|10.08.09 at 7:20 pm ET|
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Josh Beckett just had his pre-game media session. Some highlights:
Q. How would you assess how you come into the playoffs this year compared to last year? How do you feel physically and throwing the ball?
Well, there’s no issues physically at all. Obviously, last year was a little bit different. So as far as physically coming in, it’s a lot better. Last month it’s been better than it was two months ago, so I’m just looking forward to going out there and doing what I’m supposed to do.
Q. You’ve had great experience, great success in the postseason early in your career. From the start, are you one of those guys that just approaches it exactly as a regular season game, or is there any kind of difference, really?
Well, I think the focus is going to be there. I think the extra adrenaline helps that. So I think everybody’s a little more locked in in the postseason. I know that you come in, and obviously, you don’t feel like you did when you come into spring training. You’ve got a little bit of physical, you know, tiredness, whatever it may be.
But, you know, I think the best way to approach it is to just approach it exactly as you said. It is just another game. You’ve got to go out there and do exactly the same things you did in the games you were successful in the regular season.
Q. What has it been like over the four years you’ve been here just kind of watching the development of Youkilis who was kind of a role player when you first got here, now he’s one of the best hitters in the game?
Yeah, his stance has gotten different, too. You know, he just, even when he was a role player, he doesn’t give at bats away. He didn’t give at bats away then, he doesn’t give at bats away now. He really fits that mold of guys when I first got here and continued on until now as guys that work pitchers.
The more pitches you can make their starter throw earlier, the better chance you are of getting to that point of their bullpen where, you know, maybe those middle guys are not equipped stuff-wise to be starters or end-of-the-game guys, so those are guys you end up scoring the crooked numbers off of.
The guy who starts the first game of the series can set the tone for the series. Do you approach it differently if you’re up 1 0 or down 0 1, pitching the second game in the series?
No. You’ve got to approach it, you need to win every game. You’re trying to. The first one to 11 is the one who takes home the ultimate prize. Every game, it means a lot. Whether you’re up 2 games to nothing, you’re not trying to give any games away.
The dominance that you guys have had over the Angels, is that something that we just write a lot about, or is it a special hold that you guys kind of cherish and hold on to and use psychologically?
I haven’t been here through the whole thing. I just know that we’ve had good teams the years that I’ve played the Angels, and they’ve had good teams. I think some of it just comes down to execution. The team who executes the best is the one that’s going to win.
Can you describe how you digested the idea that you would be the Game 2 starter instead of the Game 1 starter this year?
There was no digestion. I don’t make those I don’t make those decisions. That would be a great question for Tito, maybe.
All your past playoff experiences, how much has that helped you in this situation, you know, what you have to do?
I don’t know. I think just like the preparation. You know other, I know going into my first start in the postseason, I didn’t really know what to expect and what I needed to do. Did I need to do something different? I think my experience, if anything, helps me just go at it the exact same way that I would a regular season game and prepare myself the exact same way for the games that I was successful in during the season.
Are you any more excited about this start because you don’t have the physical limitations on you that you had last year when you really had to grind it out? Are you a little bit more excited for the opportunity in this situation?
Yeah, I definitely look more forward to this start than I do whenever I’ve got physical things that are holding me back. But I’ve had a lot of starts this year that I’ve felt good in. So I’m just going to continue to try to execute pitches.
For so many years the Angels were very much one through nine, put the ball in play quickly type of club. This year with Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins walking more, it’s a little bit different. Do you adjust the way you pitch to the way that they hit? Or do you simply just pitch your game and whatever they do is what they do?
Well, I mean, you definitely go in with a plan. You know, the plan’s obviously going to be altered a little bit by their approach. Bobby’s been one of the great guys to face my whole career because he’s always been a guy that’s worked counts. He’s obviously brought that over here and some other guys have fed off that and kind of doing what I was talking about Youkilis. Working guys and trying to get them out of the game to get to the middle guys.
But as far as like their approach against me, I don’t think it’s changed even with Bobby being here. I think that certain guys have certain approaches when they have enough at bats against somebody, that they just usually stick with that.
|10.08.09 at 7:10 pm ET|
–Ervin Santana, who has moved from the rotation to the bullpen for the Division Series, might be available to pitch on back-to-back days, depending on his workload in the first contest. If, for instance, he were to throw one inning tonight, he could be available on Friday for Game 2.
