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Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Mariners 3

08.25.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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It’s necessary to get the qualification out of the way first. A solid outing against the Mariners does not exactly come with the same degree of difficulty as one against the 1927 Yankees. Seattle entered Wednesday averaging 3.29 runs per game, the lowest mark by an American League team since the Toronto Blue Jays averaged 3.10 runs per contest in 1981.

That said, the Red Sox have been eager for any signs of optimism about Josh Beckett that they can get, and in the first game of the day-night double header, they received some. After allowing a leadoff single (on a comebacker) to Ichiro Suzuki to lead off the game, Beckett did not allow another hit through six innings.

Beckett faltered in the seventh, allowing three runs on a pair of homers. Even so, his first victory since Aug. 3 (after allowing 19 runs in his previous 16 innings) gave the Sox not only a 5-3 win but also some cause for hope with the pitcher going forward.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Beckett effectively mixed his changeup and curve with a fastball that he located to both sides of the plate to keep the Mariners off balance for much of the day. He took advantage of a strike zone that was interpreted liberally by home plate ump Rob Drake. He allowed just four hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven.

With his seventh-inning falter, however, Beckett did extend his streak of games in which he’s allowed a homer to five, matching the longest such run of his career. His fastball velocity appeared to dip in the seventh.

It was also somewhat noteworthy that Beckett did not have any physical issues on the mound, given that the rainy conditions were somewhat reminiscent of the May 18 game in Yankee Stadium in which he tweaked his back.

Marco Scutaro continued his recent offensive surge. He collected a pair of hits, and now has multi-hit games in five of his last six games, during which he is hitting .478 (11-for-23). He is hitting .395 during a nine-game hitting streak.

Daniel Nava had his first run-scoring hit since July 10, delivering a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth that proved pivotal.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox employed both Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, meaning that the availability of the team’s two key relievers will be in question for the nightcap.

Bard needed 20 pitches to record five outs. His stuff seemed somewhat less explosive than usual, as his velocity was in the mid- (rather than high-) 90s, and he did not record a strikeout. He also issued a walk, the ninth time in his last 16 plate appearances that he has given up a free pass.

Papelbon, meanwhile, was aggressive in the strike zone, but lacked the ability to close out Mariners hitters with two strikes. Most notably, with one out, Casey Kotchman, after falling behind 0-2, fouled off six Papelbon pitches en route to a 12-pitch at-bat. That resulted in an 18-pitch ninth inning for the Sox closer.

Ryan Kalish went 0-for-3, and is now 2-for-24 (.083) during the homestand.

–Though he had a fine day at the plate, drawing a pair of walks and delivering a sacrifice fly, Mike Lowell‘s base running limitations became evident when he was gunned out trying to advance from first to third on a single that bounced down the left-field line and into the corner.

Red Sox notes: Pedroia, team waiting on 2nd opinion

08.25.10 at 12:20 pm ET
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Red Sox skipper Terry Francona said Wednesday the team is waiting for the latest results on the scan of Dustin Pedroia‘s left foot.

“The disks have been sent to [Jonathan] Deland and [Robert] Anderson. I’m sure at some point we’re going to talk to Anderson,”Francona said. “Deland is in Austria. I can’t guarantee when he’s going to see that disk. I would shoot more for Anderson [seeing disk Wednesday].”

After playing two games, collecting one hit and one run and a steal, Pedroia complained of soreness in the left foot that kept him from sleeping last Thursday. His foot was scanned on Friday and it showed his foot was only half-healed. He was placed back on the disabled list last Friday.

Pedroia, Francona and the team were hoping to avoid a significant ‘surgery’ on Pedroia’s left foot to aid with the healing.

No decision has been made and the team is waiting on the second opinions to come in from the two foot specialists to decide if surgery is necessary.

Pedroia fouled a ball off his left [front] foot on June 25 in San Francisco and went on the disabled list for seven weeks before coming back for the Angels series last week at Fenway for three games before being forced back onto the DL. He had a scan of his foot last week after complaining of soreness and saying it was “feeling terrible.” Pedroia and the team sought out a second opinion from orthopedic specialists Deland and Anderson to determine if surgery were needed.

