|07.04.11 at 9:05 am ET|
So, interleague is over. Abner Doubleday would want us to reflect …
– John Lackey came away as the only Red Sox pitcher with a hit thanks to his RBI double in Philadelphia. Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield led the way with four strikeouts each, with Jon Lester totaling three. In all, Sox hurlers were 1-for-21, but did see 4.24 pitchers per plate appearance (best in the American League). They didn’t, however, manage a single sacrifice, while the Yankees‘ pitchers came away with seven.
– The Red Sox finished with the highest batting average of any team in interleague play, hitting .300, also claiming a major league-best .839 OPS. Somewhat surprising, despite scoring just 10 runs in their first five games on the recent 10-game interleague road trip. the Sox also managed more runs in interleague play than any other club (100).
– Josh Reddick finished with the fourth-best interleague average, hitting .438 in his 12 games, while Adrian Gonzalez was sixth (.423), and Kevin Youkilis tied for 11th (.383). Reddick was second in OPS (1.250), with Jason Varitek sneaking into the big league leaders (21st) with a 1.030 OPS.
– Baltimore can at least claim the best group of hitting pitchers in the American League, with Zach Britton going 5-for-8 with a home run, and Chris Jakubauskas notching two hits in three at-bats. The only other AL hurlers to come away with a pair of hits were Minnesota’s Scott Baker, the Angels Tyler Chatwood, Seattle’s Doug Fister and Josh Tomlin of the Indians.
– Freddy Garcia of the Yankees and and the Royals’ Felipe Paulino led the way among AL pitchers with three sacrifices apiece.
– Tampa Bay’s James Shields got his money’s worth, seeing the most pitches among any American League hurler (35). All it translated into, however, was five strikeouts and a walk.
– In all, American League pitchers went 33-for-277 (.119) with Britton’s blast being the only home run. They struck out 123 times and drew just six walks. It was a slight improvement on last season when they hit .105 (27-258), without a single home run, striking out 126 times and drawing nine walks. Since 2007 there has been just five homers from AL pitchers, with Josh Beckett, Mark Buehrle, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia joining Britton.
– As for National League clubs using the designated hitter, the Rockies did better than most, claiming a 1.037 OPS and .304 batting average (all thanks to Jason Giambi). The Braves struggled the most, hitting .115 with just a .302 batting average (thanks primarily to Chipper Jones).
– The NL as a whole didn’t produce in the DH spot like it had in previous seasons, finishing with a .212 batting average, 19 home runs and .654 OPS. It was, in fact, the lowest batting average ever produced at the position by the league since interleague was introduced. Just two years ago, NL designated hitters totaled a .815 OPS, the second-best during the interleague era.
-And finally … The Angels and Yankees led the way with 13 interleague wins apiece, while the Astros (4-11), Royals (5-13) and Cubs (5-10) all struggled. The Red Sox? They came in at 10-8, their worst mark since 2004.
|07.03.11 at 5:25 pm ET|
The Red Sox return to American League teams and American League rules Monday when they begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays, part of a seven-game homestand that will close out the first half of the season.
Monday also is Independence Day, which does not bode well for the Red Sox. Boston is 4-6 in its last 10 July 4 starts, including 1-6 in the last seven. The Sox last won on July 4 in 2008.
More encouraging is Boston’s 6-3 record against Toronto this season. The last time the Red Sox and Blue Jays played, Boston swept Toronto by a combined score of 35-6 in three games.
John Lackey will take the mound for the Red Sox. Lackey is coming off his best start since returning from the DL, pitching 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Phillies and giving up two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. His overall record this year is 5-7 with a 6.81 ERA and a .290 batting average against, but June was Lackey’s best month this season, with a 3-2 record and a 5.28 ERA. This might mean he’s starting to turn his season (and career in Boston) around.
Lackey is 5-6 with a 5.12 ERA and a .264 BAA in 17 career starts against the Blue Jays, but in two starts this season he’s 1-1 with an 8.24 ERA. He won his last start against them on June 11, giving up four runs in six innings of a 16-4 blowout in Toronto.
Lackey’s opponent for that game was Brandon Morrow, whom the Red Sox will face again on Monday. Morrow is 4-4 with a 4.56 ERA this season but is coming off his best start of the season, pitching seven innings of one-run baseball on Wednesday against the Pirates. He gave up four hits and three walks and struck out 10 batters.
