|09.23.09 at 2:50 pm ET|
Though Tim Wakefield‘s line on Monday ‘ five innings and five runs ‘ was his least impressive of his three second-half outings, it still carried value for the Sox. Amidst a stretch in which the Sox have 20 games in 20 days, Wakefield permitted the Sox to give their other starters an extra day of rest.
The potential payoff could come tonight, when Josh Beckett takes the hill. Beckett is 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA when pitching on four days of rest. He is 8-0 with a 2.23 mark when pitching with five days of rest.
Because Wakefield willed himself to take the mound on Monday, his teammates will have the extra day to marshal their strength. The Sox’ ability to slide Wakefield into the rotation, even if it is as a spot starter, impacts the pitching staff in a positive fashion during a time of the year when there is no rest for the weary.
‘That’s what we’re trying to do,’ Francona said. ‘We’re trying to not overdue him and also use it as an advantage for the other guys.’
Going forward, the Sox are hopeful that they will be able to use Wakefield again this year. While the pitcher will not slot into a regular rotation, the Sox will evaluate him in the coming days to determine when he might next take the mound. In a stretch in which the starters could conceivably have had to make four straight starts on four days of rest, Wakefield has already given his teammates one chance to enjoy the fifth day of rest, and there seems a decent chance that he will allow the group to do so once again before the season ends.
‘We’re going to kind of pick our spots with him. He’s aware of that,’ Francona said. ‘He can’t go every five days. That’s not realistic. But I don’t think he’s walking around looking worse, which is good. We’ve been through this a ton. We’ll monitor him all week. We’ll see how he reacts. We’ll check our other pitchers. We’ll try to fit him in where it works best for everybody.’
His teammates acknowledge the potential benefit of that contribution, at the same time that they recognize that Wakefield’s position — working not for a regular turn in the rotation, but instead for spot duty — is undoubtedly frustrating.
“It definitely helps everyone out to give them an extra day. I don’t think that’s what he wants. … If you asked him, he’d rather be not a spot starter but an everyday starter who can go out there and be relied upon,” said fellow starter Jon Lester. “He wants to be a guy relied upon every five days to pitch. For some reason this year, it just hasn’t worked out that way. He got unlucky with whatever happened with his back.”
Even so, as they watch Wakefield grind through physical pain to pursue any possibility of starting, the rest of the Red Sox have been able to appreciate what the pitcher is going through. Of course, Wakefield has long been something of an image of mound courage for his teammates.
“He probably knows I mean this in the right way, but it takes a lot of [guts] to go out there and do what he does. He goes out there and they know what he’s going to be throwing,” said Lester. “It takes a lot of [guts] to go out there and do that every five days and to throw it and trust it. I say that as a compliment.”
|09.23.09 at 1:01 pm ET|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. ‘ With two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday night, Red Sox manager Terry Francona sent up Mike Lowell to hit for Jed Lowrie against right-handed reliever Joakim Soria. It was a sign that Francona still doesn’t feel comfortable relying on Lowrie as a left-handed hitter.
Gaining that confidence continues to be a work in progress for the switch-hitter.
“All I can do is what they ask of me. If they ask me to go out there and play, I’m ready to play,” Lowrie said. “If they want somebody else to hit, then so be it. I don’t feel like I’m being underminded. They just felt Mikey had a better chance. I’m not offended by that.”
Lowrie, who hasn’t hit left-handed since coming off the 15-day disabled list, feels his wrist has made progress to the point of being ready to hit lefty, a fact he reiterated to Sox bench coach Brad Mills when asked about his availability prior to the game.
“I’m limiting my swings because it feels better. That’s the only thing I know what to do at this point,” Lowrie said. “I know it’s been a couple of weeks now since I’ve taken a swing left-handed in a game, so I don’t know how it’s going to react in a game. Millsy came up to me and asked if I felt like I was ready to go and could hit left-handed and I told him, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ I want to see how it feels, but you have that situation and they felt Mikey had a better chance.”
Lowrie has altered his regimen a bit, taking less batting practice swings while also implementing laser surgery on his ailment. He says of playing defense (which he did in the eighth inning Tuesday night): “It doesn’t aggravate it. I can feel it, but it doesn’t make it any worse.” But when it comes to hitting from the left side, the affects of such an act remain to be seen.