“There are a lot of things that Terry brings, you’ll notice. And it’s not just limited to in-game management, which he’s as good as there is at. He does a great job with the bullpen, [and] I think a great job with lineups. [He] has guys running in high-percentage success-rate situations, but I think the environment and the tone he sets goes beyond what might happen in a ballgame just shows what he brings to that organization. He’s had to deal with a lot of things. Those guys just keep bouncing back, and bouncing back from injuries and everything that goes on with their club to be perennial contenders. He’s certainly leading that charge.”
–A moment of levity occurred when Scoscia was asked about Jeff Weaver’s performance in the second half.
“I haven’t seen Jeff too much,” said Scoscia. “He got the win last night for the Dodgers. I’ll just assume you’re talking about Jered. I get them confused all the time, too. If Jered had a nickel for every time I call him Jeff, he’d be richer than he is now.”
Jeff Weaver last pitched for the Angels in 2006, going 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA. Jered Weaver went 16-8 with a 4.75 ERA this year.
–Scoscia said that he “absolutely” could see a difference between David Ortiz in April and May and the one who his club faced in Boston in September.
“When he first came in here earlier in the season, you could see he was really searching for some things,” said Scoscia. “I think he was putting a lot of pressure on himself, just from outside looking in. … When we went back in there in the last month of the season, you just saw a different presence. You saw a guy, I think, more confident, more comfortable. And, you know, I think probably the numbers reflect really two different guys from … maybe the first two months of the eason until where he is now. He’s every bit as dangerous as he’s ever been. I think you can throw the numbers out at this point. There’s probably not a guy that’s been a better clutch hitter in postseason ever than David Ortiz. He’s going to be someone to deal with, for sure.”
|10.08.09 at 6:46 pm ET|
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Casey Kotchman insists it’s no big deal.
He was drafted by the Angels in the first round of the 2001 draft and spent seven years in their organization before getting traded to the Braves as the centerpiece of a deal that sent Mark Teixeira from the Braves to the Angels last year. He is now making his first trip back to an organization in which he literally grew up, since his father, Tom Kotchman, has been a manager in the Angels system since 1984.
But before Tom Kotchman took his family into the Angels organization, he spent his first year as a minor-league manager in charge of the Red Sox‘ High-A affiliate in Winter Haven, Fla. There, Tom Kotchman — who became a father at the start of spring training that year, when Casey entered the world on Feb. 22, 1983 — was the man who was in charge of Roger Clemens‘ introduction to the professional baseball world.
Clemens was a first-round draft pick of the Sox in 1983, a year in which he led the University of Texas to the College World Series title. The young right-hander signed in June and reported to Winter Haven. And as Tom Kotchman recalled (in a conversation a couple of years ago), there was little hope for the pitcher’s opponents.
“He saw a couple wooden bats break, he gave me a nudge and he said, ‘Skip, I like that.’ I said, ‘I think you’re going to break a few,'” Tom Kotchman recalled. “The only way you knew he was a first-round pick was by watching him pitch. He didn’t say much. He didn’t go out and buy a fancy car. He didn’t have a bunch of bling around his neck. He just wore jeans, maybe had a Cowboy hat. He’d come to the ballpark and he was all business…Coming out of Texas and coming to Winter Haven, Fla., where the heat and humidity were just awful, he could physically outrun any of our pitchers doing their condition. It wasn’t even close.”
Clemens pulled away from his opponents in equally impressive fashion. He went 3-1 with a 1.24 ERA, pitching 29 innings, striking out 36 and not issuing a single walk. Tom Kotchman was just 27, and he was just a first-year manager, but he had little doubt that a ridiculously talented individual was passing through Winter Haven.
That notion was reinforced in particularly dominating fashion in Clemens’ last start prior to a promotion.
“I remember his last game. It was a 1-0 game (against Lakeland). I remember going out to the mound because he was near his pitch count,” Kotchman recalled. “When I went out there and asked him, he said, ‘You’re not taking me out. This game’s over in three pitches.’ He didn’t mean foul ball, fly ball, pop-up. It was good morning, good evening, good night. After the game, we were shaking hands and he said, ‘I told you.'”
Clemens finished that game with 15 punchouts. There was one spectator that day who seemed particularly jarred by the performance.
That would be Casey Kotchman, who was about five months old at the time.
“When he was pitching in Winter Haven, my son was just born. He would be three or four months old. My wife brought him over for like an hour and a half drive from our house. Casey was sick and collicky,” said Tom Kotchman. “Maybe that’s the reason my son was collicky that day. He was only four months old, but maybe he saw Roger’s stuff and was having nightmares that he would have to hit off him one day.”
