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Julio Lugo…poor, poor Julio Lugo

05.22.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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It is entirely possible that no one in baseball has his defense subjected to so much scrutiny as Julio Lugo. The Red Sox shortstop got off to a dreadful start in the field in 2007 and, though he turned in some excellent work in the field down the stretch of that championship campaign, the impression has been unalterable.

Tonight, he will add fuel to those who suffer moral outrage at the sight of his defense. (You know who you are.) Not only did he fail to make a concerted effort to turn a double play, but he also failed to knock down a six-hopper that traveled through the middle of the infield for a run-scoring single in the top of the seventh. For an above-average shortstop, the ball could have been an out; for others, the ability to knock it down would have at least prevented the run from scoring. Lugo, who semmed to overrun the ball on a dive, did neither, and so the Sox now trail 5-3.

Read More: Julio Lugo,

Youkilis and Santana: Thems is (almost) fightin’ words

05.22.09 at 9:06 pm ET
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A near fracas occurred in the bottom of the fifth, when Johan Santana fired a 93 mph fastball (on a 2-2 pitch with two outs) off of the elbow of Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The pitch was barely inside off the plate, and likely hit Youkilis only because of his willingness to hover over the inner half of the plate.

Youkilis looked to the mound as he headed to first, and uttered a pair of profanities (though neither seemed directed personally at Santana, and rather suggested general bemusement about the discomfort of a pitch off the elbow). Apparently, Santana took the naughty words personally, and so there was a bit of a verbal joust while the home-plate umpire (Paul Nauert) ran to block Youkilis from any advances to the mound. Though that was unnecessary (Youkilis did not show any intention of charging the pitcher), the usual elevation of blood-pressure spread across the park: in the Red Sox bullpen, the pitchers made a couple steps towards the door. Players in both dugouts shuffled towards the top step. The Mets bullpen door opened a crack.

But the fuse never lit, order was restored, Santana struck out Jason Bay (his sixth punchout of the night) and the inning was ended, presumably with order restored.

Still, it will be fascinating to see what happens if Youkilis — not the most popular of players in New York — faces Santana again. That, however, seems unlikely: the Sox have made the left-hander throw 90 pitches through five innings. Still, Santana and the Mets lead, 4-3, after five.

UPDATE: Following the game, winning pitcher Johan Santana took exception with Kevin Youkilis staring back at him after being plunked in the fifth inning of Friday night’s 5-3 Mets’ win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. “I just told him to just take his base,” Santana said. “That was about it. But he was still looking at me and talking and it fires me up. I’ve got respect for everybody and I respect this game but at the same time, I’m going to play hard. If you’re looking at me like that, you’re going to get it back because I’m a gamer and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Youkilis said that he was merely joking after getting hit, and that he uttered what intended to utter a profanity in jest while telling the pitcher, “That hurt.”

“I was joking around,” said Youkilis. “He told me to head to first base. Whatever. I was headed that way. I don’€™t know. Maybe I should have ran to first base. Like I’€™ve said, I’€™ve changed a lot of my ways of playing the game.  Maybe I need to revert back to getting (ticked) off, throwing my bat down and going down to first. I’€™m not going to change my ways now. I’€™m pretty happy with going out there, enjoying the game and having fun.

“Everyone always told me in my career that I shouldn’€™t get so serious, you should enjoy the game and joke around,” Youkilis added. “When I do do it, I change my ways and joke around a little bit, I guess it’€™s the wrong thing. What are you going to do? Win some, lose some, I guess.”

Read More: Johan Santana, Kevin Youkilis,

Somewhere, perhaps, Tom Emanski weeps

05.22.09 at 8:58 pm ET
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Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Julio Lugo had his brain cramp in the top of the fourth. The Red Sox plated a pair of runs – one unearned – in the bottom of the inning thanks in no small part to a bad error by Ramon Martinez, who kicked an easy out into left field. Then, in the top of the fifth, the Sox turned in a pair of noteworthy defensive plays:

With Daniel Murphy on first after walking, Angel Pagan (in as a replacement for the injured Ryan Church) dropped a perfect sac bunt down the third-base line. Daisuke Matsuzaka fielded it and took his sweet time throwing to first, where he clipped Pagan by a step. Because Mike Lowell had vacated third to play the bunt, Murphy kept steaming around second and, without hesitating, tried to sprint into the empty base. But Kevin Youkilis fired back across the diamond, and Lowell managed to sprint back to receive the throw and dive across third to block Murphy from the bag. And so, the Sox had a rare 1-3-5 double play.

