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The Green Way

05.24.09 at 12:57 pm ET
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Before Sunday’s game against the Mets, Sox skipper Terry Francona continued to sing the praises of infielder Nick Green — Boston is 17-6 this season when he starts at shortstop.

“I actually thought Nick played a really good game,”  Francona said of Green’s effort Saturday night against the Mets. “We love the kid. That’s part of reason he got extended look in spring.”

Julio Lugo remains on the bench. Francona had originally indicated that whoever played Saturday at shortstop would get the day off on Sunday. Green started on Saturday.

Asked about his health on Sunday morning, Lugo replied, “I’m fine,” and headed out to batting practice without further comment.

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Putz, Mets defense close it out

05.23.09 at 10:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox hit Mets closer-for-the-day J.J. Putz (subbing for Francisco Rodriguez) hard, but it was not enough, as the Sox fell 3-2 to the Mets. A pair of dazzling defensive plays, one by Mets third baseman David Wright, another by shortstop Ramon Martinez, snuffed a ninth-inning rally by the Sox.

Papelbon gives it up

05.23.09 at 9:50 pm ET
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The bottom of the Mets batting order seemed an unlikely place to deliver Jonathan Papelbon’s first blown save of the season. But even on a night when he featured an explosive fastball that he was able to blow past both David Wright and Jeremy Reed, the closer may have gone to the well once too often.

Papelbon threw 13 straight fastballs to open the inning, walking Gary Sheffield on five pitches and striking out David Wright (3 pitches) and Jeremy Reed (4). Apparently, Omir Santos paid attention. Papelbon elevated a first-pitch, 97 mph fastball, and Santos jumped on it, clubbing it just onto the shelf above the Green Monster in left field. The blast was initially ruled in play, placing runners on second and third, but after the first video review of a play at Fenway Park, the shot was ruled a homer, and both Sheffield and Santos crossed the plate.

The Sox’ 2-1, ninth-inning lead suddenly turned into a 3-2 advantage for the Mets, and Papelbon had his first blown save in 12 opportunities this year. It was the first time in 10 appearances that Papelbon had allowed a run.

J.J. Putz is on to close it out for the Mets.

Have the Red Sox Re-Gained Their Ace?

05.23.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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Josh Beckett just concluded his night in most impressive fashion, blitzing through a 1-2-3 eighth inning that included a pair of strikeouts, one on a 95 mph fastball that caught Angel Pagan looking, the other on an 89 mph changeup that dove away from Carlos Beltran for a swing and miss. Beckett will cede the ninth to Jonathan Papelbon. The starter finished his night having allowed just one unearned run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He threw 117 pitches on the night, and has now thrown 115 pitches or more in four outings this year, tied for the most in the majors.

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Beckett gets out of a jam

05.23.09 at 9:13 pm ET
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For the most part, Josh Beckett has been pitching to contact against the Mets tonight. But in one crucial moment, the right-hander got the swing-and-miss he needed to navigate his 2-1 lead through the top of the seventh inning.

With one out in the seventh, Jeremy Reed singled on a high chopper to short and advanced to third when Omir Santos lined a single to right center. With runners on the corners and one out, Beckett went after Ramon Martinez with power, in the end, blowing a nasty 94 mph fastball with late cut and sink past Martinez for an enormous strikeout. Luis Castillo then lined Beckett’s next pitch (another 94 mph fastball) to center, but Jacoby Ellsbury got an excellent jump on the ball and ran the sinking liner down.

Beckett pumped his fist on the way off the mound, but his night is not yet done: the Sox bullpen is quiet in the bottom of the seventh, and Beckett, who has thrown 103 pitches tonight, will be back for the eighth. It will be his first appearance of the year of more than seven innings. Thus far this year, Beckett has averaged 109 pitches a start.

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Pedroia ties Sox interleague record

05.23.09 at 8:44 pm ET
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Kudos to Henry Mahegan of the Red Sox for pointing out that, with an infield single in the bottom of the fifth for his second hit of the game, Dustin Pedroia tied a team record for the most consecutive multi-hit games in interleague play. Pedroia has now done the deed in seven straight interleague games, tying a mark set by Troy O’Leary in 1998. (Pedroia is also within one of the major-league record of eight consecutive multi-hit games in interleague, set by Alex Rodriguez in 1998.)

The Sox were not able to convert the threat into any runs, however, as David Ortiz grounded to the second baseman (positioned in shallow right) to end the fifth.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Interleague Play, troy o'leary,

Beckett’s best?

05.23.09 at 8:40 pm ET
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After allowing Gary Sheffield’s run-scoring, two-out single in the top of the first, Josh Beckett retired the next 12 batters before giving up a two-out single to Ramon Martinez in the top of the fifth. It was Beckett’s longest streak of consecutive outs this year, besting the eight straight he recorded during one stretch in his Opening Day start against the Rays.

Martinez stole second and then Beckett walked Luis Castillo to put runners on first and second with two outs. Beckett escaped harm, however, thanks to a spectacular play from shortstop Nick Green. David Murphy blooped a 94 mph cutter on his fists over third base and towards the foul-line in left. Green got a great jump on the ball and lunged to make a running catch, capturing his balance with a slide.

