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The Factors – Six Good Weeks! – Part One

06.15.10 at 9:19 am ET
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Instead of Week 10 factors this week, I thought we would look at those same factors for the last six weeks, a very good stretch in which the Red Sox have played .650 baseball, going 26-14. Today you’ll get part one (plus a bonus nugget) and part two is coming tomorrow:

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* – The Red Sox have lost the final game of each of their 4 series in June and are 9-12 in series finales this season (including 0-3 versus Baltimore). Going back to the beginning of the 2007 season, the Red Sox have not had a five game losing streak in season finales and have never been under .569 in a season in those games:

2009: 29-23 (.569)
2008: 31-21 (.596)
2007: 31-22 (.585)

Boston began the 2007 season by going 14-2 in series finales.

ONE OTHER THING: Since the start of 2007, the Red Sox are 31-40 in series finales against the Angels, Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays. They are 69-38 in those games against everybody else. That doesn’t include 1-2 in postseason series finales versus the Angels and Rays in that span and 2-0 in postseason versus the others (Indians, Rockies).

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* – LEADING OFF INNINGS – OFFENSE – Led by Victor Martinez (.474 OBP YTD leading off innings) and Marco Scutaro (.434), the Red Sox have put up a leadoff OBP of .383 for the season, second only to the Yankees and WAY ahead of the field:

.387 – New York Yankees
.383 – Boston Red Sox
.347 – Milwaukee Brewers

The Red Sox have a .932 leadoff OPS over the last 6 weeks, raising their YTD mark to .912, which would be the highest ever since they began tracking the stat in 1974:

.912 – Boston Red Sox, 2010
.903 – Cleveland Indians, 1995
.900 – Cleveland Indians, 1997

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* – LEADING OFF INNINGS – PITCHING – On the morning of May 3, Red Sox pitchers had allowed leadoff batters a .351 OBP and .817 OPS.  This morning, those numbers have improved to .310 OBP and .693 OPS.  That means that over the last 40 games, they’ve allowed leadoff batters to reach at just a .285 clip (6th in the majors) and the OPS has been just .615 (4th).

Tim Wakefield (.227 leadoff OBP) ranks 5th in the AL at keeping leadoff batters off base.

* – AFTER 0-1 COUNTS – OFFENSE – Boston leads the majors with a .734 OPS after falling in an 0-1 hole for the season.  Leading the way for the Red Sox in this category are Kevin Youkilis (.892), Victor Martinez (.890), and David Ortiz (.881), which rank 5-6-7 in the AL.  Adrian Beltre (.828) and Marco Scutaro (.758) also rank in the AL top 20 so far in 2010.  Much of their OPS has come from the Sox’ power despite falling behind as they lead the majors in slugging percentage after 0-1 (.424) and HR:

42 – Boston Red Sox
35 – Arizona Diamondbacks
33 – New York Yankees

David Ortiz is tied (with Arizona’s Kelly Johnson) for the MLB lead in HR following 0-1 counts with 9.  Big Papi has averaged just 12 such HR per season since coming to Boston.

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* – AFTER 0-1 COUNTS – PITCHING – The Red Sox staff has improved their OPS allowed after 0-1 counts from .817 over the first 4 weeks of the season (26th) to just .558 now (4th).  One disclaimer: Over the last six weeks, Sox pitchers have gotten ahead 0-1 just 45.6% of the time.  Only 5 teams in the majors did it less often during that span.  During those dark first four weeks, Sox pitchers actually got ahead more often (47.6%), they just didn’t take advantage of it at all.

Among pitchers that have gone 0-1 against at least 60 batters, Daniel Bard leads the AL in OPS allowed (.355).  Opposing hitters are 6-61 (.098) versus Bard after falling in an 0-1 hole.  Jon Lester is 3rd, having allowed a .127 average and .405 OPS. However, Lester leads the majors with 17 walks allowed after 0-1 counts.

