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Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Phillies 3

05.23.10 at 4:17 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield recorded his first win of the 2010 season thanks to eight shutout innings against the Phillies.

When John Lackey got cuffed by the Phillies on Friday night, the weekend outlook for the Red Sox looked dark. With the inconsistent Daisuke Matsuzaka on the hill on Saturday night and rotation fill-in Tim Wakefield getting a start against Phillies ace (and longtime Sox nemesis) Roy Halladay, winning the series seemed like a tall task.

Yet Matsuzaka dazzled on Saturday, going 7 2/3 innings before conceding his first and only hit of the night in a 5-0 victory. And Wakefield enjoyed similarly exceptional results, delivering eight shutout innings of his own in the Red Sox’ 8-3 victory over the Phillies. With the win, the Sox took two of three in the series, and in what appeared to be a brutal stretch against the Yankees, Twins, Phillies and Rays, the Sox are now 5-2, allowing them to improve to three games over .500 (24-21) for the first time all year.

Meanwhile, the Sox roughed up Halladay in his worst start as a member of the Phillies. Kevin Youkilis led the charge, reaching base in all three of his at-bats (triple, homer, walk) against Halladay as the Sox plated seven runs (six earned) against the Phillies ace in his worst start as a member of the Philies. He is now 14-15 in his career against the Sox, making the Sox the only American League team against whom Halladay has a losing record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Wakefield, in the rotation while Josh Beckett is on the disabled list, proved tremendous against the formidable Phillies lineup. Though he recorded just one strikeout, he permitted Philadelphia little solid contact, allowing just five hits in eight shutout innings of work. In the process, Wakefield finally earned his first victory since last July 8. The game marked the first time since Sept. 12, 2008, that Wakefield had thrown eight shutout innings in a game.

Wakefield is now 4-1 in his career against Halladay, and he continued to excel in his swing role. In his last three starts — spread out over four weeks — he has a 2.08 ERA.

–Youkilis furthered his case as the best hitter in the majors against Halladay. In three at-bats against the perennial Cy Young candidate, he had a homer (his team-leading ninth of the year), a triple (his team-leading second of the season) and a walk (his major league leading 24th of May).

His numbers against Halladay are outrageous: .375/.446/.661/1.107. Against players with at least 30 at-bats against Halladay, Youkilis ranks sixth in average, fourth in OBP, second in slugging and second in OPS.

He is now hitting .397 with a 1.391 OPS and six homers in May.

Jacoby Ellsbury had a two-run single (his first hit in two games since coming off the disabled list) and also made a diving catch in center field to start the seventh inning. The defensive play, in particular, was promising for the Sox, since it represented a good test of Ellsbury’s ribs.

Adrian Beltre went 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly for his fourth multi-hit contest in the last five games. He is hitting .500 (9-for-18) in that span, and is now tied with Youkilis for the team lead in batting average at .325.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The slump continued for Dustin Pedroia, who was 0-for-4 to run his hitless streak to 19 at-bats. He is now hitting .103 (4-for-39) in his last 10 games.

Jeremy Hermida went 0-for-5 and left seven runners on base. He is now hitting .148 (4-for-27) in his last nine games.

Ramon Ramirez got hammered in the ninth inning, allowing three runs on a pair of doubles and a homer. In fairness, he was pitching for the first time since May 18.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Roy Halladay

Red Sox vs. Phillies matchups, 5/23

05.23.10 at 11:07 am ET
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Tim Wakefield

With the Red Sox and Phillies trading terrific performances by their starting pitchers to split the first two games of the interleague series, two familiar faces will be on the mound for the rubber match on Sunday afternoon. Tim Wakefield will look to build off Daisuke Matsuzaka’s near no-hitter on Saturday night, while Roy Halladay will make his first career interleague start pitching in the National League.

Despite it being an interleague game, Halladay will be no stranger to the Boston lineup. From his days with the Blue Jays, Halladay has faced the Red Sox more than any opponent with 41 games and 38 starts. Unlike most other opponents, Boston has given the former AL Cy Young Award winner problems. Halladay’s 14-14 career record vs. the Red Sox makes Boston one of two AL teams he does not have a winning record against.