“At this point I’ve tried almost everything and we’re going to try things until something sticks, but nothing really has,” he said. “It’s been a guessing game all year. But nothing has really stuck. It does feel like I’m making progress. That’s all I can ask for.”
|09.22.09 at 12:19 pm ET|
Paul Byrd (1-1, 5.79) has never been a fan of pitching at Kauffman Stadium, nor has he particularly enjoyed squaring off against his former team, the Kansas City Royals (62-88). In his journeyman career, Byrd owns a 10-13 record with a 5.20 ERA in 28 starts on the mound in Kansas City. Opposing the Royals, Byrd has not fared too much better going 1-5 with a 5.74 ERA, though he has collected a complete-game shutout in one of the outings.
After having their three-game win-streak snapped last night in a 12-9 comeback defeat, the Boston Red Sox (89-60) aim to regroup one day after rookie Daniel Bard (2-2, 3.72) was tagged with his third blown save of the season.
In the loss, however, Sox outfielder Jason Bay managed to launch his career high 36th home run of the season into the stands while catcher Victor Martinez extended his career-best hitting streak to 20 games.
For Byrd, the Kentucky native makes only his fifth start since signing with the Sox at the beginning of August. In his last outing, Byrd hurled 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball scattering nine hits and one home run against the Los Angeles Angels last Friday. Since winning his first start of the season, Byrd has struggled in going 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA.
The Royals, however, have struggled as an offensive unit this year, especially when AL Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke has taken the mound. Despite having a major league best 2.14 ERA, Greinke has only 14 wins to his name and 8 losses.
Looking to gain his 15th win on the year and solidify his entitlement to being crowned the Cy Young winner, Greinke opposes the Red Sox for the first time since 2007. In three career games (2 starts) against the Red Sox, Greinke has yet to tally a victory with an 0-2 record and a 3.45 ERA. The Sox are one of three A.L. teams (along with the Royals and the Rays) against whom Greinke does not have a win.
Spending his entire career with the Cleveland Indians before being dealt to the Red Sox in July, Martinez has enjoyed success against the former first-round draft pick. In 42 plate appearances, Martinez has beaten up on the righty hitting .342 with a .405 OBP including one home run.
After last night’s win, the Royals have bumped their September record to 11-3 moving out of the basement of the AL Central one game ahead of the Indians. Now, with Greinke needing only 20 strikeouts to surpass the Dennis Leonard’s single-season team record, the Royals will look to delay Boston’s opportunity to clinch the AL Wild Card as the magic number sits at seven.
Paul Byrd vs. Royals’ batters
David DeJesus (24 career plate appearances) .435 AVG/ .458 OBP/.652 SLG, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Mark Teahen (16) .400/.438/.467, 1 walk
John Buck (14) .214/.214/.429, 1 home run, 1 strikeout
Yuniesky Betancourt (13) .231/.231/.231
Alex Gordon (6) .333/.333/.667
Miguel Olivo (5) 1-for-5
Willie Bloomquist (3) 1-for-3
Brayan Pena (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Alberto Callaspo (2) 1-for-2
Zack Greinke vs. Red Sox batters
Victor Martinez (42 career plate appearances) .342 AVG/.405 OBP/.447 SLG, 1 home run, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
J.D. Drew (7) .429/.429/.571, 1 strikeout
David Ortiz (7) .143/.143/.286, 3 strikeouts
Nick Green (6) 1-for-5, 1 walk
Jason Varitek (6) 1-for-6, 1 home run, 1 strikeout
Kevin Youkilis (5) 0-for-4, 1 walk
Mike Lowell (4) 3-for-4, 1 double
Dustin Pedroia (4) 1-for-3, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Rocco Baldelli (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
Joey Gathright (3) 2-for-3, 1 triple, 1 strikeout
Casey Kotchman (3) 0-for-2
Brian Anderson (1) 1-for-1
|09.22.09 at 8:25 am ET|
Prior to the Red Sox‘ Aug. 30 win over Toronto Kym Byrd had her concerns.
Some time after her husband, Paul, decided in January he would stiff-arm legitimate offers to play major-league baseball to be with his wife and two sons for the next six months, and well before the 38-year-old’s return to the big leagues this season, doubts crept into Kym’s psyche.