That play was huge, since Dustin Pedroia followed by committing an error on an easy grounder to second that hit him in the glove but that he booted for his second error of the year.

Still, Matsuzaka erased the baserunner by striking out Gary Sheffield — badly — on an 81 mph curveball. The pitch was Matsuzaka’s 80th and final offering on the night. He finished with a respectable five innings, five hits, four runs, two walks and four strikeouts. The Mets only hit a few balls hard against him, and the outing showed marked improvement from his season-opening performances.

Still, he is on the hook for a potential loss, exiting with the Sox trailing, 4-3.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tom Emanski,

Matsuzaka hits turbulence, Lugo has a lapse

05.22.09 at 8:34 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had sailed relatively smoothly through the first three innings, hit a major pothole in the fourth. He needed 30 pitches to face eight batters in the frame, and allowed three runs in the inning.

Matsuzaka gave up a one-out double to Carlos Beltran (a ball that was scorched down the right-field line and hopped into the grandstand for a double), walked Gary Sheffield (likely wise, given the slugger’s history against him), a run-scoring single to David Wright, and then, after a force out (more on that in a moment), allowed back-to-back, two-out, run-scoring singles to Omir Santos and Ramon Martinez.

Matsuzaka could have met a better fate. The singles by Santos and Martinez were softly hit. More significantly, perhaps, the Sox had a shot to turn a double play to end the inning and stop the rally after just one run. With one out and runners on first and second, Jeremy Reed grounded a ball to Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia delivered a strong feed to Julio Lugo, but Lugo remained flat-footed after catching the ball, and his relay to first had no steam whatsoever.

It is debatable whether the Sox could have turned two. Reed is extremely fast, and has grounded into just 23 double plays in 1,094 career plate appearances. Even so, the fact that Lugo failed to put himself in a position to make the play even close was clearly the source of some frustration to the Sox, as first-base and infield coach Tim Bogar was seen lecturing the shortstop in the dugout following the inning.

So, the Mets rallied for three runs, and lead, 4-1. Matsuzaka is at 65 pitches, and is perhaps an inning away from reaching his pitch limit of 80-90 pitches tonight. (Daniel Bard started warming in the fourth.)

Ryan Church has left the game for the Mets entering the bottom of the fourth due to a sore right hamstring.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Julio Lugo,

Red Sox Turned Down Offer of Delcarmen for Nick Johnson

05.22.09 at 8:11 pm ET
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Manny Delcarmen’s agent, Jim Masteralexis, was told by Red Sox officials that the Nationals approached Boston about a trade that would send reliever Manny Delcarmen to Washington in exchange for first baseman Nick Johnson. Masteralexis was told by the Sox that the trade proposal was “immediately shot down.”

Delcarmen is 1-1 with a 0.95 ERA for the Red Sox this year. He is making $476,000, becomes arbitration eligible for the first time after this season and is under team control through the 2012 season. Johnson is in the final year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract that is paying him $5.5 million this year. He will be a free agent following the season.

The idea of a Delcarmen-for-Johnson exchange was first reported by Peter Gammons on an interview on ESPN’s Mike & Mike In the Morning Show today.

Read More: manny delcarmen, nick johnson,

Bay, Red Sox haven’t talked contract

05.22.09 at 7:56 pm ET
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According to a source familiar with the situation, Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay and the Red Sox haven’t restarted contract negotiations, having last talked in late March. According to the source, the Red Sox last offer was around $10 million per season, while the Bay camp was looking for something in the $14 million a year range. The Sox’ last proposal also wasn’t reportedly in 3-to-4-year range Bay would most likely be looking for as a minimum commitment.

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…And Jason Varitek Owns Johan Santana

05.22.09 at 7:51 pm ET
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Johan Santana looked all but unhittable through the first seven batters of the game. Yes, he allowed an infield hit to Jacoby Ellsbury, and yes, Dustin Pedroia reached when David Wright booted his potential double-play ball, but none of the Sox had taken a good hack against him.

That changed when Jason Varitek stepped to the plate. Varitek is batting right-handed, and so should theoretically be quite vulnerable to Santana’s incredible changeup. Yet it was that very pitch that Varitek jumped on and drove onto Lansdowne Street for this eighth homer of the year, and third in as many days. Against Santana, Varitek’s career numbers are remarkable: 9-for-19 with two homers, a .474 average, .524 OBP and .789 slugging mark, with a 1.313 OPS.

Varitek’s numbers against left-handers this year are even better: in just 24 at-bats, he has five homers and a double as part of a stat line of .333 / .414 / .958 / 1.372. He is tied for third in baseball for most homers against lefties this year.