In his first season in the NL, Halladay has carried over the success he had in Toronto which made him one of the best pitchers in the majors. Not having to face a designated hitter and having a potent Phillies lineup behind him, Halladay has already emerged as an early Cy Young candidate. In nine starts, he’s compiled a 6-2 record with a 1.64 ERA. In all but one of his outings, Halladay has allowed two or fewer runs and pitched at least seven innings.

As was his reputation in the AL, he’s been a workhorse with four complete games and two shutouts, tops in the majors this year. Look no further than his last start for evidence, when Halladay went the distance and allowed two runs to the Pirates. Despite earning the loss, he tossed 132 pitches – just one shy of his career high.

On Sunday, Halladay will have a recognizable counterpart in Wakefield, who was on the mound in his final game with Toronto. Halladay pitched a three-hitter in a 12-0 win, while Wakefield allowed four runs in only three innings of work. That contest, however, marked the only loss Wakefield has endured when facing Halladay. In six such starts, Wakefield is 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA, while Halladay is 2-3 with a 5.90 ERA.

This season has been rocky for Wakefield though, with him making appearances both as a starter and out of the bullpen. May 17 in New York was the last time Wakefield pitched, but it was back on May 12 against Toronto when Wakefield made his last start. He allowed three runs in seven innings and suffered his second loss, pushing his record to 0-2 with a 5.31 ERA for the season.

Boston will attempt to win its first interleague series before facing Philadelphia again in a three-game series beginning at Fenway Park on June 11. The Red Sox continue their road trip on Monday against the Rays before heading home to play four games with the Royals to close out May.

Red Sox vs. Roy Halladay

David Ortiz (109 career plate appearances against Halladay): .273 average/.330 OBP/.515 slugging, 6 doubles, 6 home runs, 24 RBI, 7 walks, 16 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (84): .205/.262/.333, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 10 RBI, 6 walks, 23 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (62): .352/.419/.519, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 7 RBI, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (41): .211/.250/.368, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (34): .300/.382/.400, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (31): .233/.258/.533, 3 home runs, 9 RBI, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (25): .167/.200/.292, 1 double, 1 triple, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (18): .333/.444/.467, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (7): .429/.429/.571, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jeremy Hermida (4): .667/.750/.667, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall is hitless in three at bats against Halladay with two strikeouts. The Philadelphia starter has never faced Darnell McDonald, Angel Sanchez, or Jonathan Van Every.

Phillies vs. Tim Wakefield

Raul Ibanez (29 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .286 average/.310 OBP/.536 slugging, 4 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Placido Polanco (17): .067/.176/.067, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Ross Gload (8): .125/.125/.125, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jayson Werth (8): .500/.500/.875, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jimmy Rollins (7): .143/.143/.143, 2 strikeouts

Chase Utley (6): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Juan Castro (3): .667/.667/.667

Greg Dobbs (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI

Shane Victorino (3): .500/.667/.500, 1 strikeout

Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco are each hitless in three plate appearances against Wakefield. The Boston starter has never faced Paul Hoover or Carlos Ruiz.

Reaction to Daisuke’s almost no-no

05.23.10 at 1:33 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka only allowed one hit in eight innings of work Saturday night. (AP)

Thanks to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, here is some reaction from the Red Sox and Phillies clubhouses to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s near no-hitter in the Sox’ 5-0 win over Philadelphia, Saturday night. (For more on the performance click here):

Terry Francona

“From the very beginning, you could see, he got in a rhythm. He got it, he threw it, that’s the best fastball we’ve seen. He established that. then his slider, he threw some of the better changesups we’ve seen. We made some defensive plays behind him. That was fun to watch.”

“That ball, we made some plays, Herm [Jeremy Hermida] caught a ball fairly deep. The ball [Adrian] Beltre caught, I don’t know how he did. The ball to Daisuke, maybre that ragball drill is worth it afterall. I know they hate it, but I don’t know if it’s self defense or he’s that good. But it seemed like the stars were aligned. And on the base hit,  I actually, my view, I thought he caught it, because his body kind of shielded it. I’m kind of yelling and everyone was yelling what are you yelling about.”

Marco Scutaro

“They call me Hanley Scutaro now.”