Morrow has struggled badly against the Red Sox in the past. In four career starts, Morrow is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and .304 BAA. He gave up nine runs in less than five innings of that 16-4 loss on June 11.
|07.03.11 at 5:14 pm ET|
Kevin Youkilis drew a two-out, bases loaded walk in the top half of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the ninth to secure a 2-1 win and series sweep for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
With one out in the ninth, Drew Sutton worked a pinch-hit walk in the 9 hole, and Jacoby Ellsbury put two men on with a single to right. Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two out, and Astros reliever Mark Melancon intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez to face Youkilis with the bases loaded and two outs. After getting ahead in the count, 3-0, Youkilis drew a five-pitch walk to bring in the winning run.
Josh Beckett returned to form after a tough outing against the Phillies, striking out a season-high 11 hitters while allowing just one run on five hits over eight innings.
Despite Beckett’s strong stat line, he got off to a rocky start on Sunday. After starting with a strikeout, he gave up three hard-hit balls in the first inning, including two singles and a sharp liner right to Youkilis at third. Beckett got out of trouble by popping up Matt Downs and went on to retire the next 11 batters he faced.
The Astros slowed Beckett’s roll in the fifth inning with a leadoff double from Brett Wallace and a pinch-hit RBI single from Angel Sanchez, tying the game at 1. Houston struggled to put a rally together against Beckett after the fifth, and the Boston starter was pulled after eight innings and 102 pitches.
Meanwhile, Boston was shut down by relievers Sergio Escalona, Wilton Lopez and David Carpenter up until the ninth inning. David Ortiz pinch hit for Navarro with one on and one out in the eighth, but his interleague rust showed as he grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
|07.03.11 at 12:22 pm ET|
In his first season with the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez has more than lived up to his reputation and he David Ortiz lead a contingent of four Red Sox players who have been named to the 2011 American League All-Star team. Gonzalez and Ortiz were voted in as starters in fan balloting, while Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett were selected as reserves. The vote was by players and selections made by the managers — Ron Washington and Bruce Bochy.
Gonzalez (.353/.407/,593) entered play Sunday with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs. It’s the fourth straight All-Star selection for the first baseman. Ortiz, who was voted in as a designated hitter, has had a strong comeback season for the Sox, posting lines of .302/.383/.565 to go with a team-high 17 home runs and 49 RBIs. This is his seventh All-Star appearance.
Ellsbury, who will be making his first All-Star game appearance, has also had a bounceback year after missing most of last season with injuries. He’s hitting .300 with a .361 on-base percentage and has reclaimed the leadoff spot in the Sox lineup.
Rounding out the list of Sox revivals is Beckett who entered his start on Sunday with a 6-3 record and a 2.20 ERA in 98 innings pitched. It’s the third All-Star selection for the right-hander. The game will be played on Tuesday, July 12 in Phoenix.
Here are the rest of the starters and reserves for the All-Star Game:
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
2B: Robinson Cano, Yankees
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF: Curtis Granderson, Yankees
OF: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
C: Alex Avila, Tigers
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B: Howard Kendrick, Angels
3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
OF: Michael Cuddyer, Twins
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
OF: Matt Joyce, Rays
OF: Carlos Quentin, White Sox
DH: Michael Young, Rangers
C: Russell Martin, Yankees
C: Matt Wieters, Orioles
RHP: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
RHP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
LHP: David Price, Rays
RHP: James Shields, Rays
RHP: Justin Verlander, Tigers
RHP: Jered Weaver, Angels
LHP: C.J. Wilson, Rangers
LHP: Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
RHP: Aaron Crow, Royals
RHP: Brandon League, Mariners
RHP: Chris Perez, Indians
RHP: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
RHP: Jose Valverde, Tigers
1B: Prince Fielder, Brewers
2B: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3B: Jose Reyes, Mets
SS: Placido Polanco, Phillies
OF: Lance Berkman, Cardinals
OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
OF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
C: Brian McCann, Braves
1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
1B: Joey Votto, Reds
2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
3B: Chipper Jones, Braves
SS: Starlin Castro, Cubs
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
OF: Jay Bruce, Reds
OF: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
OF: Hunter Pence, Astros
OF: Justin Upton, D-backs
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
RHP: Matt Cain, Giants
RHP: Roy Halladay, Phillies
LHP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
RHP: Jair Jurrjens, Braves
LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
LHP: Cliff Lee, Phillies
RHP: Tim Lincecum, Giants
RHP: Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
RHP: Heath Bell, Padres
RHP: Tyler Clippard, Nationals
RHP: Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
LHP: Jonny Venters, Braves
RHP: Brian Wilson, Giants
|07.03.11 at 11:09 am ET|
“Ted Williams, to many, is the greatest hitter of all time,” Damon said. “Obviously, he could have gotten more hits if he wasn’t as great as a hitter, maybe. I mean, he walked so many times and spent five years of service for our country. But just having the Boston ties that I do have, and knowing the history of that franchise and the history of Ted Williams, it’s a special moment.”