Meanwhile, after experiencing the first official washout of their 2010 season Tuesday night, Francona said he expects both games of the day-night doubleheader to be played on Wednesday at soggy Fenway Park. Francona said he was making his observation based on the radar team officials have seen.

“Everything says it’s supposed to clear out… and I don’t think they anticipate any problems,” Francona said. “Hope they’re right.”

The Red Sox will start Josh Beckett in Game 1 against Seattle David Pauley, scheduled for a 1:35 p.m. start. Jon Lester opposes Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the nightcap, set for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch.

Hideki Okajima pitches tonight in Buffalo for Triple-A Pawtucket. The team hopes to talk to him back in Boston before the team leaves on its charter Thursday for the weekend series at Tampa Bay.

“Oki [pitches] tonight. He’ll come back from Buffalo tomorrow. Plan is to sit down with him before we go to Tampa.”

— The Red Sox may be facing the lowly Mariners but they will have their hands full in the nightcap as they face one of the very best pitchers in the game enjoying of the best seasons in the game. Felix Hernandez is just 9-10 this season but he has a 2.51 ERA, trailing only Clay Buchholz‘s 2.26 mark in the American League. He leads the league in innings pitched with 197 and is second in strikeouts with 183.

“He’s one of the best, one of the very best, stuff-wise, ERA-wise,” Francona said Wednesday morning. “He burst onto the scene. He hasn’t gone under the radar with us. His stuff is as nasty as you can find.”

— Victor Martinez could very well wind up catching both Beckett and Lester in the day-night doubleheader as Francona tries to field the best offensive lineup, especially facing F-Her in the 7:10 p.m. game.

“We’ll see,” Francona said when asked if Kevin Cash – with a .148 average – would help split catching duties. “This is not an ordinary beginning-of-the-year, early-year doubleheader [where] we’re looking for ways to find guys at-bats and keep guys sharp. We didn’t play [Tuesday] night and we don’t play [Thursday]. So, you’ll see some changes but you’ll also see some guys play both games.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, felix hernandez, Hideki Okajima, Jon Lester

Francona on D&H: I think Pedroia will be back

08.25.10 at 11:52 am ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday morning for his weekly discussion on the Red Sox. This week, the Boston skipper talked about Dustin Pedroia‘€™s injury situation and Michael Jordan‘€™s baseball playing days as portrayed in ESPN’€™s 30 for 30 ‘€œJordan Rides the Bus.’€

‘€œThe best way I can put it is that he passed all the tests and I think everybody felt he was safe to come back and try to play,’€ Francona said of Pedroia. ‘€œNow in saying that, they also warned him, and very aggressively, that if he felt pain, he’€™d have to let us know because that’€™s when he could do damage. So, when he felt some pain, we immediately went and got a scan and the scan showed there was no further damage, which we were very relieved. Since he was sore, we put him on the DL.’€

Francona also touched on the difference of receiving criticism as a player and as a manager of a team.

Below is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Last night it was pretty obvious that the field was going to be tough to play on. It doesn’€™t look much better today, does it?

No, but we’€™re getting a better forecast. I know it’€™s ugly out there right now but it sounds like in the next couple hours, most of this is going to be out of here and we’€™re going to play. It might not be the best day we’€™ve ever seen and as the day progresses, I think we’€™re going to be okay. That’€™s alright because you know what, sometimes in the day games when it’€™s not sunny, it’€™s a heck of a lot easier to see and the field is a little mushy. That was kind of the problem last night, the forecast wasn’€™t getting better. I kind of said that we were chasing our tails, by the time we got on the field it would be too sloppy to play. Finally, probably cooler heads prevailed and we figured out this wasn’€™t going to work.

How does last night’€™s postponement affect the pitching matchups and lineups today?

