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Closing Time: Red Sox head home without a win after being swept by Indians

04.07.11 at 2:43 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Welcome home, Red Sox.

For the first time since 1945 the Sox find themselves sitting at 0-6 to start the season after dropping a 1-0 decision to the Indians, Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.

The decisive play this time around came in the eighth inning with reliever Daniel Bard on the mound for the Red Sox. With one out and Adam Everett at third, Asdrubal Cabrera executed a perfect squeeze bunt, getting home the game’s only run. Cleveland closer Chris Perez proceeded to pitch a scoreless ninth to close the deal for the Tribe.

The game ended when Darnell McDonald over-ran second base on J.D. Drew’s infield hit, getting tagged out for the final out.

Here is what went wrong (and right) for the Red Sox …

WHAT WENT WRONG

Kevin Youkilis continued to struggle. The Sox No. 5 hitter went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .105.

– The Red Sox couldn’t get to Indians starter Fausto Carmona, who rebounded from a tough outing with seven innings of shutout ball. The Cleveland Opening Day starter held the Sox to two hits.

– When the Sox did get some opportunities they weren’t able to take advantage. One of their best chances came in the eighth inning when, with Carmona out of the game and reliever Rafael Perez in, the Red Sox got runners to second and third with Dustin Pedroia up. The second baseman fought back from an 0-2 count to extend the bat to 2-2 before grounding back to the pitcher.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Jon Lester exhibited his dominant side. His fastball was amped up a bit from the start in Texas (getting into the 93 mph territory), which helped set up the rest of his offerings. The lefty struck out nine in seven innings, allowing no runs on three hits while walking three.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia took a step in the right direction in terms of managing the running game. The Sox’ catcher threw out his Indians counterpart, Carlos Santana, trying to steal. The throw was actually a one-hopper that was saved by a nice play from second baseman Dustin Pedroia, but it was also an off-speed pitch that Saltalamacchia was forced to deal with. Saltalamacchia is now 1-for-5 throwing out basestealers, with Sox pitchers having picked off two runners. The Sox’ catcher also made a nice, diving play on a pop-up off of Austin Kearns’ bunt attempt in the seventh inning.

Marco Scutaro notched his first multi-hit game of the season, collecting a pair of singles (one infield, one to right). It moved his batting average up to .176.

Red Sox vs. Yankees Matchups, 4/10

04.07.11 at 12:48 pm ET
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On Sunday night the Red Sox will take on New York’s ace CC Sabathia. The big southpaw is coming off another dominant season in 2010 where her went 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA and 197 strikeouts. Sabathia has continued his dominance this season as well as he has a stingy 1.38 ERA in 13 innings in his two starts.  Sabathia is a work horse and quite frequently averages over 100 pitchers per start

Some of the Red Sox  have not faired well against Sabathia in the past. J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia all have avergaes well below .200 against him and have struck out 22 times between them.  However, Kevin Youkilis should balance out the offense as he bats an impressive .429 off Sabathia including two doubles, two triples, ad two home runs.

Josh Beckett will pitch in his second start of the year for Boston. After a lackluster season in 2010 that saw Beckett nagged by injuries as he went 6-6 in only 21 appearances. He was a victim of poor run support in his first start this season as he pitched 5 innings in a 1-3 loss to Cleveland.

The Yankees will look to take advantage of Beckett’s tendency to give up the long ball. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher have each taken him deep three times. He has been the most effective in the past when he has good command on his fastball and high strikeout totals. He has struck out Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada 13 times each, so look for him to really attack these hitters.

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Read More: C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett,

Red Sox vs. Indians matchups, 4/7

04.07.11 at 9:49 am ET
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Thursday afternoon’€™s series finale between the Red Sox and Indians features a pair of aces who looked like anything but in their first starts of the season. Jon Lester giving up five earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in Boston’€™s opener against the Rangers was bad, but the Indians’€™ Fausto Carmona was even worse in his first start. He gave up a staggering 10 earned runs on 11 hits over three innings in a loss to the White Sox.

Carmona is 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in seven career games against Boston, but current Red Sox have fared even better than those numbers would indicate. As a team, they’€™re hitting .336 against Carmona. Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz are both hitting .400 or better against him, while Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia aren’€™t far behind at .375. Ortiz and J.D. Drew each have a home run and five RBIs off Carmona.

