|06.03.10 at 12:18 am ET|
At least Daniel Bard is honest.
And when it came to velocity, Bard didn’t do too poorly upon entering the game in the seventh inning with the potential tying run on third. The first three pitches he threw to Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki were 98, 100, and 99 mph, respectively. But it wasn’t the his heat which won this time out. It was his smarts.
Suzuki timed Bard’s final fastball well enough as to rifle a line-drive down the first base line. A subsequent slider led to another near-hit, this time heading down the third base line.
“You don’t see that very much,” said Bard of the placement of the two foul balls. “Again, I’m pitching for a strikeout there. He took a couple of decent swings at the fastball and got to one up high and just kind of reacted to that and made as good a pitch as I could.”
So Bard came back with another slider, this time inducing a swing and miss from Suzuki, and the end of the A’s last real threat.
By the time the reliever was finished, he had retired all four batters he faced, fanning two of them. Remarkably, it was the first time in seven games that Bard had struck out more than one batter, the longest stretch in his brief career.
But there have been few of Bard’s 31 strikeouts this season that meant quite as much as the one against Suzuki, the second-most difficult Oakland hitter to get to swing and miss.
“I better be used to it buy now,” Bard said. “That’s what I’m here to do. Try to make the best of it.”
|06.02.10 at 10:05 pm ET|
For an inning, it appeared that Daisuke Matsuzaka had little chance. The Athletics ambushed him in the first, slamming two doubles and a homer to take a 3-0 lead before most of the patrons of Fenway Park had found their seats.
But the right-hander continued his Jekyll and Hyde pattern. He did not allow another run after the first inning, and showed an electric arsenal en route to his fourth victory of the season, as the Sox beat the A’s, 6-4.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–It was a Daisuke Matsuzaka unlike any that the Red Sox had ever seen. Matsuzaka (4-2, 5.49) attacked the strike zone with a relentlessness that exceeded anything he had done in his four seasons in Boston. Of the 109 pitches that he threw, 84 (77 percent) were strikes. That was the highest strike percentage of Matsuzaka’s career by a substantial margin.
It had been more than two years (5/27/08) since Matsuzaka had thrown 70 percent strikes in a game. Prior to Wednesday, he had just two games when he threw 70 percent strikes: that injury-shortened, four-inning outing against the Mariners on May 27, 2008, when he threw 46 of 65 pitches (70.6 percent) for strikes, and a 5 1/3 inning outing against the Blue Jays on Sept. 3, 2007, when he threw 69 of 98 (70.4 percent) pitches for strikes.
Matsuzaka featured an explosive repertoire of swing-and-miss stuff. He complemented a tremendous 92-94 mph fastball with a vicious slider, changeup and cutter en route to a seven-strikeout night. One outing after he walked eight (matching a career high), he didn’t walk a single batter. There were 13 swings and misses against him on the night, including 10 from the fourth inning through the end of the outing.
—David Ortiz continued to crush the ball, smoking a double off the Wall in left-center and adding a two-run homer into the right field grandstands to give the Sox the lead. Perhaps as notable as the fact that he continued his tremendous May was the fact that Oakland pitchers walked him twice, including once intentionally. It was the first intentional walk issued to Ortiz this year. Some of that had to do with the matchup of Oakland sidearming right-hander Brad Ziegler, who stood a far better chance of success against right-handed Kevin Youkilis than the left-handed Ortiz. Nonetheless, it is now clear that opposing pitching staffs have little choice but to respect a slugger who is right now amidst the sort of runs that characterized his best days with the Sox.
–One day after he broke his 0-for-17 slump with a double, Dustin Pedroia ended a run of 67 consecutive at-bats without an RBI by delivering a run-scoring double in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was the longest such drought of his career.
