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Closing Time: Yankees 6, Red Sox 5 (10 innings)

10.02.10 at 8:54 pm ET
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Just another Yankee-Red Sox marathon.

Brett Gardner scored the winning run from second in the top of the 10th when Bill Hall overran Derek Jeter‘s infield single at second base as the Yankees prevailed, 6-5, in 10 innings at Fenway Park in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

And it only took four hours, 18 minutes to decide. All of this before a nightcap that was scheduled to begin 45 minutes later.

Robinson Cano homered and doubled twice, driving in two, and Curtis Granderson tripled in a run and scored twice as the Yankees built a 5-3 lead only to see the Red Sox tie it with single runs in the seventh and eighth.

After being honored in a pregame ceremony at third base, Mike Lowell received a standing ovation after being lifted for pinch-runner Lars Anderson in the fifth inning. Lowell doubled home two runs off Andy Pettitte in the first inning, staking the Red Sox to a 2-0 lead. Lowell finished 2-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.

The Lowell festivities overshadowed the final appearance this season by Tim Wakefield, who also received a standing ovation after warming up for the sixth inning, only to be pulled by manager Terry Francona for reliever Rich Hill. Wakefield allowed seven hits and five runs over five innings, striking out six while walking three.

Afterward, Wakefield told the media that 2011 will likely be his last in the majors before he calls it a career.

The Red Sox worked Pettitte for nine hits and three runs over only four innings, forcing Pettitte to leave after throwing 88 pitches. Jonathan Papelbon (5-7) gave up the unearned run in the 10th and was saddled with his seventh loss in 12 decisions. Phil Hughes (18-8) earned the win by pitching a perfect ninth while Mariano Rivera worked a perfect 10 for his 33rd save.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, Jonathan Papelbon

You want Mike Lowell Day, you’ve got Mike Lowell Day

10.02.10 at 5:35 pm ET
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Mike Lowell joined his wife, Bertica, and two children, Alexis and Anthony, in celebrating the pre-game ceremony given to the retiring infielder by the Red Sox Saturday. (AP)

Here is a Cliff Notes version to the ceremony honoring Mike Lowell prior to the Red Sox’ Saturday night tilt with the Yankees:

- Seated in a row of chairs near third base were: Principal owner John Henry, team president Larry Lucchino, manager Terry Francona, Lowell’s father, Carl, and his wife, Bertha, and two young children, Anthony and Alexis. Making surprise appearances were former teammates Mike Redmond and Alex Cora, with current teammate Josh Beckett also joining the group.

- Once all the particulars were introduced, the team played a highlight reel on the Fenway Park video board.

- The gifts given to Lowell were: Stone crabs (from the Florida Marlins), a watch, third base (which Beckett went over, plucked from the infield, and gave to Lowell), and a $100,000 check written out to the Mike Lowell Foundation.

- Carl Lowell took the mound to throw out the first pitch, tossing a near-strike to his son.

- Lowell joined his two children in delivery the scorecard for the Red Sox at home plate.

Here is what the retiring infielder had to say:

“First of all, I’d like to thank the Red Sox organization for this great ceremony and a very generous check, I really appreciate it, that’s really unbelievable. I’d also like to thank my family, friends, teammates, ex-teammates, my minor league coaches, believe it or not over there , and hopefully the silver place winners today for the game. They’ve come a long way, a lot of people and you guys have meant so much to me over my career. I really don’t know where to go from there. I just want to say thank you for that. You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans. I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget. So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to repsresent the city of boston and to share so many memories with all of you. Thanks you very much.”

Sudden end to Clay’s ‘breakout year’

10.01.10 at 11:48 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz' breakout season ended with a 17-7 record and 2.33 ERA. (AP)

The Red Sox have seen enough injuries and odd mishaps in this unfortunate 2010 season. They weren’t about to add to the list on the last weekend of the season – especially when taking into consideration the health of one of their most important and valuable assets.

So, the Red Sox decided Friday evening, as the rains were forcing a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, that the next formal pitch Clay Buchholz throws will be in 2011.

Buchholz finishes the season at 17-7, with the second-best ERA in the American League at 2.33, behind Felix Hernandez’s 2.27 mark.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Friday night that Buchholz informed the team after his last side session that he had some stiffness in his lower back and didn’t make a hard push to make his Saturday start.

“Lower back was stiff,” Francona said. “There’s nothing [to it]. He wanted to pitch but he didn’t fight us to pitch. I think that was a little bit of a [signal]. If we threw him [Saturday] and went home and he ended the season with a bad back, we’d been kicking ourselves. So we kind of nixed that in a hurry.”

