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Beckett keeps posting zeros

06.20.09 at 9:16 pm ET
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Though Josh Beckett’s stuff was not quite as dominating in the eighth inning — following a lengthy bottom of the seventh — as it had been earlier in the game, the Braves remained unable to do anything against him. After retiring 11 straight from the fourth through seventh innings, Beckett gave up a pair of hits in the eighth, and faced a first-and-second situation with one out.

But after falling behind Jeff Francouer, 2-0 and then 3-1, Beckett got Francouer to hit a hard one-hopper back to the mound. Beckett reacted quickly to glove it, then fired to second to start a 1-6-3 double play to keep his shutout intact. With just 89 pitches through eight innings, Beckett will remain on the hill for the ninth.

Lowe Rider Makes His Exit

06.20.09 at 8:57 pm ET
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After Derek Lowe gave up back-to-back hits to Jason Varitek (double off the Wall) and Nick Green (hard single to center) to put runners on the corners with one out in the seventh, Braves manager Bobby Cox removed his starter from the game. Lowe left trailing, 2-0, and so he will not earn a victory tonight in his first career appearance as a visitor in Boston.

But he may have received something far more meaningful: as he walked off the mound, Lowe received a sustained ovation from the crowd at Fenway Park, an act that had less to do with his fine performance tonight than with his eight years of service as a Red Sox. Though he last wore the home whites in Boston five years ago, his time here was clearly not forgotten.

Following Lowe’s exit, Dustin Pedroia hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice to close the book on Lowe’s night with the following line:

6.1 innings, 3 runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts,

Read More: Derek Lowe,

Josh Beckett: ruthlessly good

06.20.09 at 8:52 pm ET
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It would appear safe to suggest that Josh Beckett’s poor outing last Sunday against the Phillies (six innings, seven runs, six earned, 11 hits) was an aberration.

Beckett has needed just 79 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in which he’s given up three hits and struck out seven.He’s featuring easy mid-90s velocity on his four-seam fastball, which he has complemented with a devastating curveball and very good changeup.

Thanks to a double play and a runner who was thrown out trying to advance from first to second on a ball that didn’t quite get far enough away from catcher Jason Varitek, he has faced just 22 batters, one over the minimum. Becket has walked none, going to just two three-ball counts. (Surprisingly, he has thrown first-pitch strikes to just 12 of 22 batters.)

Red Sox add on

06.20.09 at 8:41 pm ET
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Though Derek Lowe stifled the Red Sox into the fifth, he seems to be running out of gas against his former team. After giving up a run in the fifth on a pair of doubles, the Sox plated another when J.D. Drew doubled off the Wall in left-center to lead off the sixth and Kevin Youkilis followed by ripping a run-scoring single to right-center. (After the inning, Lowe seemed to make a point of walking past Youkilis.)

Lowe appeared to be losing the sink on his pitches, as he gave up four fly balls or liners in the sixth inning after having given up three in the fifth. He is at 100 pitches through six innings. Though the Braves had a reliever (Jeff Bennett) warming during the sixth, the bullpen is currently silent.

Lowe and the Braves trail, 2-0. Josh Beckett is locked in.

Red Sox offense breaks its silence

06.20.09 at 8:27 pm ET
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The Red Sox entered tonight averaging 5.3 runs per game this year, fourth most in the American League. The team’s average of 5.6 runs per game this month is tied for second most in the A.L. in June.

Nonetheless, it had been a fallow period for the offense in recent days. The Sox had collected just one hit on Thursday against Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and then two on Friday against Kenshin Kawakami and the Braves. It was just the third time since 1954 that the Sox had gone back-to-back games with two or fewer hits.

Through four innings against Derek Lowe tonight, the Sox looked as if they might be at risk of such a puny offensive total for a third straight game. But with two outs in the fifth, Jason Varitek got his first hit in nine at-bats this homestand, driving a 91 mph fastball near the Wall in left-center field. Braves center fielder Nate McClouth appeared to have a play on the ball, but could not bring it in while he jumped, and so Varitek pulled into second with a double.Nick Green then followed with a run-scoring double to left-center to put the Sox up, 1-0, after five innings.

The Sox now have three hits. The last time that the team went three straight games with three or fewer hits was in 1974.

Lowe airs it out

06.20.09 at 7:50 pm ET
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This from Gary From Chapel Hill:

In the bottom of the second inning, Braves starter Derek Lowe allowed three fly balls, the sixth time this season that he’s allowed 3+ fly balls in one inning.  He only did that 9 times total in the four seasons from ’05 through ’08.

Even so, despite the three fly balls (which included David Ortiz‘ double off the top of the wall in center on a low slider that the Sox D.H. nearly muscled for a homer), Lowe remains unscored upon through three innings. He has recorded seven groundball outs along with the two flyball outs.