* – AFTER 3-0 COUNTS – OFFENSE – The Red Sox rank 3rd in OPS following 3-0 counts (1.476) but they also rank 3rd in plate appearances which get to 3-0 with 142 (only the Braves and White Sox have more).  They also have a major league leading 10 extra base hits and 18 RBI after 3-0 counts.

One Other Thing: Jason Varitek has struck out 25 times in his career following 3-0 counts (once every 14.5 such plate appearances).  That strikeout rate is the 5th lowest in the AL since they began tracking the stat in 1988 (min. 2,000 total plate appearances).

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* – AFTER 3-0 COUNTS – PITCHING – It’s really amazing that the Sox staff is THIS bad after falling behind 3-0.  Luckily, only three AL teams (Minnesota, New York, Seattle) have fallen behind 3-0 on fewer batters than Boston’s 119.  But once there, opponents have batted .450 (18 for 40), which would be the highest in the AL since at least 1988.  Their OBP allowed (.807) is the 2nd highest in the majors, and since 14 of those 18 hits after 3-0 have gone for extra bases (no other team has allowed more than 9 such EBH), Boston’s slugging percentage allowed is a cool 1.000.  No other major league team since 1988 has allowed a slugging percentage over .880 (the ’04 Reds) after 3-0 counts.

Daniel Bard – Has gone 3-0 on six batters and ended up walking all six.
Tim Wakefield – Opponents are 4-5 with 3 doubles and 7 walks.

* – AFTER 0-2 COUNTS – OFFENSE – Despite the losing, the Sox led the majors through the season’s first four weeks with a .230 average and .568 OPS after falling behind 0-2.  However, they’ve come back to earth over the last six weeks by hitting .175 with a .461 OPS (15th) in that span.  It could be a lot worse, as during those same six weeks, Josh ByrnesArizona Diamondbacks have hit .101 (27-268) after 0-2 counts.

Adrian Beltre currently ranks 4th in the AL with an .864 OPS following 0-2 counts, while JD Drew is 14th at .690. 

One Other Thing:  Last season, Bill Hall became just the 10th AL player since 1988 to get behind 0-2 at least 20 times in a season and never reach base (0-23 with 18 strikeouts).  This year, he’s already reached base 8 times after 0-2.

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* – AFTER 0-2 COUNTS – PITCHING – After a strong Week 10 in which Red Sox pitchers got ahead 0-2 on over 21% of opposing batters (2nd in AL), they now stand 3rd in the AL in lowest OPS allowed (.413) after 0-2 counts for the season, trailing only the Yankees (.383) and the Blue Jays (.412).  Toronto remains just ahead of the Red Sox despite the fact that they are coming apart, allowing a .333 average and .973 OPS after 0-2 counts last week.

If the Red Sox can keep it up, they would finish with the best “after 0-2″ OBP allowed (.186) and OPS allowed (.413) by any Red Sox staff since the 1993 team.

Boston’s bullpen mainstays have been particularly tough after getting ahead 0-2 this season.  Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, Ramon Ramirez, and Jonathan Papelbon (the Sox relievers that have faced 100+ batters this year) have gotten ahead 0-2 against 91 batters and they’ve gone just 5 for 89 (.056) with 2 walks.

Check back tomorrow for part two!

Pedroia feeling better, and the results are showing

06.13.10 at 6:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox could muster little against Phillies starter Cole Hamels, but the source of one-third of Boston’s hits in the team’s 5-3 loss to Philadelphia was notable. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia continued to show evidence that he is emerging from his struggles, going 3-for-4 with two singles and a double.

With that performance, Pedroia now has three multi-hit games in his last four contests. His three hits were his most since May 24, and he is now hitting .471 (8-for-17) in his last four games. Pedroia, who underwent an MRI on Friday that ruled out any structural damage to his knee, said that his improving physical condition should translate to better results.