Beckett has allowed just three hits and one run through five despite striking out just two batters. In 98 starts with the Sox prior to tonight, Beckett struck out two or fewer on just six occasions.

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Crazy 18s for Jacoby

05.23.09 at 7:51 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game for the Red Sox by lining a Mike Pelfrey fastball for a single to right, thus extending his hitting streak to 18 games, matching a career long. His current run is not quite as impressive as the one he authored in 2008:

2009: .342 average / .373 OBP / .430 slugging

2008: .370 / .386 / .580

Nonetheless, the Sox will take this run over a poke in the eye with a stick, especially given Ellsbury’s ability to score once on base. His speed was once again an impact factor in the first, as he advanced to second on Dustin Pedroia’s infield single, then led a double steal (Ellsbury’s 18th swiped bag, Pedroia’s fifth) that put both runners in scoring position. After David Ortiz whiffed, Kevin Youkilis lined a single to left to plate both runs and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Noteworthy: in the three games since hitting his first homer of the year, Ortiz has gone 1-for-9 with four strikeouts. He was on the field for early batting practice today, a sign, perhaps, that he is once again searching a bit.

Since returning to the lineup on Wednesday, meanwhile, Youkilis has gone 5-for-12 (all singles) with four RBI.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis,

Red Sox and unearned runs

05.23.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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A compelling case can be made that a pitcher should be charged with an earned run if he commits the error that allows an opponent to score. After all, an E1 suggests that the mound on the mound is morally culpable for the mistake, and so why not commit to a statistical Weltanschauung that remains committed to that principle?

The prevailing baseball paradigm, however, is that any error – including one by the pitcher – will suffice to create an unearned run. And so it was that the Red Sox gave up an unearned run in the first. Carlos Beltran had an infield single (to shortstop Nick Green) with two outs, advanced to second when Sox starter Josh Beckett threw wildly to first on a pick-off throw and then scored when Gary Sheffield dropped a single to left.

The Mets’ 1-0 lead came on the 11th unearned run allowed by the Sox this year. Surprisingly, given the concerns about the Red Sox’ defense, the Sox entered tonight with 10 unearned runs, a mark that was tied for the sixth fewest in Major League Baseball. That is a far cry from the brutality at work in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, where the Nationals have a major-league leading 28 unearned runs, while the Orioles have permitted an A.L.-worst 25.

After the top of the first, the Mets have a 1-0 lead.

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K-Rod has something that Papelbon will never get as a Red Sox

05.23.09 at 3:31 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon considers himself a member of “a fraternity.” He likes to watch every closer, to see how they go about their business, to see how they go through the business of the sport in contract negotiations, to see their successes in hopes that the stature of the job will continue to grow both in terms of on- and off-field respect.

“We have to stick together, so to speak. We’€™ve got to make teams recognize how valuable closers are,” said Papelbon. “I think, for the most part, every one of your closers out there is doing a good job of that.”

Towards that end, Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets — the renowned K-Rod, who burst onto the scene as an October force for the Angels in 2002, and since 2004 has been one of the elite closers in the game — is an object of interest for the pitcher. Rodriguez, who signed a three-year, $37 million deal to close for the Mets this offseason, has been brilliant with his new club. After recording a save with a 1-2-3 ninth against the Sox on Friday, he is 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA and a major-league leading 12 saves in as many opportunities.

In 2008, Rodriguez set a new standard for closers by recording an incredible 62 saves. And so, of course, it comes as little surprise that Papelbon watched.

“I definitely appreciate what he did last year,” he said.

Papelbon has spoken freely of his desire to set a new bar for his position. That being the case, it is interesting to hear of Papelbon’s intention — or lack thereof — to challenge Rodriguez’ mark.

“No. Not here. Not here. No,” Papelbon said of whether he ever daydreamed of pursuing such a mark. “Not enough chances: the way our ballclub is put together, the way the ballclub of Anaheim was put together last year, the way we manage, the way that (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia manages, not enough chances. There’€™s a little bit of luck involved there.”

Because Papelbon believes that saves are partly the byproduct of luck, strategy and circumstance (for instance, a team that wins a bunch of blowouts will “penalize” a closer by offering fewer three-run games to enter), Papelbon suggested that he feels that save percentage is a more meaningful barometer of success. In that respect, the two relievers have been fairly closely paired in recent seasons. Like Rodriguez, Papelbon is perfect in his save opportunities this year, going 11-for-11 with a 0.95 ERA. Rodriguez had a 90 percent success rate last year, while Papelbon converted 89 percent on his opportunities en route to a career-high 41 saves.

Interestingly, Papelbon suggested that Rodriguez’ contract — which fell short of the established closing standards for years (B.J. Ryan received a five-year deal) and annual value (Mariano Rivera received a three-year deal worth $15 million a season after the 2007 campaign) — should not serve as the basis of comparison for whatever he might glean when eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

“I took it as that’€™s what he was able to do. That’€™s what he was able to get. It shouldn’€™t have a whole lot of effect on me,” said Papelbon. “Being in a different division, a different type of pitcher. Pitching here in Fenway Park every night is a lot different than pitching in Anaheim.”

Read More: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon,
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