Josh Beckett has been just as good, allowing two hits (one an infield single that glanced off the glove of first baseman Mark Kotsay).

It’s scoreless through three innings.

Read More: Derek Lowe,

A Tip of the Cap From D-Lowe

06.20.09 at 7:11 pm ET
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Braves starter Derek Lowe, on his way from the Fenway Park bullpen mound into the visitor’s dugout for the first time in his career, offered a tip of the cap when greeted by a standing ovation from the fans around the third-base dugout. It will be interesting to see how the pitcher performs in what will surely be an emotional return.

Most interesting will be the first confrontation between catcher Jason Varitek and Lowe. The careers of the two men are inextricably intertwined, of course, thanks to the trade enacted by Dan Duquette in 1997, fleecing the Mariners of both players in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.

Varitek said before today’s game that this will be the first time that he’s ever gotten a look at Lowe while in a batter’s box. The two had a brief chance to catch up on Friday.

“We played together a good 10 years,” said Varitek, who has often recalled the lesson in the difficulty of catching that he received as a player in Double-A while trying (often unsuccessfully) to grab hold of Lowe’s “sinker thingy.”

The two were teammates in Double-A Port City, the Arizona Fall League, Triple-A Tacoma, Triple-A Pawtucket and with the Red Sox.

“There were a lot of different places in those 10 years,” said Varitek.

Read More: Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek,

Matsuzaka to be skipped, examined

06.20.09 at 4:17 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced on Saturday that starter Daisuke Matsuzaka would be skipped in the rotation following his four-inning, six-run struggle on Friday night. Matsuzaka has yet to throw a quality start this year, and is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA this year. Francona and pitching coach John Farrell met with Matsuzaka before announcing the decision.

“What we talked about and met with and decided was that, going forward next week, is that we’re not going to start Daisuke,” Francona said. “I do think he’s searching and it’s been hard for him.

“When he got here today we called him in to talk about that. I think it became apparent, mutually… that we have to get him looked at physically,” Francona continued. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brad Penny, Daisuke Matsuzaka,

Red Sox vs. Braves Match-Ups, 6/20: Derek Lowe Returns

06.20.09 at 1:18 pm ET
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The National League has been very, very good to Derek Lowe.

Lowe, of course, lost his rotation spot for the 2004 playoffs because of a rather disappointing final season in Boston. He went 14-12 with a 5.42 ERA, and ‘€“ his remarkable performance in the clinching games of the ALCS and World Series notwithstanding ‘€“ was pretty bad.

Since going to the Dodgers for the 2005 season, the 36-year-old Lowe has 61 wins (13th in the majors), a 3.63 ERA (11th among qualifying pitchers) and has thrown 936.1 innings (9th). He has been a workhorse, and an effective one at that.

(A remarkable footnote about his performance: in 2006, he tied for the National League in wins’€¦with 16! That was the lowest number of victories to lead a league in a non-strike year in baseball history.)

All of that led the Sox to explore whether Lowe might return to Boston this past offseason. Whereas the team never really tried to retain his services following the 2004 season, club officials considered it worth exploring whether they might want to bring him back because of his incredible durability (despite the fact that he is now 36) and because they felt he had matured off the mound since his sometimes-stormy tenure in Boston.

The pitcher, of course, would have loved to come back to Boston – a place he holds dear - but the Sox ended up pursuing short-term deals with potentially high rewards (Brad Penny, John Smoltz), while Lowe ended up signing a four-year, $60 million deal with the Braves, whose offer blew every other team out of the water.

Today’€™s reunion matchup will be significant for Lowe, and for those fans who endured numerous peaks (extraordinary ones at that: a no-hitter, a 21-win season, Game 5 of the 2003 ALDS, the clinchers of each 2004 playoff series) and valleys with him.

And perhaps, in those peaks and valleys and Lowe’€™s subsequent emergence from both, there is a lesson that is relevant to Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Japanese right-hander, of course, is amidst a brutal struggle, his record now 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA.

Through eight starts in 2003, Lowe was 3-3 with a 6.52 ERA. For the rest of the year, he was 14-4 with a 3.97 mark. Over a 15-start span in 2004, he was 5-8 with a 6.25 ERA; he finished the year a champion.

None of that is to say that Matsuzaka will emerge from his season-long travails. All the same, as the pitcher looks to emerge from a season-long funk, he at least has some recent precedent in Red Sox annals as he tries to figure out whether it is possible to do so.