The right-hander, in his first full season, showed the promise that began with the no-hitter in his second MLB start and the refined pitching skills that caused management to refuse to decline requests that he be included in any number of trades, whether from the Twins for Johan Santana following the 2007 campaign or the Rangers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the 2008 season.

Entering 2010, the Red Sox still weren’t sure about their Texas-bred fireballer with a nasty curve. They weren’t even positive he would be in their rotation – let alone one of the best pitchers in it.

That’s because, before this year, Buchholz was 12-14 with a 4.91 ERA in 36 games, including 34 starts. It was assumed he would have to find his place behind Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Instead he shot to the head of the class, joining Lester as a legitimate No. 1 starter.

Buchholz was outstanding in the first half, with a 10-3 record and a 2.45 ERA in 15 starts. He, like Lester, earned his first All-Star berth. But what made this a truly special year for the 26-year-old was what he did in the second half. He went 7-3 with an amazing 2.20 ERA in 13 starts. That earned him a place in a fierce Cy Young race with Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia, David Price and Lester.

“You talk about a breakout year,” Francona said. “At the beginning of the season, we’re trying to figure out that last spot in the rotation and all of sudden, this is a kid that becomes an All-Star caliber pitcher. A lot of guys make the All-Star team and have a good showing in the first half. He followed that up. He went through the American League East and continued to pitch at a really high pace and that’s not going anywhere.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Minnesota Twins, MLB

Red Sox-Yankees postponed; Doubleheader on Saturday

10.01.10 at 11:00 pm ET
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The scheduled contest between the Red Sox and Yankees on Friday night was postponed after a rain delay 3 hours 30 minutes.

Tickets for Friday’s game will be honored on Saturday night at 9:05 p.m., for the second half of a day-night doubleheader. The previously scheduled game on Saturday, with a start time of 4:10 p.m., will take place as scheduled.

Tim Wakefield will start the first game, replacing Clay Buchholz, who was scratched due to a stiff lower back. He will oppose Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.17).

The night contest will be started for the Red Sox by Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-6, 4.72), who was slated to start Friday’s game. A.J. Burnett (10-15, 5.33) will take the hill against him.

Manager Terry Francona said that he had no input into the decision to play a Saturday night game at 9:05 p.m.

“I had zero to say about it. I don’t know [who made the decision],” said Francona. “I was on the receiving end. I really don’t know.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested that it was the decision of Red Sox players to have the late start time for the night game.

“I think their players had to vote which day to have the split,” said Girardi. “They’re going to get their gates and we all understand that.”

In a press release announcing the postponement, the Sox stated, “The decision to postpone tonight’s game came at the direction of the umpires, in consultation with Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, after assessing the field conditions and long-range forecast.”

Peter Gammons talks playoffs and Red Sox on the Big Show

10.01.10 at 9:00 pm ET
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With the end of the regular season approaching, Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN joined the Big Show to discuss the upcoming playoffs, the changes the Red Sox have to make in the offseason, and the retirement of Mike Lowell.

Following are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page. Click here for the interview.

On a season of injuries for Red Sox:

If you take [Jacoby] Ellsbury, [Dustin] Pedroia, Victor Martinez and [Kevin] Youkilis, you probably have the best front four in baseball. They were together eight times all year. But there were other factors. The fact that their pitchers have a 4.99 ERA besides [Clay] Buchholz and [Jon] Lester, there’s blame there. … I never realized how important Okajima was to this team until they didn’t have him. …

I have no idea where they are going to go. I think the number of options that they have from here, there’s like ten scenarios, and I don’t know where they’ll go.

On how the Sox will proceed with David Ortiz:

I think they will pick [David Ortiz' option] up because I know they are really worried that if they don’t he’s going to be hitting against right-handed pitchers in either New York or Tampa, and I think that’s a tough thing to swallow. Now, he may not be happy about them picking up the one year … [but] he did sign the contract. I understand where he’s coming from and what he’s given to this franchise but that’s the luck of the draw.

On whether free agent Adrian Beltre might be back:

I think that’s going to be a very tough signing. I find Beltre a really compelling guy. He plays so hard. Now he’s at the point where he won’t tell them when he’s hurt because he’s afraid that they’ll make him sit down. Beltre just plays so hard all the time. I love the thing when on breaking balls he drops to one knee and hits the balls into the seats.

He has to be comfortable. He was really comfortable in Los Angeles and he’s really comfortable here. He was uncomfortable in Seattle. If he ends up in Detroit — which I think might be a stopping point for him — how comfortable is he going to be there? Very bad ballpark for him. It will be very interesting to see how he and [agent Scott Boras] come to this.

Could Adam Dunn end up in New York?

