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Dustin Pedroia can hit it wherever it’s pitched

07.08.11 at 12:50 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia has always had a knack of hitting bad pitches and hitting them hard.

Thursday night was another great example in the game’s biggest at-bat.

The Red Sox were trailing 2-0 to Jake Arrieta and the Orioles when Arrieta started to lose it quickly in the third. He walked Marco Scutaro on four pitches and then lost Jacoby Ellsbury to a walk after Ellsbury fouled off a couple of pitches.

Arrieta fell behind Pedroia 3-1 and Pedroia knew what was coming next.

“I think he lost his control early. He walked a couple of guys and got a 3-1 count and I was looking fastball in that situation and I got it and I didn’t miss it.”

But it was by no means a strike down Broadway. It was a fastball that Arrieta tried to get up and in. He got the first part right as it was about chin high. But the second part is what burned him as he left it out over the plate to Pedroia.

“I got a [pitch], actually it was up and in, it was out of the strike zone,” Pedroia said. “I was able to get the barrel of the bat on it, so it worked out for us tonight.”

As for the significance of the win – putting the Red Sox back in first by a half-game over the Yankees – Pedroia said the Red Sox have things well in perspective and won’t get too excited about leapfrogging the Yankees for one night.

‘€œThere’€™s a lot of games to be played,” Pedroia said, referring to the 74 games left in the season. “We’€™re not going to get too excited because we’€™re a half-game up or whatever. What is it, July? We have a long way to go.

“The goal is to be there in the end, not in the middle of the year.”

The Red Sox reclaimed first in the AL East for the first time since June 24, a span of 12 games spent in second place. The Red Sox, who started the season 2-10, have gone 50-25 (.667) over their last 75 games and had spent 18 straight days in first before dropping to second on June 25.

The Red Sox hit a season-high six home runs, with the barrage started by Pedroia’s three run blast in the third that gave the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.

‘€œWe swung the bats great and we just have to keep it going,” Pedroia said. “There were a lot of good pitches to hit tonight and we didn’€™t miss them. That was the thing. We were patient. We got into hitter’€™s counts and we did a good job.’€

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, Jake Arrieta

Six homers have Ortiz (jokingly) reconsidering Home Run Derby selections

07.07.11 at 11:57 pm ET
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In Thursday night’€™s 10-4 win over the Orioles, the Red Sox smashed six home runs, their most since they also hit half a dozen on September 8, 2009. Those bombs came against a live pitching staff whose job is to get the hitters out as best it can.

In the 2010 Home Run Derby, Matt Holliday (five), Nick Swisher (four), Vernon Wells (two) and Chris Young (one) couldn’€™t tally that many against a hurler whose job it was to actually allow dingers by the handful.

Put aside for a second the fact that yes a team as a whole gets more opportunities to hit a home run and yes this was the Baltimore staff whose ERA was the highest among all AL teams entering Thursday night and you’€™d still have to admit that the amount of power the Sox displayed was pretty impressive, even when compared to Home Run Derby participants.

But was it impressive enough to get the captain of this year’€™s AL Derby team, David Ortiz, to reconsider the choices for his bomb squad of himself, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Robinson Cano in next Monday’€™s battle?

‘€œI’€™m thinking about taking Pedey [Dustin Pedroia],’€ Ortiz joked. ‘€œPedey, wow that’€™s impressive. That goes to the moon. That’€™s what he always says. ‘€˜I’€™m going to the moon.’€™’€

Ortiz was of course talking about Pedroia’€™s three-run homer in the third inning that had a certain local glass company’€™s sponsorship written all over it. The second baseman, who didn’€™t earn a spot on this year’€™s AL All-Star squad, took a fastball that was up and in and rocketed it over the AAA sign on the Green Monster and into the parking lot across Lansdowne St.

Don’€™t expect Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be down in Arizona along with Ortiz, Gonzalez and Josh Beckett representing the AL in the All-Star Game, to be jealous though, even if he did stroke his career-high 11th of the season with a dart down the right-field line in the sixth inning.

‘€œNo, he made a good choice,’€ Ellsbury said. ‘€œI was just joking around about it yesterday, but it’€™s just nice to put some swings on some balls and get results.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury,

Closing Time: Bombs away at Fenway in Red Sox 10-4 win over Orioles

07.07.11 at 10:15 pm ET
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When David Ortiz stepped into the box in the seventh inning of a 7-3 game, the Red Sox had already built themselves a semi-comfortable lead over the visiting Orioles thanks to home runs by Dustin Pedroia (third inning), Adrian Gonzalez (fifth) and Jacoby Ellsbury (sixth).