Lester hasn’€™t been great against the Tribe — he has a 4.53 ERA in eight starts — but he does have a 3-1 record against them. Current Indians are batting .314 against the southpaw, though. Jack Hannahan, Austin Kearns and Adam Everett are all hitting .500 against him, while Orlando Cabrera and Lou Marson are both hitting .400 or better as well. One guy who has struggled, though, is Shin-Soo Choo, who is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts against Lester.

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Read More: fausto carmona, Indians, Jon Lester, Red Sox

Red Sox live blog: Red Sox, Indians scoreless through seven innings

04.07.11 at 9:39 am ET
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CLEVELAND — Join Rob Bradford and a cast of characters in following all the action from Progressive Field, where the Red Sox will be looking for their first win of the season when taking on the Indians. It all starts at noon.

Red Sox/Indians finale live chat

MLB Power Rankings, 4/7: How far have the Red Sox fallen?

04.07.11 at 3:23 am ET
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Here we go with Week 2 of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Thursday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’€™s division and which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series.

Also this rule: If a team that many felt was a real threat to win 100 games and score 1,000 runs is on pace for zero wins and 518 runs after the first week, they lose the top spot in the rankings.

Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing kminihane@weei.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.

(Note: Team record and last week’s ranking is in parentheses and all stats are through 4/6.)

1. Rangers (6-0, 6). An absolute beat-down of the Sox and a win over Felix Hernandez means a five-spot jump to the top spot for the AL champs. I guess I’d ask this after watching the three-game massacre over the weekend, though: We knew the lineup was good (though I’m guessing they won’t be hitting 11 HRs a series), we knew the bullpen was good, but is that rotation going to be good enough to get the Rangers to 90+ wins?

2. Phillies (4-1, 2). Was going to put them in the top spot until Cole Hamels tossed a Lackey against the Mets on Tuesday night (2.2 innings, seven hits, six runs). Wilson Valdez had a terrific first week filling in for Chase Utley, hitting .364.

3. Yankees (3-2, 3). Lost in the fast start for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez is Derek Jeter continues to look lost at the plate (.167/.273/.167). Even his Intangible Rating and Wanting To Win More Than You Percentage is down from 2010.

4. Red Sox (0-5, 1). Pitcher A: 4.69 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, Pitcher B: 4.63 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

Pitcher A is John Lackey in his Red Sox career. Pitcher B is A.J. Burnett in his Yankees career. If we all agree that Burnett has been, to date, an absolute disaster of a contract, don’t we have to say the same about Lackey one year and one start into his five-year, $82 million deal?

5. Braves (3-3, 5). I understand the AL/NL difference, and you’d have to factor in age as well, but if the Braves called the Sox tomorrow and offered Derek Lowe straight up for Lackey would you make the deal? I guess probably not, Lowe is going to be 38 in June and is just a year removed from a 4.67 ERA/1.52 WHIP season. He’s off to a strong start in 2011, though, with a 0.77 ERA in his first two starts.

6. Reds (5-0, 10). On the subject of former Idiots (does one ever lose idiot status, I wonder? Watching ESPN the other night, I can tell you Rick Sutcliffe sure hasn’t …), Bronson Arroyo won his first start of the season. Lowe and Arroyo have been gone for a combined 11 seasons and have made at least 30 starts in all of ’em. Arroyo is 71-60 for the Reds, with a 3.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Wily Mo Pena? According to the club’s webiste, Pena is one of the “exciting newcomers” for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno. Pena last played in a big-league game on July 12, 2008.

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Read More: MLB power rankings, power rankings, Rangers, Red Sox

Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek explain ‘weirdest play’ catcher has ever seen

04.06.11 at 11:55 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Kevin Youkilis first thought was to drop the ball. After that, he expected some sort of chaos. Just not this kind of chaos.

To set the scene …

With nobody out and the bases loaded, reliever Dan Wheeler had been brought on to face Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley. Hitting lefty, the Indians’ leadoff man shot a line-drive toward Youkilis at third base. The infielder’s first instinct was to execute a play that rarely works because of umpire’s discretion — drop the ball, catching the baserunner off guard, and then take advantage of the frozen baserunners to get multiple outs.

But as the ball approached, Youkilis discovered that the option of getting the final decision when it came to how the out was executed had gone out the window when the liner took an unexpected turn to the left.

“I was messing around with it in my head,” Youkilis said after the Red Sox‘ 8-4 loss to the Indians. “It kind of went far. I was trying to go back and do it, but it worked a little too much. It got Tek a little off guard. We play around, not to trick ‘€¦ I never thought I’€™d be the guy to pull that off. At first I was like try to drop it. Then it was a little too far out of my range, so I tried to catch it, literally. But that was in the back of my head to try and drop it.”