–After Matsuzaka’s 6.2 innings, Daniel Bard came on with two on and two outs and promptly fanned Kurt Suzuki. Bard followed that with a perfect eighth in which he struck out another batter, thus recording his first multi-strikeout outing in eight games. (His seven-game run with one or fewer strikeouts had been the longest of his career.) Bard proved even more aggressive in attacking the strike zone than Matsuzaka, throwing 14 of 16 (88 percent) of pitches for strikes.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The team’s outfield defense continued to suffer in the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron. That was particularly apparent in the first inning, when Daric Barton‘s very catchable line drive in the first inning clanged off the glove of left fielder Jeremy Hermida. It was ruled a double, though it easily could have been charged as an error. Hermida also took some indirect routes to balls that he caught. Hermida also went 0-for-3, dropping his season average to .203 with an OPS of .597.
–The Sox missed out on several opportunities to break the game open. The team went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, including three straight outs in the sixth inning after J.D. Drew led off the frame with a triple.
–Starter Josh Beckett, who initially expected that he would spend no more than the minimum 15 days due to the recurrence of a lower back strain on May 11, was shut down by the Sox for roughly 10 days due to concerns that his back injury could lead to other health or mechanical issues. The right-hander is now certain to miss well over a month.
|06.02.10 at 6:48 pm ET|
Speaking prior to the Red Sox‘ game against Oakland, Wednesday night at Fenway Park, David Ortiz talked about earning the fourth American League Player of the Month award for his career, having been named the AL’s best position player in May after hitting .363 with four doubles, 10 homers, 16 runs and 27 RBI.
“Good stuff. Good stuff,” he said. “I’ll try and continue to do that and get a few more.”
Part of Ortiz’ success this season can be traced back to improved health, a fact he noted when talking about the left wrist which hampered him throughout the 2008 season. “My wrist is not a problem. It’s back where it used to be,” he said. “My wrist is not an issue.”
Prior to the beginning of May, the Red Sox were 11-12. They finished off May 29-23, thanks in large part to the performances of Ortiz and Lester.
“We’re going to try and continue. It’s made a huge difference, him pitching like that and me hitting like the way I was. Of course with the support of all of our teammates and fans, it’s a good thing,” Ortiz said. “When I get it going good things happen.”
Ortiz’ run began when he hit two home runs — doubling his season’s total — in a May 1 game in Baltimore.
“Hits bring confidence. It doesn’t matter how much you work and how great you feel, if you don’t get hits you feel like you haven’t got it done,” said Ortiz, who enters Wednesday night’s game .264, having finished April at .143. “One good nigh gives you a chance to have another good night.
Asked what he was going to do with his award — which consists of an engraved trophy — Ortiz responded, “Do they give you a trophy because of that?” Whatever they give you I’m going to hang on top of my locker for some of my friends to see it. I would like to get another one.”
|06.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET|
The Red Sox will not allow injured starter Josh Beckett to start throwing for about 10 days, according to manager Terry Francona, out of concern that his back discomfort could create other mechanical issues or injuries. Beckett has been out since May 12 due to what the team is describing as a lower back strain. But the team became considered when he ran into difficulties repeating his delivery in a bullpen session on Friday, resulting in the decision to further slow down his rehab.
[Francona explains Beckett situation.]
“We’re going to slow him down a little bit. By that, probably, I don’t know if we’re going to have a firm timetable, but probably about 10 days,” said Francona. “We lean on this guy too much, or we need to. So until we can completely get back where he’s going through his delivery, we’re going to make him take it easy. I think he understands it. I don’t think he probably loves it. I think he realizes this is where his best interest ends up probably being our best interest, so we’re going to be pretty firm about this.
“He can do a lot of things, but when we get him back out there throwing, we don’t want him making any adjustments to his delivery, to his arm slot, because that’s where we run into problems.”
Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA for the Sox this year.
Meanwhile, outfielder Mike Cameron received an encouraging medical report from a specialist at MGH who examined his abdomen on Wednesday morning. While the 37-year-old had been experiencing discomfort in the left side of his abdomen (the opposite side from the area where he endured the tear that landed him on the disabled list in April), the doctor with whom he met on Wednesday informed him that he is not dealing with a tear in a different area.
[Click here to listen to Francona explain the Cameron injury situation.]
“Good update,” said manager Francona. “We ruled out any of the things that happened on the other side. There’s certainly some inflammation. It’s actually kind of deep. I think Cam feels a lot better knowing that, when this subsides, and it already is, to the point where he can do everything he wants, he’s not going to hurt himself. Already, you see a little different look in his eyes. That was really good news.”
