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Monday’s Red Sox-Indians matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Justin Masterson

05.23.11 at 10:52 am ET
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Clay Buchholz looks to continue Boston’€™s winning ways as the Red Sox begin a seven-game road trip Monday night in Cleveland. The Red Sox have won Buchholz’€™s last four starts, a streak in which Buchholz himself has gone 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA, striking out 22 and walking just five.

May has always been a good month for Buchholz. In 13 career starts in May, Buchholz is 9-2 with a 3.52 ERA. He has only faced the Indians twice in his career, going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in 10 total innings.

The Indians counter with former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson. Although Masterson posted a 3.77 ERA in 67 games with the Red Sox, then followed it up with a 4.67 ERA with Cleveland from mid-2009 through 2010, he is finally showing the talent the Red Sox saw in him so long ago. In nine starts this season, Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA.

Buchholz pitched well in his only start at Progressive Field, throwing seven innings of three-run baseball on June 4 last season. The only problem was that his opponent, again Masterson, pitched the best game of his career, a complete-game two-hitter that the Red Sox lost, 11-0.

Luckily for Buchholz, this Indians squad is far different from previous squads, with only two Cleveland players having more than four previous at-bats against him. Former Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera is Buchholz’€™s biggest nemesis, batting 4-for-8 with a walk in nine plate appearances. Third baseman Adam Everett is 1-for-5.

The Red Sox haven’€™t had much success against Masterson either, however. Only newcomer Carl Crawford has had any luck, batting .300 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. He has also walked twice. David Ortiz has also homered Masterson, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 1-for-2 against him.

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Orel Hershiser on D&C: Beanball situation ‘done properly’ by Red Sox, Cubs

05.23.11 at 9:47 am ET
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ESPN baseball analyst Orel Hershiser joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, after serving on the broadcast crew for the Red Sox‘ 5-1 victory over the Cubs on Sunday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Hershiser said Tim Wakefield‘s stellar performance Sunday shows that the knuckleballer has plenty left in the tank. “I think he still can [be successful],” Hershiser said. “And I think what you’re finding, too, is not the fact that his body’s breaking down, he’s actually got a chance to be even better as he goes on. Because he’s at the point where the game is slow for him. He’s not into results. He really can just relax out there.”

Added Hershiser: “When he has an outing like last night, it’s part of the grace of who he is now. And he understands the game. And he understands where he fits.”

With the Red Sox finally winning games consistently after their disastrous start, Hershiser said the Sox’ ability to overcome adversity will pay dividends. “It’s actually going to build character for the team,” he said. “It actually could be really good in the long run, because that common bond, that cosmic experience that now they can trust each other, now they can look to each other.

Carl Crawford looks around the locker room now and he goes, ‘These guys are with me, no matter if I hit .150 and sign a longterm deal where maybe some of that money’s out of the salary structure that another guy might have gotten. They’re with me. They’re not looking at that. They’re looking at the team, the whole.’

“[Dustin Pedroia‘s] not hitting yet, but Pedey is still out there grinding it away. And that’s another great example for the other guys, that when they go through a tough time, our emotional leader doesn’t quit. And they’re going through tough times in the pitching rotation and in the bullpen  ‘€” it seems like a revolving door down in the bullpen ‘€”but they just keep working through it. And now they look up, they’re a half-game out.

“This team is solid. The ability was always there. Now we’re seeing that there is character also.”

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Read More: carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Orel Hershiser

Jarrod Saltalamacchia after home run: ‘I’m feeling more comfortable’

05.23.11 at 3:17 am ET
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew criticism for his slow start at the plate this season after hitting just .216 (11-for-51) with six RBIs in the month of April.

Those critics are nowhere to be found now, as the young Red Sox catcher is batting .389 (7-for-18) with three home runs and one double in his last five games.

‘€œI’€™m feeling more comfortable,’€ said Saltalamacchia, who was 1-for-4 with a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning of Sunday night’s 5-1 win over the Cubs. ‘€œAs soon as I managed to slow things down, I’€™ve been putting good at-bats together.’€

Saltalamacchia managed only four hits in 29 at-bats (.137 batting average) in his first 10 games, but thanks to his recent hitting tear at the plate, he’€™s raised his season batting average to .237 (22-for-93).

‘€œAt the beginning of the season I was pressing a little bit, trying to go out and hit everything as hard as I could,” he explained. “Now, I’€™m kind of letting the ball get deeper. I’€™m not trying to pull everything, I’€™m trying to put it in the big part of the park, and good things happen.’€

Not only has Saltalamacchia seen a boost in his average, but also his slugging percentage, which was a mere .258 after the Red Sox’€™ 11-0 loss to the Angels on May 5. Saltalamacchia’€™s slugging percentage now sits at .398.