Well, so far, we have the same exact lineup as we did last night, so does Seattle for the first game. Now in Game 2, we’€™ll probably have some changes, I don’€™t think they’€™ll be wholesale changes. When we play doubleheaders early in the year, you pretty much don’€™t see everybody play. This isn’€™t really that time of the year and we basically didn’€™t play last night and we don’€™t play tomorrow, so you’€™re going to see a lot of guys probably play both games. That’€™s the time of the year it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Michael Jordan, Terry Francona,

Chat live with Lou Merloni at noon

08.25.10 at 11:01 am ET
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Join WEEI’s Lou Merloni in a live chat leading into a day of doubleheader baseball. Bring all your Red Sox-related questions, comments, and opinions:

Merloni Live Chat

Red Sox vs. Mariners matchups, 8/25

08.25.10 at 10:28 am ET
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After Tuesday’€™s game was rained out, the Red Sox will play their first doubleheader of the season on Wednesday. The night cap sets up an electrifying matchup between aces Jon Lester and Felix Hernandez in the series finale. Lester will look to rebound from his worst outing of the season, while Hernandez will attempt to even his record and reach double digits in wins.

Lester (13-8, 3.26 ERA) uncharacteristically had a brief and ineffective start against the Blue Jays in his last time on the mound. The lefty allowed eight hits, three walks and two homers for a total of nine runs in only two innings of work. He received his eighth loss of the season as the Red Sox were blown out, 16-2. Prior to that abysmal performance, Lester pitched 14 1/3 straight scoreless innings against the Yankees and Rangers on the road to pick up a pair of wins. His ERA is now at its highest point since the middle of May.

For his career, Lester is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA in six starts against the Mariners. In his outing against Seattle this season, he suffered a loss despite striking out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Lester allowed four earned runs and was outdueled by David Pauley (starter of the first game of the doubleheader Wednesday) and the Mariners’€™ bullpen.

Hernandez (9-10, 2.51), meanwhile, has pitched phenomenally this season, holding an ERA under three and amassing 183 strikeouts. Though his numbers are nearly identical from last season, he hasn’€™t come close to repeating his record of 19-5 due to lack of run support. In his last start, the right-hander shut down the Yankees offense over eight innings, allowing no runs and striking out 11 in the process.

The Seattle starter has pitched well against the Red Sox with a 3-1 record and 3.17 ERA in seven career starts. His last outing vs. Boston came in July, 2009, when he received a no-decision after allowing three runs in seven innings of work. Hernandez was in line for the win but the bullpen blew the lead, allowing two runs in the bottom of the eighth. J.D. Drew has the most success against Hernandez on the Boston roster, hitting .400 with a home run in 23 plate appearances.

The Red Sox have an off day on Thursday before heading to Florida to open up a crucial three-game set against the Rays. They’€™ll return back to Fenway Park on Labor Day weekend in a home stand with the White Sox and Tampa Bay. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: felix hernandez, J.D Drew, Jon Lester,

Rays eyeing Baldelli to fill DH role

08.25.10 at 7:26 am ET
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It looks like former Red Sox Rocco Baldelli could play a role in the pennant race.

According to MLB.com, Baldelli, who is currently playing for Triple A Durham, might be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to filling Tampa Bay’s DH spot for the final month of the season. Monday night he notched his third consecutive two-hit, two-RBI performance, making him 9-for-27 with two homers and seven RBIs for the Bulls.

“We haven’t finalized anything yet, but Rocco is definitely strong,” said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who said calling up the outfielder “was the plan from the beginning.” “He’s done it before. Believe me, I’ve watched him take BP with us the last couple of months and there’s nothing wrong with his strength level. If he’s getting his timing back and he’s seeing the ball good, he could be very valuable, particularly against left-handed pitching.”

Maddon also touched on Baldelli’s physical condition.

“I’m not concerned about foot speed, so I would imagine strength-wise, it would help him a little bit,” Maddon said. “His issues with his [channelopathy] disorder would still be there. We’d have to monitor them. We just couldn’t throw him out there and play him. We’ll just see how he feels after all this happens and how he gets through it.

“Listen, he’s still one of the better baseball athletes I’ve been on a baseball field with. When you watch him take BP and throw, it’s still there.”