When he got to the majors, Casey Kotchman went on to face Roger Clemens. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout when Clemens was with the Yankees in 2007.
That, of course, was at a time when Casey Kotchman was with the Angels. Now, he will oppose the team that once signed his paychecks and that still provides his father’s income. While that will be a bit of a foreign experience, it seems unlikely to inspire as much discomfort as did the sight of Clemens when the first baseman was in swaddling clothes.
|10.08.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
–Outfielder Rocco Baldelli still cannot run due to his strained hip flexor. Nor has he been able to hit. As a result, the Sox had no choice but to leave him off the roster for the Division Series.
–Daisuke Matsuzaka will be available as a long reliever for Game 1. He will long toss, alongside Jon Lester, prior to Game 1 in case he is needed.
–The team feels that Hideki Okajima is in good shape after the left-handed reliever missed time late in the season with a sore right side that required acupuncture and rest. Manager Terry Francona said that Okajima was tested fairly thoroughly on Wednesday and responded well.
A few more interesting notes on the groundhog day series between the Red Sox and Angels:
–The two teams are meeting for the fifth time in the postseason, having done so previously in 1986, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The Sox have won each of the previous series, claiming nine wins in 10 games this decade of 12 of the last 13 dating to Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.
–The Angels are 0-5 all-time in Game 1 of Division Series. They have also lost their last five home games in the postseason to the Sox.
–In a shocking development, the Angels hate to hear about the details of that history.
–The Angels were tremendously strong down the stretch, particularly in their starting rotation. “Los Angeles” starters had a 2.52 ERA over their final 34 games, averaging more than six innings per start in that span. Halos starters also led the A.L. with 70 wins.
–The 2009 Angels are the only team in MLB history with 11 players who drove in at least 50 runs.
–The Sox are the ultimate “Wild Things,” having entered the playoffs as a wild card seven times. No other team has punched a postseason ticket as a wild card more than three times.
–Jonathan Papelbon’s record scoreless innings streak to start his postseason career now stands at 25 innings. He is closing in on Christy Mathewson’s record of 28 straight shutout innings, achieved from 1905-1911.
–Jon Lester’s 1.95 ERA in five postseason starts is the third lowest in Sox history among starters with at least 30 innings, behind Babe Ruth (0.87) and Ernie Shore (1.82).
|10.08.09 at 5:46 pm ET|
Since we brought you everything we have been doing here at WEEI.com on the Red Sox/Angels series, we figured we would bring you some of the news coming out of the left coast. Check out what they are saying in the links below.
They’re only playoff opinions . . . (Good quote from this one: “If Jon Lester is half as intense on the mound as he is in media interviews, I can see why he has become the Sox’s No. 1 starter . . . .”)
Check out the rest the LA Times has to offer in its Angels Unplugged blog.
Angels vs. Red Sox: Analysis and Prediction (slideshow)
Why the Angels will win (slidehshow)
ALDS Scorecard (strange mathematical formula used here, check it out)
And, of course, we have this little guy. . .
|10.08.09 at 4:48 pm ET|
It’s playoff time, and that means that we here at WEEI.com have gone full-tilt into Red Sox coverage as the Sox battle the Angels in the American League Division Series. Drowning in data? Having trouble keeping up with all the latest information? Well, here is your one-stop shop for everything Sox that you will ever need to know.
Rob Bradford, Alex Speier and Mike Petraglia are on the scene in Boston, bringing you the most up-to-date information, while Lou Merloni and Curt Schilling will break down the scene. Check it all out in the links below.
Don’t forget: The Virtual Press Box will be open during every game. Join Rob, Alex, and Lou for an in-game conversation unlike any other. The Box opens at noon for Game 3 – CLICK HERE to enter.
|10.08.09 at 3:15 pm ET|
Enter the Virtual Pressbox tonight for Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Red Sox and Angels! WEEI.com will be hosting an in-game interactive forum, with ongoing commentary from former Red Sox players Curt Schilling and Lou Merloni, and reporters Rob Bradford and Alex Speier live on the scene in Anaheim.
Join the conversation! Offer your own commentary, take part in polls, and watch the game with a group unlike any other.
