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Closing Time: Red Sox 5, Angels 1

05.04.10 at 10:07 pm ET
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The Red Sox claimed a 5-1 win over the Angels Tuesday night at Fenway Park thanks in large part to Jeremy Hermida’s two-out, three-run double in the eighth inning, breaking a 1-1 deadlock. The two-base hit, Hermida’s second hit if the night, was made possible when Angels’ left fielder Juan Rivera failed to get over to the corner of the left field warning track, where the ball ultimately bounced off of. (Click here for a recap.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Jon Lester’s night: The lefty cruised through the first seven innings, allowing just one run while striking out five and walking one before running into a bit of trouble in the eighth. The run was the first allowed by Lester in three starts. He also continued to keep the ball on the ground, allowing 15 groundouts compared to three fly balls. He had come in inducing grounders 71 percent of the time. The final line for Lester: 8 IP, ER, 5 K 2 BB, 120 pitches.

- Marco Scutaro came to play: The Red Sox shortstop not only notched a pair of doubles — one of which led to the Sox first-inning run when Victor Martinez plated the leadoff man with a fielder’s choice — but Scutaro also continued his improvement in the field. Most notably, he was able to range to his right into the hole between third and short to grab Kendry Morales’ one-hop liner in the fourth, set up and throw the LA baserunner out for one of Scutaro’s better defensive plays at Fenway. Prior to the game Scutaro was saying that he felt more comfortable on the Fenway field, especially since they had cut the grass at a shorter length.

- Dustin Pedroia’s instincts: With one out in the eighth, the scored tied at 1-1, and the bases loaded Bobby Abreu hit a smash to Pedroia, who was playing on the edge of the infield hoping to throw the potential game-tying run out at first. First the second baseman smothered the smash, and then, instead of trying to go home, he chased down the runner at first (Erick Aybar), pinned his glove on Aybar’s back, and flipped the ball to first baseman Kevin Youkilis while falling to the ground to end the threat.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- David Ortiz lost his momentum: Ortiz couldn’t capture the good vibes captured Saturday night in his two-home run game against the Orioles, once again having problems. Tuesday night the designated hitter not only went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, but failed to come through at what was, at the time, the game’s key moment. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth, Ortiz hit a hard grounder on a 2-0 count that turned into a 4-2-3 double play.

- The Angels were able to run: OK, it was just one stolen base — a swipe of third by Mike Napoli — but it was third base and it was Mike Napoli. It was the first stolen base allowed by the Red Sox in their last seven games.

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Lackey: Angels’ free agent approach ‘a little suspect’

05.04.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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John Lackey, who is scheduled to start for the Red Sox against his old team, the Angels, Wednesday at Fenway Park, met with the media Tuesday afternoon. Although there were frew revelatory comments from the starter, Lackey did offer some interesting insight when asked about the Angels propensity to letting free agents walk after their contracts expire. “It is different,” Lackey told the Orange County Register. “The way they preach the team game and the way you’re supposed to give it up for the team — that’s a little suspect.

“You’re supposed to give it up for the team. Then when it comes time, they might not give it up for you. … I totally knew what the situation was (when he reached free agency).”

Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Red Sox last offseason.

Here is the rest of what the pitcher had to say:

(On facing the Angels) It’s going to be fun, man. That’s kind of the way things go these days. I’m happy to be here and I enjoyed my time in L.A. as well. It should be a fun challenge?

(On emotions) We just need to win right now, man. Doesn’t really matter much who were playing right now. Need to pitch well and win the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Advancing Nomar

05.04.10 at 6:40 pm ET
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Nomar Garciaparra will be formally honored Wednesday for his service to the Red Sox from 1996-2004.

But Red Sox manager Terry Francona, speaking about 24 hours in advance of the ceremony, recalled his first encounter with the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year in the Arizona Fall League when he managed him in the fall of 1994.

“It’s funny because Nomar played here for so long,” Francona said. “But I probably knew him before most of you did. I was with him in the Fall League so I got to see him even though I wasn’t in the organization as a young kid. He asked the best questions ever. He was smart.”

[Click here to hear Francona rave about Nomar and relate a story about former Sox manager Kevin Kennedy.]

Francona was Garciaparra’s manager with the Scottsdale Scorpions in ’94, the year the Red Sox drafted the infielder out of Georgia Tech.