Once the ball was on the ground, and the third base umpire Dan Iassogna ruled it was a legitimate drop, Youkilis scooped up his miscue, ran over and tagged third base for the force out and threw home. The problem was that catcher Jason Varitek didn’t see Youkilis tag the bag and subsequently failed to tag Travis Buck, who accounted for the hosts’ fourth run.

‘€œI’€™m trying to figure out — it’€™s probably the weirdest play I’€™ve ever been part of,” Varitek said. “I’€™m trying to see and learn what I could have done different besides, obviously, tagging him, but I didn’€™t actually see the play.’€

Youkilis said he never yelled to Varitek to tag the runner, and Wheeler explained that while he wanted to warn the backstop that that force play was off, he couldn’t get the words out in time. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez did manage to shout a warning, but was too far away for it to take effect.

‘€œYeah I was trying to yell, but heat of the moment, it’€™s hard for them to hear you,” Gonzalez said.

“Once the ball got out of my glove, I was like, that’€™s a double play, easily,” said Youkilis, who remembered Mike Lowell adeptly making the same sort of play from time to time. “That play will always work. As a runner, you’€™re going back to the base. At that time, it was a crazy play. A lot of times it works, most of the time the umps call it.”

Following the miscommunication, the flood gates opened as Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera launched a Wheeler sinker into the right field seats for a three-run homer, making it 7-2 Indians. It would be all the Tribe would need to hand the Red Sox’ their fifth loss in as many tries.

“We all know we’€™re in a hole, but the big thing is we’€™ve got 150-something games left,” Youkilis said. “This is a team that can get so hot, you roll of eight out of 10, you’€™re back over .500. I think that’€™s one thing we have to try to do. We can’€™t win this series, but we can salvage a ‘W’ tomorrow and go into the next series and try to win that series. It’€™s a long road. A lot of crazy stuff happens. You saw it tonight. This team’€™s going to be a good team. Once we start swinging the bats a lot better, you’€™ll see a lot more ‘W’s’ start coming up.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, dan wheeler, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis

Closing Time: Red Sox lose again, making the wrong kind of history

04.06.11 at 10:31 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — There were more than a few folks who believed this Red Sox team would make history. Few, however, could have predicted that this would be how they would distinguish themselves.

Wednesday night, the Sox remained winless for the 2011 season, dropping a 8-4 decision to the Indians. It marks just the second time since 1966 that they have began a season going 0-5, having done it last in ’96. The Red Sox have gone 0-6 three times in franchise history, not having fallen in such a hole since ’45.

The biggest blow came in the sixth inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera broke open a two-run game with a three-run homer off of Sox reliever Dan Wheeler.

Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in a decent start for the Red Sox, although, like Josh Beckett the night before, he wasn’t able to go past five innings. The Sox starter gave up three runs over his 96-pitch outing.

Here is what went wrong (and went right) for the Sox …

WHAT WENT WRONG

Jason Varitek made a rare mental mistake in the sixth inning that proved to be key. With nobody out, the bases loaded, and the Red Sox trailing by a run Michael Brantley hit a line-drive off Wheeler which third baseman Kevin Youkilis dropped. The third baseman proceeded to pick the ball up, tag third and throw home. But Varitek was unaware that the force play was off, and didn’t tag the oncoming runner, allowing the run to score and keep runners on first and second with one out. The next batter, Cabrera, added insult to injury with his three-run homer. Tim Wakefield also allowed a solo homer to Matt LaPorta.

– The Sox relievers, which hadn’t allowed a run since Opening Day, let the game get away. First, it was Dennys Reyes, who started his outing by hitting two batters before walking Jack Hannahan on four pitches. That led to Wheeler’s appearance, which, in turn, led to the flood gates opening.

– Key members of lineup continued to struggle. Jacoby Ellsbury struck out three times, dropping his average to .143, while Youkilis went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .133. Despite managing his first hit of the season — an infield RBI single — Marco Scutaro is now batting just .067.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Matsuzaka’s performance was somewhat encouraging considering he started the outing with a 28-pitch first inning. He rebounded to not allow a run after the second inning.

Carl Crawford managed a two-hit day, along with his first two stolen bases as a member of the Red Sox.

