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Closing Time: Red Sox 13, Blue Jays 12

04.26.10 at 11:15 pm ET
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TORONTO — The good news for the Red Sox in their series opener at Rogers Centre Monday night was that the offense pounded out 18 hits. The bad news for the Sox was that their pitchers allowed 16. Still, in the end it was the visitors who came out on top in a wild affair with the Red Sox claiming a 13-12 win over the Blue Jays. (Click here for a recap.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX (HINT: ALL HITTING)

Jason Varitek is on fire: The Sox captain notched his first three-hit game since last July 30, and just his third since the beginning of the 2008 season. What also was impressive was that two of the three hits came from the left side of the plate. Varitek is now 7-for-20 against right-handed pitchers (.350). The catcher also had four RBI and two runs against the Jays.

– The entire offense was clutch: As our stat man Gary Marbry pointed out, the Red Sox spent last week altering their trend with runners in scoring position, hitting .347 in such situations with an MLB-high 1.202 OPS. The wave of timely hitting continued against the Jays, with the Sox going 11-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Four Sox hitters — Darnell McDonald, Bill Hall, Mike Lowell, and Varitek — came through with runners in scoring position and two outs.

– The top of the order worked well: Dustin Pedroia had lamented that the Red Sox hitter had better start concentrating on producing runs, and by producing runs he explained “touching home plate with our feet instead of our bat.” So the lineup’s top three hitters — Marco Scutaro, Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis — took it upon themselves to do just that, produce runs. All three came away with three-hit games while scoring a combined nine runs and knocking in a collective four RBI.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX (HINT: ALL PITCHING)

– The Josh Beckett Mystery continues: Beckett suffered through his shortest outing since Aug. 17, 2008 (2.1 innings vs. the Jays), giving up eight runs on nine hits over three innings. Beckett walked three, struck out three, and was victimized by a six-run third inning by Toronto. Beckett’s ERA now stands at 7.22, and he has allowed five or more runs in three of his five starts. If you’re looking for one pitch that failed the Sox’ starter it might have been his fastball, which six of the hits against Beckett came off of. The Jays also notched a pair of hits against the righty’s curveball, and one Lyle Overbay double came on a changeup.

– Scott Atchison’s time with the Sox might be dwindling: Atchison came on for Beckett after the starter walked the first two batters of the fourth inning and ultimately lasted 1 2/3 frames, giving up a run on two hits while walking a batter. He has allowed at least one run in five of his seven appearances, and with the Red Sox slated to bring back Daisuke Matsuzaka for a start Saturday Atchison (who has an option left) is the odds-on favorite to make the trip to Triple A Pawtucket.

– Schoeneweis might also be in a tenuous position: The lefty followed up Atchison by succumbing to one run on two hits over just one-third of an inning. The game marked the third straight outing for the lefty in which he surrendered two hits and didn’t last a full inning. Meanwhile, down at Triple A Pawtucket, another lefty, Alan Embree draws closer to his opt-out date of April 30. If the 40-year-old isn’t on the 25-man roster by Friday he has said he will look for employment in another organization. Embree hasn’t allowed a hit in his last five relief appearances with the PawSox, having given up just two in his 7 1/3 innings of work. He also has yet to allow a hit to any of the 15 left-handed hitters he has faced.

A bad day for Beckett

04.26.10 at 9:34 pm ET
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TORONTO — Josh Beckett’s final line against the Blue Jays Monday night at Rogers Centre: 3 IP, 8 R, 9 H, 3 K, 3 BB, 83 pitches (48 strikes). He allowed six runs in the third inning, the first time the pitcher has given up that many in a single frame since Aug. 17, 2008 against these same Blue Jays. That was also the last game Beckett lasted such a short amount of time, going just 2 1/3 innings after giving up eight runs.

The last time a Red Sox pitcher had given up as many as six runs in an inning was Aug. 6, 2009 when John Smoltz surrendered seven vs. the Yankees.

In case you were curious, six the hits against Beckett allowed came on fastballs, two on curves, and Lyle Overbay rifled a double into the right-center field gap on a changeup.