For Matsuzaka, uniform number is no small matter

08.25.10 at 1:19 am ET
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Even before Johnny Damon‘€™s declaration that he intended to exercise his right to veto a deal to Boston, it was clear that he would not be wearing No. 18 for the Red Sox again this year.

It is not just that Daisuke Matsuzaka wears Damon’€™s old uniform. The number actually harbors tremendous significance for the member of the Red Sox rotation, to the point where his right to wear it was written into the six-year, $52 million deal he signed with the Sox in December 2006.*

‘€œGrowing up, I played baseball with the goal of one day wearing number 18 as a professional ballplayer,’€ Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino yesterday. ‘€œWhen I signed with the Red Sox, I wanted to keep wearing the same number I had always worn, and the number was available. I’ve never worn another number since I went pro, even in international competition.

‘€œIn Japan, the ace gets to wear number 18,’€ he continued. ‘€œI know that 18 isn’t considered an ‘€˜ace number’€™ here in the U.S., but for me personally, I wear the number with pride, and I always try to push myself to be a pitcher worthy of the number.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Johnny Damon, masumi kuwata, tsuneo horiuchi

Red Sox statement on rainout

08.24.10 at 8:34 pm ET
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Here is the official statement from the Red Sox on Tuesday night’s rainout.

Tonight’€™s Red Sox-Mariners game at Fenway Park has been postponed due to rain and the forecast, as provided by the Red Sox private weather service, Telvent DTN, for continued steady rain and inclement weather throughout the evening.

Tonight’€™s game has been rescheduled as the second game of a day-night doubleheader, tomorrow, Wednesday, August 25, beginning at 7:10 p.m. The regularly scheduled game between the Red Sox and Mariners will be played at 1:35 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

Tickets for tonight’€™s game will be good for admission to Wednesday’€™s 7:10 p.m. game between the Red Sox and Mariners.

The decision to postpone tonight’s game came at the direction of the umpires, in consultation with Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners, after reviewing the long-range forecast.

Pregame Notes: Red Sox vs. Mariners, Aug. 24

08.24.10 at 6:05 pm ET
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In the non-Johnny Damon News Division:

Mike Cameron will undergo surgery to repair his sports hernia on Friday at Mass General Hospital. In the first year of his two-year, $15.5 million deal, he was limited to just 48 games in which he hit .259 with a .328 OBP, .401 slugging mark and .729 OPS. Cameron is naturally disappointed that his season will be wiped out by injury, but did not have regrets about delaying the procedure, as he wanted to make every possible effort to play.

“I have no regrets on nothing other than a regret that I’€™m not getting an opportunity to go out and still continue to be in the trenches with the fellas. Other than that, I’€™ve given every ounce of me to this ballclub, to my mind and everybody else, so I have nothing to look back upon in a negative light other than that I wish I could have been at full health to be able to go out and run around like a wild horse,” said Cameron. “I’€™m a little nervous, obviously, but I’€™m excited to go ahead on and take care of things that will allow me to feel a lot better and be able to move around a lot better and get ready to start looking forward to ‘€™11, God willing.”

Jonathan Papelbon suggested that he feels like he’s in top form as the season enters its final stages. He feels that he’s taken the lessons of the season to achieve his greatest mechanical comfort “in a long, long time.”

“I’€™m basically standing over the rubber a little bit more. I’€™m able to stay behind the baseball, obviously,” said Papelbon. “For me, that makes a huge difference. I think that for a closer, if you can be able to go out there and repeat your delivery night in and night out, you’€™re going to be successful no matter who you are.”

Since June 26, Papelbon has allowed earned runs in just two of 22 games, with a 1.64 ERA during that time, and he has struck out 25 batters in his last 22 innings.

Hideki Okajima, who had been scheduled to rejoin the Sox to be examined on Tuesday, was instead told to stay with Triple-A Pawtucket in Buffalo to continue his rehab assignment. Okajima was touched for four runs while recording just one out on Monday.

“Had kind of a tough night,” said manager Terry Francona.

As a result, the Sox felt that, rather have him rejoin the team now for an exam, he should stay in Triple-A to work on his fastball command in another rehab game. He will pitch on Wednesday, then return to Boston.