The pressbox opens at 9:30 p.m. Be there.
|10.08.09 at 1:47 pm ET|
The Red Sox have announced that outifielder Rocco Baldelli, who has been battling a strained hip flexor, is not on the Red Sox’ roster from the American League Division Series, with both Joey Gathright and Brian Anderson serving as the team’s reserve outfielders.
The Sox waited until today to announce their roster because they wanted, if at all possible, to carry Baldelli, a right-handed hitter with significant power who is viewed as a legitimate weapon against left-handed pitching. With the Angels featuring southpaws Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders in Games 3 and 4, respectively, at Fenway Park, there was a good chance that Baldelli would have started at least one of those contests. That is why the Sox waited until the last minute to make their decision, but ultimately, his strained hip flexor made it impossible to predict with any certainty that Baldelli would be available.
“He’s kind of an important bat, especially in this series,” Sox manager Terry Francona said on Wednesday. “But we’re not going to do something that’s unfair to him.”
Anderson performed well in his 21 plate appearances for the Sox, hitting .294 with a .381 OBP, 1.028 OPS and two homers. Anderson also has at least one memorable moment from a playoff-type setting, when he made a spectacular diving catch to preserve the White Sox‘ 1-0 win over the Twins in a one-game playoff for the A.L. Central in 2008. (For more on that play, click here.)
The Sox will carry 11 pitchers and two catchers. The roster is as follows:
|10.08.09 at 1:11 pm ET|
It has almost become too inevitable. Year after year, fate has destined the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels to square off against each other in the first-round of the postseason. That is how it was in 2004. That’s how it was in 2007 and 2008. And that’s how it is now in 2009.
It has almost become too predictable. The Angels will give the nod to their hard-throwing ace John Lackey and the Red Sox will send to the mound their home-grown left-hander Jon Lester to ignite the best-of-five set, the same match-up that took place to start the ALDS a year ago.
Finishing the regular season as victors of the AL wild card, the Red Sox (95-67) find themselves in the same position as last season — traveling 3,000 miles to begin their quest for the eighth World Series title in franchise history, and the third of the decade. The Angels (97-65) finished with the second-best record in the American League, in the process securing home-field advantage for at least the ALDS.
When Lester (15-8, 3.41 ERA) takes the mound in the bottom of the first inning, he might recall his brilliant outing in Game 1 of the ALDS from a year ago. On Oct. 1, 2008, Lester hurled seven strong innings, striking out seven and walking one to earn the win in the Sox’ 4-1 victory, allowing only one unearned run.
Days later, the left-hander would be summoned in Game 4 of the series, where he blanked the Angels over seven shutout innings, but received a no-decision as the bullpen blew the save in the eighth. The Sox won the game 3-2, however, sending them to face off in what would be a seven-game, dramatic series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, a game in which Lester insists that he was throwing as well as at any time in 2008.
In his postseason career, Lester owns a 2-2 record with a minuscule 2.25 ERA in seven appearances, five which were starts, memorably including his victory in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series clincher against the Colorado Rockies.
Though Lester enjoyed tremendous success against the Angels last October, the Halos have challenged him during the regular season. In four starts, Lester has a 1-1 record and a robust 7.78 ERA against the team. Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu has seen Lester more times than any other hitter on the Halos’ roster, batting .308 in 14 plate appearances with two doubles, one walk, and one strikeout.
For the Angels, the fiery Lackey (11-8, 3.83) continues to search for his first postseason win against the BoSox. In Game 1 of the ALDS last year, Lackey held the Red Sox scoreless for six innings before surrendering a two-run home run to Jason Bay in the seventh. Lackey would get two outs in the inning before exiting and ultimately being tagged with the loss.
In his rookie campaign in 2002, Lackey was unbeatable in the postseason, leading the way with a 2-0 record in five appearances and three starts including a Game 7 WS win vs. the San Francisco Giants to crown the Angels champions. Since then, Lackey has yet to record a playoff win, posting an 0-3 mark with a 4.00 ERA in six starts. Two of the three losses came against the Sox — one in 2007 and the other in 2008.
In the regular season, Lackey has not fared much better opposing the Red Sox. The Texas native has gone 3-7 with an 5.25 ERA in 14 career starts. His most recent loss came on Sept. 15 where he limited Boston to three runs (two earned) in seven innings but was handed the defeat in the 4-1 Sox victory. Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez has hammered Lackey in the past, collecting a .476 batting average in 25 plate appearances.
Now, feeling like deja vu for both teams, the Sox look to continue to ride on Lester’s hot streak while the Angels hope they can end their seemingly never-ending pursuit to walk away with a playoff series win against the Red Sox.