“What do you want me to say? If I was six feet, I’d probably get it. I’m [Dustin] Pedroia’s size, so …

(Did you think you had a shot on reaching the only hit against Matsuzaka) “Yeah, I did. What can I say? I know all the country of Japan is hating me right now. Sorry, sorry. My bad, my bad.”

“I didn’t notice this one until I was running on third. And I looked at the scoreboard and I see no hits. And Polanco told me too. He’s like, hey, tell Daisuke he’s throwing a no-hitter.”

(How close were to catching the base hit?) “I think I was very close. I don’t know, I haven’t checked the replay. I was kind of close.”

Adrian Beltre

“I thought in the seventh inning when he caught that line drive by Werth, I thought he definitely was going to get it. Normally when you get a play like that, it’s a sure base hit up the middle. He hit the ball really hard and I don’t know how he got it. After that I thought, ‘Man, this guy is going to get a no-hitter today.’”

(On his diving play in the eighth inning) ”You get a little more aggressive because you’d rather have an E-5 than a hit in that situation. You don’t get many chances to play behind a no-hitter and you want to do whatever you can to prevent any little single.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Phillies 0

05.22.10 at 10:15 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched no-hit baseball through 7 2/3 innings against the Philies Saturday night. (AP)

There was truly just one thing that dwarfed everything else when looking at the Red Sox’ 5-0 win over the Phillies Saturday night in Philadelphia — Daisuke Matsuzka’s performance.

The Sox’ starter went 7 2/3 innings without giving up a single hit before Juan Castro blooped a single over the out-stretched glove of Marco Scutaro, into left field, to break up what would have been the first no-hitter by an American League pitcher in a National League park since the advent of interleague play.

Matsuzaka managed to finished off his outing by inducing a fly out from Ross Gload, closing out his line having allowed just the one hit while walking four and striking out five. He threw 112 pitches, 73 strikes.

“Dice did a good job,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who has already caught four n0-hitters. “He stayed powerful through the zone. He stayed aggressive, continued to stay aggressive, and had a good mix of his pitches.”

We were kind of fastball cutter early and then mixed in some sliders

The no-hitter was almost ended earlier in the eighth when, after walking Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz lined a shot between third and shortstop. But Adrian Beltre not only managed to dive and stab Ruiz’ smash, but also threw over to first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the double play.

Matsuzaka also got a scare against the National League’s top hitting club when Jayson Werth rocked a line-drive back up the middle. But the Red Sox pitcher stuck up his glove and grabbed the shot to end the seventh.

The Red Sox’ offense was mostly supplied in the fifth inning, when they put up four runs against Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick. The runs came on RBI doubles from David Ortiz and Beltre, to go along with J.D. Drew’s run-scoring single. The Sox also managed a run in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jeremy Hermida.

Matsuzaka also contributed with a single of his own in the third inning, along with a sacrifice bunt, while Jacoby Ellsbury, playing for the first time since the sixth game of the season, went 0-for-4 with a walk and run.

For a complete recap click here.

Red Sox vs. Phillies matchups, 5/22

05.22.10 at 4:24 pm ET
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After being dumbfounded by the pitching of Phillies starter Cole Hamels Friday night to the tune of just one run on three hits over seven innings, the Red Sox offense was finally able to make things exciting against the Philadeplhia bullpen in the ninth before pinch-hitter David Ortiz flew out to the deepest part of Citizens Bank Park with the bases loaded to seal the 5-1 Phillies victory and end the Sox rally.

If the Sox are to be at all successful Saturday night, they’ll need the offense carry the momentum from their near-success in the ninth into the following day when they’ll face Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick.

On the mound for the Sox will be Daisuke Matsuzaka. One of the main reasons the Phillies got the win Friday was due to Hamels’ ability to eat innings, which in turn allowed a bullpen devoid of mainstays Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson to get some rest. If Kendrick’s performances in May are any indication, the bullpen could be in for another rest Saturday. Kendrick (2-1, 5.24 ERA) has pitched at least six innings in each of his three May starts, earning wins in two of those starts. However, Kendrick hasn’t always been the best at eating innings for the Phillies this season. In April, he only pitched more than five innings once in five starts, including a 1-2/3 inning performance in his second appearance of the season at home against Washington.