Damon’s hit was a leadoff single through the left side of the Cardinals’ infield. The game was briefly stopped to announce the accomplishment on the scoreboard, and Rays fans gave Damon a standing ovation. Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker also applauded, and Rays first base coach George Hendrick gave Damon a hug.
“I’m very happy for [Damon],” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve talked about him on different occasions [about] how he’s unique, and this, furthermore, indicates why he should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Damon needs two hits to tie Lave Cross and Harry Heilman for 70th place.
|07.03.11 at 9:00 am ET|
Interleague play finally comes to its end on Fourth of July Eve, meaning the American League players will see their National League friends (and foes) for the last time until the All-Star festivities of July 11-12 and then potentially the World Series in October. The Red Sox may not look back upon their adventure through the interleague section of the schedule as the team began the bulk of interleague play 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in first place and now find themselves mired in second looking up at the Bronx Bombers. But that difficult stretch, which included a nine-game road trip through NL ballparks, will come to a close Sunday when the Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett to the hill to face the Astros and their starting pitcher, rookie Jordan Lyles.
Beckett (6-3, 2.20 ERA) is coming off the worst start of his 2011 season in which he allowed five runs to the Phillies ‘ four of those runs came on separate two-run homers by Dominic Brown and Shane Victorino ‘ despite allowing just six baserunners (five hits, one walk) over six innings last Tuesday. Remarkably, that was the first time all season that the righty had allowed more than four runs; by comparison, he had done just that four times in the first two months of the 2010 season. The blip on the radar raised Beckett’s ERA to 2.20, its highest level since May 4, but even then, that mark is still good enough for second in the American League as is his 0.929 WHIP (behind Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander in those respective stats).
Against Houston, Beckett is 2-2 with a 2.20 ERA in his career with the latter stat being the third-lowest among foes that the fireballer has faced at least five times. These particular set of Astros have fared well though, albeit most of their limited experience comes from their time in a different uniform. Jason Michaels and Carlos Lee are a combined 7-for-18 against Beckett with both having hit a solo home run. The rest of the Astros squad has a combined 17 at-bats against the Boston starter.
Lyles (0-3, 4.75) hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination in his first six starts at the major-league level, none of which have obviously come against Boston meaning no Sox hitter has faced Lyles, but hasn’t been especially horrible either. He, too, allowed five earned runs over six frames in his last outing (a 7-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday) but before that he had allowed three earned runs or fewer in his four of his five previous starts. Still, starts like those won’t get you very far when you’re pitching for this Astros team that has struggled with bullpen issues at times and offensive problems at others. Despite a relatively solid game log, Houston is just 1-5 in games that Lyles has pitched thus far in 2011.
Astros vs. Beckett
Jason Michaels (11 career plate appearances): .400 BA/.455 OBP/.800 SLG, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
Carlos Lee (8): .375/.375/.875, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Clint Barmes (6): .333/.333/.333
Michael Bourn (4): .000/.000/.000
Hunter Pence (4): .500/.500/.500, 1 strikeout
Jeff Keppinger (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout
Brian Bogusevic, Carlos Corporan, Matt Downs, Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace have never faced the Boston starter.
Red Sox vs. Lyles
No Red Sox hitter has ever faced Lyles in the past.
|07.02.11 at 10:14 pm ET|
Andrew Miller looked sharp in his third outing in a Red Sox uniform. He picked up his second straight victory and in three starts with Boston has still yet to allow more than three runs in a start, this time leading the Sox to a 10-4 win over the Astros in Houston.
The Red Sox bats gave Miller an early lead, putting up a three-spot in the first frame as each of the first five hitters reached base. And, they did it without hitting an extra-base hit. Jacoby Ellsbury got things started against Astros left-hander J.A. Haap with a leadoff walk. Dustin Pedroia followed with a soft chopper to shortstop Clint Barmes, who made an errant throw to first baseman. Carlos Lee. Lee couldn’t manage to stay on the bag, missed Pedroia diving head first into the bag and was charged with an error.
Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI single to right field and Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases, singling to left. David Ortiz, who played first base in the field, battled back from 0-2 to work a walk. It was the fifth bases-loaded walk Boston has earned this season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then grounded into a double play, but the Sox caught another break as third baseman Chris Johnson threw to second rather than throwing home, which he had plenty of time to do.
Michael Bourn one-upped Ellsbury, tripling to left-center field on Miller’s first pitch to start things off for Houston. That hit also extended his hitting streak to 11 games. On the very next pitch, Angle Sanchez put the Astros on the board, knocking a single back up the middle. After a Hunter Pence single, Miller settled in, getting Carlos Lee to fly out and Jason Michaels to ground into a double play
The top of the lineup accounted for another run in the fifth as Ellsbury and Pedroia provided back-to-back doubles. Pence answered in the bottom of the sixth with his tenth longball of the season, taking advantage of a changeup Miller left up in the zone.
Alfredo Aceves took over for Miller in the seventh, but his replacement in the No. 9 spot — Yamaico Navarro — left more of an impact. Called up for Mike Cameron Saturday, Navarro belted his first career home run over the left field wall to raise Boston’s lead to three runs. In 42 at-bats in 2010, Navarro batted .143 with five RBIs and 17, yes, 17 strikeouts.
After retiring Barmes and J.R. Towles to start the bottom of the seventh, Aceves ran into some problems. Pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger lined a 2-2 fastball into right field for a single. Bourn followed with another sharply hit single, this time to center field. Matt Downs pinch hit for Sanchez and earned a walk, albeit on a questionable 3-2, call to load the bases. At that point Daniel Bard replaced Aceves to face Pence. After getting squeezed again by umpire Cory Blaser, Bard missed badly with the count full, and walked in a run. Luckily for Boston, Lee grounded the first pitch he saw to third base to end the inning.
After Saltalamacchia plated Gonzalez on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to left in the top of the eighth inning, Darnell McDonald, who entered the game batting .115, hammered a three-run bomb that quickly exited the park over the left field wall. Youkilis finished the scoring for Boston, driving in Gonzalez on a single to left.
Houston picked up a meaningless ninth-inning run off Dan Wheeler. Bourn recorded his fourth hit of the game, singling to center, and took second on a defensive indifference.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Miller continued to build his case to stay in the rotation once Clay Buchholz returns form the disabled list. The 6-foot-7 southpaw pitched six strong innings, allowing the Astros just two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out three throwing 85 pitches on the evening.
– In six innings, Ortiz (1B) and Gonzalez (RF) not only avoided injury, but played solid defense. Neither were overly tested defensively, but both handled routine plays. Saturday marked the second time manager Terry Francona has tried this lineup.
– Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect eight inning, using only eight pitches to retire the side. He struck out Johnson and got Barmes and Michaels to fly out to center field.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Youkilis reaggravated a left ankle injury in the eight inning, sliding into third base. He batted in the bottom half of the inning, singling in Gonzalez, but was replaced in the field by Drew Sutton in the final frame.
– After retiring the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning, Aceves was unable to close out the inning. He allowed two hits and a walk and was credited with the run that Bard walked in.
– Marco Scutaro was the least productive Red Sox batter. Going 0-for-4 on the night, interestingly enough, he never stepped to the plate with a runner on base.
|07.02.11 at 6:45 pm ET|
|07.02.11 at 12:54 pm ET|
Red Sox outfielders J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron have struggled mightily to keep their heads (and batting averages) above water this season. Mostly due to that pair’s struggles, the Sox rank near the bottom of the majors in terms of right field production in most major categories.
For all of Drew’s struggles, Cameron fared even worse. Everything changed on Thursday when the Sox decided to release the 17-year veteran in the final season of a two-year, $15.5 million deal.
So, what does this mean for Drew? It’s time to start swimming.
In 64 games this year, Drew is having the worst year of his career. His batting average (.235), OBP (.333), slugging percentage (.327) and OPS (.660) all would be career lows; his four home runs and 18 RBIs likewise suggest his poor output. He has also dealt with a number of injuries that have limited him to 64 of the Sox’ first 81 games. Most recently, Drew suffered a left eye contusion and missed the first two games of last week’s series against the Phillies.
With his diminished output, Drew is, once again, a highly scrutinized player for the Sox, something that has been the case almost from the day that word that the Sox had signed the free agent to a five-year, $70 million contract emerged after the 2006 season.