Matsuzaka wants to ‘repay’ Red Sox

04.26.10 at 6:44 pm ET
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TORONTO — Speaking after throwing a 69-pitch simulated game at Rogers Centre, Daisuke Matsuzaka explained that he understands the awkward position his conditioning and injuries have put the Red Sox in the past and is looking forward to using his return to the majors as a stepping stone to re-establishing his value.

“I’ll be really nervous when I first get back out there,” Matsuzaka said. “Looking back at this past month I’ve been such a burden on this team, I think as I get through more and more starts I hope I can repay at them a little bit and do that throughout the season.”

The pitcher, who made three rehab appearances with Triple A Pawtucket, allowing three earned runs in 16 2/3 innings, striking out 13 and walking one, is slated to make his first big league start of the season Saturday in Baltimore against the Orioles.

In the simulated game Matsuzaka faced left-handed hitters Jonathan Van Every and Jeremy Hermida, as well as batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero, who served as a bat from the right side.

“The one thing that is becoming more evident is the action to his secondary pitches.,” said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. “His cutter and his slider have become more tight, which is an indication of increased arm strength.”

The lowdown on the new Red Sox Cuban catcher

04.26.10 at 6:16 pm ET
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TORONTO — By now you might have heard that the Red Sox won the race to sign Cuban catcher Adalberto Ibarra (beating out Tampa Bay, among other teams), inking him to a deal that is worth $3 million over five years, with incentives that could push it up to $4.3 million. So, in a nutshell, this is what they’re getting:

– Ibarra didn’t start catching until just before he left Cuba, having played a variety of infield positions.

– According to somebody who has seen him play in person while in the Dominican Republic, Ibarra’s build (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) and arm lends themselves to projecting the 22-year-old as a backstop.

– Ibarra is a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter who has the potential to grow into some power.

– He will spend approximately a month in Fort Myers before reporting to a Red Sox minor league affiliate, most likely Single A Salem or Double A Portland depending on his progress.

Lineup: Lowell at DH, hitting cleanup

04.26.10 at 3:11 pm ET
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TORONTO — Mike Lowell will be serving as the Red Sox‘ designated hitter, hitting in the cleanup spot against Toronto lefty starter Dana Eveland. Lowell is 4-for-5 in his career against Eveland. First baseman Kevin Youkilis is also moving up to the No. 3 position in the Sox’ order, which will be the following: Scutaro SS, Pedroia 2B, Youkilis 1B, Lowell 3B, Drew RF, Varitek C, Beltre 3B, Hall LF, McDonald CF, Beckett P.

Other members of the Sox’ lineup has had success against Eveland as well, most notably Drew (4-for-7), Youkilis (3-for-6), Varitek (2-for-4), and Beltre (4-for-11).

Report: Sox have deal with Cuban catcher Ibarra

04.26.10 at 3:09 pm ET
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According to a Boston Globe report, the Red Sox have signed Cuban catcher Adalberto Ibarra to a major league contract with $4.3 million. Ibarra is a lefty-hitting catcher whom Red Sox scouts project to be a better offensive prospect than their current minor leaguers, the report stated. According to baseballreference.com, Ibarra is a 23-year-old who defected from Cuba last year. In 2004, when he hit .429/.500/.571 and led Cuba to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships, playing third base. He has played first, second and third in Cuba.

The Daisuke vs. Ino battle rages on

04.26.10 at 2:41 pm ET
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TORONTO — Here at the Rogers Centre, where Daisuke Matsuzaka is in the midst of throwing a simulated game. Matsuzaka’s opponents? Jonathan Van Every, Jeremy Hermida, and batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero. You’re going to find this as a shock, but Daisuke was able to befuddle Guerrero, who did lead the International League in triples … in 1985. Guerrero, of course, has gotten at least one at-bat each spring training.

It’s a beautiful day here in the TO, but the roof is still expected to be closed.

Also of note:

– The Red Sox will clearly be out for blood with the Blue Jays ranked above the Sox in the latest Power Rankings.

Ryan Howard reportedly has agreed to a five-year, $125 million deal.

More to come …

MLB Power Rankings, 4/26

04.26.10 at 12:44 am ET
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1. Rays (14-5) DRaysBay: “Coming off his worst start of the young season, Price delivered arguably his best start ever.”