“I feel better. Physically I’€™m feeling better, which is a good thing. Seeing the ball better. Working hard, just translating into the game now, which is when it gets fun,” said Pedroia, whose average has crept up 15 points, from .248 to .263, in the past four games. ‘€œI’€™ll be fine. It’€™s a long year. I’€™ve got 90-something games left. I’€™ve got a lot of at-bats left. I try not to get too down when it’€™s not going good. When it’€™s going well you’€™ve just got to try to find a way to maintain it, like I did the first couple years I came here.”

The Sox seemed relatively unsurprised by Pedroia’s signs of emerging from a slump.

“[A return to form for Pedroia is] a given,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Wind him up and send him out there. He’€™s a great player. He said it and I agree with him. He’€™ll get right where he needs to be. Just keep playing him and he’€™ll do just fine.’€

Read More: Dustin Pedroia,

Closing Time: Phillies 5, Red Sox 3

06.13.10 at 4:33 pm ET
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In the first two games of their series against the Phillies, the Red Sox amassed at least 10 runs and 16 hits, something they hadn’t done on consecutive days since 2004. But Boston could not sustain that offensive momentum in the series finale on Sunday, as the Red Sox were stifled for most of the day by Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels in a 5-3 loss.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Cole Hamels was on the mound. The left-hander is the only Phillies pitcher to a claim a win in his team’s six games against the Sox, allowing one run in each. Hamels struck out eight and walked two, getting touched only by a solo homer in his day of work. Hamels logged seven innings and allowed five hits.

–The Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, including a pair of double-play balls with two runners aboard. The Sox, who entered the day having grounded into the fifth most double plays in the American League, have now hit into 60 twin-killings this year.

–Though Tim Wakefield delivered what the Sox needed — chiefly, innings (more on that in a moment) — he continued to enjoy little success at Fenway this year. On the season, he is 0-4 with a 6.86 ERA at home, and he has set a new career high with eight straight starts at home without a win. Wakefield is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA on the road in 2010.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Adrian Beltre produced the Sox’ offense against Phillies starter Cole Hamels, hammering a second-inning homer against the left-hander. It was Beltre’s ninth homer of the 2010 season (in his 255th plate appearance), giving him one more round-tripper this season than he had in 477 trips to the plate in 2009. Beltre also started a pair of double plays for the Sox.

His day, however, had also had a pair of blemishes. In the bottom of the sixth, with runners on first and second and none out, he followed a Victor Martinez walk (more on that in a moment) with a three-pitch strikeout.Then, with runners on the corners and one out in the eighth, he smashed a grounder that was converted into a 5-4-3 double play.

Dustin Pedroia had a three-hit game, his first since May 24. He is now 8-for-17 (.471) over his last four games, following a 14 at-bat hitless stretch.

Victor Martinez produced an epic at-bat that seemed to prime the Sox for a rally. In the bottom of the sixth, after Dustin Pedroia led off with a double to right that clanged off the glove of Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, Martinez engaged in an epic showdown with Hamels. After falling behind, 0-2, Martinez fouled off nine two-strike pitches, including six in a row in one stretch, en route to a 15-pitch walk. It was the longest at-bat by a Red Sox since Alex Cora negotiated a 15-pitch walk against Paul Byrd, then with the Indians, on April 27, 2006.

The rally, however, quickly died, with Beltre striking out, David Ortiz grounding into a fielder’s choice and Mike Lowell flying out to right.

–The Red Sox were thin in the bullpen one day after Daisuke Matsuzaka had landed on the disabled list just prior to the start of Saturday’s game, leaving an assembly line of relievers (Scott Atchison, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima) to assume significant workloads. The team needed starter Tim Wakefield to offer a reprieve.

“We could use Wake,” said Sox manager Terry Francona before the game, “to have a good outing.”

Wakefield did just that, with the exception of a four-run, fourth-inning stumble. Aside from that one inning when he lost his feel for his knuckleball, Wakefield pitched a strong game, and one that spared his bullpen from being taxed too heavily. He logged 7 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits (five in the fourth) and four runs, walking one and striking out three.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Dustin Pedroia, Tim Wakefield

Red Sox are enjoying this class: Team building 101

06.13.10 at 12:57 pm ET
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Nothing builds unity than when things are seemingly falling apart.