“He wasn’t pulling the ball yet but you could see him hitting the ball to right-center and you could see how could he had a chance to be,” Francona said.

Francona then recalled a very interesting visit from then-Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy and his bench coach.

“I was sitting one day in my office in Scottsdale Stadium and it was Kevin Kennedy and Tim Johnson and they had come out to see Nomar play and they were sitting around and saying, ‘Can this kid play second?’ I was like, ‘Who’s playing short? Move him.’ There was talk about his arm and the arm angle and everything. He was just too good-looking of a player,” Francona said.

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Back in the swing

05.04.10 at 5:10 pm ET
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For the first time since colliding with Adrian Beltre on April 11 in Kansas City, Jacoby Ellsbury hit in a group during live batting practice on Tuesday at Fenway Park as the Red Sox left fielder attempts to clear another hurdle in his return from a bruised left side.

Ellsbury smacked a home run just inside the “Pesky Pole” in right in his session and hit the ball with authority, not showing any signs of weakness or soreness.

“We have talked about the progression,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said in announcing the plan before Tuesday’s game.

Meanwhile, Francona said Mike Cameron’s lower abdomen strain continues to feel better every day and the team could have a better idea of a timetable for a return by the end of the week. “Cam’s really doing well,” Francona said. “The intensity continues to build. We’ll continue to monitor how quickly he’s coming and we’ll start talking to him more toward the end of the week what we feel is in his best interest but he’s doing very well.”

Francona indicated Clay Buchholz was not seriously injured and should make his next side session and start after taking a line drive off the foot in Monday night’s win over the Angels. “He’s a little tender,” Francona said. “It’s not going to get in the way of anything but he got hit pretty good.”

Other notes from Tuesday’s pregame session with Francona included an update on the injured Boof Bonser.

The right-hander is scheduled for a side session on Wednesday and if all goes well, he will pitch for Triple A Pawtucket on Friday. Francona said he threw three simulated innings this week and reported no problems from a right groin strain that landed him on the disabled list on March 31.

Bonser is 0-1 with a 17.05 ERA in two starts for the Pawtucket but hasn’t pitched since April 13 when he allowed five hits and nine earned runs in two innings. He went on the disabled list immediately after the outing.

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Red Sox vs. Angels matchups, 5/4

05.04.10 at 1:45 pm ET
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It was a long, strange month for Jon Lester. The beginning of April was a nightmare, just like it had been in the previous year. The talk and questions were mounting for the young Red Sox ace, but perhaps now he is pulling himself out of his early-season doldrums.

In his last two starts, his ERA has lowered from 8.44 to 4.71. He hasn’t given up an earned run since he gave up seven against the Rays on Apr. 18. Those starts were still in April.

The May numbers still aren’t what we have come to expect from Lester over his career in a Red Sox uniform. He is 5-4 with a 4.40 ERA in 12 starts in May, but things seem to be turning around.

His strikeouts have increased in every game, topping out at 11 against Toronto last time out, and his swings and misses have increased in every start this season.

For two teams that seem to be all too familiar with each other, Lester has only faced the Angels four times in his career in the regular season, sporting a 1-1 record with a 7.78 ERA. 

Ervin Santana should be the ace of this Angels staff, but with his numbers and up and down performances, it’s hard to label him the clear cut No. 1. Santana clearly has the stuff to be an ace, especially after 2008, when he won 16 games and struck out 217 batters.

But minor ailments have held him back, and this year he isn’t off to an ace-like start. In five starts this season, he is 1-2 with a 4.59 ERA, and his only true ace-like performance came in a complete-game effort against Toronto on Apr. 18.

The Angels hurler has struggled against the Red Sox. He is 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in six starts vs. Boston, with two losses coming at Fenway Park, where he sports a lofty 6.33 ERA.