Here is how both pitchers have matched up against their opponent’s batters:
Jon Lester vs. Angels batters
Bobby Abreu (14 career plate appearances ) .308 AVG, .357 OBP, .462 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Vladimir Guerrero (11) .400, .455, .500, 1 double, 1 walk
Chone Figgans (9) .250, .222, .375, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Maicer Izturis (9) .375, .444, .625, 2 doubles, 1 walk
Gary Matthews, Jr. (8) 3-for-6, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Robb Quinlan (7 ) 1-for-7, 1 strikeout
Juan Rivera (6) 2-for5, 1 double, 1 walk
Howie Kendrick (5) 2-for-5, 1 double
Erick Aybar (4) 2-for-3, 1 walk
Jeff Mathis (4) 1-for-4, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Torii Hunter (3) 2-for-3, 1 double
Mike Napoli (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Reggie Willits (3) 2-for-2, 1 walk
John Lackey vs. Red Sox batters
David Ortiz (37 career plate appearances) .333 AVG, .405 OBP, .667 SLG, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (30) .185, .267, .296, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts
Victor Martinez (25) .476, .560, .524, 1 double, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
J.D. Drew (22) .300, .364, .550, 1 double, 2 triples, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (22) .143, .182, .143, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Rocco Baldelli (17) .176, .176, .176, 6 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (17) .375, .412, .500, 2 doubles, 1 walk
Kevin Youkilis (17) .294, .294, .647, 2 home runs, 2 strikeouts
Alex Gonzalez (11) .364, .364, .455, 1 double, 2 strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (10) 2-for-10, 2 strikeouts
Chris Woodward (5) 0-for-4, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Jason Bay (4) 1-for-2, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Brian Anderson (3) 0-for-3
Joey Gathright (3) 1-for-2, 1 hit-by-pitch
Casey Kotchman (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
|10.07.09 at 9:12 pm ET|
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jason Varitek doesn’t hide from the fact. Since the arrival of Victor Martinez, his playing time has diminished steadily, as Martinez has been entrusted with a greater and greater share of the workload, to the point where Varitek says candidly that he doesn’t know when or if he will be starting this postseason.
That represents a sea change in the Red Sox universe. Since 2003, the Sox have played in 54 postseason games, and Varitek has played in all but two of those. But he has never been in a struggle such as the one in which he finds himself, and the Sox have never had an alternative like Martinez. From June 7 through the end of the year, Varitek hit .179/.296/.292/.588.
Since the Sox acquired Martinez, Varitek’s offensive woes have been even more pronounced. Starting on Aug. 1, he is hitting .134 (worst in the majors among those with at least 100 at-bats), has a .220 OBP (third worst in the majors) and .216 slugging mark (worst in the majors). In the same span, Martinez has hit .336/.405/.507 and has been a middle of the order force.
And so, Varitek has no longer been able to assume that he will start on any given day, or with any pitcher. Martinez has become the regular receiver for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and has worked with Josh Beckett of late. He has also had the chance to work with Daisuke Matsuzaka. And so, Varitek is forced to adjust. He admits that the situation is novel, but he does not object.
“It’s different. It’s definitely different,” said Varitek. “You can’t really control playing time, but you can control the other parts where you contribute. It may not be by playing. It may be on the bench. You can’t really control those things, but it’s not the time of year to be selfish.”
The Sox captain said that he is still doing everything in his power to remain ready in case the Sox need him. At the same time, he is more than willing to contribute by offering Martinez any information that may prove of help.
“Vic’s been great. He’s been a huge part of our team, a huge part of our offense. He swings the bat really well, and does a really good job behind the plate,” said Varitek. “I think we have a very good relationship, first from the respect factor of playing against each other, then from working together. Sometimes, over the course of learning and talking through stuff, a word of something from Victor to me helps me or vice-versa.”
Of course, the information flow may prove one-sided. There is a decent chance that during the playoffs, Martinez will be the Sox’ everyday catcher. Varitek may be limited to spot starts or a bench role. Varitek has yet to learn what sort of role, in any, he will play. But given that he is on a Red Sox postseason roster for the 15th different series, he refuses to express any disappointment about his role.
“We’re in the postseason. I don’t know what’s disappointing about being in the postseason. Everybody in this locker room at some point has helped the team win games,” Varitek said. “Your level of how special this opportunity is goes well beyond anything personal.”
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