|07.20.11 at 8:22 am ET|
The Red Sox and Orioles will face off again at Camden Yards Wednesday, and Andrew Miller and Jake Arrieta will take the mound opposite one another for the second time this month. Back on July 7, Miller got the win on five innings of three-run, six-hit ball, while Arrieta struggled through 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits, including two home runs.
Miller (3-1, 5.68 ERA) took his first loss of the season in his last start, and it wasn’t pretty. The 26-year-old failed to get through the third inning Friday vs. the Rays, surrendering seven runs on five hits while walking five and striking out none. The big blow came on a Ben Zobrist grand slam in the second inning. Aside from that outing, Miller’s ERA has been well under 4.00, although he’s yet to pitch over six innings in a game this season.
The Orioles have faced Miller a combined 51 times, hitting .263 with two doubles and six RBI. Mark Reynolds leads the way with four hits and three walks in 10 plate appearances against the Boston starter. No other Orioles hitter has more than two hits against Miller. The right-hander has handled Derrek Lee well in eight matchups, holding him to 0-for-5 with three walks. Recently extended J.J. Hardy is an even 2-for-4 off Miller with a sacrifice fly. Overall, Miller has struggled with his command against Baltimore, issuing 10 walks while recording just five strikeouts.
Arrieta (9-6, 5.10 ERA) has had a miserable month of July, dropping all three of his starts thanks to an 8.79 ERA. The right-hander gave up five runs in each one of those outings and hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning since June 15. Arrieta has struggled to keep the ball in the park, allowing seven home runs in his last five starts. It’s been a dramatic collapse since his performance in June, when Arrieta went 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA.
Arrieta has been a better pitcher at home, going 5-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 10 starts at Camden Yards. However, he surrendered five runs on eight hits, including two home runs, in his last start in Baltimore.
The Orioles starter has only faced the Red Sox twice in his career, and he has struggled with Boston’s lefty-heavy lineup. Adrian Gonzalez is 3-for-5 with a double and a home run in his team-high five plate appearances against Arrieta. As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .364 with 10 RBI in just 37 plate appearances. Ten Boston hitters have faced Arrieta five times or less, and all but two of them have hits. Jacoby Ellsbury is 0-for-1 with two walks, and Josh Reddick is 0-for-2.
|07.19.11 at 9:43 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — The second start of Kyle Weiland‘s career followed a much different script than his first. The right-hander poured a wide-ranging arsenal into the strike zone, and though the Orioles strung together five hits — some of the seeing-eye variety — and three runs against him in the first three innings, Weiland remained poised while mixing fastballs, changeups, cutters and a surprisingly good slider (perhaps an adaptation of his curveball or cutter) for strikes.
It was a mix that netted Weiland the first quality start of his career, as he allowed just three runs on six hits and three walks over six innings. But it was not good enough for his first career win.
That was less a product of the rookie’s performance than that of Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who held the Sox at bay for seven innings in which he allowed just two runs while scattering eight hits. He set the tone on a night when the top four hitters in the Sox’ lineup — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis — combined to go just 2-for-16 with a pair of singles in the Sox’ 6-2 loss in Baltimore.
The loss snapped the Sox’ seven-game winning streak over Baltimore.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–While Weiland pitched well, he lacked a consistent putaway offering. Whereas he was able to get called strikes to lefties on backdoor curveballs with two strikes in Triple-A this year, the Orioles were able to foul off such offerings and, ultimately, to put most of Weiland’s offerings in play. He got five swings and misses on the night, three on a slider that was particularly impressive given that it is not a normal part of the right-hander’s repertoire. Of the six hits Weiland allowed, three came with two strikes.
–The slump deepened for Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .083 (2-for-24) since the All-Star break. Gonzalez acknowledged on Monday that his swing isn’t where he wants it to be, and his indecisive evening in the batter’s box further underscored the point. He struck out twice on sliders (one on a check-swing) from Jeremy Guthrie and grounded out twice (once on a double play smash up the middle), and seemed unusually uncertain of what pitches were coming.
–It was a night when the Sox felt the absence of suspended DH David Ortiz, who owns a .343 career average with three home runs against Guthrie.
—Alfredo Aceves, who came on in relief of Weiland, allowed back-to-back homers in the bottom of the eighth inning (a two-run blast by Derrek Lee and a solo smash by Mark Reynolds) to eliminate any Sox visions of a comeback. The two longballs were uncharacteristic, as Aceves had permitted just four homers in 63 innings entering the night.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Josh Reddick matched a career high (previously achieved three times, including twice this year) with three hits in four at-bats, including a double. He is now hitting .367 with a 1.088 OPS for the year.
—Dustin Pedroia collected an infield single in the first to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, matching a careeer-high he’d originally established in 2008.