Here’€™s how Lowe, making his appearance against the Red Sox since leaving, has fared against some of the batters he will face tonight. Given their respective histories against Lowe, it will be interesting to see whether Mark Kotsay will afford either Jason Bay or Mike Lowell a night off:

Rocco Baldelli (17 career plate appearance vs. Lowe): .250 average / .294 OBP / .313 slugging, walk, 2 strikeouts
Mark Kotsay (14): .364/ .500/ .455, 3 walks
Julio Lugo (13): .400/ .500/ .700, walk, 3 strikeouts
Jason Bay (12): 0-for-10, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (10): 1-for-8, walk, 2 strikeouts
David Ortiz (4): 1-for-4
J.D. Drew (3): 1-for-3
Nick Green (3): 1-for-3

BRAVES VS. JOSH BECKETT

In four starts from May 23 through June 9, Josh Beckett gave up 11 hits in 28.2 innings, going 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA in the process. And so there was no way to expect that, coming off that hot streak, he would give up 11 hits to the Phillies in six innings on Sunday. His six earned runs in that game matched the total number he yielded in his prior six starts spanning 41.2 innings.

Tonight, Beckett will try to demonstrate that the pummeling at the hands of the Phillies was an aberration. The Sox’€™ ace has certainly had his way with the Braves in the past, going 6-7 but with a 2.45 ERA in 15 starts against his former divisional foe. As a member of the Sox, Beckett is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against Atlanta.

Here is how the current members of the Braves have done against him:

Chipper Jones (27 career plate appearances against Beckett): .160 average/ .222 OBP/ .400 slugging, 2 homers, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Garret Anderson (19): .471/ .526/ .765, homer, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Brain McCann (11): 2-for-11, 2 strikeouts
Jeff Francoeur (8): 1-for-7, walk, 3 strikeouts
Casey Kotchman (7): 1-for-7, 2 strikeouts
Kelly Johnson (5): 1-for-4, walk, 2 strikeouts
Matt Diaz (2): 1-for-1, walk
Dave Ross (2): 0-for-1, walk

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Derek Lowe, Josh Beckett,

Lester explains pre-game confusion

06.19.09 at 7:26 pm ET
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Jon Lester, who took the loss after giving up two runs over five innings Thursday against the Marlins, explained what happened prior to the series’ finale. Because of the uncertainty regarding whether or not the game was going to start, the starter was 15-20 late getting out to the bullpen to warm-up for his appearance.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona attempted to buy the pitcher some time with the umpires, but ultimately Lester’s warm-up time was almost cut in half.

“It was rushed a little bit,” he said. “Obviously tito got aired out for not starting on time. That’€™s just the way it goes sometimes.”

‘€œObviously you can’€™t go through your full routine and feel comfortable and feel like you’€™re getting ready on time. You’€™re fighting not just getting loose, but being on time. It’€™s hard sometimes. That’€™s the way it goes.’€

‘€œI’€™m usually out there at 6:30-ish. When we found out it was still on time, it was about 6:30. I was still in the clubhouse and hadn’€™t gotten stretched and done my stuff in here. We were running a little bit behind.’€

(Did it take Lester longer to get into the game because of the abbreviated schedule?)  ‘€œYou know, I don’€™t know if the way I threw the ball ‘€“ if that had any effect on the way I threw the ball. I don’€™t know if it was just one of those outings where it was just a battle. I wasn’€™t sharp. A lot of foul balls.’€

(What wasn’€™t working?) ‘€œNothing was really working. I got ahead quite a bit. Fastballs, cutters. I couldn’€™t get the swing and miss or the bad contact on the curveball on the dirt. It’€™s just one of those starts where I had to grind through it. It’€™s one of those deals where you look up and I did something making it to the sixth inning and still kept the team in the ballgame. I think that’€™s a positive from that aspect.’€

(How long would he have pitched in the sixth if they didn’t put the game into a rain delay, since he was already at 114 pitches?) “They told me I was going out for the sixth. That’€™s all I knew. Obviously the conditions weren’€™t the best right there. I think under normal conditions that’€™s probably caught. Guys are out there trying ot get a grip and not slip. Play it safe. Yo udon’€™t want guys running all over the basepaths. It was just one of those shitty all-around nights.’€

(On what he was hearing before the game) ‘€œLast I had heard, they were trying to schedule a makeup date. Obviously when you hear that, we’€™re not playing the game.’€

 ‘€œI think it was a frustrating night from top to bottom. Not just for the guys here or the guys up there but front office guys and groundscrew guys. They’€™re trying their best to get the game in, we’€™re trying our best to get prepared for the game. It was just an all-around shitty night. It’€™s one of those deals that happens sometimes. That was one of those deals that happens sometimes. That was the hand we were dealt. Sometimes you have to fold them and sometimes you have to just leave the table.’€

 

Read More: Jon Lester, Terry Francona,
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