Adam is so adamant about not wanting to DH, I don’t think he’s going to have any choice. I really don’t. The Nationals are putting up a great front because people love him and he’s a great guy. They’re not going to sign him because they don’t know where to play him in the field. I can see that. He’s a big on-base guy. I could see the Yankees doing it. But the other problem there is, if you bring him in as the DH, what do you do with [Jorge] Posada?

On Carl Crawford’s free agent destination:

I’ll be fascinated by the Crawford thing. Everybody assumes he’s going to go to the Angels. I’m not so sure. First of all, [Angels owner] Arte Moreno isn’t always great with free agents. Arte likes to kind of do business, ‘OK, this is what I’ll pay you and that’s that.’

Crawford would like to move from being a leadoff guy to being a third hitter. He’d like to win batting titles. He likes this ballpark. This will be an interesting situation. If the Red Sox went to him, and said, ‘You’re going to play left field. Ellsbury is still going to be leading off. He’ll do more running. You only have to run 40 times a year and hit line drives all over the ballpark.’ That’s an intriguing guy.

On whether he thinks it more likely that the Sox pursue free agent Carl Crawford of Jayson Werth this offseason:

I think Crawford. I think. It’s clear that they believe in 2012 that [Ryan] Kalish is going to become a really good player in right field. And I buy that, I think he’s going to become a tremendous player. He’s going to hit, and I love the whole Darin Erstad, Grady Sizemore personality that he brings to a team. I was amazed — he walked in here and all the veteran players were like ‘Great, this is better than a trade, we brought up Ryan Kalish,’ which speaks volumes about who he is, what he is, the way he plays. I’m sure he’ll play at least half the season next year in Triple-A, but he’s the one guy who’s come up and made quite an impression.

Who are the contenders in the playoffs this year?

I think the shift has started to the National League. The best young players are in the National League. I think the best two postseason teams are Philadelphia and San Francisco. … Don’t underestimate the fact that the Giants’ ERA is the best in one month since May 1968 and that the three main guys [Matt] Cain, [Tim] Lincecum, and [Madison] Bumgarner are 12-1 with an ERA of about 1.20 in September, even better than Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

I still think it’s going to be Minnesota [coming out of the American League]. They’ve got to get their pitching back. [Francisco] Liriano has had three bad starts in a row. The Yankees have lost  nine consecutive starts by opposing left-handers. If the Yankees play the Twins, who they usually have beaten, Liriano and [Brian] Duensing have to come up big.

On John Lackey’s struggles for Boston:

I think he should be better than this. He’s been OK. But it’s not just like they found a few holes. His stuff has not been as crisp. He’s been durable but his stuff hasn’t been as good as it was in Anaheim. I don’t think that that consistency he showed last year using both his off-speed pitches and his fastball was there this year. But it’s also different being here. Maybe his father-in-law is upset at him because he’s not winning all his games for the Red Sox. He has had a couple of arm problems and it will be interesting to see how he comes out next year. … In his case, it is how does he get his velocity back? In Beckett’s case, it’s how do I get my arrogance back?

Does Daisuke Matsuzaka come back:

I think they might trade him. Because his contract is not bad and he can pitch in the National League. Let’s say they lose Victor Martinez and Beltre, I can see them trading Daisuke for Carlos Beltran and putting him in left field. I think Beltran will come back and have a monster year. The Mets would love to do that if they have a general manager by Opening Day. I think there are a number of places he can be traded to. The Dodgers, Seattle. Of course, he may end up in court if he gets traded to the Dodgers.

On Mike Lowell’s retirement and legacy:

One of the most popular players in my time covering here. The number of people every day who come up and say, ‘I really love Mike Lowell,’ it’s great. He won two World Series rings, which means two more World Series rings than Ted Williams. He had great years in 2003 for the Marlins and 2007 for the Red Sox. He knocked in, what, 120 and 110 runs in those two years. He’s been a really good player, he’s played hurt and never recovered from the hip. It’s a nice thing to leave the game, or your job, and be that respected and that well-liked. I don’t think we’ll have anything to worry about Mike Lowell losing his money. He got hurt and he kept trying to play, but there was nothing he could do.

Read More: Adam Dunn, Giants, john lackey, Jorge Posada

Beltre’s season – and Red Sox career? – come to a close

10.01.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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Adrian Beltre has played his last game under the one-year deal he signed with the Red Sox in January. (AP)

Adrian Beltre wanted to play this weekend. He wanted to hold off as long as possible to leave the Red Sox, but in the end, duty called. He rushed out of the Red Sox clubhouse Friday afternoon upon word that his wife, Sandra, is close to having the couple’s third child.