‘On one hand there was so much fun, just to have the routine we had and be able to go to every single one of our sons’ games and for Paul to be able to coach. And he got to plant a garden, and he has always wanted to do that,’ she said. ‘I told him, ‘If you get picked up by a team and there is a harvest and I’m out there doing this harvest work, I’m going to kill you. It will be my luck that he finally gets this whole garden going and I’m the one stuck with it.’
‘It was ready to go, but I planted like 50 pumpkins and I’ve only got four,’ Paul explained. ‘And all of my tomato bushes died. My corn died. My cucumbers grew but they’re crooked. So what I discovered was — soil is extremely important, so is following directions, and I’m a ballplayer, not a gardener. But I guess the positives are that I have four pumpkins.’
And, as was evidenced by his third outing with the Red Sox this season, Byrd has so much more than just a few stray Jack-O-Laterns.
In the here-and-now, Byrd took another step toward answering his own question regarding whether or not he could still live the life of a viable big-league hurler. His focus is discovering what has left and then deciding if the ‘plan’ executed this time around can be duplicated next season.
That blueprint? Spend the season’s first few months with his two young sons, helping coach their youth baseball teams, perhaps hook up a big league team as summer vacation is getting rolling, and give that club whatever he has for the season’s second half.
And maybe, this time around, understand that Georgian red clay isn’t conducive to vegetable growing.
‘I’m going to do the same thing until I can’t offer anybody anything, until I can’t bring anything to the table,’ Byrd said. ‘So I think this year is really important to prove that.’
Thus far, it has trended fairly well for Byrd.
There hasn’t been dominance, but there has been, for the most part, consistency. Heading into his start Tuesday night against the Royals, Byrd has allowed three or fewer runs in three of his four outings, thus far. The pumpkins might have offered discouragement, but Byrd’s return to the major leagues certainly hasn’t.
Add in the memories and experiences he got a chance to build with his two sons, Grayson and Colby, the likes of which hadn’t been possible throughout Byrd’s 14-year major league career, and it certainly looks like the pitcher’s unorthodox approach to completing a baseball season has worked out fairly well.
‘I would have just liked to have started a little sooner,’ Byrd said. ‘But given all my opportunities, I would have done the exact same thing.’
Byrd has a family sitting back near Atlanta thinking the exact same thing.
Coming back after taking nine months off and jumping into the middle of a pennant race was hard for Byrd, but it paled in comparison to his wife’s struggles when it came to watching her husband go through one of the toughest decisions of his life earlier this year.
‘It was so hard because I don’t want to come across that I’m not grateful for baseball because baseball has opened up some amazing doors for us. People, friends, places to live, and financially it has been a gift,’ Kym said. ‘But I know, as a mom, I have two boys (13 and 11) and they need their dad, too. The last thing I would want to do is ask him to quit and two years from now he wishes he could play, but he can’t and he turns that back on me. It’s a really tough thing.
‘It is hard. People have this image of a baseball wife of someone who sits at home, doing our nails, doing nothing, thinking, ‘What’s the big deal, we have all this money and we can shop?’ But I’m raising two kids by myself and there are decisions with school and things that arise. I was teasing him that when one of our kids get in trouble he would always be like, ‘Do this’ or ‘Do that,’ and I told him it must be so nice to discipline from five states away and then have the kids be mad at me for two days. It’s a challenge.’
The Byrds ‘ who have moved nearly 40 times ‘ are living that life once again, but only for a few months, and after building up enough togetherness to make up for a brief run at what would be Paul’s first World Series.
The coaching of the youth baseball team was great, as was a family trip to Cooperstown, and, of course, the garden. But just when Kym was convinced Paul had settled into his new life, glimpses of his old one would appear.
‘He got in a little bit of a routine,’ she said. ‘There were times where he was like, ‘I’m retired,’ but then there was this part of him that ‘¦ I was OK. I’ve got to go on this great adventure. I know he has told everybody I said a while ago that he needed to quit because (bouncing around the minors) was crazy and we couldn’t keep living in debt. But on the other hand I know him and he’s such a competitor.
‘I was ready for him to be doing things like drinking in the closet, or not wanting to get out of bed for a month. But it was strange. There was none of that. But I do think as time went on there was that little spark in him that just loves to compete, and that took over.’
Leading him to moments like he has experienced over the last month.