—Jarrod Saltalamacchia clubbed his second homer in as many nights, lining a fastball just over the scoreboard in right field for a two-run homer that accounted for the only Sox runs of the night. It was Saltalamacchia’s second homer in as many nights. For the year, he now has a .771 OPS, placing him in the top 10 among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances this year.
|07.19.11 at 7:30 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — The progress is starting to become evident. Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz threw long toss from 120 feet on Monday afternoon, in a session that gave the Sox grounds for optimism that his recovery from a frustratingly persistent back issue is advancing.
“[Monday] was such a good day that I think everyone was really pleased,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I know we’ve got some hurdles to get through, but still, he really did well. The guys that were with him said you would never, it looked like a normal day of long toss on a guy that feels good about himself. So that was good.”
Buchholz said that he felt mild soreness on Tuesday, but he pinned that on throwing with greater intensity than at any time since he last tried to throw off a mound at the end of June in Philadelphia. As things stand, the right-hander is scheduled to throw again from 120 feet on flat ground on Wednesday and then, assuming there are no setbacks, to throw his first bullpen session in more than three weeks on Friday at Fenway.
That represents a significant checkpoint in Buchholz’ progression back to pitching, given that at earlier phases of his rehab, he felt the discomfort in his back most acutely when throwing off a mound.
“When he gets to the mound, that’s been the sticking point,” said Francona. “But again, we’ve taken pretty significant time off and yesterday was such a good day that I think everyone was really pleased.”
That included Buchholz.
“It was definitely a step forward,” Buchholz said of Monday’s long-toss session. “Hopefully get off the mound here in the next couple days, two or three days. That’s what I want to do: Put myself in position to get healthy and then come back and help this team win.”
The unexpectedly long stretch on the sidelines has Buchholz (6-3, 3.48 ERA) hoping that he will be able to regain his feel for his pitches upon his return. But, his arm feels good, and with improvement in his back, the right-hander believes that he is on the right track to return.
“I’ve tried everyday just to pick up a baseball just so that I don’t forget how it feels in my hand, the grips and everything. That’s one of the first things that will go if you don’t throw a ball for a while,” said Buchholz. “The arm feels really good though. I’ve been keeping up with the shoulder program. Now that I’m throwing a little bit more, it definitely feels better. That’s a good thing.”
—Bobby Jenks received a plasma-rich platelet injection in his injured lower back, a region that has now landed him on the disabled list twice this season. An exam in Boston, however, revealed that the issue is muscular rather than structural, and so the Sox are hopeful that once the soreness from the injection clears in the next couple of days, the right-hander will be in position to advance in his rehab. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.19.11 at 6:43 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — The Red Sox own a 7-2 record against the Orioles this year, even having overcome Kyle Weiland‘s six-run yield (in four innings) in his major league debut to win the final game of the first half.The Sox, rather amazingly, also now own a 30-19 road record (best in the majors) after having started the year 0-6 away from Fenway.
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|07.19.11 at 6:25 pm ET|
While they have been reportedly interested in Royals closer Joakim Soria since last season, Knobler writes they are now content with the improvement of David Robertson (1.21 ERA) and the scheduled return of Rafael Soriano from the disabled list.
New York did send executives to San Diego, where the Padres have two available relievers in Mike Adams and Heath Bell. However, if the Yankees are targeting one pitcher this summer, it will likely be Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
|07.19.11 at 4:22 pm ET|
The Red Sox are the latest of several teams to inquire about Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, although it’s not clear how serious their interest is at this stage.
Colorado has a steep asking price for the right-hander, and there is steep competition from the likes of the Yankees, Reds and Rangers. The 27-year-old’s contract goes through 2013, with an $8 million team option in 2014.
|07.19.11 at 4:16 pm ET|
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti met with starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on Monday to discuss the recent trade speculation over the right-hander. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Colletti told Kuroda that he did not want to trade him, but he was willing to give him a chance to play for a contender.
Kuroda has a no-trade clause and there’s speculation that he may not want to play on the east coast. Asked whether or not he would waive the clause and allow a trade, he said, “At this point, I don’t know yet … I have very complicated feelings.”
Kuroda is 6-11 with a 3.13 ERA this season, and is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Tigers.
|07.19.11 at 4:05 pm ET|
J.D. Drew‘s underwhelming performance has been well documented this season, and with Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald waiting in the wings, Francona was asked who he plans on playing in right field as the pennant race rages on.
“[Drew] has a long history of doing what he’s done, and you’re right, to this point it hasn’t been what he normally does,” Francona said. “[Reddick] doesn’t have the history, but he’s been a huge part of what we’re doing for the last month. So it creates a little bit of a — I don’t want to say dilemma, because it’s good. I just don’t know exactly how it’s going to work. It’s easy just to put the guy that’s hot out there, but as a manager you have to think, ‘OK, am I hurting down the road more than I’m helping today?’ So that makes me think a little bit.