And so, Beltre had to pack up his belongings in order to make the journey out to Southern California, with the team’s blessing. And so, the Red Sox will be without their 2010 MVP for the final three days of the year.

That conclusion sounds something of a false note, given that it had been nearly impossible to keep Beltre off the field this season. He led the team with 154 games played, playing through pain (most notably, a hamstring injury that impaired him while running for much of the second half) while rarely acknowledging his discomfort.

“If you ask everybody down there, they love him, myself included. He was a real treat. We were just used to seeing him from the other side of the field. Then we saw what he could do defensively. You’d see that spark, and then he’d beat us with a big swing. But when you see what he did every day, beat up, he’s a real pro,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I think the first month of the season, every time he saw me, he thought he wasn’t playing, so he kind of avoided me. He’s not, I don’t mean, quick to trust, but with A.B., you kind of have to get to know him a little bit. Once that happened, he became more vocal in the dugout, he became a leader on the field.

“A.B. kind of grew into that as he became more comfortable and guys like that should be leaders. If guys like Beltre are leaders, you’re going in the right direction. It’s hard not to look up to him if you’re a teammate of his.”

Beltre had nothing short of a remarkable year after signing a one-year, $9 million deal that included a player option. The value of that deal grew to $10 million for this season when Beltre met his first plate appearances incentive, earning a $1 million buyout after 575 plate appearances, and the value of the player option went from $5 million to $10 million when Beltre met his second plate appearances incentive on Thursday in Chicago by reaching 640 plate appearances.

Yet Beltre is virtually certain to decline the player option, and with good reason. After enduring an injury-riddled 2009 campaign that ranked as the worst of his career, the 31-year-old wanted to show that he was healthy and productive. He accomplished both goals in staggering fashion in a campaign where he became an All-Star for the first time.

He set a record for a Red Sox third baseman by clubbing 79 extra-base hits, Beltre finishes the year tied for the second-most homers ever (28) by a Red Sox third baseman. He hit .321 with a .365 OBP, .553 slugging mark, .919 OPS and 102 RBI. Despite committing 19 errors — his most since 2003 — he was a well-above average defender, showing terrific range and a strong arm.

And now, the question looms over his empty locker in the Fenway Park clubhouse: Will Beltre ever play another game in Boston as a member of the home team?

Francona suggested that he would love to have Beltre back in 2011.

“Sure — I’d like to see everyone back. I don’t want to make [GM Theo Epstein's] job tougher than it is,” said Francona. “[Beltre] was pretty honest about what he was doing here. He was coming kind of on a make-good and he made pretty good. Worked out pretty good for everybody. Where it goes, that will be interesting.”

Beltre’s power, GM Theo Epstein noted a few weeks ago, did not come as a surprise. His .321 batting average — the second-highest of his career, and a far cry from the .266 he posted over the previous five years in Seattle — represented a startling development, particularly given the unbridled fury of his swing and the fact that he was an aggressive hitter who walked infrequently.

Francona suggested that Beltre was able to sustain a high batting average in no small part due to his excellence with two strikes. In such counts, he hit .272 with a .712 OPS, a far cry from the American League average of .184/.535.

“I think he worked hard on his two-strike approach. He went through a period there where he had some unbelievable numbers. I think he had hits in 13 straight at-bats with two strikes at one point, or something silly,” said Francona. “And batting average for him isn’t the end-all, be-all. I think it shows that he was using the whole field and he cut down on strikeouts with two strikes and he was very productive. He took some of the most ferocious hacks you’ve ever seen but he’d square up balls. He ran every ball out. He’s a treat. Very accountable.”

That was certainly the case for 2010, and his accountability is unlikely to change in 2011. The only question is for what club he will offer such a presence.

Read More: Adrian Beltre,

Buchholz scratched from final start; Wakefield gets the nod

10.01.10 at 7:53 pm ET
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Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz‘ breakout 2010 season will end in disappointing fashion, as the 26-year-old has been scratched from his scheduled start against the Yankees on Saturday due to a stiff lower back. Tim Wakefield will get the start in Buchholz’ place.

Buchholz concludes his first full year in the Red Sox rotation with a 17-7 record and a 2.33 ERA that ranked second in the American League to Felix Hernandez (2.27) of the Seattle Mariners. He made 28 starts and pitched 173 2/3 innings, joining Jon Lester to give the Red Sox two All-Star starters atop their rotation. Buchholz struck out 120 and walked 67, holding opponents to a measly .226 average and nine homers.

Wakefield gets his 19th start of the year, and his first since Sept. 8. The 44-year-old is 4-10 with a 5.20 ERA.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, felix hernandez, Tim Wakefield,
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