Cameron is out of the lineup on Wednesday, and Francona suggested that he may be out on Thursday as well. Moreover, the manager reiterated what has been said since Cameron came back, namely that the Sox will monitor his playing time to try to allow him to manage his pain.
Nonetheless, the diagnosis offered reassurance to Cameron that when he is playing, he can do so without fear of further injury.
“I just think he wanted to know he wasn’t going to hurt himself. He’s a tough kid. He plays through a lot,” said Francona. “But this has been troubling for him. There are certain things, at times, he though physically he can’t do.”
Cameron is hitting .277/.370/.383/.753 for the season, and knocked in his first runs as a Red Sox on Sunday.
—Jason Varitek will start and catch Daisuke Matsuzaka. While Matsuzaka has pitched his best games with Varitek behind the plate this year, Francona said that the decision was related more to the schedule. Catcher Victor Martinez, who went 5-for-5 with four doubles on Tuesday, is still dealing with an injured left big toe. With the Sox scheduled to play a day game on Thursday after their Wednesday night contest, the team wanted Martinez to rest before catching Tim Wakefield in the series finale against the A’s.
“The way his toe is, I think we were reaching for a little too much,” said Francona. “I saw the way he was swinging. It was great. But the three games in less than three days, I don’t know if that’s going to work.”
–Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury did some running in the outfield and some swinging under the eye of rehab coordinator Scott Waugh. The Sox have yet to decide whether Ellsbury will make the upcoming roadtrip to Baltimore and Cleveland or remain behind to continue his rehab.
“It’s going to be hopefully a progression of moving forward as opposed to moving backwards,” said Francona. “Every quote I give you probably needs to be consistent, because it’s not really changing.”
—David Ortiz and Jon Lester were named the American League’s Player and Pitcher of the Month for May. Ortiz has received the award on three previous occasions (Sept. 2005, July 2006, Sept. 2007), while Lester has been honored twice before (July and Sept. 2008).
Lester seemed more excited about Ortiz’ recognition than his own.
“[Ortiz] deserves it. It was a huge month for him, not only for us as a team but personally,” said Lester. “I think a lot of people wrote him off at the beginning of the year. He kind of came back and stuck it in their face and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ It’s good to see him be a presence in our lineup again and a presence in our clubhouse. With him swinging the bat like that and having that attitude he’s always had, it helps this clubhouse out.”
Ortiz’ 10 homers were his most since Sept. 2006, the year when he finished the season with 54 homers. He also hit .363/.424/.788/1.211 in the month.
Lester went 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in the month to earn his award.
“That’s stuff you don’t really play for, but it’s nice,” said Lester. “I’m obviously honored to be named that. But I’m just more concerned with how our team’s been playing. We’ve been playing better baseball.”
|06.02.10 at 4:42 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona went on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon to discuss Dustin Pedroia’s recent struggles at the plate, why John Lackey is right where he needs to be, and how him and Jacoby Ellsbury are on the same page.
“Everybody’s got an opinion,” he explained. “I think sometimes young players [referring to Ellsbury], you know somebody got his ear, and got him talking, and he probably vented a little bit ‘¦ I think he learned his lesson. Whether he said it off the record, however, he probably said it, and I think he probably wished he wouldn’t have said it, especially in a place like Boston.”
Below is a transcript of the interview. To listen to the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Do you ever get a sense that a player is going to get hot before it happens?
Well I think sometimes you see things happening, like during B.P. [batting practice], where their timing is getting better, or maybe they’ve lined out, or maybe sometimes the numbers don’t quite say that the guy’s hot, but you’re seeing some things, guys hit the pitches and stuff like that. Sometimes all you need is one hit ‘¦ I was trying to explain last night to the media, it’s not always the same formula, sometimes guys get a hit and things fall into place. Sometimes they keep at it, and then you look up a week later and they have gotten hot. There’s a lot of different ways it works, but kind of fall back on the thing ‘¦ good hitters, they get to their level. And sometimes it’s not as consistently as we all like, but they find a way to get there.