It’s arguably the greatest oxymoron in sports. But it’s one that Terry Francona appreciates very keenly.

It was evident in 2004 when the team was playing .500 ball for the better part of three months before taking off and getting hot into the playoffs and World Series.

It was evident in 2007 when the team was down 3-1 on the road in Cleveland, facing the prospects of having the Indians clinch the American League pennant in Game 5 before Josh Beckett turned things around in Game 5.

And it was evident Saturday when Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the disabled list prior to his scheduled start against the Phillies and the Red Sox were forced to start Scott Atchison. The Red Sox pieced together a gutsy effort and got some grand slam magic from a kid by the name of Daniel Nava.

‘€œ[Saturday] was a challenge but it was a great day,” Francona said before Sunday’s game. “That’€™s the way teams come together. We had a ton of personality. We had the young kid doing something special and the bullpen comes together and does more than they’€™re supposed to and everybody has a bunch of energy. I know it takes a toll on your team because today we’€™re a little short but I think that really helps in the long run if you handle it and we handled it real well.’€

[Francona talks about his team’s great team unity.]

No where has chemistry been more evident than in the outfield. They’ve lost Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida and replaced them with Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick, Bill Hall and Saturday, Daniel Nava.

‘€œA bunch of our outfielders go down, Hermida gets a ton of big hits,” Francona said. “He goes down, Mac’€™s been playing great. Guys have stepped in. Nava comes in and gets a huge hit. Guys have done a great job. We have Wake to pitch. Wake goes to the bullpen for a while and now he’€™s back starting. We may have to piece it together sometimes.

“I think when you get beat up and you play well, that’€™s when I think you start seeing some personality on your team. When you get beat up and you’€™re losing, that’€™s another thing. That happened in ‘€™06 and that wasn’€™t a lot of fun. Yesterday was a good example, that ended up being a really good day. That dugout was as lively as it’€™s been in a long time.’€

[Francona talks about his great bench so far.]

Believe it or not, Francona said he was not going to play Nava on Sunday before he spoke to Mike Cameron.

‘€œWe actually we not going to,” Francona said. “We were going to play Cam in center and Mac in left and then the more we talked about it last night and we talked to Cam, and with a quick day game today and day off [Monday] we had a chance to protect him a little bit and maybe build instead of reaching for a little bit further. I don’€™t think he disagreed. I know he wants to play but I think he understands that we’€™re trying to help so we did go back and put Nava in there.’€

Meanwhile, the bumps and bruises still mount. Francona gave Kevin Youkilis the day off on Sunday after getting drilled on the inside of the right elbow in Saturday’s game.

‘€œHe’€™s a little bit sore,” Francona said. “He’€™s ok. I think with what’€™s happened this week with his back and getting plunked yesterday and having Mikey Lowell here, I think it made some sense with the day off tomorrow.’€

Matsuzaka update: ‘€œHe said he feels great, which is good. I’€™d rather him show up and have that. We certainly need to delve into it a little bit more but he actually feels pretty good. I think we’€™re cautiously optimistic about that but we’€™ll try to get more information.’€

Hermida update: ‘€œHe actually feels a little bit better, which I think is the hope. He’€™s got some time down from some baseball activities, he’€™s doing some of the biking and some of the treatment to get some of the swelling [down]. Just give him some time to get better before he starts getting aggressive again. I think he’€™s feeling better each day.’€

Francona reiterated that Jacoby Ellsbury will be in Arizona for a while: ‘€œHe’€™ll be there for a minimum of two weeks.’€

Josh Beckett continued his rehab by throwing from 90 feet on Sunday, one day after playing catch for the first time since aggravating a side muscle while on the disabled list.

“We’ll duplicate that,” Francona said of the Sunday session, “then get it out to 120 and then have a down day and then we’ll go from there.”