Varitek’s blast tied it, 1-1, after two innings.

Read More: Jason Varitek, Johan Santana,

Gary Sheffield owns Daisuke

05.22.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka’s second inning did not go as well as his first. Gary Sheffield jumped on the first pitch he saw — a 92 mph fastball that remained over the middle of the plate — and drove a ball off one of the advertising signs in the back of the Monster Seats. It was Sheffield’s third homer of the year (and 502nd of his career). In his career, Sheffield’s numbers against Matsuzaka are ridiculous: 7-for-12 with two homers, a .583 average, .643 OBP, 1.250 slugging and 1.893 OPS in 14 plate appearances against the Red Sox right-hander.

Sheffield’s solo homer gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Matsuzaka retired the next three batters to avoid further harm in the top of the second.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, gary sheffield,

Matsuzaka dials it up

05.22.09 at 7:31 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka was sent to the disabled list because there was simply nothing in the tank. His fastball lacked both velocity and life. In his first start of the season, against the Tampa Bay Rays, his fastball peaked at 91 mh, but more often sat at 88-90 mph. In his second outing, a one-inning exercise in futility against the A’s, he hit 91 mph once, threw five other fastballs at 90 mph, but mostly saw his “heater” sitting anywhere from 86-89 mph. The Sox saw a need to shut the pitcher down immediately so that he could build arm strength and regain a fastball that didn’t come to the plate with a “hit me” tag.

Through one inning of his first start off the disabled list, it appears that Boston has exactly what it wants. Matsuzaka showed one of the best fastballs he’s shown in the past two years, working at 93-94 mph in the top of the first inning, and retiring the Mets in order while recording a pair of strikeouts: one by David Murphy (swinging) on a 93 mph fastball, another on a devastating 87 mph cutter to Ryan Church. He closed the inning by getting Carlos Beltran to roll over to second.

In the bottom of the inning, the Sox mounted a threat against Johan Santana, when Jacoby Ellsbury chopped an infield single to second base and Dustin Pedroia reached on Mets third baseman David Wright’s fielding error. But Santana extinguished the threat, striking out David Ortiz (93 mph fastball) and Kevin Youkilis (82 mph changeup – filthy) and then getting Jason Bay to third for a fielder’s choice.

It’s scoreless after one.

It was a dominant, 12-pitch first inning, a marked contrast to Matsuzaka’s return from the disabled list for a similar issue last summer, when he gave up four runs in the first and loaded the bases in the second. (Reliever Chris Smith immediately gave up a grand slam, and so Matsuzaka finished that day with a line of one single inning pitched and seven earned runs.)

The day Johan Santana made Dustin Pedroia

05.22.09 at 7:30 pm ET
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It was more than two years ago — May 5, 2007 — but Dustin Pedroia not only distinctly remembers the at-bats, but even the pitches within them.

“Fastballs,” said the Red Sox second baseman, “both of them.”

The ‘them’ is perhaps two of the most important hits of Pedroia’s career, each coming against the pitcher he hadn’t faced until Friday night at Fenway Park, Mets’ starter Johan Santana. One was a single to right field, the other coming on a ground-rule double down the left-field line. But what made the moments so memorable was the timing.

It marked the beginning of a run of success that still hasn’t been derailed.

“There’s obviously important times in season where you remember certain swings and how you felt when you did it,” Pedroia said. “Those are kind of turning points. And looking forward you take that one swing, you feel great, and you try to get that muscle memory.”

Setting the scene, Pedroia entered that game in Minnesota hitting just .180 after toiling through his first full month in the major leagues. The then-rookie had been given the day off the night before to work on an adjustment that included holding his head more upright within his batting stance.

“I was just thinking about trying to make my adjustments and make everything right,” he remembered. “I was working hard in the game on things and was hoping it would translate into games fast. I didn’t know if it was going to happen against (Santana). I got a couple of hits and walked a couple of times, then the next day I got like three hits and I just kept on going.”

In the following three games Pedroia would go 3 for 4, and then 2 for 4 on back to back occasions, boosting his average 87 points in a matter of four days. And to think, it all just happened to start against one of the best pitcher in baseball.

“Not at that time,” said Pedroia when asked if he was thinking about who he was going up against that day. “When you’re scuffling it doesn’t matter who you’re facing. You’re trying to find a way out  of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing a guy who has won five straight Cy Youngs or a guy with a 20 ERA. You’ve got to find a way to figure out what you need to do to get out of it.”

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Johan Santana,
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