Regarding Dustin Pedroia, have you talked to him about his recent struggles at the plate?
Well actually Michael [Holley] I actually don’t agree with that. I mean a couple years ago ‘¦ he goes through this from time to time. We went through inter-league play a couple years ago, and he went through a real tough stretch. I remember we went through Houston, and that period of time, he was really struggling. It will happen to everybody, he will get just as hot as he got cold. I’m sitting here telling you right now, you watch, it’s going to happen, I hope it starts tonight. But it will happen, he’s too good of a player, he’s too good of a hitter ‘¦ this is a crazy game, sometimes you can’t bottle it, and happen to be consistent, but I’m telling you he will get to his level, and it’s going to be fun to watch. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.02.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
On Tuesday, Dustin Pedroia offered his first positive sign at the plate in some time. In his fifth and final at-bat against the A’s, he smashed a ball to right-center, which crashed on the warning track and hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double that snapped an 0-for-17 slump.
But he was not alone in showing signs of a turnaround. In fact, the player who almost prevented Pedroia from becoming a member of the Red Sox also showed his own signs of life.
That would be Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki, who had been struggling since returning from the disabled list (due to a strained side) in early May before going 2-for-5 with a double and triple on Tuesday.
In 2004, the Sox were left with an unexpected dilemma on draft day. The team did not have a first-round draft pick, but as the team’s top selection (the 65th overall pick, late in the second round) approached, a pleasant surprise started to present itself.
‘We had both Pedroia and Kurt Suzuki as two players we thought would be gone by the time we picked,’ Sox GM Theo Epstein once recalled. ‘We’d done our work on them, but they were over on the other side, so we hadn’t spent a ton of time getting them in the right order.
‘But with two or three picks left, we were like, ‘Wow ‘ two guys who we thought would be gone for sure could still be there.’ We took a quick minute to make sure we all felt the same way about which guy we would pick.’
Suzuki, a standout catcher at Cal State-Fullerton, knew that the Sox had been following him. As the draft unfolded and he remained on the board into the second round, the idea that he might land with the Sox seemed real.
‘I thought there was a chance that I could go to the Red Sox. I knew they only had one pick in the first two rounds,’ said Suzuki. ‘Obviously, there were a few teams that were interested in taking me fairly early. I’d known the Red Sox were one of those teams. The Red Sox, Oakland, the Blue Jays ‘ teams that were college-oriented.’
The decision at the time was not obvious. Even after making the call for Pedroia, there were some in the organization who wrestled with the question of whether the right choice had been made.
The team viewed Suzuki as a player at a premium position whose college performance suggested a high likelihood of both offensive and defensive value. But Pedroia’s impeccable track record of success, even against elite pitching both in the Pac-10 conference and as a player for Team USA, led the Sox to choose Pedroia.
Two picks later, the Athletics jumped on Suzuki. The A’s catcher cannot fault the Sox’ decision.
‘Obviously, everybody knows how that worked out. I played against him in college and I knew that he was going to be a great player,’ said Suzuki. ‘I thought he would be [drafted higher] based on his college numbers.
‘But people always talked about his size. It’s nice to see that he’s put a lot of those critics to rest. It’s not always about how big you are or tools. It’s what you do between the lines. He’s obviously had a knack for producing everywhere he’s played. He shows that just because you’re not the biggest and strongest that you can produce. It’s nice to see that.’
Pedroia clearly has offered the Sox exceptional returns on their draft choice. He has been a Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star and MVP.
For his part, Suzuki has also delivered tremendous returns for Oakland. He is currently the cleanup hitter for the A’s, and offers one of the better offense/defense catching packages in the game. A year ago, he hit 15 homers, drove in 88, and hit .274/.313/.421/.734, and seemed on the cusp of a breakout before his April injury.
Yet even as he showed signs of rebounding from his injury with his strong performance at Fenway Park on Tuesday, Suzuki has spent little time contemplating just how close he came to being a Red Sox.