Beckett went on the disabled list May 19 with a strained lower back. During a side session on May 28, the right-hander felt some discomfort in his lat muscle. The Red Sox then told Beckett not to do any throwing for 10 days, ending with Saturday’s flat ground session. He has yet to throw from a mound.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, daniel nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, Phillies

Red Sox vs. Phillies matchups, 6/13

06.13.10 at 9:59 am ET
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The Red Sox and Phillies square off for the sixth and final time this season on Sunday afternoon. The Red Sox own the all-time series with a 26-16 record over the Phillies. The record gets even better at Fenway Park, where the Sox are 13-6 against the Phils. They’€™ll try to make it 14-6 Sunday when Tim Wakefield takes the mound for Boston while Philadelphia will counter with Cole Hamels.

Each starter has already faced his respective opponent once this season, and both fared very well. Wakefield (2-4, 5.48 ERA), in fact, had his best start of the season when he faced the Phillies on May 23. He pitched eight shutout innings in which he allowed just five hits and never saw more than five Philadelphia batters in any given inning of the 8-3 Boston win. It should be noted that the Sox starter outdueled Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who surrendered six earned runs over 5 2/3 innings on that day.

In his lone start against the Red Sox this season, Hamels was nearly as successful as his knuckleball counterpart. Hamels allowed just one run on three hits over seven innings of work in the 5-1 Philadelphia victory. He also struck out eight batters, tied for his second-highest strikeout total of the season. Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and Bill Hall all had 0-fors at the plate against Hamels in that contest.

If the Sox look to rob Hamels (5-5, 3.98 ERA) of a repeat performance Sunday, they’€™ll need Pedroia to return to his previous form against the lefty starter. He has the best average among Sox batters against Hamels at .429 with a double and a solo home run.

One matchup to watch on the Philadelphia side should be Wakefield vs. Ryan Howard. The 2006 NL MVP has struggled against the knuckleballer, going 0-for-6 with one just one walk to his credit. The bulk of the team’€™s power may need to come from Jayson Werth, who has hit .455 with a home run and two RBI in the past against Wakefield.

Red Sox vs. Cole Hamels

Bill Hall (19 career plate appearances against Hamels): .158 average/.158 OBP/.158 slugging, six strikeouts

Mike Cameron (11): .125/.364/.500, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (10): .100/.100/.200, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (7): .200/.429/.800, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (7): .429/.429/1.000, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Victor Martinez (6): .333/.333/.833, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Darnell McDonald (5): .200/.200/.200, 2 strikeouts

Adrian Beltre (3): .333/.333/.667, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis are all 0-for-3 against Hamels in their careers. Youkilis has struck out once. David Ortiz and Daniel Nava have never faced the Philadelphia starter.

Phillies vs. Tim Wakefield

Raul Ibanez (32 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .258 average/.281 OBP/.484 slugging, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 doubles, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

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

Jayson Werth (11): .455/.455/.727, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout

Chase Utley (10): .222/.300/.444, 1 triple, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

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

Greg Dobbs (7): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI

Ryan Howard (7): .000/.143/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Shane Victorino (7): .333/.429/.500, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Juan Castro (6): .500/.500/.667, 1 double

Ben Fransisco is 0-for-3 all-time against Wakefield while Brian Schneider is 1-for-2. Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez have never faced the Boston starter.

Read More: Cole Hamels, Phillies, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield

Forget Nava, Victor Martinez did something truly unique

06.12.10 at 9:24 pm ET
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In a day of unbelievable events, this might be the most mind-shattering of them all ‘€¦

After Daniel Nava hit a grand slam on the very first major league pitch he ever saw, there have now been four players in big league history to claim home runs with the bases loaded in their initial major league game — Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (’05) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (’06).

Of the group only Kouzmanoff and Nava hit their grand slams on the first big league offering they saw. Pretty good, right?

Well, Victor Martinez can top that.