‘He is so excited to be back,’ Kym said. ‘But it is hard because he has been home so much and he misses the kids so much. You just can’t have everything.’
But, if the last nine months are any indication, Byrd has had plenty. And there might just be more to come.
|09.22.09 at 4:07 am ET|
KANSAS CITY, MO. ‘ Tim Wakefield insisted that he was responsible for the Red Sox‘ 12-9 loss. But while the knuckleballer struggled with his command and faltered in the last of his five innings, he nonetheless entrusted a seemingly commanding 8-5 lead to the Boston bullpen.
In 2009, a three-run advantage (which quickly increased to four when the Sox tacked on another run in the top of the sixth) had almost always been a formula for a ‘W.’ In fact, almost any lead at that stage of the game had been sufficient to secure a victory, and with good reason.
The bullpen has been an unquestioned strength of the Sox throughout 2009. Boston’s relievers entered the series against Kansas City with an American League-best 3.59 ERA and having converted 71 percent of save opportunities, tied for ninth-best in the majors.
When leading after five innings, as they did on Monday, the Sox enjoyed a 67-9 record (.882) thanks to a group of relievers that newcomer Billy Wagner has described as the most talented bullpen group he’s ever seen.
For that reason, the rapid collapse of Boston’s bullpen on Monday proved startling. Though the relievers have been an unquestioned key to the Sox’ success this year, the struggles of a trio of hurlers raised questions about what shape the bullpen might take for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The sixth and seventh innings ‘ in which Sox relievers allowed seven runs on six hits and four walks ‘ were simply brutal.
The collapse was set in motion by right-hander Manny Delcarmen, whose difficulties over nearly two months have raised questions about his role. Just 12 of Delcarmen’s 25 pitches on Tuesday were strikes. The right-hander gave up a leadoff double, and then after retiring the next two batters, sandwiched a pair of run-scoring doubles (by Billy Butler and Alberto Callaspo) around a walk.
All four of his baserunners eventually scored, marking the first time since Sept. 9, 2006 (also against the Royals) that the reliever had allowed four runs in a game. This latest stumble continued a startling trend that has flummoxed the Sox and, apparently, Delcarmen, who had left the clubhouse by the time it opened to the media following the game.
‘I understand what it’s like to go through one of those funks,’ said outfielder Jason Bay. ‘Everyone goes through them. It’s just not clicking. I don’t think [manager Terry Francona] will be hesitant to use him again because you know at any time he’s got that electric stuff and can put it together, and I think everyone has gone through it.’
Indeed, prior to Monday, Francona made clear how valuable Delcarmen can be if pitching effectively.
‘It would be great to get him back on that roll because he’s such a difference-maker in our bullpen,’ said Francona. ‘There’s a lot of things to like when he’s getting people out the way he can.’
But right now, Delcarmen’s results are not matching his talents, and his season has taken a rapid turn. On July 27, Delcarmen’s ERA stood at 2.15, and the pitcher was a pivotal bullpen contributor. In almost two months since then, Delcarmen now has an 8.84 ERA. He has allowed runs in 11 of 20 appearances.
Of course, the Sox still held a lead ‘ albeit a tenuous one ‘ when Delcarmen departed. But Daniel Bard continued the bullpen’s dismal night.
The right-hander had good stuff, and jumped ahead of the hitters he faced with an unsettling fastball-slider combo. But he could not put his opponents away.
Bard jumped ahead of Miguel Olivo, 1-2, but then lost him in delivering an eight-pitch walk. He then allowed a game-tying double to Alex Gordon when the Kansas City infielder blooped a ball just over the infield dirt down the left-field line. Finally, after jumping ahead, 0-2, against Yuniesky Betancourt, Bard’s 100 mph fastball was lined to right for a two-run single that gave the Royals an 11-9 lead.
‘I had two chances to put guys away,’ Bard lamented, ‘and didn’t execute a pitch.’
Bard now has a 7.36 ERA in 17 games dating to Aug. 4. After logging six straight scoreless appearances from Aug. 28-Sept. 15, he has now allowed runs in two of his last three appearances.
Wagner, following a pair of outings in which he hadn’t had a strikeout, once again displayed devastating swing-and-miss stuff on a night when he recorded all three of his outs via punchout. But he also emerged frustrated when, after striking out the first two batters he faced, he allowed a walk, run-scoring double (again by Butler) and walk to allow the Royals their 12th and final run of the night.