Jon Lester hasn't surrendered an earned run in his last two starts. (AP)

ANGELS VS. JON LESTER

Bobby Abreu (14 plate appearances): .308 average/ .351 OBP/ .462 slugging percentage, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Maicer Izturis (9): .375/ .444/ .625, 1 walk

Juan Rivera: 2-for5, 1 walk

Howie Kendrick: 1-for-4, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Erick Aybar: 2-for-3, 1 walk

Jeff Mathis: 1-for-4, 1 strikeout

Torii Hunter: 2-for-3

Mike Napoli: 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Reggie Willits: 2-for-2, 1 walk

Never faced: Kendry Morales, Brandon Wood

The Angels probably want Ervin Santana to harness his potential and be their No. 1. (AP)

RED SOX VS. ERVIN SANTANA

Adrian Beltre (41 plate appearances): .200 average/ .220 OBP/ .400 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts

Marco Scutaro (21): .167/ .250/ .333, 2 walks, 1 strkeout

David Ortiz (17): .333/ .412/ .667, 1 homer, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Jason Varitek (15): .000/ .067/ .000, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

J.D. Drew (13): .182, .308/ .273, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Mike Lowell (12): .273/ .333/ .545, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Victor Martinez (12): .500/ .583/ .800, 1 homer, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (9): .250/ .333/ .375, 1 walk

Kevin Youkilis: 1-for-2, 1 walk, 1 stikeout

Never faced: Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida

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Lowell: ‘I understand the situation’

05.04.10 at 1:08 am ET
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Mike Lowell knows 4-for-4 with three doubles will put a smile on his face — as was the case following the Red Sox’ 17-8 rout of the Angels Monday night at Fenway Park — but it doesn’t guarantee another shot at repeating the performance when the next day rolls around. (Click here to listen to Lowell’s postgame interview.)

“I understand the situation,” Lowell said after upping his batting average to .300. “It does seem at times where you think you’re on a tryout basis, just because I think we’re feeling things out as a team. If I can make that decision as hard as possible, it means I’m doing something good.”

With right-hander Ervin Santana on the mound for the Angels in the second game of the four-game set, the likelihood is that Lowell won’t be getting another crack at repeating the performance come Tuesday. Designated hitter David Ortiz has hit a respectable .333 against Santana, while also coming off a two-home run game two games ago, and even though Adrian Beltre is just a .200 hitter off the Angels starter, he did hit his first homer of the season in the series opener.

When asked whether he believed performances like the one he put on Monday should earn him more playing time, Lowell was up front with his answer.

“I feel like I’ve earned more playing time with the last 11 years of my career,” said Lowell, who is a career .273 hitter against Santana. “If you take away 2005, if you tell me my numbers were terrible last year, then I deserve not to play. That’s my stance. We’ll go to the next question. I can open up a big bag of worms.”

Lowell also addressed the comments made by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to The Boston Herald after Sunday’s loss that changes might be on the way. (“It either changes itself or we have to do something to change it,” Epstein told the Herald.)

“If it’s not true, yeah, I would take offense to it. But I think everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and say does this apply to me. If it does, you have to correct it. I don’t have a problem with him saying it,” Lowell said. “I don’t think anyone in here thinks we were playing good baseball. Hopefully, that will start.”

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Pedroia addresses the fans of New England … sort of

05.04.10 at 12:26 am ET
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The questions had been asked following the Red Sox’ latest round of healing — a 17-8 win over the Angels Monday night at Fenway Park — when Dustin Pedroia asked for tape recorder to be turned back on.

“To the fans of New England,” the second baseman began.

“Everybody can be [expletive] happy when you’re [expletive] 30-1, but what is everybody going to do when we’re 12-14? Are you going to show up to work the next day and write an [expletive] story? Hell no. You’re going to write the best story of your life. We’re going to try and play the best [expletive] game of our life tomorrow. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re 12-14. Don’t put your head down and mope. Grind it out. You believe. That’s what we’re built on.”

So, there you have it.

Just prior to Pedroia’s message to “the fans of New England,” he also touched on some perception that the chemistry of the team hasn’t jelled with the combination of new players and losing not allowing for the kind of cohesion previously seen in the Sox clubhouse.

“When you win, it’s not magnified. When your 12-14 everybody jumps on the new guys like it’s their fault,” Pedroia said. “It’s not their fault. Nobody has played unbelievable. There’s a few guys who have played good but the new guys have been fine. Boston is different, man. They demand you go out there every day and play your butt and try to win. It takes some time to get used to, but once you get used to it, man, there’s nothing like playing here. It’s the best place in the world. Everybody needs to take a deep breath and do what we did tonight.”

In case you missed it, what the Red Sox did Monday night was notch seven players with multi-hit games on the way to a 20-hit attack.

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