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Live Blog: Red Sox, Josh Beckett look to push Rays further back in standings

07.17.11 at 8:09 pm ET
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Rays/Red Sox Live Blog

Trade Deadline: Red Sox going after Padres’ Ryan Ludwick?

07.17.11 at 6:16 pm ET
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The Red Sox are among the teams interested in the Padres’€™ 33-year-old outfielder Ryan Ludwick, according to ESPN’€™s Buster Olney. Ludwick is batting .240 with 55 RBIs this season. A right-handed hitter, Ludwick is batting .272 against lefties this year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’€™s Bob Brookover spoke with an AL and an NL scout about the likelihood of trading for several players, including Ludwick. The AL scout said San Diego would ask for a near-ready prospect and possibly two more players. The NL scout said that while Ludwick could be helpful, he’€™s not a ‘€œfrontline guy,’€ and that teams should not give up too much for him.

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Trade Deadline: Astros trying to cut payroll, could trade Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers

07.17.11 at 6:13 pm ET
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If the Red Sox want to rejuvenate their starting rotation, one place they might look is Houston. SI.com’€™s Jon Heyman tweeted Sunday that incoming Astros owner Jim Crane is looking to drop their payroll to $60 million. As such, they are looking to trade starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.

Rodriguez is 6-6 with a 3.52 ERA this season. He is 2-5 with an ERA over 6.00 in eight career starts against Boston’€™s AL East opponents, however, and has never pitched at Fenway Park.

Myers is 3-10 with a 4.86 ERA. In nine games against the other AL East teams (seven starts), he is 4-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

Heyman added that the Astros will not trade right-handed outfielder Hunter Pence.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, brett myers, Houston Astros, Hunter Pence

Trade Deadline: Yankees interested in Rockies’ Ty Wigginton

07.17.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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The Rockies are in talks with the Yankees to trade Ty Wigginton to New York, SI.com’€™s Jon Heyman tweeted Sunday. Heyman added that Wigginton, a third baseman with 13 home runs, might provide some power while Alex Rodgriguez recovers from surgery.

Wigginton’€™s versatility may add to his appeal to the Yankees. Wigginton has played all four infield positions (granted, only two games at shortstop), both left and right field, and DH. He is also a .295 pinch hitter.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Alex Rodriguez, colorado rockies, New York Yankees

Trade Deadline: Will Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster stay in Chicago?

07.17.11 at 12:06 pm ET
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According to a report from Peter Gammons, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has “no interest” in dealing starting pitchers Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster before the July 31 deadline.

“Jim Hendry has no interest in trading Dempster or Garza during season,” Gammons wrote on Sunday.

With the back injury  to Clay Buchholz and the struggles of John Lackey and Andrew Miller, Garza has been the subject of trade rumors to Boston. The right-hander is 4-7 with a 3.97 ERA this season. Dempster is 7-6 with an ERA of 4.68.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, cubs, matt garza, Red Sox

Trade Deadline: Tigers interested in Derek Lowe?

07.17.11 at 11:01 am ET
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According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Tigers are interested in trading for Atlanta right-hander Derek Lowe.

Lowe — now 38 years old — is owed roughly $6 million for the rest of this season and is under contract for $15 million next season. Lowe has a 5-7 record in 2011 with an ERA of 4.30. He hasn’t pitched in the American League since he left the Red Sox after the 2004 season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Braves, Derek Lowe, tigers

This might not be Dustin Pedroia’s hottest streak, but it is unique

07.17.11 at 10:28 am ET
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Before the Red Sox‘€™ 9-5 win over the Rays, Terry Francona didn’€™t hold back when analyzing Dustin Pedroia‘€™s propensity to pull himself out of batting average doldrums in a blink of an eye.

‘€œPedey has the rare ability to get hotter than anybody I have ever seen,’€ Francona said. ‘€œFortunately, it looks like he wants to do that. He can go on these runs where it doesn’€™t matter what you throw him and it looks like he’€™s starting to get to some balls that he didn’€™t earlier. Even when he’€™s not hitting he impacts the game, but when he starts getting hot, that’€™s really good.’€

It was succinct, to the point and dead-on accurate.