Then, the man who was recently named the American League Home Run Derby captain stroked a round-tripper of his own to centerfield to tie the Sox’ season-high for home runs in a game. Then, Josh Reddick thought he’d follow suit when he broke that season record on 3-2 pitch that he hit  over the wall in right for his second home run of the season and the team’s second straight. Then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia decided that what Ortiz and Reddick did looked like fun so he joined in, crushing a ball into the Monster Seats.

The Red Sox produced six home runs when it was all said and done and had their first back-to-back-to-back home run turn since August 13, 2010 (when Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew achieved the feat in Texas) to lead themselves to a 10-3 victory over the O’s, the AL’s worst statistical pitching squad, in the series opener of a four-game set.

On the pitching side of things, Andrew Miller lasted only five innings thanks to a pitch count that was run up by a season-high four walks (three of which came against Baltimore All-Star catcher Matt Wieters). Although Miller improved his record to 3-0, Thursday night marked the first time that the southpaw failed to reach the sixth inning in a Red Sox uniform. Miller allowed three runs in the outing to move his season ERA to 3.57.

Here’s what went right and what went wrong in the Red Sox win Thursday night:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Miller’s start may not have gone exactly according to plan, but the southpaw did do a good job of working out of jams in the third and fourth innings. In both frames, Miller was able to strand runners at first and third thanks to separate groundouts by Derrek Lee and Adam Jones respectively. In fact, 11 of the 15 outs Miller recorded in the outing came on the ground, including two double plays.

–Gonzalez hadn’t received a day off since July 5 of last season and the Red Sox first baseman must have done something right with his downtime. His bomb to center broke a nine-game homerless streak, his longest such streak since he went 14 games without a long ball from May15-29. Thursday night was the 13th time in 2011 that Gonzalez had also produced three hits in a game, pushing his average back over the .350 mark to .351. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, jarrod saltalamacchia

Red Sox notes: No word yet on Sunday starter

07.07.11 at 5:57 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Thursday that the team is still mulling its options for a possible starter to take the place of Jon Lester on Sunday afternoon in the pre-All Star break finale against the Orioles at Fenway Park. Lester was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a strained left lat.

“We’ll get there,” Francona said. “There’s just no need for us to do something premature. We’ll see how we get through the week. We have certainly some ideas and some things to throw around, which we have. We’ll have an announcement when we feel like it, when we think it’s appropriate.”

Among the candidates to take Lester’s spot are Kyle Weiland, who earned a victory on Monday for Triple-A Pawtucket and Kevin Millwood, who last pitched on Sunday for the Paw Sox. The Red Sox have had the fortune of having organizational pitching depth to fill the void left by injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz as Tim Wakefield and Thursday night’s starter Andrew Miller have stepped in.

“Thank goodness,” Francona said. “We’ve lost some pretty good pitchers. And we certainly don’t want to lose them for an extended period of time. That’s why we’re trying to be prudent or cautious. But we’re pretty fortunate, Wake has stepped in, Andrew Miller is coming up and it’s exciting. There are guys in Triple-A that we think can compete but we also want our guys back that we will lean on and will continue to.”

Of course, another option could be Alfredo Aceves, who has already started four games this season, including a stretch of three in a row from May 21-31, filling in when Daisuke Matsuzaka went down with a right elbow strain that led to season-ending “Tommy John” surgery.

Aceves is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in the four starts. He’s allowed 12 earned runs over 21 innings and has hit at least one batter in each start. The Red Sox are 1-3 in his four starts.

Jed Lowrie reported progress Thursday on his strained left shoulder that landed him on the disabled list on June 17. Lowrie saw Dr. Lewis Yocum to have his shoulder examined and it was determined that he needed just strengthening and rehab to get back to playing. He has not begun to swing a bat or take batting practice yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester

Hall of Famer Dick Williams passes away

07.07.11 at 5:40 pm ET
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Dick Williams – the man who managed the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox of 1967 – died Thursday at his Las Vegas-area home of a brain aneurysm. He was 82.

Williams also led the Oakland A’€™s to two of their three 1970s World Series titles and led the 1984 Padres to their first-ever National League pennant.

In 21 years of managing, Williams compliled a record of 1571-1451 and earned a place in Cooperstown by making a career of turning losers into winners. He took a ninth-place Red Sox team in 1966 and led them to 92 wins, 20 more than the previous season. The Red Sox came within one win of capturing the ’67 World Series, losing 4-3 to St. Louis.

He was the legendary manager of the A’s, leading them to World Series victories over the Reds and Mets. He was also at the helm of the Angels, Expos and Mariners, where he was fired 56 games into the 1988 season.

