Justin Verlander (110) and Zack Greinke (106) for the American League lead.

Meanwhile, Lester is on pace to absolutely demolish the team record for strikeouts by a lefty, as Alex Speier saw coming from a mile away. Bruce Hearst set the record back in 1987 with 190, but Lester projects to fan a whopping 239 this season.

The Marlins are generally unfamiliar with Lester. Here are the stats:

Wes Helms (3 career at-bats vs. Lester): 1-for-3, strikeout
Hanley Ramirez (3): 1-for-3, homer
Dan Uggla (3): 1-for-3

For what it’s worth, the Marlins as a team are second in the Majors with 540 strikeouts on the season.

RED SOX VS. RICKY NOLASCO (2-6, 7.62)
A Boston victory tonight will make for the team’s second sweep in the last three series but in their way stands struggling Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

Originally drafted by the Cubs in 2001, the California native was sent to Florida in a 2005 deal for Juan Pierre. After winning 15 games atop the Marlins rotation last season, Nolasco got off to a miserable start in the ’09 campaign. The month of May was especially brutal for the righty. In his last two starts of the month Nolasco gave up eight earned runs in consecutive losses to the Brewers (3.2 IP) and Rays (2 IP).

Since then, Nolasco has begun to show some signs of life, tossing back-to-back quality starts against the Giants and Blue Jays in the month of June (0-1). While current Red Sox starters are new to facing Nolasco, perhaps this could be an opportunity for Mark Kotsay to see some time in the outfield given his extra-base hits in both plate appearances against the 26-year-old.

Jason Bay (10): .200 average / .200 OBP / .200 slugging, strikeout
Julio Lugo (3): 1-for-3, strikeout
Rocco Baldelli (3): 0-for-3, strikeout
Mark Kotsay (2): 2-for-2, double, triple

Read More: bruce hearst, Jon Lester, ricky nolasco,

Orr scores points with Bay

06.18.09 at 12:54 am ET
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Jason Bay plays with his back to the Green Monster all the time as the Red Sox left fielder.

But he wasn’t about to turn his back on the opportunity that presented itself as he took the field in the seventh inning Wednesday.

Bay was called over the door of the Green Monster by none other than Bobby Orr, the greatest hockey icon in Boston history. The two exchanged handshakes and Bay was like a kid all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bobby Orr, Bruins, jason bay, Red Sox

That’s a wrap: Smoltz finished in minors

06.18.09 at 12:38 am ET
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John Smoltz is officially done with his rehab assignment and is ready to join the Red Sox next week. Finally.

‘€œI know I lead the team in innings watched,’€ said Smoltz with a laugh after his four-inning start Wednesday night in Pawtucket.

The right-hander was impressive in his final rehab outing, as he focused on his changeup — a pitch he admitted he still isn’€™t totally comfortable with– to get by when it mattered.

‘€œI had to work on [my changeup] awfully hard because that’€™s not a comfortable pitch,’€ said Smoltz. ‘€œThat’€™s not my pitch that I would go to [in the past].’€

Smoltz had said previously that in order to have continued success at the major league level he would need to become more of a finesse pitcher. If the second inning on Wednesday was any indication, he is certainly on track. Smoltz baffled Cole Armstrong with a change clocked at 82 mph to get the Knights’ catcher swinging to end the inning.

‘€œToday was more encouraging having gone through not being at my best, feel-wise,’€ said Smoltz. ‘€œIt really comes down to trying to find a way to execute the best pitch at the right time.’€

In his four innings of work, Smoltz threw 61 pitches, 36 strikes of which went for strikes. He allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out two. He’€™ll go for the Sox in D.C. a week from Thursday.

Read More: smoltz pawsox,

Buchholz: I never requested a trade

06.17.09 at 11:10 pm ET
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The future of Clay Buchholz has been a hot topic the past couple of days because a recent New England Cable News interview with the pitcher left some wondering if Buchholz wants out.

‘€œI’€™ve had talks with my agent the last month and a half, two months,’€ Buchholz told NECN. ‘€œThere’€™s nowhere to go.’€

On Wednesday, however, Buchholz waited until the cameras were off before elaborating on what exactly those talks were.

‘€œIt wasn’€™t anything specific about me calling [my agent] and telling him, ‘€˜Hey, get me out of here,’€™” said Buchholz. ‘€œIt was just more or less asking him, ‘€˜Hey what’€™s going on? What can I do to change the situation?’€™ and his answer was, ‘€˜Really nothing because there’€™s not really anywhere to go.’€™

‘€œMy goal is to pitch in Boston,’€ Buchholz added. ‘€œ[The media] might have went a little out of context with it because I’€™m getting a little frustrated, but on the up and up that’€™s where I want to be. Fenway is the best place to pitch and the Red Sox are the best team to play for. I don’€™t see me being anywhere else except for Boston, so that’€™s where I want to be.’€

The proclamation may sound like backtracking, but it came as a genuine admission from a kid who doesn’€™t want to get traded. After laughing at the notion that he was trying to ‘€œtalk his way out of town,’€ Buchholz said that he’€™s been assured he’€™s safe by the Boston brass.