Moments later some of the members of the Rays were jokingly yelling over to Pedroia ‘€“ who was taking up his familiar pre-game spot in the dugout ‘€“ saying how they were going to drop curveball after curveball on him. (Without getting into specifics, the second baseman’€™s response was along the lines of ‘€œBring it on!’€)

What transpired in the subsequent game was another round of hitting heat, with Pedroia raising his batting average above .290 (.291) for the first time this season thanks to a solo home run and single in five at-bats.

It marked the first time in Pedroia’€™s career that he has hit home runs in three straight games.

To Francona’€™s point, the Sox’€™ No. 2 hitter is once again hot, having raised his batting average 56 points in 72 days.

So, is this the hottest he has ever been?

‘€œIt’€™s right up there with the one he had in ‘€™08 when he was hitting like .250 and got up it up to like .360 in like a month,’€ said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. ‘€œIt seems like every year he has a run like this in the middle of the season where he’€™s at .260 to .270 and he has a nice little run where he gets over .300.’€

This is one of the good ones, but Magadan is right, ‘€™08 remains the standard-bearer. That year it took Pedroia just 35 days to take his low-point (.260) up 56 points.

The difference this time around, of course, is the power.

With his fifth career opposite field home run (having not had any prior to the ‘€™09 season), Pedroia is now just four homers shy of his career-high. Whether it is the current three-game HR streak, or putting a ball in the Fenway Park center field bleachers for the first time as he did June 19, this has been a new wrinkle to the same old story.

‘€œJust the power that he’€™s showing, the way he’€™s driving the ball, it’€™s kind of special,’€ Magadan said. ‘€œIt kind of reminds me of last year.’€

What happened last year was a three-home run game in Colorado the day before Pedroia broke his foot on a foul ball in San Francisco.

The reality was that Pedroia was on a fairly solid power pace in ‘€™10, having hit 12 homers in 73 games. He now has 13 in 89 contests this season.

But whether it’€™s the power, the walks (already only 11 shy of his career high of 73) or simply the base hits, the image of Pedroia these days is markedly different than what was displayed earlier this season.

‘€œHis spring training was a little strange. He had some mechanical things going on he hadn’€™t really experienced before,’€ Magadan said. ‘€œI think spring training and the first two months of the season he was just willing himself to get hits. He was just finding ways to get hits. He never really felt great at the plate. It wasn’€™t really until recently ‘€¦

‘€œIt was a combination of clearing his mind with his knee, his foot feeling better and making a mechanical adjustment that allowed him to go through the baseball. He felt better mechanically, his pitch selection got better, he stopped trying to cover balls that were a foot off the plate. He started taking those and stayed on his pitches until he got two strikes. It’€™s been good.’€

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Jeff Niemann

07.17.11 at 7:00 am ET
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Josh Beckett will return to the mound for the Red Sox Sunday night in Tampa Bay, making his first start since July 8, when he left the game with a hyperextended knee. He’ll face off against Jeff Niemann, a pitcher who’s handled the Red Sox well in the past, although he’s yet to make a start against Boston this year.

Beckett (8-3, 2.27 ERA) continues to be the rock of the Red Sox rotation, although his ERA has ballooned a bit from its formerly American League leading form. The right-hander has picked up wins in four of his last five starts, although his last outing against the Orioles was a bit shaky. Beckett got the win thanks to eight first-inning runs from the Red Sox, but gave up three runs on seven hits before being removed with the knee injury.

Beckett was at his best the last time he visited Tropicana Field, tossing a one-hit shutout while striking out six and walking none back on June 15. If not for a third-inning infield single by nine-hitter Reid Brignac, Beckett could have been perfect.

The Rays have faced Beckett a total of 185 times, with Johnny Damon, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton holding the lion’s share of plate appearances. Each of those three players has two home runs off Beckett. Damon leads the way with 56 plate appearances, hitting .269 with a team-high nine RBI and 12 strikeouts. Longoria has had the most success, batting .324 with five doubles and eight RBI. Ben Zobrist has had the most trouble with Beckett, managing just one hit in 15 plate appearances. As a team, the Rays are hitting .247 vs. the Boston starter.

Niemann (4-4, 4.53 ERA) will make his 11th start of the season and look to build on an impressive month of July. In his last two starts, he’s gone 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA, although he’s often had to work out of trouble, surrendering 15 hits and four walks in those two outings. The right-hander’s recent success finally shrunk his ERA below 5.00, where it had been hovering all season.