Yet as much criticism as Drew has faced, his deal was far from the biggest given to an outfielder that offseason. Indeed, his was simply part of a wealth of long-term deals that were given out like candy to outfielders that winter. As the Sox take on the Astros for three days in Houston, it is a reminder that the Sox weren’t alone in taking a plunge into the deep end of the free-agent pool five winters ago.
Let’s fire up the flux capacitor and turn back time to the 2006-07 offseason ‘ Jan. 26, 2007, to be more specific ‘ when the Red Sox inked the then nine-year veteran to a five-year, $70 million deal. Drew was coming off a strong season in 2006 in which he appeared in a career-high 146 games, recorded his first 100 RBI season and batted a more-than-respectable .283 with a .393 OBP. With Trot Nixon‘s contract expiring and no suitable replacement available on roster (unless you count this guy), it’s easy to see why Drew — even with his fragile reputation — was an attractive free agent target, resulting in his deal that made him the highest-paid player on the team.
However, he wasn’t the only high-profile outfielder on the market. Indeed, he didn’t even receive the biggest deal of that winter. After all, in that same offseason of 2006-07, the Astros gave a six-year, $100 million deal to Carlos Lee. Like Drew, Lee — who hit .305 with a .354 OBP, .524 slugging mark and .878 OPS while averaging 29 homers and 107 RBI in the first three years of his deal — began fading in 2010 when, at age 34, he plunged to hitting .246/.291/.417/.708.
Unlike Drew, Lee has bounced back somewhat this year (.270/.321/.427/.748), but his defense — never considered elite — has dipped to the point where he is considered something of a DH with a glove. He splits his time between left field and first base, when interleague play doesn’t permit the Astros the luxury of using him as a designated hitter. So, from that standpoint, his defensive value — already limited — is in a state of decline. That situation could become more pronounced as Lee plays out not just this season but next under the terms of his six-year deal.
Aside from Drew and Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Pierre and Alfonso Soriano were all there for the taking that winter. The Blue Jays, based on the prevailing trends of that market, also made a bold move to extend Vernon Wells on a long-term deal that winter. Let’s take a few minutes to compare Drew’s production with that of these five players in the last half-decade. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.02.11 at 12:36 pm ET|
Two starts may be a little early to call Andrew Miller the next Sandy Koufax, the man Miller had dinner with back in the spring of 2009. But the lanky lefty will do his best to improve the strength of any connection between the two when he takes the mound against the Astros and their own lefty starter J.A. Happ Saturday evening.
Miller (1-0, 3.09 ERA) pitched extremely well in his last outing, allowing one earned run on five hits and two walks over six innings while striking out four in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh for his first W in a Red Sox uniform. The outing was arguably his best in the majors since June 23, 2009 (7 IP, 1 ER) and solidified Miller’s spot in the Boston starting rotation at least for the foreseeable future. He came up biggest in the fifth inning of that start when he struck out Neil Walker and got Matt Diaz to fly out to right with the bases loaded and the Pirates up 2-1. (The Sox would come back with two runs in the seventh to give themselves the win.)
Miller has some experience against some hitters on the Houston roster, dating back to his days in the Tigers and Marlins organizations. Jeff Keppinger (2-for-2, 2 doubles, 1 walk) and Michael Bourn (2-for-2, 1 walk) have yet to be retired by Miller, but in the same token, Angel Sanchez and Hunter Pence are a combined 0-for-10 against the lefty with five strikeouts. Surprisingly, Happ has faced Miller in the past and actually reached on a basehit in his only official at-bat while he bunted successfully in the others. (On the flipside, Miller is 0-for-1 against his Happ at the plate.)
For the season Happ (3-9, 5.54) is hitting .292 at the plate (7-for-24) with a home run and four RBI, but while he’s been good offensively, you simply cannot say the same thing about his performance on the hill. Happ leads the National League in losses with nine, and that total already represents a career-high for the 28-year-old. The month of June was by far his worst of the 2011 season as he went 0-3 with a 7.86 ERA over five starts. Surprisingly, Happ has struggled the most against lefty hitters as they are hitting .328 against the southpaw with a .966 OPS compared to .261 and .775 marks for righty batters, thus explaining Terry Francona‘s decision to put Adrian Gonzalez in right field and David Ortiz at first base for Saturday’s affair.
That being said, Gonzalez is 0-for-3 with a walk against Happ in his career. In fact, Jacoby Ellsbury is the only Boston position player to get a hit off Happ, although he could miss another start due to the illness that kept him out of Friday’s lineup. Read the rest of this entry »
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