‘€œIf I do happen to get traded it’€™s going to be for the betterment of Boston,’€ said Buchholz. ‘€œIf that’€™s what they’€™ve got to do, then that’€™s what they’€™ve got to do, but I’€™ve been told by a couple of people that are high up in the front office that I’€™m here and I don’€™t see myself going anywhere in the future unless it’€™s for somebody that they really think can help the team.’€

Buchholz apologized for any ruckus that the interview caused, and showed the same enthusiasm towards his eventual return to the big leagues that he did in spring training.

‘€œThat was a little bitterness coming out of me, but I can’€™t be too bitter,’€ said Buchholz. ‘€œI’€™m still pitching healthy and I’€™ll get my shot sooner or later.’€

Read More: Buchholz,

Red Sox Beat Marlins, 6-1

06.17.09 at 10:20 pm ET
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The Red Sox added on another run in the eighth thanks to Dustin Pedroia’s bases-loaded single (his second of the game), and Jonathan Papelbon — after permitting a leadoff double in the ninth — settled to complete the relay of four Sox relievers across four scoreless innings to close out a 6-1 victory over the Marlins. The Sox will turn to Jon Lester to complete the series sweep on Thursday against Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco.

The Sox pitching staff as a whole continued its excellence. With Brad Penny permitting just one run in five innings, Boston’s rotation now has a 3.23 ERA over its last 16 games.

The offensive damage came from Pedroia (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) and Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-3, two walks, homer) at the top of the order.

Ramon Ramirez’ excellent adventure

06.17.09 at 10:13 pm ET
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As scoreless innings with two strikeouts go, Ramon Ramirez‘ performance in the top of the eighth inning earned very low style points. Still, the Red Sox will not quibble with the results.

Ramirez walked Hanley Ramirez and gave up a single to Jorge Cantu to put runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth, a development that was sufficient to prompt both Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon to start warming in the bullpen. But Ramirez prevented further harm, eliciting a pop-up from Jeremy Hermida and getting back-to-back strikeouts from Dan Uggla and Cody Ross to end the inning. Ramirez kept the Sox’ 5-1 lead intact, though he also burned 32 pitches in the process, a development that will almost surely render him unavailable for Thursday or perhaps even Friday.

Buchholz sees Smoltz’ four innings and raises him four K’s

06.17.09 at 10:04 pm ET
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If that was Clay Buchholz at his worst, somebody get this kid to the majors.

Despite allowing a two-run homer to Cole Armstrong that resulted in boos from McCoy Stadium, Buchholz overpowered Knights hitters in his four innings of work. After getting Wilson Betemit to strike out swinging to end the eighth, the PawSox righty totaled six K’s in relief of PawSox starter John Smoltz. In total, Buchholz threw 80 pitches, 47 of which were strikes. He allowed two hits and walked two while throwing two wild pitches.

Buchholz has expressed hints of frustration in talking to WEEI.com and NECN in recent weeks. Check back for what Buchholz has to say after what proved to be a sloppy-yet-impressive outing.

Read More: Buchholz PawSox,

Ellsbury keeps rolling

06.17.09 at 9:34 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury is quietly amidst a run that is every bit as exceptional as anything he has done since breaking into the majors in 2007.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ellsbury jumped on a fastball up and on the inner-half of the plate and absolutely blasted it, sending a liner over the right-field bullpens for his third homer of the year. He has also walked a pair of times in today’s game, tacking on a stolen base for good measure. The homer was Ellsbury’s second in four games, and continued a phenomenal June in which Ellsbury has hit .375 with a .469 OBP, 1.019 OPS and seven steals.

If Ellsbury sustains this pace for another two weeks, this could be his best month in the majors. His current single-month bests:

AVG – .361 (Sept. 2007)
OBP – .396 (May 2008)
OPS – .927 (Sept. 2007)
SB – 18 (May 2008)

After seven innings, the Sox are ahead of the Marlins, 5-1.

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury,

Smoltz’ post-start comments

06.17.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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John Smoltz looked good despite an apparant discomfort with the ball (which may or may have not been a minor league ball) in his final rehab start Wednesday in Pawtucket. He hit 91 on the gun with his fastball in a start that focused on doing as much with his changeup as possible.