2. Yankees (12-6) River Ave. Blues: “I doubt [Vazquez] will miraculously round into form between starts, but he has to be better than yesterday, right?”

3. Phillies (11-7) The Good Phight: “While Rollins can’€™t be expected to break his career-long trend and keep walking at such a high rate when he returns, a bit more patience from Victorino, Polanco and especially Howard will be needed if the Phils plan to continue scoring at a league-best pace.”

4. Cardinals (11-7) Redbird Rants: “Forget about the score and the month and the stakes. These opportunities don’€™t come knocking often. The best of the era face off ‘€” mano y mano. Lincecum’€™s arm vs. Pujols’€™ bat. Think about it.”

5. Twins (13-6) Nicks Twins Blog: “Slowey and Liriano have both given plenty of reason to believe they can develop into top-end starters.”

6. Giants (10-8) Frisco Fastball: “Ugh. That’€™s the only word I can find in my small vocabulary to describe last night’s gem of a game. Well, I can find a few more, but, they’€™re not even appropriate on the raunchiest of porn sets.”

7. Tigers (10-9) Motor City Bengals“Damon had three hits, including two doubles. What’€™s more, he finally got rid of those horrid white shoes.”

8. Angels (10-10) Halos Heaven: “Hard to believe it sometimes, but Torii Hunter is 34 years old.”

9. Athletics (12-8) Athletics Nation: “Given the injuries that have already beset the A’s, and given the lineup on paper even on a good day, you have to be pleased with the first 20 games.”

10. Rockies (10-9) Rox Pile: “Jimenez is, obviously, the best pitcher in MLB right now, and I don’€™t expect him to slow down. Like the Babe, I’€™m going to call my shot: Jimenez WILL have another no-hitter this season.”

11. Padres (11-7) Friar Forecast: “As of this writing, the San Diego Padres are tied for the best record in the National League.”
12. Marlins (10-9) Fish Stripes: “Ichthyomancy is ready for Midnight Baseball.”
13. Blue Jays (10-9) Bluebird Banter: “I do consider Cito a good batting coach, but it isn’t working with this group. But then I think that many of these guys couldn’t learn to hit no matter who worked with them.”

14. White Sox (8-11) Sox Machine: The first step in the Rios Acceptance Plan was all his responsibility. He pretty much had to prove immediately that he wasn’€™t the absolute zero that bummed everybody out over the last two months of 2009.”
15. Cubs (9-10) Goat Riders of the Apocalypse:Right now, whether they are a good team or not, the Cubs are trending upwards. The offense is getting hits, the pitching is holding back Chicago’s opponents, and the Cubs are playing well.”
16. Red Sox (8-11) Over the Monster: “If this was Tim Wakefield’s last regularly scheduled start, it’ll be a shame.”
17. Mets (9-9) Kranepool Society: “The Mets right now are playing the way Epstein had hoped his Red Sox would when he ran all his statistical analysis that told him pitching and defense is the way to go. Right now the Mets are fueled on that formula.”
18. Dodgers (8-10) True Blue LA: “Counting the playoffs, the Dodgers have won just six of their last 22 road games, and they have lost six consecutive series on the road.” Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Time: Orioles 7, Red Sox 6

04.25.10 at 5:23 pm ET
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The Red Sox could not take advantage of a strong start by Tim Wakefield, falling to the Orioles by a final of 7-6 on Sunday. The loss drops the Sox to 8-11 as the club heads to Toronto on Monday to start a three-game series. The hapless Orioles move to 3-16.

The Sox tried to rally in the 10th following a three-run effort by the Orioles in the top half of the frame, scoring a pair on an RBI double by J.D. Drew and RBI single by Bill Hall, to cut the lead to 7-6 with just one out. But Darnell McDonald popped out to catcher Matt Wieters and Marco Scutaro lined out to second baseman Ty Wiggington and the game (and five-game losing streak for Baltimore) was over.