Red Sox live blog: Indians add another thanks to Matt LaPorta’s home run off Tim Wakefield

04.06.11 at 7:02 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Join Rob Bradford and a cast of characters in following all the action from Progressive Field, where the Red Sox will be looking for their first win of the season when taking on the Indians.

Update: Matt LaPorta made it 8-4 Cleveland with a solo home run off reliever Tim Wakefield to lead off the eighth inning.

Red Sox vs. Indians

Terry Francona on Big Show: Red Sox should be concerned, not panicked

04.06.11 at 3:13 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show Wednesday, telling Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley that after the team’s 0-4 start to begin the season, he believes in being more concerned than panicked.

“I’d say that’s a good way to put it,” Francona said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be smiling about right now, but I think there’s a difference between being concerned and being panicked.

“I don’t think anybody’s too happy with our start, but it’s our responsibility to turn it around. I don’t think panicking is the right way to do it, but when things aren’t going the way you want them to go, you try to work to fix it.”

Francona said that given the team’s disappointing stretch to open the season, players have to avoid trying to do too much.

“I think the last thing we want to do is try to win a game in Cleveland that we lost in Texas,” he said. “That’s a dangerous way to play the game.”

Francona said that “you’re going to see a much better player” in Carl Crawford as he gets more and more comfortable. Crawford signed a seven-year, $142 million deal as a free agent in the offseason and is hitting .133 in a Red Sox uniform.

“I think it’s more [trying to impress everybody], not so much the money,” Francona said. “That kind of goes out the window, I think, once the game starts. I think he’s on a new team and he’s a real conscientious kid, and I think he’s trying a little bit too hard. I think it’s human nature. .. Right now he’s just trying a little too hard to do too much, and that happens sometimes. We wish it didn’t, and our job as coaches is to try to help these guys not do that, but you always fight that at the beginning of the season.”

Regarding the batting order, Francona stressed that he wants to be able to put newcomer Adrian Gonzalez in a position to drive in runs. Gonzalez had three RBI in the season-opener last week, which have accounted for a quarter of the Red Sox’ 12 runs this season.

“I think he’s going to be comfortable with wherever you put him in the order. He’s a bonafide really good hitter. I really want [Dustin Pedroia] up there, either second or third. He may not be the prototypical No. 3 hitter, but I think he has the ability to maneuver the bat, run the bases, get on bat in front of [Kevin Youkilis] and Gonzalez.”

As for the catching situation, the manager said “there isn’t really a rotation,” and that Jason Varitek will be catching Wednesday because the Sox plan on using Jarrod Saltalamacchia Thursday. Using Varitek Wednesday allows the Sox to give Saltalamacchia two games in the series without having him play a day game following a night game.

Read More: carl crawford, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, Terry Francona

Peter Gammons on M&M: Some red flags with Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano

04.06.11 at 2:56 pm ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the slow-starting Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“They just haven’t had anybody get off to a particularly good start,” Gammons said. “Again, it’s only four games. It is amazing, that statistic that nobody’s ever won the World Series starting 0-4.”

Gammons said the Red Sox didn’t seem as energized when he saw them in Florida, but they were not alone in lacking intensity coming out of spring training.

“Except for the teams that had a lot of competition for positions, it just seemed as if everybody was bored by the 10th or 15th of March this year,” Gammons said. “The Red Sox basically had no jobs open for positions players. It just seemed like spring training mode. What have they won, like two games since March 13 or something? It just seemed a little muted. It didn’t upset me that [Jon] Lester and [Daniel] Bard both seemed a little out of whack, but I think sometimes that does happen to teams, where they have trouble getting going.”

Added Gammons: “It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, you kind of go: All right, it can’t go too long because they play the Yankees, the Rays and the Jays in the first week-and-a-half of the season at home.”

Gammons said the Sox hitters deviated from the team’s strategy of showing patience and instead started consistently swinging at the first strike Tuesday night in Cleveland. And new outfielder Carl Crawford “is pressing dramatically. I’m not really sure why it’s happening.”

As for Crawford being moved around in the batting order, Gammons predicts he’ll eventually settle into third. “I think Terry [Francona] first and foremost is trying to get Carl comfortable,” Gammons said. “Just, ‘Please, you’re not here to carry the team. You’re here to just be what you’ve been in your major league career, which is a great player. He was out jumping at everything in Texas, and that sort of carried over last night.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has caught all four games for the Sox this season. Gammons said that might have to do with Jason Varitek not being at full strength.

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Read More: carl crawford, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, john lackey
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