In 56 games since the start of 2008, Wagner had walked more than one batter just once, when he issued two free passes June 12, 2008, against the Diamondbacks. After Monday’s game, he was dismayed by his command struggles and his failure to keep the score intact.
‘I was terrible. You go get the first two guys out, then a lefty comes out and I think I got going too fast. I walked him. The pitch to [Butler] was a pretty good pitch, but I set myself up with the walk,’ said Wagner. ‘In my mind, that was a big inning. If you go out there and hold them to nothing, three-up, three-down, then all of a sudden we have less of a hill to climb. Instead of having to get four runs we might have to get three, or two to tie. It’s [very] poor.’
The entire Boston bullpen was left with similar laments on Monday. A group that is armed top-to-bottom with exceptional stuff endured one of its most stunning defeats of the season.
For now, it was merely one bad night that could quickly fade from memory if the group rebounds to its season-long form. Nonetheless, there was a lesson in the team’s defeat.
The Sox bullpen has a 5.25 ERA in September. Every member of the bullpen except for Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito and Wagner has endured a sustained struggle at some point in the past month. Increasingly, the Sox are receiving reminders that even an immensely talented bullpen is subject to untimely struggles.
‘Live and learn,’ said Wagner. ‘You can’t go out there with just stuff. You have to have brains behind it and make quality pitches, not just throw stuff up.’
|09.21.09 at 11:08 pm ET|
Woodward pinch-hit for pitcher Guillermo Mota in the eighth inning, with his team holding a 7-5 lead. Hitting off Dodgers pitcher Brett Tomko, the backup infielder rifled a double to left. He scored two batters later on a Paul LoDuca RBI single. And that was his lone moment in the postseason spotlight ‘ perhaps until this year.
In a somewhat odd, and sudden, twist of fate, Woodward found himself Monday on the edge of what could be another path to the postseason. The infielder was summoned to the Red Sox just six days after being sent to Triple-A Pawtucket in order to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He had been working out in the Tampa area, while awaiting the birth of his third child. (Woodward’s wife, Erin, is due on Oct. 5.)
Woodward’s presence was made necessary after Nick Green was forced to fly back to Boston Sunday night in order to have his “dead” right leg checked. With the prognosis suggesting Green might be struggling with a disc problem in his back, forcing a longer stay away from the Sox, the team turned to the 33-year-old Woodward for help.
‘I was a little shocked, because I hadn’t really paid attention, I didn’t know if anybody was hurt or anything like that,” said Woodward, who was informed of his promotion at 3 p.m. Sunday. “I’d watched a couple of games ‘ I actually saw the game where Nick Green walked. He kind of looked funny, when he was swinging, and I was thinking, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ Guess it was a little worse than they thought.’
The extent of Green’s injury will most likely determine if Woodward, who had been designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners earlier this season, would make another postseason roster.
The other option would be Jed Lowrie, who is still battling fatigue in his left wrist, limiting his effectiveness from the left side of the plate. The Red Sox may use the final few weeks of the regular season, assuming they clinch a wild card berth within the next week or so, as a test bed for Lowrie’s postseason viability.
“You’ll see the next 10 days, two weeks, we’re going to try to figure out what we can do or what we can’t. we’ll try to answer that. But I don’t think he’s to the point where we could send him out, especially left-handed, for four at-bats and he would have a comfort level,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
And if Lowrie can’t bounce back, and Green’s injury turns into something more serious, that might pave the way for Woodward.
‘Never had quite a year like that,” he said. “I pretty much thought the season was over. Back again, so …”
|09.21.09 at 10:04 pm ET|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. ‘ Last year at this time, Junichi Tazawa was pitching in a Japanese industrial league, although his thoughts were sometimes elsewhere.
“I was thinking a little bit about the big leagues, maybe,” said Tazawa, “but more than that I was just playing baseball.’
A year later, he still is thinking the major leagues, although this time doing so while in the process of living out his dream, as was evidenced by the environment in which Tazawa found himself speaking to reporters ‘ the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.