The Red Sox catcher can claim to having not only been present for both of the historic first-pitch home runs, but he has also has proof that he predicted both would take place just prior to their completion.

Saturday, while sitting up in the Red Sox’ clubhouse during the second inning of what would be a 10-2 win over the Phillies, Martinez offered his prediction of Nava’s blast.

“He was standing right next to me when he said, ‘First pitch, bomb!'” said Red Sox DH David Ortiz. “I came up to get some batting gloves because of the rain and Vic was here. He said, ‘Watch this, first pitch grand salami’ There you go.”

But before you surmise that it was just a lucky guess, understand Martinez has a history with such things. That was thanks to Kouzmanoff’s first-pitch blast sat a member of the Cleveland Indians back on Sept. 2, 2006.

When he first got there I said, ‘If I was you I would swing at the first pitch.’ He said, ‘You think I should do that?’ I said, ‘Why not? You play in Double A and Triple A, but you haven’t played against the Rangers so those they probably didn’t have a good scouting report on you from the minor leagues. So if I was you i would swing at the first pitch.’ So guess what? First at-bat, bases loaded, off of Kevin Millwood — first-pitch grand slam.

“When he walked to the plate I called a grand slam.”

When asked if he had duplicated his effort this time around, Martinez resounded, “When you see David ask him.”

Hence, the Ortiz confirmation, and another legend to build on to Nava’s historic day.

“Unbelievable,” Ortiz said.

Scott Atchison, the hero in the park

06.12.10 at 8:59 pm ET
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Scott Atchison knew the drill ‘€¦ sort of.

Atchison last lived the life of a starter in 2008 when pitching in Japan. But, as he pointed out after the Red Sox‘€™ 10-2 win over the Phillies, ‘€œIt’€™s totally different in the big leagues.’€

Atchison found out he was getting a chance to make his first major league start just 20 minutes before the start of the game, getting word that there might be something wrong with the scheduled Red Sox’€™ starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

‘€œI was in here dressed, 20 or 25 minutes before the game, I guess, just kind of waiting. [Bench coach] DeMarlo [Hale} came in and said, ‘Atch get your glove. Let’s go.’ I said, ‘Where we going?’ He said, ‘We need you out in the bullpen, something might be up.’ I was already dressed so it wasn’t that big a deal from that point,’€ Atchison said. ‘€œI got out in the dugout and Tito said, ‘Head out to the bullpen. We’re not exactly sure what’s going on.’ So I went out there and Dice was still throwing. I guess they called in and they were like, ‘Get going, you’re going to start this thing.’ It was kind of exciting because I’ve never started a game in the big leagues. I was able to put a ‘1’ where all the ‘0’s’ used to be in the columns.’€

The 34-year-old held his own, all things considered, going three innings, giving up two runs. Prior to Japan, Atchison’€™s experience as a starter consisted of one start with Triple A Fresno in ‘€™07, with the last regular run as a starting pitcher in the United States coming in ‘€™02 with Triple A Tacoma.

‘€œI had done it somewhat before, so I guess I knew what I was getting myself into,’€ he noted.

‘€œI had plenty of time. I’m a reliever. I probably could have waited actually a little longer, but they said ‘Get going’ and I hadn’t look at the clock. There were a thousand things running through my mind as to what was going on. I tried to treat the warm-up for the most part like I would if I was getting loose to come in and pitch an inning. I figured that was the best way to go about it.’€

It was an effort that drew a tremendous amount of appreciation from the Red Sox considering the immediacy that came with the decision following Matsuzaka’€™s ailment.

‘€œThankfully Pawtucket was in town, and we got Richardson here,’€ said Francona of Dustin Richardson, who was summoned to take Matsuzaka’€™s place on the roster. ‘€œHe didn’€™t pitch. That’€™s a lot to ask out of a bullpen. Fortunately everything about as well as it could. Atchison gives us three, which is a lot, and then everyone who came in did great.