“I really couldn’t think back to a veteran that we stuck with that we weren’t rewarded for,” he added. “If we think somebody can help us, we do try to stick with him. How many times was I told I should not play David [Ortiz] the last two years? Well if I had listened to them it wouldn’t have been very smart. [Dustin] Pedroia, [Mark] Bellhorn, I mean you can go on and on and I just don’t think we’ve stayed with guys too long. Maybe I’ll miss a name or two, but I think for the most part if we think they can help us, we want to let them play or we’re going to miss out on some good baseball. And I don’t want to do that.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, check out The Big Show audio on demand page.
Were you a little bit concerned based on the travel and the late game [against the Rays on Sunday] that your guys might be a little too tired for that one last night?
Not really. Our schedule is so crazy, most of the time we play a lot of Sunday night games and we get in at 4:30 anyway, so what the heck is the difference of an hour and a half? The rule of thumb is if you can get to bed before the sun comes up, you’re generally OK. We didn’t quite make that, but we try to make some adjustments. We’re not hitting on the field tonight. We’re trying to save up our energy and use it in the game. We’re deep enough in the season now that we don’t need to hit on the field all the time. We’ll be OK. And we sent [Tim] Wakefield ahead to try to make adjustments, but you try to not let things get in the way of winning.
|07.19.11 at 2:25 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — As detailed in today’s column, the Red Sox are approaching this year’s trade deadline as an opportunity rather than a necessity. In contrast to past years, the team has no glaring weakness. The Sox have an elite offense that leads the majors in every major category, a very good defense (the Sox entered Monday ranked third in the majors in defensive efficiency), a growing stockpile of viable bullpen options and a rotation that has withstood injuries to be roughly middle of the pack.
The greatest uncertainty for the Sox right now surrounds the rotation, of course. With Jon Lester (his return is scheduled for Monday) and Clay Buchholz (no timetable) on the DL, the starting staff is the most difficult element of the team to predict going forward. The Sox are hopeful, even confident, that Lester and Buchholz can return to join Josh Beckett and give the Sox a front three that can compete with any. But that outlook can change on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
All of that said, it is worth asking: Based on what the Sox have done to date, are they in a position of necessity with regards to upgrading their rotation? Does history suggest that they need to get better?
After Tim Wakefield was roughed up on Monday for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, Sox starters have a collective 4.14 ERA this year. The mark ranks 22nd in the majors.
In a vacuum, that kind of starters’ ERA isn’t horrendous for a team with World Series ambitions. In the last 20 years, nine World Series winners — including both the 2004 and 2007 Sox — have had ERAs that were worse than 4.14.
But, of course, the run-scoring environment was much different in those two championship seasons than it is now. Runs are more scarce than ever, which means a) that what the Sox are doing offensively is all the more remarkable and b) that what their starters have done is of even greater concern.
Since baseball introduced the two-round playoff format in 1969, no World Series winner has had a rotation ERA that has ranked as low as 22nd in the majors. Just two (the 2006 Cardinals, who ranked 20th, and the 1993 Blue Jays, who ranked 21st) have ranked 20th or worst.
Of course, the ’93 Blue Jays ranked 21st at a time when there were just 28 big league teams, so their ranking was more or less equivalent to what the Sox have done this year.
And the Sox do have reason to believe that they will get better, if only because Lester and Buchholz are expected to return, John Lackey (6.70) — who has shown some promising signs in his last two starts — will either improve from his standing as the worst starter in the majors in the first half or else he will see diminishing starts and the same can be said of Andrew Miller (5.68 ERA) and others.
Even so, while the Sox do not yet feel urgency about how the state of their rotation, it is possible that such an outlook could change between now and the end of the month depending on forthcoming developments.
|07.19.11 at 12:46 pm ET|
Intradivision trades aren’t that common unless both sides can work out a truly mutually beneficial deal. However, that may be the case with the Phillies and Marlins who are talking about a deal that would center around Florida closer Leo Nunez, according to a tweet from ESPN.com and Baseball America writer Jerry Crasnick.
Nunez (27 saves, 3.30 ERA) is one of the big right-handed bullpen arms on the market, and the Fish are expected to ask for “young starting pitching in return,” which Crasnick believes the Phillies have.
Nunez would be a nice fit for a Philadelphia bullpen that ranks eighth in the NL in ERA (3.51) and seventh in opponents’ batting average (.238). Still, Crasnick tweeted later that the Marlins are “not ready to pull the plug yet” as they remain 10 games out of the Wild Card race and have won nine of their last 10 games.
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