Of course there was a reason Tazawa had the group of reporters gathered around his locker Monday afternoon. The Red Sox had informed the 23-year-old that his season was being brought to a halt thanks to an assignment to the 60-day disabled list. The reason for the the move was threefold: 1. The pitcher’s groin had been bothering him since his last appearance, a Sept. 4 outing in Chicago; 2. Tazawa had pitched a combined 135 innings between the minors and the majors; and 3. The Red Sox needed room on their 40-man roster to bring back Chris Woodward because of Nick Green’s injury.
“I had no idea what to expect this year, so I was anxious about a lot of different things,” Tazawa said through translator Masa Hoshino. “But looking back on it, I had a better year than I could ever have hoped for.”
Tazawa will hang with the Red Sox for the remainder of the season, having finished his first major league go-round with a 2-3 mark and 7.46 ERA. But what most will remember is the rookie’s ability to hold his own in an environment that was night and day compared to what he left behind in Japan last November.
Before being called up to the Red Sox, Tazawa went 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA with Double-A Portland, and 0-2 with a 2.38 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket. That after initially impressing the Sox brass by giving up just one run in nine innings of work in spring training.
“The one thing we really told him today is he’s to be congratulated,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He had an unbelievable year. Last year at this time he was probably just finishing up the industrial league.”
Besides the major league pitching stint ‘ which was christened in Yankee Stadium during the Red Sox’ Aug. 7, 15-inning loss that ended with an Alex Rodriguez homer off the rookie ‘ Tazawa has taken the time to learn some English, while integrating himself (with the help of relievers Takashi Saito and Ramon Ramirez) into the American way of life.
‘If I had a bad outing, Saito-san would talk to me about some of the adjustments that I could possibly make on the mound, but also away from the ballfield ‘ daily things, like where to eat, he was generous with as well, to help support me,” Tazawa said. “From a baseball standpoint, Ramon Ramirez was also very helpful teaching me things, so I owe both of those guys.’
|09.21.09 at 6:45 pm ET|
After getting examined in Boston Monday, it was determined that a possible cause for Green’s “dead” right leg might be a disc problem in his back. The Red Sox recalled shortstop Chris Woodward while Green is away.
“I think they think it might be disc-related,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “So now he’ll stay in Boston the next couple of days, he’ll work with Scott Waugh, and try and get a little better handle on how to proceed.”
Woodward, who had been sent to Triple A Pawtucket when the team activated Daisuke Matsuzaka off the 60-day disabled list, had been working out in the Tampa area while awaiting the birth of his third child, who is due on Oct. 5.
When did Woodward find out he was headed back to be with the Red Sox? “Yesterday, at three in the afternoon, something like that,” the infielder said. “I was a little shocked, because I hadn’t really paid attention, I didn’t know if anybody was hurt or anything like that. I’d watched a couple of games ‘’ I actually saw the game where Nick Green walked. He kind of looked funny, when he was swinging, and I was thinking ‘what’s wrong with him?’ Guess it was a little worse than they thought.’
To make room for Woodward the Red Sox placed pitcher Junichi Tazawa on the 60-day disabled list, ending his rookie season. Tazawa was determined to be the logical choice since he had been battling a groin injury since pitching in his last game, against Chicago Sept. 4, and he had reached the innings limit structured by the organization prior to the season. Tazawa had pitched 25 2/3 innings with the Red Sox after throwing 109 1/3 between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket.
In other news, former Sox infielder Sean Casey will be doing the color commentary for NESN throughout the Red Sox’ four-game set against the Royals.
|09.21.09 at 9:22 am ET|
It wasn’t too long ago when Tim Wakefield (11-4, 4.22) was selected to his first All-Star game after recording eleven first half wins. Yet, to Wakefield’s dismay, leg and lower back problems sidelined him for the majority of the second half of the season. Now, after battling his ailments, Wakefield returns to the mound to make his first start since September 5 to take on the underachieving Kansas City Royals (61-88).
Fresh off sweeping the AL East basement-dwelling Baltimore Orioles this past weekend, the Boston Red Sox (89-59) continue their road trip when they travel to Kauffman Stadium for a four-game set beginning tonight. Having won 11 out of their last 13 contests, including a 9-3 victory yesterday at Camden Yards, the Red Sox have built their AL Wild Card lead to eight games over the Texas Rangers and find themselves closing the division gap as they sit five games behind the New York Yankees in the division.
Wakefield, in only his third start since the All-Star game, squares off against the offensively-challenged Royals as he attempts to regain his early season form with the playoffs looming in the distance. In his two starts since coming off the DL, Wakefield is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA.
