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Daisuke done after 5 2/3 innings

06.07.09 at 3:32 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka gave way to reliever Justin Masterson after throwing 102 pitches (71 strikes) over 5 2/3 innings. Matsuzaka, who left the game with Omar Vizquel at first and two outs, allowed five runs on 10 hits, while striking out eight and not walking a batter.

Ian Kinsler would greet Masterson with a double into the left field corner, but a laser of a throw from relay man Nick Green nailed Vizquel at home to end the inning and finish off Matsuzaka’s line, keeping the Red Sox deficit at 5-3.

It was the first time this season Matsuzaka hadn’t walked a batter. It was also the first time since a four-inning outing, May 27, 2008, that he hadn’t issued a free pass.

Ellsbury leaves after five

06.07.09 at 3:29 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury has left the game with a right shoulder strain suffered when making a spectacular diving catch in the fourth inning on an Ian Kinsler fly ball into the triangle in center field. Ellsbury, who had to dive onto the warning track to make the grab, was replaced in center by Mark Kotsay, who moved over from right with Rocco Baldelli coming on.

Bay’s streak comes to an end

06.07.09 at 2:37 pm ET
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Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay was thrown out stealing to end the second inning, by Texas catcher Taylor Teagarden (remember him?). It was not only the first time this season that Bay has been gunned down — having gone 5 for 5 before today — but hadn’t been thrown out since April 22, 2007.

Since 2005 Bay has the second-best stolen base percentage of any player with at least 50 attempts (only behind former teammate Nate McLouth), now going 5 for his last 52.

As for the rest of the Red Sox, starter Daisuke Matsuzaka has given up four runs in the first three innings (one in the first, one in the second, two in the third).

Smoltz a man without a plan

06.07.09 at 1:27 pm ET
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John Smoltz knows that he’s getting close. Following his six-inning, 74-pitch outing for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, the 42-year-old is now scheduled to start on Thursday in Syracuse. From there, there’s a chance — and seemingly a strong one at that — that Smoltz could be ready for a return to the majors. Smoltz, however, is trying to avoid thinking too much about what comes after Thursday.

“I don’€™t have a plan after that,” he grinned. “I’€™m plan-less.”

Because Smoltz’ outing on Thursday will be in a seven-inning game (part of a double-header for the PawSox), he wants to pitch a complete game. He still has some work to do building his pitch count, as Smoltz professes a goal of getting to 90 or 95 pitches in his next outing in order to get a read on his stamina and stuff. Indeed, Smoltz admits that he “begged” the PawSox to let him pitch beyond his six innings, but that the team refused to relent.)

“They just want me to achieve certain things,” said Smoltz. “No sense in pushing it, which I understand.”

In terms of stuff, Smoltz suggests that he is neither where he was when he was last healthy in 2007, nor is he where he believes he will ultimately be in 2009. Nonetheless, he is heartened by where he is, feeling that his arsenal is good enough to allow him to compete.

“I would say (the stuff is a) B. Grade B, which is good,” said Smoltz. “There’€™s room to get up to A-level. And then I know that certain things from there will be better.”

Of course, those who know Smoltz believe that he is fully capable of succeeding with that caliber of stuff. A pitcher who spent more than a decade with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine is capable of succeeding on guile as much as stuff. Towards that end, the Sox believe that Smoltz is now in the phase of his recovery when he is preparing for the specific circumstances of at-bats and outings, rather than simply trying to regain health following his shoulder surgery last June.

“He’s excited and he’s getting closer and closer, you can see it,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “He’s not rehabbing so much anymore. He’s trying to attack hitters and make pitches and talk about how he gets reaction to his split and things like that, which is good to hear.”

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Red Sox vs. Rangers Match-Ups, 6/7

06.07.09 at 12:42 pm ET
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RANGERS VS. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA

Here’€™s how the Rangers have fared in three career games against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is 3-0 with a 4.15 ERA against Texas:

Ian Kinsler (9 career plate appearances): 2-for-7, two walks
Michael Young (9): 5-for-8, walk
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4): 2-for-3, walk
Hank Blalock (3): 1-for-3, homer
Brandon Boggs (3): 0-for-1, 2 walks
Marlon Byrd (3): 0-for-3
Chris Davis (3): 1-for-3
Andruw Jones (3): 0-for-3
Omar Vizquel (3): 0-for-3
Nelson Cruz (2): 0-for-2
David Murphy (2): 0-for-2

RED SOX VS. VICENTE PADILLA

The absence of J.D. Drew from the Sox lineup may be felt more acutely today than it was yesterday, given Drew’s outstanding career numbers against Rangers starter Vicente Padilla. That said, Drew’s replacement-du-jour — Mark Kotsay — has put up numbers that are almost as good against the right-hander. Kotsay is a career .348 hitter with a .407 OBP and .565 slugging mark against Padilla.