‘At this point in my career, I don’t really think about it much. Maybe when I got drafted, I thought, ‘It would have been cool to be a Boston Red Sox and to be able to play at Fenway,’’ said Suzuki. ‘But I couldn’t be happier to play where I’m at right now. Oakland gave me the opportunity to come to the big leagues. They’ve been patient with me. They’re great.
‘At the same time, it’s a business. There’s opportunities that come up. I’m hoping that I can stay with Oakland for the rest of my career ‘ absolutely. At the same time, everybody knows how this business works. Sometimes there are other opportunities out there and you have to move on. But this is the place I’m comfortable with and where I’d like to stay for the rest of my career.’
|06.02.10 at 2:06 pm ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly discussion about the Red Sox. Asked if this team is a World Series contender, he said: “Do they have the players that can get and catch the Yankees and possibly Tampa Bay? Yeah, I think they do, but they’ve got to play great baseball. They are not an overpowering team and I think they just have to play their best baseball.”
Talking about the enigma that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitches Wednesday night, Remy said: “I am done trying to figure him out. This is going on what, four years now? I can’t figure it out. And imagine being his pitching coach.”
Following is a transcript. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
What are you convinced that you know for sure about this baseball team?
Well, they are going to score more runs then we thought they would score, No. 1. I think the pitching is going to get better as we move along. I think there have been signs with [Clay] Buchholz and [Jon] Lester. I expect better things out of [John] Lackey and of course, [Josh] Beckett has to get healthy. As far as Daisuke goes, who knows? I think as time goes on, we are going to see better pitching, the offense will stay the same, if not even get better, and I think they are going to put themselves in a position where they are going to be competitive all season long with those top teams.
Adrian Beltre is now the leader at the one-third pole for MVP. Did you see this coming? Did you think Beltre was this kind of player?
I had no idea, because when you play the West Coast teams, you only play them maybe six times a year. You really didn’t get to see very much [of him last season], so when they got Beltre, you know, I don’t get this, but the more I watch him, I’ll tell you what, if you want a guy that plays the game hard, this guy does it, day in and day out. He has impressed me. It looks like he has gotten some power back, hitting some home runs now. It took a little bit of while, but defensively he is outstanding. I had no idea that he was that good defensively, I really didn’t. He had a rocky start here, but over the last month he has been flashing some leather down there, so he has been a very good player for them. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.02.10 at 11:28 am ET|
The Red Sox enter the second game of their three-game series at home against the A’s playing some of their best baseball of the season, having won eight of their last 10 games heading into Wednesday night. The Sox continued their impressive streak Tuesday by scoring nine unanswered runs to rally back from a 4-0 fifth-inning deficit in an impressive 9-4 win. If the Sox are going to solidify their good start to the month of June, they could use a good start from Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound. The A’s will counter with former All-Star Ben Sheets.
Whenever Matsuzaka (3-2, 5.77 ERA) takes the mound, Sox players, coaches and fans alike have to wonder just which Matsuzaka they’ll be getting in that particular outing. He has been at times spectacular, mediocre or just plain awful. His eight-inning one-hitter against the Phillies on May 22, in which he had a no-hitter going with just four outs left, is by far the high point for him this season, but that was just one start. He has gotten out of the sixth inning just once in his other five starts and has given up at least five runs in half of his starts this season.
The Sox hope they may have found the solution to Matsuzaka’s inconsistent pitching, and that solution is putting captain Jason Varitek behind the dish for his starts. The move may be a difficult one to make for manager Terry Francona after Victor Martinez went 5-for-5 with four doubles in Tuesday’s win, but a quick look at the history between the Matsuzaka and two catchers reveals that the decision should be clear as to who should catch Wednesday. This year in three games with Martinez catching, Matsuzaka has a ghastly 11.05 ERA with an opponents’ batting average of .344. When Varitek is putting down the figures, those numbers deflate all the way down to a 1.83 ERA and .095 OBA. Despite the potential offensive hit, expect Varitek behind the plate Wednesday.