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Kevin Youkilis gives new meaning to the ‘Hundred Years War’

05.23.11 at 12:35 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis, the man who has been hit more than any other batter in Red Sox history, believes the Cubs might have been given an extra chance to equal the score on Sunday night from Saturday’s beanball exchange that left Marlon Byrd with several fractures below his left eye.

On Sunday night – with the Red Sox up, 5-1, in the eighth inning – Kerry Wood came inside on Jed Lowrie with his first pitch. He just missed hitting him. He didn’t miss with the second, drilling him on the back of the leg. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox warned both teams and no one was ejected.

“I understand the whole thing,” Youkilis said. “You throw it once and you miss, and you throw it again. I don’t know why. I guess they felt like they needed to get another one in because we hit them twice. It’s the game of baseball.

“No, I didn’t see that coming but the other day they’re upset they didn’t like the warning when I got hit [Saturday]. They’re saying two guys got hit to one so, I guess now we’re even until 100 years from now when we play again.”

Cubs manager Mike Quade had a slightly different take. He wasn’t upset at Hickox or the umpiring crew for the warning Sunday night in the eighth inning since he believes it was directed more toward the Red Sox than it was his team.

“No,” answered Quade when asked if the warning upset him. “They have to do what they have to do. They warned us [Saturday] night. I guess that was a warning for them. That’s the way I look at stuff. That’s OK.”

Read More: Beanball, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Jed Lowrie

Closing Time: Tim Wakefield turns in memorable performance in Red Sox win over Cubs

05.22.11 at 10:54 pm ET
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The oldest player to participate in a game for the Red Sox proved to be one of the best pitchers in baseball ‘€¦ at least for one night.

The 44-year, 280-day-old Tim Wakefield did his job and then some in making his third start of the season, allowing one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. The knuckleballer needed just 75 pitches to complete his 194th career win (not walking a single batter).

The end result was a 5-1 win for the Red Sox over the Cubs Sunday night in the teams’ series finale at Fenway Park. It placed the Sox just 1/2-game behind both the Yankees and Rays for first-place in the American League East.

Here is what right (and went wrong) in the win …

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Wakefield was the star of the game, not even close. In his two starts of three or more days rest, the hurler has allowed two runs on six hits over 12 1/3 innings, walking just one. Wakefield’€™s efficiency was mind-boggling at times, with the starter throwing just 35 pitches through four innings, 50 through five, and finishing his sixth frame having tossed just 63.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued to display the talents the Red Sox saw in him when trading for the catcher last July, launching a 1-0 fastball over the left field wall for his third home run of the season. Entering the game, Saltalamacchia was hitting .429 in his previous four games (6-for-14), while hitting virtually the same from both sides of the plate (.231 vs. lefties; .238 vs. righties).

Mike Cameron, who came into the game just 4-for-28 with three RBI against lefties, came through when it counted in the fourth inning, driving in the Sox’€™ second run on a sacrifice fly to center field. The RBI, Cameron’€™s fifth of the season, came against Chicago’€™s lefty starter James Russell.

– With two more hits, David Ortiz found himself hitting over .300 this late in the season for the first time since 2007. Unfortunately for Ortiz, he was forced to finish the game with a .299 batting average after grounding out in his final at-bat. It marked the designated hitter’€™s 15th multi-hit game of the season, tying him for second on the team with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Jed Lowrie entered the night having torn up left-handed pitching, and he didn’€™t stop Sunday. The shortstop, who was hitting .449 vs. southpaws, singled in his first at-bat against Russell, and then plated the Red Sox’€™ first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Adrian Gonzalez came away with his second contest of four or more hits, and eighth game with three or more hits (the second-most in the majors). He is now tied with the Mets’€™ Jose Reyes for the most games with two-or-more hits (20).

– With his two-run double in the seventh, Kevin Youkilis extended his season-high hit streak to 10 games.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Ellsbury was caught stealing for the fifth time in 20 attempts this season, this time by Cubs’€™ catcher Wellington Castillo in the fifth inning. It tied the outfielder for the third-most time caught stealing in the majors.

– Wakefield’€™s knuckleball was almost too good at times, as was evidenced when he allowed Jeff Baker to reach on a swinging third strike in the fifth. The pitch took a hard left against the righty hitter, glancing off of Saltalamacchia’€™s glove. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Alfonso Soriano helped alleviate the pain by popping up the very next pitch to end the inning. The starter would throw one more wild pitch, coming in the sixth inning.