Mike Lowell (40): .211 average / .250 OBP / .289 slugging
Mark Kotsay (27): .348 / .407 / .565
J.D. Drew (23): .368 / .478 / .632
David Ortiz (15): .333 / .467 / 1.000, 2 homers
Kevin Youkilis (11): 4-for-10, walk
Julio Lugo (10): 2-for-8, walk
Jason Bay (6): 0-for-5, walk
Jason Varitek (5): 1-for-4, walk
Rocco Baldelli (4): 2-for-3
Nick Green (4): 3-for-4

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, vicente padilla,

Ortiz gets his just reward

06.07.09 at 12:18 am ET
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Maybe Julio Lugo was onto something when he told reporters before Saturday’s game that it was just a matter of time before David Ortiz makes his critics eat their words.

‘€œHe’€™s good, he’€™s still good,” said Lugo, someone not unfamiliar to struggles of his own.  “He’€™s just in a slump and you know, he’€™s going to find it. All those people talking bad about him, they’€™re going to keep clapping. 2004 World Series, wouldn’€™t be here without Big Papi. 2007 World Series, wouldn’€™t be without Big Papi.

“Now, everybody is killing him, it’€™s not fair, man. All those people on TV talking bad about him, that’€™s bull-beep.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Red Sox, Terry Francona

Lester closes it out

06.06.09 at 9:35 pm ET
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Jon Lester lost his shutout bid in the ninth inning, permitting a walk, a hit and a sac fly to give up his first run of the game, but he still finished strong against the Rangers, closing out his first complete-game victory of the season. The Sox claimed an 8-1 win on a night when Lester allowed just four baserunners, all in the final three innings: two on hits, two on walks. Lester improves to 5-5, and the Sox reclaim first place by a half-game in the A.L. East.

Smoltz on His Pawtucket Outing

06.06.09 at 9:19 pm ET
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John Smoltz had what he described as his best rehab start thus far, allowing just one hit over six innings in front of 10,064 at McCoy Stadium en route to a 2-1 PawSox victory over the Durham Bulls.

Smoltz seemed generally pleased with what he was able to accomplish, from both a physical and experimental standpoint. In all he threw 74 pitches, struck out three and walked two while giving up one earned run. He plans to make one last rehab start on Thursday in a double-header against Syracuse. Because it’€™s a double-header, the most he would be able to pitch would be seven innings.

On whether he’€™s making a final rehab start:

‘€œI think I am [making another rehab start Thursday]. I don’€™t know total process of what’€™s going to go on, but more than likely I’€™m going to start there. It’€™s a double-header so the most I can go is seven innings and hopefully that will be the last of what’€™s been a pretty good tune-up. Then they’€™ve got decisions to make, I’€™m going to leave it up to them and how they make those decisions. Certainly I couldn’€™t ask for a better four-game stretch to be able to get to this point.’€

On thinking about Boston:

“I’€™m trying not to, to be honest. The danger of what you could be doing in this position is forecasting too far out and I’€™m really not. In this process, however long it takes, was the prepared approach I have to take. The goal for them is to get me at my best and to progress that way. I have to be prepared for whatever steps they take. I know I can probably only make one rehab start and we’€™ll just see what happens after that.”

On tonight’€™s start:

‘€œNot bad. More progress and more confidence in pitches that, the first couple of innings I had too much feel for. Then I let them go for the third through sixth innings. I’€™m very pleased with the progress. Certainly the results are nice, too.’€

On whether he felt this was his best rehab start yet:

“Yeah, and especially as Triple-A hitters and this league is just a click away from the major leagues. These guys are close and I felt like the command — I messed with some pitches early and walked guys that in normal situations I would never do. But that’€™s the only thing that I’€™m still working on: to try to get a pitch going and it paid off as the innings went on.”

On early-inning discomfort:

‘€œIn each outing the first inning or two has been — I’€™m not as loose as I’€™d like to be and I’€™m trying in ways to get loose because once the third inning kicks in I’€™m more where I want to be. I struggled a little bit with command in the first couple of innings and then I didn’€™t struggle after that.’€

On attacking Triple-A hitters like MLB hitters

“Absolutely [I did]. With the exception of a couple of hitters early. I’€™m not a guy that’€™s going to throw three changeups in a row just to work on it, but when I get in the groove, that’€™s what a pitcher wants to do. He feels his pitches, can throw for strikes any time.”

“I felt like I kept [hitters] off balance and that’€™s the one thing that you have to do [in the majors]. The big thing I’€™ve learned is keep making progress, working at it with my eyes towards pitching in the major leagues.”