In four four innings of work, Smoltz threw 61 pitches, 36 strikes of which went for strikes. He allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out two. After his start, the righty spoke with the media about how he feels going into his Red Sox debut next Thursday against the Nationals.

Smoltz on his feel for the ball in his final start:

“I felt really good, I just lost feeling for the ball during the game. The two innings I threw in the bullpen I felt great. I just lost the feel for the baseball and struggled with that, but overall I physically felt great. Sometimes you’€™ve got to fight the elements and I’€™m not a guy that doesn’€™t throw his fastball where he wants to and my split was all over. It was a little bit of a struggle feel-wise. I’€™m anxiously awaiting my [Red Sox] first start.”

On using his changeup deep in counts and the different pitcher he has become:

‘€œI had to work on that pitch awfully hard because that’€™s not a comfortable pitch, that’€™s not my pitch that I would go to. It was one more opportunity to get to it and unfortunately the grip affected that pitch a lot and I did not throw it well. I threw some good ones. My two innings in the bullpen were outstanding with it but nobody saw that. I’€™m overall pleased with the amount of work that I’€™ve put in to get to this point and now I’€™ll have to find a way for eight days to maintain some sort of program to get me ready for Thursday.’€

On having the majors on his mind:

‘€œIt seems like the last three games have been in a way where your mind is getting for something, something changes and you have to get ready for the moment that you’€™re in and I can honestly say when I was out there today I didn’€™t think I didn’€™t think one bit about pitching in the big leagues and setting up anybody for those kind of hitters. Now I will.’€

On the six-man rotation:

‘€œThat’€™s going to be [the Red Sox'€™] call. With me, more or less, I’€™ve got a job to do and I can’€™t worry about that.’€

On watching the Sox from the dugout:

‘€œI know I lead the team in innings watched [laughter]. Soon I’€™ll be able to get up and down and hopefully walk in and out [of the dugout] hopefully seven times and shake some hands. The environment in that place is [something] I’€™m comfortable with but I just hope it warms up. The hotter the better for me.’€

On Fenway:

‘€œI’€™ve pitched there as a visitor many times and felt that you had to be on your game, you had to make pitches because of the wall in the left and short porch in the right. It just always makes you feel like you have to make really good pitches and fortunately I’€™ve been able to do that as a visitor and now I want to do it as a home player.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be a long eight days and I’€™m prepared for that. I’€™ll probably have two good side sessions to work on some stuff and then I’€™m going to rely on the catching they’€™ve got up there. I’€™ve been excited to throw to [Varitek] for a long time and even George [Kottaras] . Throw to either one of those is something I’€™ve wanted to do since spring training and hopefully, with no hiccups,  that will come soon.’€

On his final rehab start and his time in the minors:

“I was trying to do too much maybe a little bit in this shorter game. I thought I did a great job intensity-wise in the bullpen acting like a threw too innings. I didn’€™t just want to come here and pitch four innings and then wait all that time. It’€™s not about saving my bullets, it’€™s about having those bullets as good as possible. It hasn’€™t flown by but it has been rewarding to this point to at least have an opportunity to at least engage in questions after a real game [laughter].”

On the progression throughout his rehab stint:

“For the most part, with the exception of today, I threw the ball everywhere I wanted to throw it. Today I don’€™t know if I threw too many first-pitch strikes, which is a big key for me. I can get a lot of quick pitch outs and a lot of quick action and so today was the only day in the six starts that I didn’€™t have a real good feel but physically it was probably my best day. There wasn’€™t too much grind getting ready, so physically that’€™s very encouraging because as you progress and get through some of those rough times, there’€™s been a lot of time where to get loose, I’€™m learning to do this all over again. Today was more encouraging having gone through not being at my best feel-wise. It really comes down to trying to find a way to execute the best pitch at the right time.

“Now it’€™s time to start getting ready for the things that I know will take me through not only a baseball game but through the season.”

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Penny’s worth

06.17.09 at 8:56 pm ET
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Brad Penny, who has been pitch-inefficient for much of the night, just breezed through the fifth inning in 12 pitches. As was the case in his last outing against the Yankees, he is showing more power (fastball regularly at 96 and 97 mph) and better breaking stuff, with a curve and change that have both effectively unbalanced the He’ll likely be out of the game after reaching 100 pitches through five innings (Justin Masterson is warming in the bottom of the fifth), but he has once again turned in an excellent line: 5 innings, three hits, one run, four walks (perfect, he’s not) and three strikeouts. That’s one earned run in his last 11 innings.

Update: Penny is out, Masterson on for the sixth — and by on, we mean “on like Donkey Kong.” Masterson retired the side in order in the sixth on 13 pitches, striking out Dan Uggla and John Baker in the process.

Read More: Brad Penny, justin masterson,
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