The Sox will look to challenge Kendrick early in the hopes of giving him a stat line more like the ones he saw in the first month of the season than the ones he’s seeing now. That would also give them the opportunity to break into the Phillies bullpen that they experienced some late-inning success against on Friday.

Sox fans hoping to see their own bullpen get a little bit of rest after John Lackey lasted just five innings after a performance in which he walked five batters and surrendered four earned runs may be a little disappointed to see Matsuzaka (2-1, 7.89) take the mound. He had his best start of the season two starts back with a line of three hits, one earned run and nine strikeouts over seven innings in a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays. However, in his three other performances, he has given up 18 earned runs in just 14-2/3 innings, bad enough for a 11.05 ERA. He struggled mightily against the good Yankee bats in his last star (seven runs over 4-2/3) and could very well do the same against the Phillies offense that currently sits atop the National League rankings for batting average and runs scored.

Red Sox vs. Kyle Kendrick

Jeremy Hermida (14 plate appearances against Kendrick): .308 average/.357 OBP/.538 slugging, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Mike Lowell (4): .667/.750/1.667, 1 HR, 2 RBI

Dustin Pedroia (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 hit

J.D. Drew (3): .667/.667/2.000, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 double

Jacoby Ellsbury (3): .667/.667/.667, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Bill Hall and Victor Martinez are both 0-for-3 against Kendrick. Jason Varitek is 0-for-1 with two walks while Kevin Youkilis is simply 0-for-1 in his only at-bat. Adrian Beltre, Darnell McDonald, David Ortiz, Angel Sanchez, Marco Scutaro and starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka have never faced the Philadelphia starter.

Phillies vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Raul Ibanez (16 career plate appearances against Matsuzaka): .231 average/.375 OBP/.538 slugging, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 double, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Placido Polanco (9): .250/.333/.250, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Ross Gload (6): .000/.000/.000, 3 strikeouts

Ben Francisco (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Shane Victorino (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 double

Jimmy Rollins is 0-for-3 against with Matsuzaka. Juan Castro, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth are all 1-for-2 with Utley’s RBI double being the only extra-base hit. Carlos Ruiz is 0-for-1 with a walk. Greg Dobbs, Paul Hoover and starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick have never faced the Boston starter.

For Ortiz, a symbolic moment of his turnaround

05.22.10 at 11:27 am ET
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In less than four weeks, David Ortiz has seen his season come full circle. (AP)

In less than four weeks, David Ortiz has seen his season come full circle. (AP)

For David Ortiz, the signature moment of his miserable first month of the season came on April 27. On that night, the slugger made it almost to home plate only to be asked to make a U-turn. With Toronto lefty Scott Downs on the hill, Mike Lowell would pinch-hit for Ortiz.

Ortiz’ funereal march back to the dugout was humiliating. It rankled the slugger.

“I was mad. I was totally, absolutely mad,” Ortiz said on The Big Show on Thursday. “You know that if you ride with me, you’re going to get two things. Either you’re going to win or you’re going to die with me.”

The moment offered an indication of the depths to which the Sox would go to avoid having Ortiz face lefties, even one like Downs, against whom the Sox D.H. had a .313 average and .500 OBP in 22 career plate appearances.

On that date, it was nearly impossible to imagine a turn of events such as the one that had Ortiz strolling to the plate against Phillies left-hander J.C. Romero in the ninth inning on Friday.

Ortiz was 1-for-5 with a walk in his career against his former Twins teammate. Yet with a chance to tie the game – in which the Sox trailed, 5-1, with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth – the Sox viewed Ortiz as the better option than right-handed teammate Bill Hall (0-for-2 in his career against Romero), and sent him to the plate against the left-handed reliever.

And Ortiz very nearly delivered. He drove a 1-2 fastball to straightaway center. The ball carried almost as far as the fence before dying on the edge of the warning track for the final out of the game.

Still, the fact that Ortiz was sent to pinch-hit in that situation represented his complete about-face in May. After hitting .143/.238/.286 in April, and .167/.286/.167 in his 14 plate appearances against southpaws, Ortiz entered Friday with a line of .358/.397/.774 in May, which included marks of .267/.312/.467 against lefties.