Though he has not pitched in over two weeks, the 43-year-old knuckleballer has enjoyed success against Kansas City especially at Kauffman where he is 7-4 with a 3.30 ERA in 13 appearances. Overall, Wakefield has recorded eleven wins and suffered only six losses in 25 games (18 starts) opposing the Royals.
For Kansas City, the Royal call upon left-handed pitcher Lenny DiNardo (0-1, 5.23 ERA) to try to end the Sox hot streak. DiNardo, a former Red Sox himself, makes only his third start of the season after spending the year in the minors.
A Rule 5 draft pick, DiNardo was part of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run before he was claimed off waivers prior to the 2007 season by the Oakland Athletics. Since being let go, DiNardo has faced the Sox in five appearances where he owns a 1-1 record and a 3.60 ERA.
For the Sox, catcher Victor Martinez enters the game looking to add to his career best 19-game hit streak while outfielder Jason Bay attempts to surpass his career high 35 single-season home runs which he tied in yesterday’s triumph over the Orioles. In the win, the Sox also bumped their road record to 37-37 and hope to climb past the .500 mark with a victory in tonight’s match-up.
Here is how the two pitchers have fared against the opposing team’s batters:
Tim Wakefield vs. Royals’ batters
Miguel Olivo (12 career plate appearances) .273 AVG/.333 OBP/.636 SLG, 1 home run, 5 strikeouts
Mark Teahen (11) .273/.273/.273, 3 strikeouts
Yuniesky Betancourt (10) .400/.400/.800, 1 home run
John Buck (10) .222/.300/.444, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
David DeJesus (9) 1-for-9, 1 strikeout
Billy Butler (5) 2-for-5, 1 strikeout
Alex Gordon (5) 3-for-5
Willie Bloomquist (3) 2-for-2, 1 walk
Mike Jacobs (3) 1-for-3, 1 strikeout
Mitch Maier (2) 0-for-2
Lenny DiNardo vs. Red Sox batters
Victor Martinez (10 career plate appearances) 2-for10, 2 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (8) .200/.429/.200, 2 walks
Jason Varitek (8) .600/.750/.800, 3 walks, 1 strikeout
Kevin Youkilis (7) .167/.286/.667, 1 home run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Joey Gathright (6) .667/.667/.667
Mike Lowell (6) 0-for-5, 1 walk
David Ortiz (6) .200/.333/.200, 1 walk
J.D. Drew (4) 1-for-3, 1 walk
Jason Bay (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Jacoby Ellsbury (3) 1-for-2
Nick Green (3) 0-for-3, 1 strikeout
Jed Lowrie (2) 1-for-2
Rocco Baldelli (1) 0-for-1, 1 strikeout
|09.20.09 at 6:53 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — With the Red Sox‘ 9-3 win over the Orioles on Sunday, the Sox find themselves eight games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the wild card race and five games (after the Yankees lost to the Mariners) behind New York in the race for first place in the American League East.
So, with four games against the struggling Royals staring the Red Sox in the face, and then a crack at three games with the Yanks in New York over the weekend, could the Sox actually catch NY by regular season’s end? David Ortiz thinks so.
“Why not?” said the Red Sox slugger after his team’s sweep of the Orioles.
The obstacles keep on coming for the Yankees, who leave Seattle to play the Angels in Anaheim for three games before returning home for the showdown with the Red Sox. Following the series with Boston, New York gets its crack at Kansas City, for three in the Bronx, before closing out the regular season with a three-game set in St. Petersburg against the Rays.
The Red Sox, who have now won 11 of 13, close out their regular season with three games against Toronto and four vs. the Indians, all at Fenway Park.
Asked if he thought the Sox were playing their best baseball of the season, Ortiz simply said, “Look at the numbers, they will tell you.”
In the last two weeks, the Red Sox have scored more runs than any other team in baseball other than the Royals (Who knew?), with the second-best team batting average (.315, behind the Yankees’ .325), and the top slugging percentage (.502) and on-base percentage (.384).
During that span, Red Sox pitchers have compiled a 2.53 ERA (second-best in the majors).
Oh, and by the way, after Sunday’s rout, the Red Sox finish this season 16-2 against the Orioles, having scored 130 runs to Baltimore’s 68.
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