Williams was inducted into the baseball hall of fame by the Veterans Committee in Dec. 2007 and elected to wear a A’s cap, despite his numerous run-ins with former Oakland owner Charlie Finley, who hired him before the 1971 season, the first of five straight AL West titles. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Dick Williams, hall of fame

Matt Wieters: Kevin Millwood ‘one of smartest pitchers I’ve ever caught’

07.07.11 at 5:21 pm ET
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As of last Sunday, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will forever be known as a major-league All-Star. And when All-Stars talk, people tend to listen.

So when the Baltimore backstop addressed current Red Sox minor leaguer Kevin Millwood, whom Wieters caught for in 23 games during Millwood’€™s 31-start, one-year tenure with the Orioles last season, he did so with more than just a little authority behind it.

Millwood had the worst season of his 14-year career in the bigs while wearing an O’s uniform in 2010, no thanks to a 5.10 ERA and 4-16 record with those 16 losses being an AL-high for the year. But while some saw those numbers as a signal that the 36-year-old veteran’€™s career was one in decline, Wieters disagreed.

‘€œKevin had some bad breaks early,’€ Wieters said. ‘€œThere were games where he gave us a chance and we were in it, we just couldn’€™t get enough runs for him in the beginning of the year. I think that can put some struggles on the pitchers when they’€™re pitching well and they’€™re not quite getting the wins to go with it to start the year. He’€™s a guy that always battled for us.’€

In fact, Wieters is right in his assessment, at least when it comes to the topic of Millwood’€™s bad breaks in the early months of 2010. Through 11 starts in the months of April and May, the tall righty had an ERA of 3.89. His record during that stretch? A paltry 0-4. All 11 games were decided by three runs or less and the O’€™s won four of those contests, but Millwood was never the direct benefactor of those decisions, leading to ‘€“ as Wieters would say ‘€“ the struggles that saw his ERA drop into the five’€™s by season’€™s end.

By the end of that horrible 2010 campaign, Millwood’€™s chances at making another big-league roster in 2011 looked bleak. He would sign a minor-league deal with the Yankees during the last offseason before opting out of that contract and signing with the Sox in May. But if it was up to Wieters, the pitcher would have been back in the majors as soon as possible.

‘€œHe’€™s one of the smartest pitchers that I’€™ve ever caught,’€ said the catcher. ‘€œIf he still has as close to the stuff that he used to have, he’€™ll be able to pitch at this level. I’€™m surprised he hasn’€™t been up so far this year because he has that ability, that pitch ability to where if he doesn’€™t have that A stuff, he can still get you through six, seven innings.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: kevin millwood, Matt Wieters,

Trade Deadline: Dodgers could stand pat

07.07.11 at 2:15 pm ET
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With a 37-51 record and ownership of last place in the NL West, the Dodgers would appear to be the prototypical seller this trading season. But they may actually decide to keep all of their pieces in place as one MLB general manager tells FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

Los Angeles’ NL team is expected to keep its best players in All-Stars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw as well as Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley to make itself look more attractive to both fans and even potential new owners.

Still outside of those four, there are still potentially valuable tradechips that the Dodgers possess, but the boys in blue may even keep those. Hiroki Kuroda (6-9, 2.90 ERA) has a no-trade clause and would need some sort of compensation, whether it be a contract extension or financial bonus of some sort, to waive such a clause. The lefty starter already makes $12 million on his current one-year deal. The team could also retain the services of Jamey Carroll because of the low price other teams would pay for a guy who would only serve as a solid utilityman on their rosters.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Hiroki Kuroda, Jamey Carroll, Los Angeles Dodgers

Trade Deadline: Reds, Rockies not jumping ship yet

07.07.11 at 1:54 pm ET
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With the two teams just eight and 10 1/2 games back of the National League Wild Card-leading Braves respectively with less than half a season left to go, neither the Reds nor the Rockies are expected be testing the selling waters of the trade market in the immediate lead-up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that despite his team’s even 44-44 record, he will not add or subtract a player or two just to mix things up in the hopes of livening up his squad, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“I don’t normally react that way,” Jocketty said. “If I make a move, I do so not to shake things up but to make the club better.”

The Rockies, on the other hand, seem to be in more dire straits as they stand below .500 at 41-46.  According to The Denver Post, if anything Colorado will look to make additions to its pitching as well as one to its outfield. The Post only mentions former All-Star starting pitcher Aaron Cook and third baseman Ian Stewart, both of whom have struggled on the field with injuries in 2011, as pieces that the Rockies would be willing to let go. Meanwhile, they are expected to hold onto closer Huston Street and utilityman Ty Wigginton, who are expected to be more attractive trade pieces for contenders come the end of the month.