That production, in turn, led to the first time that Ortiz had been brought into a game with a left-hander on the mound for anyone but a pitcher since June 12, 2003, when Ortiz pinch-hit for Damian Jackson against Jeff Fassaro.

(Ortiz had, however, been brought into games to pinch-hit against right-handers, only to have the opposing team make a move to bring in a southpaw.)

One footnote to that April 27 game: in an extensive feature on the slugger’s early-season struggles, ESPN.com had reported that, after Lowell pinch-hit for him, Ortiz left the park after he “temporarily ignored [Sox manager Terry Francona's] order and kept walking to the plate.”

While Francona did not comment on the incident for the ESPN.com story, he told reporters on Friday that the portrayal was inaccurate.

“Somebody’s reporting something that’s not true,” Francona told reporters. “I shouldn’t have to deal with that. … Whether it was lie or somebody made a mistake, that doesn’t help me.”

Read More: David Ortiz, mike lowell, pinch hit,

Iannetta remains one who got away from Sox

05.22.10 at 11:10 am ET
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The Red Sox have always been bullish on catcher Chris Iannetta.

In 2004, Jason McLeod (then the team’s director of scouting administration) saw the catcher excel in the ACC Tournament. Iannetta impressed with his work behind the plate, and further research offered further cause for interest. He had thrown out 24-of-48 attempted base stealers that year and picked off nine runners. He had a great catcher’s build. In interviews, his makeup and leadership became apparent. Moreover, the Providence, R.I., native was a huge Sox fan.

The Sox liked him, but the team hadn’t scouted him as thoroughly as it would have wanted over the course of his junior season. Though he had hit .336/.438/.598/1.036 with 15 homers that year, when draft day came, there were questions about how he would hit at the professional level.

“We just undervalued him that year,” recalled one team source.

The Sox thought that Iannetta might be available when they drafted in the fourth round, and the team had made it a priority to pump college pitching into the system. And so, when they drafted in the third round, the Sox drafted Andrew Dobies out of the University of Virginia. The Rockies jumped on Iannetta with the ninth pick of the fourth round, 16 picks before the Sox might have selected him.

Dobies never pitched above Double-A for the Sox before being shipped off to the White Sox for cash or a player to be named earlier this year. Iannetta, meanwhile, reached the majors two years after being drafted, and in 2008, emerged as one of the more promising catchers in the game, hitting .264/.390/.505/.895 with 18 homers in 407 plate appearances while contributing solid defense in Colorado. At times, particularly during that outstanding run, members of the Sox front office would kick themselves for not having taken Iannetta, viewing him as one who got away.

Last year, his offensive numbers took a hit. Though he still had a well-above average OBP (.344) and OPS (.804) for a catcher, his average fell to .228. Still, the Rockies signed him during the offseason to a three-year, $8.25 million deal that included a team option for the 2013 season.

That made it rather surprising to see Colorado demote the catcher to Triple-A after Iannetta got off to a slow start in 2010. In just eight games, he hit .133/.235/.333/.569, resulting in a demotion. The 27-year-old has been raking in Colorado Springs, hitting .350/.452/.717/1.169.

The Denver Post reported on Friday that the Sox had been monitoring Iannetta in Colorado Springs to see if the Rockies might be available. That said, the team’s need for (or ability to use) a catcher acquired in a trade is currently limited.

The Sox have seen an improvement in recent weeks in the ability of their catchers (and pitchers) to control the running game. Moreover, the resurgence of David Ortiz as the designated hitter means that the option of making Victor Martinez the regular DH would not make sense at this juncture, as noted by NESN analyst Peter Gammons during his interview on The Big Show on Friday.

“They tried to get him two years ago. They have been looking at him, but I think now that Ortiz is hitting, I think it lessens their need for him. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they went out and got him at the end of the year,” said Gammons. “But I just don’t know right now if they could expend what Colorado would want to get him.

“Colorado really needs pitching depth because they have four guys on the disabled list. But Chris is a much better player than what he has done this year. It’s really a shame. The Red Sox do really love him. If they can get him cheap, maybe they find a way, they bring him here and have Victor be catcher, DH, first base, everything, and you just find a way to gerrymander the whole roster.”

Read More: andrew dobies, chris iannetta,
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