‘€œ[Matsuzaka] threw a lot of cutters his last outing but nothing to suggest this would happen. This was all happening as he was warming up. Johnny [Farrell] had called me and said, hey, he’€™s not warming up very well. I called him back and said, ‘€˜Is this something to worry about?’€™ I said, ‘€˜Let Atchison. We don’€™t want to surprise somebody, don’€™t want to put him behind the eight-ball more than he already is. It became apparent, Johnny called back and said, ‘€˜I’€™m not comfortable with this.’€™ And I don’€™t think dice-k fought him.’€

Matsuzaka: Forearm not a ‘really big problem at all’

06.12.10 at 8:52 pm ET
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Despite being placed immediately on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm soreness, Daisuke Matsuzaka said after Saturday’s game that he is not overly concerned about the injury that forced him to be scratched from Saturday’s start against Philadelphia at Fenway Park. Matsuzaka said he did experience this before in his career but can’t remember the last time it bothered him to the point where he had to miss a start.

“I can’t even remember when the last time was so I think that just goes to tell you I don’t think this is a really big problem at all,” Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino.

Matsuzaka, who entered the game with three wins in his last four starts and a 5-2 record, said he did not feel any cramping or tightness while stretching and playing catch prior to heading out to his bullpen session prior to the game. He said he informed pitching coach John Farrell of the issue and the decision was made to shut him down.

“Until I went to the bullpen, I went through my regular routine, but once I got in and started throwing, I felt some sudden tightness in my forearm,” he said. “I think I could have pitched through it, but we talked about it and decided there’€™s no sense in trying to compenstate and making a mechanical adjustment just to get through it, so that was the decision.”

Matsuzaka said he didn’t feel anything unusual in his side session or work leading up to his warmup for Saturday’s scheduled start.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “I went through my normal routine, got some massage work done. And went into my start today feeling pretty much the same as usual, so yes it was sudden.”

Matsuzaka said he felt badly that he had to go on the disabled list because it forced the Red Sox bullpen into a difficult situation, starting with emergency starter Scott Atchison.

“Even today we had to go through a lot of pitchers to get through the game, and for that I feel very sorry,” Matsuzaka said.

Matsuzaka said he felt no issues with the elbow and will get a combination of heat, ice and massage work while on the disabled list.

“After coming out of the game, the trainers took a look at me and things didn’€™t seem that bad,” Matsuzaka said. “It’€™s not a joint issue. It’€™s muscle soreness, so I don’€™t think it’€™s going to take that long. We’€™ll take some time, see how I feel tomorrow, and take it from there.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, MLB, Phillies, Red Sox

Closing Time: Red Sox 10, Phillies 2

06.12.10 at 7:30 pm ET
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What first appeared to be setting up for an innocuous inter-league game between the Red Sox and Phillies Saturday night at Fenway Park turned out to be anything but. First came the news that the Sox’ scheduled starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, was being put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm just minutes before game-time, and then a rookie, Daniel Nava, offered reason for all those in attendance to save their ticket stubs.

While the 10-2 win for the Red Sox was impressive, the thing most everybody came away from the Sox’ second straight victory against the Phils with was the image of Nava hitting the first major league pitch he saw over the right field wall — into the Sox bullpen — for a grand slam. It was the fourth time in major league history a player has hit a grand slam in his first big league at-bat — joining Bill Duggleby, Jeremy Hermida, Kevin Kouzmanoff — and second occasion that a player hit the first pitch he saw for a grand slam (Kouzmanoff being the other).