Niemann had a disastrous start to the year, posting a 1-4 record and a 5.74 ERA in his first six starts before being sent to the DL with a back injury in early May. He’s been solid since then, save for a rocky outing against the Astros (3 innings, 5 runs) on June 26. The Rays starter has struggled at Tropicana Field in five starts this season with a 1-3 record and a 5.53 ERA.

The 28-year-old has spent the entirety of his three-year career with Tampa Bay, and has faced Red Sox hitters a combined 42 times. Boston’s lineup has struggled overall, hitting just .190 with one home run and seven RBI. David Ortiz has the lone long ball to go along with two hits and two RBI in six career plate appearances. Marco Scutaro has a team-high 16 plate appearances vs. Niemann, but he’s only mustered three hits and has struck out three times. J.D. Drew also has three strikeouts in eight plate appearances, although he also has two doubles and two RBI.

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Read More: jeff niemann, Josh Beckett, Rays, Red Sox

John Lackey talks wanting to stay in, optimism after win

07.16.11 at 9:04 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ‘€“ John Lackey was going to come out. That was a fact. He wanted to stay in. That was another fact.

But the most important fact for the Red Sox Saturday was that Lackey turned in a solid performance in his team’€™s 9-5 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“A lot to like,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “We’€™d love for him to get hot. That would be one of the best things that could ever happen to us.’€

The starter lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs (3 earned), on 10 hits, while striking out seven and walking one. He was taken out with runners on first and second in the sixth after Johnny Damon reached via a two-out error, and Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch.

Lackey was visibly upset when Francona came to take him out of the game, but after the game explained that was just a product of the emotion of the outing.

‘€œYeah, I felt like I could have got that guy out. Looking back on it, we had a two-run lead. That’€™s probably Tito protecting me a little bit, too. I can respect that,’€ said Lackey, who was replaced by lefty reliever Randy Williams. Williams came on and retired Casey Kotchman via a ground out to second.

‘€œYou can’€™t do much about it. I already had a visit (from pitching coach Curt Young). It’€™s not like you can argue your way out of that one.’€

And, as Francona later explained, that’€™s exactly why he always makes the call to the bullpen before arriving on the mound.

‘€œI don’€™t pay much attention,’€ said Francona to pitchers’€™ reactions when being taken out. ‘€œThat’€™s why I always make the move before I go out there. There can’€™t be a discussion. I need to do what I’€™m going to do so I always do it before I go out there.’€

When asked if he enjoyed Lackey’€™s fiery temperament, Francona said, ‘€œI think he is that way a lot of times. Again, the way the game started (giving up three runs in the first inning), the fact that he stayed out there, because those two innings were long. What was it? Fifty (pitches) after two? He only walked one and he hit the batter.”

Lackey also talked about the benefit of recharging over the All-Star break, trying to build off his last start which saw him hold Baltimore scoreless over 6 2/3 innings.

‘€œIt was definitely nice to shut it down for a few days, for sure,’€ said Lackey, who lowered his ERA from 6.84 to 6.70. ‘€œWhat happened, happened. You can’€™t do anything about that. I’€™m gonna go out there and compete my butt off and try to win every time I go out there.’€

The explanation for Marco Scutaro’s rough first inning

07.16.11 at 8:36 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was one of roughest defensive innings Marco Scutaro has had since arriving with the Red Sox.

First came Johnny Damon’s grounder to lead off the home half of the first inning, which Scutaro ranged over, grabbed and threw wide to Adrian Gonzalez at first base for an error. And it was that play that led to the uncertainty which followed.

“Damon hit the ball, it hit my finger and I couldn’t find the grip on the ball,” Scutaro explained following the Red Sox’ 9-5 win at Tropicana Field Saturday. “I just kind of threw it and after that my finger was a little numb. I couldn’t feel it. I hate when that happens. I just had my hand too close to the ball when it hit the glove.”

With his right index finger throbbing, Scutaro was forced into action two more occasions. The next one coming when Evan Longoria grounded to him, resulting in a wide throw to second which Dustin Pedroia ranged just enough for to get a force out. The shortstop then rallied to finish off the inning with a 4-6-3 double play, although the damage had already been done via a three-run frame for the Rays.

“It was frustrating,” said Scutaro, who explained that the numbness subsided as the game progressed. “I don’t mind making errors, but when they cost runs, that really pisses me off.”

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