On the flip side, Sheets (2-3, 4.91 ERA) will be making his first-ever start against Boston after pitching the previous eight seasons of his career for the Brewers of the National League. He sat out all of last season after elbow surgery before signing a one-year deal with the A’s last offseason. At the time, the signing certainly looked good for the A’s, despite the possible questions about Sheets’ health. After 11 starts, there have been no injuries yet, but Sheets has yet to return to the form he once displayed in Milwaukee. He has not had a season with an ERA over 4.00 since 2003 but certainly could break that streak this season. Also, his strikeout-to-walk ratio, a stat that reached as high as 10.55 in 2006, is down to 1.76.
Sox fans also will have to keep an eye on Sheets’ former Milwaukee teammate Mike Cameron, who did not start Tuesday with abdomen pain. He had his best game of the season at the plate Sunday, going 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI, but sat out Tuesday’s win after experiencing discomfort on the opposite side of where he previously had felt pain. Darnell McDonald got the start instead in center field.
|06.02.10 at 9:08 am ET|
* – Lackey became just the 2nd starter in the majors this season to allow 12+ hits and still get the win. The other was Texas’ Scott Feldman, who beat Baltimore on May 20 despite allowing 13 hits. It was the 2nd such start by a Red Sox pitcher since the turn of the century (Beckett last September 23) and their 10th such start since 1980.
* – The Red Sox collected 6 hits with RISP last night, their most since May 3 and the 4th time this season that they’ve had 6 or more in a game.
* – Beltre’s 3-run HR was Boston’s 9th HR with 2 or more runners on base this season, tied for the 2nd most in the AL:
* – Victor Martinez has gone 18-39 (.462) in his last 11 games and has the highest average in the majors since May 17 (min. 35 AB):
.462 – Victor Martinez, BOS
.453 – Robinson Cano, NYY
.450 – Joey Votto, CIN
V-Mart’s average has gone from .226 to .279 and his OPS has jumped from .643 to .818 in that span.
* – Daniel Bard did not strike out a batter in his perfect inning last night. It entends his streak to 7 consecutive appearances with 1 strikeout or less, the longest of his career.
* – After never allowing more than 7 line drives in any start last season, last night was the 2nd time in John Lackey’s last 4 starts in which he has allowed 8 line drives. Fortunately, opponents have gone just 5 for 8 on those liners in each game or things could have been worse. For the season, opponents are batting .829 on line drives against Lackey.
|06.02.10 at 1:41 am ET|
Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron will see a specialist on Wednesday to determine the status of his abdomen. An MRI on Tuesday revealed that the original tear that the 37-year-old suffered on the right side of his abdomen is now healed. Now, however, the outfielder has been dealing with similar pain on his left side, and the specialist will determine whether there is a new tear on that side.
“He’s got a lot of pain. We’ve got to figure out what and how to deal with it,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We’ll try to make a good judgment on wehre he is.”
Cameron said that he came through the game on Sunday (his third straight, and his first day game after a night game since returning from the disabled list) without a problem. However, after he flew home to Georgia following the game, he started experiencing significant discomfort that was reminiscent of the injury (which he referred to as sports hernias) that sent him to the disabled list.
“I just had those same symptoms that I had on the left side,” said Cameron. “I’ve gotten better over the last 24 hours. But I was just concerned so I called [the team] when I was at home. … I was in pain Sunday night when I got into bed. My wife asked me, ‘What’s going on? Why are you tossing and turning in bed all night long?’ Just kept going. It was abnormal for me to have those kinds of things that I felt when I was sleeping, or trying to go to sleep.”
The specialist will allow Cameron and the team to determine the cause of his discomfort, whether that is normal for his state of recovery from the initial abdominal strain and whether the outfielder can continue to play without jeopardizing further injury.
The development continued a frustrating pattern for the outfielder. He had kidney stones removed in April, only to discover that he had an abdominal tear. After a rehab that proved longer than expected, he was showing promise in his return, going 6-for-17 (.353) with an .859 OPS, before suffering his latest round of abdominal pain.
“We were really excited Sunday that he felt good,” Francona said. “Some of that excitement we felt Sunday is a little tempered now.”
“Guess it’s just my time for [things] to go wrong,” said Cameron. “I just hope it doesn’t go wrong for so long.”
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