Kevin Cash has been activated from the 15-day disabled list, while Dusty Brown was told after Monday’s game that he was being optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

–The team was hoping to have a conference call with multiple doctors about the condition of Dustin Pedroia‘s left foot either on Tuesday night or on Wednesday morning, depending on the availability of all parties. For now, Pedroia isn’t doing much physical activity on his feet while on the disabled list.

Francona arranged for a phone call between Pedroia and basketball icon Michael Jordan, who played for Francona in his foray into minor league baseball, to discuss the recovery from a broken navicular bone. Jordan suffered such an injury in his second NBA season in 1984-85, missing much of the year before making a dazzling end-of-season return against the Celtics in the playoffs.

Francona rarely likes to reach out to Jordan given the demands on the Bobcats owner, but he thought that the Hall of Famer might enjoy the chance to talk to Pedroia. Francona said that it was “probably a tie” as to whether Jordan or Pedroia was the more formidable trash-talker.

Disappointed Sox react to Damon decision

08.24.10 at 5:31 pm ET
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[Click here to listen to David Ortiz explain his take on Johnny Damon not coming back to the Red Sox.]

There had been a glimmer of excitement in the Red Sox clubhouse on Monday, when word of Johnny Damon‘s possible return to Boston circulated. But with word on Tuesday that the outfielder has elected to stay in Detroit, there was some feeling of disappointment.

“It would have been a welcome visit to have him back here,” said Jason Varitek, who talked to Damon on Monday. “I can only speak for what Johnny has meant here and what he has done as a player. And what he is is a teammate, and it would have been a big addition to our team with what he can be.”

“I was happy [when the Sox claimed him]. He was my old teammate and to see him back in a Red Sox uniform would have been great,” said David Ortiz. “Like I say, I was hoping he would come but it was something that neither you or I could decide. He’€™s the one that had to decide what to do for his own and do whatever he wanted to do.”

Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was deferential to Damon’s decision, noting that such matters are deeply personal and that a player cannot be faulted for a decision to stay in a place where he is happy.

“I think it’s a personal decision for him. I think he’s going to do whatever best suits him and his family. I wish nothing but the best for him,” said Papelbon. “When you’€™re in a position and in a city and in a place where you want to be and a place where you’€™re happy, I find no real reason for leaving that. I know Johnny’€™s going to do whatever is best for him and his family. I’€™ve always admired Johnny since I came here in ‘€™05. He was one of the players who kind of took me under his wing. He kind of showed me the ropes of the big leagues. I wish him nothing but the best.

“If he’€™s happy, why not stay? If he wasn’€™t happy, obviously he would have left,” he added. “He kind of answered the question for everybody.”

Papelbon suggested that the Sox are not in a position where they will need to make a move in order to compete for the postseason. He feels that the Sox, who entered Tuesday 5 1/2 games behind both the Yankees and Rays, can make a run at their American League competition with the group that they already have assembled. He suggested that the team is not yet at the point of desperation, but that it could be just a couple weeks from such a state.

“I feel fine [about the team],” said Papelbon. “When this team’€™s back has been put up against the wall, I think that’€™s kind of when we’€™ve been at our best. … It’€™s getting closer and closer. It’€™s getting closer and closer to crunch time.”

Varitek, on the other hand, said that the Sox had already reached that point.

“This has been who we are, and it’s been who we are all year and we’re in the right place. And it’s come down to the same thing it has all year: We throw the ball well, we present ourselves with good opportunities to win,” said Varitek. “And we have to continue to do that, and that’s going to be even more important over this next month and a week.”

Even so, there was some sense of what could have been. The idea of Damon’s return was unquestionably an exciting one inside the Red Sox clubhouse, and so some deflation had occurred with the outfielder’s declaration that he no longer planned to come back to Boston.

“Considering the buzz that Johnny created for many years here, one of the original ‘€˜Idiots’€™ of the World Series champions here, I thought it would be a great idea,” said Mike Cameron. “But sometimes the ideas of others are not the same as the person who actually has to be in the situation.”

Read More: Johnny Damon, Jonathan Papelbon,
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