Carlos Pena was ‘fearful’ for Marlon Byrd before hospital visit

05.22.11 at 6:15 pm ET
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One day after watching his teammate take a fastball from Red Sox righthander Alfredo Aceves under the left eye, Carlos Pena said his former team couldn’t have been more genuine is showing their concern for the welfare of Marlon Byrd.

Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, Big Papi, they all took time to talk to me at first base and ask about him. They were genuinely concerned. We’re competitors on the field but in the end, we’re all in this game together.”

Byrd was sent immediately to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary during the game and spent Saturday night there. Pena went to visit him after the game Saturday night and said that Byrd’s vision in his left eye was blurred but that Byrd could recognize Pena. He was diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Cubs, prior to their interleague series finale Sunday night at Fenway Park.

Ortiz: ‘An honor’ to join Red Sox’ 300-homer club

05.22.11 at 2:14 am ET
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For nine extraordinary years, David Ortiz has been circling the bases for the Red Sox. In the process, he has cemented his place in franchise history in innumerable ways.

On Saturday night, he added to his long resume as one of the franchise greats. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with a 2-2 count and a runner on first, Ortiz stayed back on a 93 mph fastball that was elevated on the outer half of the plate. With a swing that would make teammate Adrian Gonzalez proud, he launched the ball just over the Green Monster for his ninth homer of the year, and his 300th as a member of the Red Sox.

Ortiz became the fifth player to accomplish that feat with the Sox, joining Ted Williams (521), Carl Yastrzemski (452), Jim Rice (382) and Dwight Evans (379).

“I heard people talking about it yesterday for the first time,” said Ortiz. “It’€™s an honor for me to be mentioned in that category with those guys that played here for a long time. Through the years, they were putting up great numbers.”

Ortiz, of course, has been doing the same thing. That is true not just of his career in Boston, but also of a 2011 season that has seen him get off to his best start since 2007.

The Sox DH now has five homers in his last 10 games, giving him nine on the year — tied with Adrian Gonzalez for the most by a member of the Sox. He is hitting .294 with a .370 OBP, .525 slugging mark and .894 OPS, ranking in the top 10 in the AL in slugging, OPS and homers.

Of particular note, however, has been the fact that Ortiz has been crushing the ball to left and left-center, and that he has cut down his strikeouts considerably. In fact, Ortiz has walked as many times (20) as he’s struck out. In fact, his strikeout rate (once every eight plate appearances) is at its lowest since he came to the Sox in 2003, something that Ortiz believes is at the heart of his early-season success.

“Just trying to stay in the strike zone, try to not get out of it,” said Ortiz. “When I get out of it, I get in trouble.”

That hasn’t happened often in his Red Sox career, and it hasn’t happened often in 2011. As a result, while Ortiz passed one milestone, it didn’t seem like a gold-watch accomplishment that he might ride off into the sunset. Instead, the DH is on pace once again to clear 30 homers, meaning that he reached his milestone on Saturday night in a fashion that does justice to the way that he reached it.

“Pretty amazing, isn’€™t it?” marveled teammate Jason Varitek. “He’€™s done a lot and he’€™s continuing to do what he does and swinging the bat real well.”

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Matt Albers: ‘It’s definitely frustrating’

05.22.11 at 12:17 am ET
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Anything that could’€™ve gone wrong for Matt Albers did. The 28-year-old righty, who had been stellar all season for the Red Sox, was called upon in the eighth inning of Saturday’€™s game against the Cubs to bridge the gap to Jonathan Papelbon with usual setup man Daniel Bard scheduled for a day off.

But the only thing Albers set up was a Cubs win. He surrendered singles to Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro to start the inning and followed that with walks to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena and a double to Reed Johnson that turned a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 deficit. To top it all off, Pena trotted home when Jed Lowrie dropped Alfonso Soriano‘€™s pop-up.

Albers would ultimately be charged with six runs, five of them earned. He threw 31 pitches without recording an out, setting a dubious Red Sox record in the process. That was also the most pitches thrown by an American League pitcher without getting an out in recorded history.

‘€œIt’€™s definitely frustrating,’€ Albers said. ‘€œWe get the lead, and coming into the game, I want to shut the door and get that win. ‘€¦ I had a few guys two strikes and just wasn’€™t able to put them away. They had a couple tough at-bats and then a couple back-to-back walks hurt me.’€

Catcher Jason Varitek said Albers’€™ biggest problem in the inning was his location.