Colorado has already inquired about Twins starters, including Francisco Liriano, but Minnesota is similarly looking to hold out until it knows it is absolutely out of the running in both the AL Central and the Wild Card races.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Cincinnati Reds, colorado rockies,

Trade Deadline: Carlos Beltran a target for Red Sox?

07.07.11 at 12:16 pm ET
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According to a report from Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, the Mets are “listening” to potential trade offers for outfielder Carlos Beltran.

The Yankees have no interest in the 34-year-old Beltran, according to Kernan, but he reports that the Red Sox could be a landing spot. Beltran is in the final year of his seven-year, $119 million contract and is owed about $8 million for the rest of the 2011 season. The right fielder has 13 homers, 57 RBI and a National League-leading 26 doubles this season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, carlos beltran,

Nuggetpalooza: Strollin’ through the box score

07.07.11 at 12:05 pm ET
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I dissected the box score from last night’s Red Sox win and came up with a few nuggets you will hopefully find interesting, along with some other statistical bits:

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* – The Red Sox led off the first (Jacoby Ellsbury) and second innings (Kevin Youkilis) with home runs last night, the first time they’ve led off the first two innings with homers since July 2, 2006, when Youkilis and Jason Varitek turned the trick in Florida.

Note this: Since 1950, I couldn’t find a single instance where the Red Sox have homered in each of the first three innings of a game… and as it turned out, they still haven’t done it.

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* – Last night, both teams led off the first inning with an extra-base hit, as Toronto’s Yunel Escobar doubled off the wall and Boston’s Ellsbury homered. It was the first time since October 2, 2009 against Cleveland that the Red Sox and their opponent have started the game with an EBH. To find the one prior to that, you have to go back to the game referenced above, July 2, 2006.

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* – Ellsbury and Youkilis each collected three extra-base hits last night, the first time a pair of Red Sox teammates have had 3+ EBH in a game since Wily Mo Pena and Manny Ramirez on July 26, 2007. The Red Sox also pulled it off twice in 2006 (Eric Hinske/Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell/David Ortiz). It was only the third time in the Blue Jays’ existence that two opposing players had three extra-base hits in a single game, the last coming in 2004.

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* – In the fourth inning last night, the Red Sox forced Jays’ starter Ricky Romero to throw 38 pitches, the 57th time this season that a Red Sox opponent has needed 30 or more pitches in an inning:

57 – Red Sox
44 – Braves
43 – Nationals
43 – Cubs

Note this: The White Sox have forced opponents into just 21 innings of 30+ pitches. Red Sox opponents have thrown 30 or more 19 times in just the first and second innings alone!

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* – The Red Sox batted around in that fourth inning last night, the league leading 17th time they’ve done it this season. The Rockies are second with 16, while the Indians have done it 15 times. 13 of the Red Sox’ 17 “bat arounds” have come since May 20.

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* – Romero allowed six extra-base hits to the Red Sox last night, the most he’s ever allowed in a game. His streak of 78 starts without allowing six EBH was still well behind the top three active such streaks:

146 – Rich Harden
141 – Jon Lester
140 – Tim Lincecum

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* – With Escobar collecting four hits for Toronto last night, the Red Sox have now won the last three times that an opponent has had four or more hits in a game. Prior to this streak, they had lost 29 of the last 35 such games.

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* – Red Sox pitchers struck out 12 Blue Jays on Wednesday. It was the second time in their last four games that they’ve fanned a total of 12 or more. Prior to that, they hadn’t struck out as many as 12 in any of their previous 43 games. That 43-gamer was their longest such streak since 2008, when they went 45 games without 12+ whiffs.

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* – Jonathan Papelbon has now faced three or more batters 34 times this season and retired them in order 10 times. In his first 34 such appearances last year, he was perfect 14 times. He did record three strikeouts for the third time this season (and second time this month).

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* – The Red Sox are a major league best 13-2 on Sundays this season, a bit better than the Yankees and Mets, who are each 11-4. The Red Sox on other weekdays:

Monday – 5-4
Tuesday – 4-9
Wednesday – 6-7
Thursday – 7-2
Friday – 9-5
Saturday – 7-6

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* – Speaking of Sunday, this coming Sunday is get away day for the all-star break. The Red Sox have won their last three get away games, but in their seven such games since 2004 are hitting just .204, the lowest such average in the majors in that span:

.204 – Red Sox
.228 – Marlins
.241 – Tigers

Note this: The Rockies have won just one of their last 11 games on the Sunday prior to the all-star break.

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