On the food bill and returning from his shoulder injury:

‘€œThat’€™s the beauty of this whole ordeal, you get a chance to treat some guys. I’€™ve gone through this a lot now and everything’€™s a mindset. If your mindset is you’€™re geared to do the things you have to do to persevere and overcome, maybe there’€™s days you don’€™t feel very good. I’€™m 42 years old and certainly there are going to be some days where I’€™m not going to feel real good. Fortunately I’€™ve been able to pitch a ton of games where I didn’€™t feel good. You can’€™t measure that and I think that’€™s the one thing that gets lost in a comeback. It’€™s one thing to have your shoulder on right, it’€™s another thing to pitch through certain situations that aren’€™t prototypically the way you would like them. As a pitcher I gear myself ready to not feel great, and when I do, that’€™s a bonus. When you log this many innings you just learn how to do that and how to get through the tough spots in a game and try to keep the innings to a minimum and I just don’€™t like crooked numbers. If I can keep them to one, one run every inning ain’€™t such a bad thing even though you’€™ve got to put some zeroes up there.’€

On economizing (9 pitches or less in each of his last three innings):

‘€œI’€™m going to be a little bit of a different pitcher than I was in the past, I’€™m going to be a guy that pounds fastballs for strikes. Maybe not blow it by them, but accompanies it with a good split, slider, and curveball and a change that’€™s coming along so there’€™s still a lot of things a hitter has to look for and that’€™s the weapons you want to have when you’€™re out there and you get in a jam and you feel like you can get out of it. All in all, I’€™ll ride out of here very happy and hopeful that the recovery continues to go in a positive way so that [for] my side session, I pick it up where I left off.’€

On fine-tuning in his final rehab outings:

‘€œWell I feel great. I’€™m not happy with two walks but to give up one hit, that’€™s a scenario for me that’€™s going to breed success if I can continue to limit how many times guys get on base. I felt comfortable on the mound, some plays at first. It’€™s all a matter of timing right now and my timing is almost where I want it to be from a mechanics standpoint. There are still some things I want to work on.’€

On the crowd:

‘€œIt was fun and I know it’€™s going to be even more fun as time goes on. The biggest thing I’€™ve had to learn in this process is that with all the traveling I’€™ve done and places I’€™ve gone is that I’€™ve got to have patience. That patience is going to play off if I allow myself to get in the right position when we’€™re facing the teams that I’€™m going to face. One thing I’€™ve learned is that I’€™m not getting too far ahead of myself.’€

On refining his repertoire:

‘€œI still want to work on that changeup. I know it’€™s not a pitch that I absolutely have to have but it’€™s a nice pitch to have if the other ones aren’€™t where they need to be. That’€™s a great pitch to slow the hitter down. In the big leagues you’€˜ve got to be able to slow the hitter down at times. Speed them up, slow them down, in and out. I feel that in the past people thought that I could rely on stuff to get hitters out. Now I’€™m going to have to rely on pitching. I’€™ve been pitching for a while so coming back from this surgery would be no different for me. I’€™ll go out, hit my spots, move it around, and try to take the sting out of the bat. That’€™s the goal of every pitcher: just take the sting out of the bat. So far, so good in four starts. Maybe one ball was squared up real good, but I’€™ve just got to keep it out of the barrel.’€

On the minor league tour:

‘€œIt’€™s been fun, it’€™s been expensive. It’€™s part of the deal. It’€™s a whole new organization and I don’€™t remember as many names as I would like, but just to get to talk to some of the guys and see them hopefully learn from some of the things I’€™ve done or said in past experiences. In baseball, you can’€™t speed the game up for the guys but you can give them certain things that they can avoid and maybe in that essence it will speed it up for them.’€

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Young breaks up Lester’s bid for a no-no in the seventh

06.06.09 at 9:02 pm ET
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Michael Young, batting with one out in the top of the seventh, jumped on the first pitch he saw from Red Sox starter Jon Lester, lining a 95 mph fastball into the gap in left-center for a clean double. Prior to that, Lester retired the first 19 Rangers of the game, looking even more dominant than he did on the night when he delivered a no-hitter last April.

Lester followed Young’s double by issuing his first walk of the game (to Andruw Jones), but recovered to get a pop-up and an inning-ending strikeout of Marlon Byrd. Lester has struck out 11 tonight, and has now punched out 23 in his last two outings spanning 13 innings.

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Ortiz goes deep

06.06.09 at 8:55 pm ET
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It was not a majestic blast that scraped the clouds before crashing in the distant reaches of the bleachers, but for David Ortiz, the cheapest home run of his Red Sox career will merit no argument. Ortiz, leading off the bottom of the sixth, went ahead 2-1 against reliever Kris Benson, and then rifled an 83 mph changeup straight down the right-field line and off the grandstand side of the Pesky Pole. It may well have been the first and only homer that Ortiz has ever hit as a Red Sox that traveled less than 300 feet, but that didn’t stop a frenzy at Fenway Park. Chants of “Pa-pi, Pa-pi” echoed across the ballpark until Ortiz emerged from the Red Sox dugout to accept the standing ovation for his second longball of the year.

This has been one of the finest games of the year for the struggling slugger, as Ortiz is now 2-for-2 with a walk on Saturday. This marks the sixth time this year that Ortiz has reached base three or more times in a game.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have spent the last two innings awakening from their offensive slumber. The team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth (a rally keyed by a nine-pitch, two-out, two run single by Jason Bay) and, thanks to the Ortiz homer, Dustin Pedroia’s second run-scoring single in as many innings and a Kevin Youkilis two-run single off the Wall, another four in the sixth. The Sox now lead, 8-0, and the only question is whether the Sox’ sudden offensive eruption might disrupt Lester’s rhythm on the mound.

Read More: David Ortiz,
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