‘€œMatty was just missing,’€ Varitek said. ‘€œMatty’€™s done such a good job for us, but it was one of those things where guys took some good swings on some good pitches and got those first two hits. Then on the walks, he wasn’€™t overly wild, but he was just missing.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Matt Albers blows up, Red Sox lose 9-3

05.21.11 at 11:08 pm ET
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With a 3-1 lead after seven, you would expect Daniel Bard to take the mound for the Red Sox in the eighth inning. That didn’€™t happen Saturday night, however, even though Bard was expected to be available after not pitching Friday night. The reason for Bard not being used is unclear as of now, but there should be some sort of answer during postgame interviews.

Instead, Terry Francona called upon Matt Albers for setup duty. Simply put, that proved disastrous. Albers gave up six runs (five earned) on three hits and two walks all while failing to record an out.

Francona didn’€™t get anyone else warming up in the bullpen until after Albers (0-2) had already walked in a run. By the time Franklin Morales was ready for his Sox debut, it was too late. Alfonso Soriano had driven in two with a double off the Monster and Carlos Pena had scored on a Jed Lowrie error to make it 5-3 Cubs.

The meltdown continued, as Morales gave up two hits and a walk to go along with two more errors by the guys behind him. When it was all said and done, the Cubs scored eight runs in the eighth to blow the game open en route to a 9-3 win.

The loss was the Sox’€™ first in eight games, and it cost them a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Rays in the division.

Alfredo Aceves did his part in his first start of the season, as he held the Cubs to one run on three hits over five innings and left the game in line for the win.

David Ortiz belted his 300th home run with the Sox and Kevin Youkilis extended his hitting streak to nine games in the loss. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, David Ortiz, matt albers,

Red Sox promote three outfield prospects

05.21.11 at 7:02 pm ET
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The prospects are starting to move up the ladder. Three Red Sox outfield prospects all advanced by a level on Saturday.

Che-Hsuan Lin, 22, is considered the best defensive outfielder in the Red Sox system, and he also has a patient approach that has made him a consistently high on-base guy. However, despite having earned MVP honors at the All-Star Futures Game in 2008 when he hit a home run, Lin has shown little pop in games in his career (though it is worth noting that he is still young enough that there is time for that skill to develop). He had a .268 average, .373 OBP, .333 slugging mark and .706 OPS along with 12 steals in 15 attempts in Double-A Portland this year. His bat at the higher levels of competition will determine what kind of big league future he has.

With Lin moving up, Jeremy Hazelbaker followed suit, moving up from Hi-A Salem to Portland. Hazelbaker features a speed and power combination that is arguably unlike any other prospect in the system.

“He shows impact power and speed. He probably has some of the best raw power in the system,” Sox VP of Player Personnel Mike Hazen said recently.

A year ago, he had 12 homers, 50 extra-base hits and 63 steals in Greenville, the most stolen bases by a Sox prospect in more than three decades. This year in Salem, the 23-year-old was hitting .279 with a .389 OBP, .475 slugging mark and .864 OPS with five homers and 12 steals in 18 attempts over 34 games in Hi-A. Hazelbaker does strike out with some frequency (135 times in 2010), but he had shown a slight decline in his strikeout rate and an increase in his walk rate at a higher level this year, drawing 20 free passes while punching out 34 times.

Outfielder Bryce Brentz, taken with the No. 36 pick of the 2010 draft, was promoted from Single-A Greenville of the South Atlantic League to Hi-A Salem of the Carolina League after a dominant month and a half. He was leading the league in homers (11) and RBI (36), and ranked among Sally League leaders in average (.359, 5th), OBP (.414, 9th), slugging (.647, 3rd) and OPS (1.061, 4th). He showed power to all fields, convincing the Sox that the 22-year-old right fielder was thus deemed ready for more advanced competition.

Brentz may have benefited from improved vision. His vision is roughly 20/20, but the Sox wanted to improve it closer to the major league average of 20/12 after he signed. He tried the contacts, but couldn’€™t get acclimated to them in the middle of the year, so he ended up abandoning them during the season. After having the offseason to acclimate to contacts, however, he enjoyed tremendous success — though it’s impossible to say whether that represents a coincidence or if it was a key part in his development.

Either way, his struggles in Short-Season Lowell after being drafted (.198/.259/.340/.599) are now an afterthought.

Read More: bryce brentz, Che-Hsuan Lin, jeremy hazelbaker,
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