Here is what went right and wrong for the Red Sox on a rainy day at Fenway (click here for a recap):

Post-game links:

Victor Martinez not only witnessed baseball’s only two first-pitch grand slams, but predicted both of them … and can prove it

Scott Atchison, Hero in the Park

Matsuzaka: Forearm not a ‘Really big problem at all’

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

When interviewed by Fox during the game, Nava’s father said, “I feel like I’m in Kansas,” breaking off his best Wizard of Oz reference. This just in: Knowing how Nava ended up in position to hit Joe Blanton’s initial offering for a grand slam was more surreal than anything the 1939 classic could offer. Where do you start? Diminutive overachiever finds an invite to play in an independent league before having the Red Sox purchase his contract for a dollar. Then comes Saturday, when not only does Nava get the start in left, but jumps all over Blanton’s fastball for a dose of history. In regards to the game itself, it gave the Red Sox a lead they would never surrender, with the Sox scoring five runs in the second inning and three more in the third to quickly wipe out the Phils’ early 2-0 lead. To read about what Nava had to say prior to his debut click here. To read about  Nava’s journey toward the big league — including his showdown with John Lackey — click here.

(By the way, in the pregame interview with Nava our own Joe Castiglione ends the session by saying, “Now go hit that first pitch out.” Check it out here.)

– The Red Sox offense continued to torture Phillies, following up their 12-run, 17-hit series opener by pounding out the 10 runs, along with 16 hits. Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton had to take the brunt of the damage — protecting a taxed bullpen — allowing 13 hits over just four innings, throwing 100 pitches. Leading the hit parade for the Red Sox was J.D. Drew, who totaled three hits, including his seventh homer of the season. Also claiming multiple-hit games for the Sox were Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, Darnell McDonald, and Nava.

– The Red Sox pitching staff didn’t too poorly for a bunch of relievers having to fill in for an injured starter. Scott Atchison did allow the two runs in the second inning, but considering he had little time to warm-up — and had never made a major league start — his three innings were fairly productive. After Atchison the rest of the game was filled out by Manny Delcarmen (2 IP), Hideki Okajima (1 1/3 IP), Ramon Ramirez (1 2/3 innings), and Jonathan Papelbon, whose ninth inning outing was his first appearance since June 6.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Just as Matusuzaka was getting rolling (riding 13 2/3 scoreless innings), he appears to have hit another road block. While Matsuzaka did go to the bullpen to warm-up less than 30 minutes before the start of the game, he was subsequently brought back to the dugout after experiencing his forearm injury.

The Sox’ $1 investment in Nava pays off

06.12.10 at 5:28 pm ET
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Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava made his mark in team history by launching a grand slam into the right field bullpen at Fenway Park on the first major league pitch that he saw. It would appear a safe bet that he has now given the Sox more than adequate return on the $1 (to clarify: one dollar) they initially invested in the player.

In 2007, the Sox — at the encouragement of GM Theo Epstein, Assistant to the GM Allard Baird and Assistant Director/Professional Scouting Jared Porter — made a decision that they wanted to scout independent leagues more heavily, believing that there could be overlooked prospects to mine. While the team had signed indy leaguers in the past as minor league filler, Nava was one of the first players whom the team signed as a prospect.

The Sox did not have a scouting report on Nava from his college days at Santa Clara, when he led the Division 1 West Coast Conference in batting average and OBP. But they had seen his statistical profile, and became intrigued by a switch-hitter who was named the MVP of the Golden Baseball League while leading the Chico Outlaws to a championship in 2007  with a line of .371/.425/.625 with above-average defense.

Typically, the Sox inquire about the warts associated with indy leaguers before they sign them — perhaps defensive shortcomings, an inability to hit pitchers on one hand or another, does he have a bad plate approach, etc. — but with Nava, there were no such blemishes. The Sox had never scouted him in person, but based on recommendations of Golden Baseball League officials, Nava appeared a good bet to be an undervalued player, and so the Sox acquired the rights to him, sight unseen, for $1, with the understanding that the team would pay an additional $1,499 if it kept him out of spring training.

The Sox had an area scout look at Nava work out before the start of spring training, and determined it would be worth bringing him to Fort Myers in 2008. There, he played well enough to convince the Sox’ player development decision makers that he deserved a spot with High-A Lancaster of the California League. And so, the Sox paid the $1,499 to the GBL to keep him, while giving Nava a salary of $1,100 per month.

“The rest,” said a team source, “is history.”

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