What Went Right For The Red Sox

Wakefield leaves rotation in style: If, as expected, this was indeed the last start (for now, at least) for Wakefield, the 43-year-old refused to go into the bullpen without submitting the kind of performance that gave the “Leave Timmy In The Rotation!!” wing of Red Sox Nation some ammunition. That the Orioles have the worst offense in the American League (last in runs scored and OBP heading into Sunday’s game) has to be considered when grading Wakefield’s start, but it was by any measure a solid effort: 6.2 innings, seven hits, 2 runs, five strikeouts and just one walk. His best start of the season and one to remember, perhaps, if Dice-K jumps out to an 0-4 record with a 5.88 ERA.

Adrian Beltre, Walking Man: The new Ed Yost? After walking one time in his first 59 plate appearances with the Red Sox, Beltre earned two free passes on Saturday night (his first multi-walk game since 4/9/09) and drew another walk on Sunday.

Kevin Youkilis is looking a lot like Kevin Youkilis: After the 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Patriots Day, Youkilis had a batting average of .217. He had gone eight games without a multi-hit effort. Since then, the first baseman has had four games with at least two hits and now his batting average stands at .268.

Terry Francona lets Ortiz have his moment: No one could have second-guessed Francona had he decided to pinch-hit Lowell for Ortiz against lefty Mark Hendrickson in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ortiz had managed just a single hit in 11 at-bats vs. left-handed pitching in 2010, after all, and this is following a 2009 season that saw the DH post a feeble line of .212/.298/.418 against southpaws in 2009. But Francona stuck with Ortiz and was rewarded, as the veteran beat the shift with a single to right, scoring Victor Martinez to give the Sox a 2-1 lead. And this allowed Francona to use Lowell later in the inning, and that move paid off as well, as he doubled in Ortiz to give Boston what seemed a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Daniel Bard Makes It Look Easy: Bard in the eighth inning: 15 pitches, 11 for strikes, three K’s. He hit 100 MPH on the gun (at least on the board at Fenway) and mixed in a nasty slider. The Orioles simply had no chance in that frame.

What Went Wrong For The Red Sox

Hideki Okajima Didn’t Read The Script: Wasn’t Tim Wakefield Day supposed to end with, you know, a win for Tim Wakefield? Sure seemed that way after No. 49 left in the seventh (to a huge Standing O) with two outs, a runner on third and a 4-1 lead. Well, a double from Nick Markakis and a homer from Miguel Tejada later the score was 4-4, and Okajima was standing on the mound to a decent chorus of boos (about a 3.5 on the scale, I’d guess.)

You Try Avoiding a Great Scott Joke Here: Not a pretty 10th inning of work out of the ‘pen from Scott Atchison and Scott Schoeneweis, as the two combined to give up three runs on four hits in just a third of an inning.

Rough first inning for Adrian Beltre: Though the leadoff effort by Reimold was later officially changed to a single, a case could be made that Beltre committed two errors in the first inning on back-to-back plays. The usually reliable third baseman was unable to handle Adam Jones‘ ground ball after the Reimold play. Beltre did bounce back, however, and made several outstanding plays in the game.

Ellsbury, Cam road tripping

04.25.10 at 11:39 am ET
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In a sign that both are making progress, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron will be making the upcoming six-game road trip with the Red Sox. The two disabled players will be able to take part in baseball related activities, according to manager Terry Francona.

“If we weren’t able to do baseball things, we would’ve left them home,” Francona said. “I don’t think we have any idea on timetables, if they’re going to travel with us, that means they’re going to be able to do some baseball things, which is good.”

Francona also indicated that the disabled Cameron [lower abdominal strain] will likely be able to take part in some hitting on the trip while he continues his recovery.

“Talking to our trainers, hitting will actually be before a lot of the harder running because that movement [hitting] doesn’t seem to be getting in the way as much as some of the lifting of his legs when he’s striding,” Francona said.

Meanwhile, Ellsbury is technically eligible to come off the disabled list from a hairline fracture of four ribs on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jed Lowrie – currently on the 60-day disabled list – has been able to work out on consecutive days as he recovers from a bout of mononucleosis. “The last four or five days to a week, he’s been able to do a lot more of the back-to-back things,” Francona said. “He’s down about 10 pounds from when this happened.”

Francona said Alan Embree “has been very efficient” in his last two minor league outings.

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