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Closing Time: Andrew Miller, Red Sox can’t keep good times rolling against Rays

07.15.11 at 10:46 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox‘ starting pitching situation got a bit off-kilter on the way to a 9-6 loss to Tampa Bay Friday night.

Andrew Miller, who had entered his start against the Rays with a 3-0 mark and 3.57 ERA, turned in his roughest outing since joining the Red Sox, allowing seven runs on five hits while walking five. The lefty left with two outs in the third inning and the Sox trailing by five runs.

The loss snapped a six-game win streak for the Red Sox, who have lost just two of their 10 games in July.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Sox’ series-opening defeat at the hands of the third-place Rays …

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Miller went his second straight start without striking out a batter. His velocity was similar to his previous two starts, with the fastball sitting around 91 mph and maxing out at 94 mph. The biggest blow against the lefty was Ben Zobrist‘s grand slam with one out in the second inning, making it 5-1 at the time.

– For the first time in the last six games, the Red Sox weren’t able to get the opposing starting pitcher out before the fifth inning. While they did make David Price throw 121 pitches, he still left with a 7-3 lead after completing six innings. It snaps the longest such streak by a Red Sox team in 28 years. Price finished his outing striking out seven, walking one and allowing five hits.

Dan Wheeler ran into some trouble against his old team, in large part because Casey Kotchman hit a bomb against his old team. Wheeler, who had only allowed one run in his last six outings, gave up a two-run homer to Kotchman in the sixth inning. It was the first homer allowed by the righty since May 4.

Dustin Pedroia made a rare baserunning miscue in the first inning after building on his major league-best batting average against lefties (.394) with a single to left. The second baseman tried to stretch the liner into a double, but was easily gunned down by Sam Fuld for the game’s second out.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Alfredo Aceves turned in another outstanding relief appearance, coming in for Miller and throwing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball (allowing just two hits). The righty hasn’t allowed a run in any of his last three relief outings, stretching 7 1/3 innings.

– Pedroia continued his dominance against left-handed pitching, not only notching the first-inning single against Price, but taking the Rays’ ace deep with a solo shot in the sixth inning. He now has a homer in five of his last seven games, and a total of six since June 30. He added a double in the eighth inning, boosting his batting average to a season-high .289.

Darnell McDonald made a positive impression in his first at-bat, taking Price over the left field wall for a solo shot in the second inning. He now has at least one hit in each of his last four games, all against left-handers.

Jacoby Ellsbury kept his power surge going, launching a solo home run off Price in the third inning. It was just the third homer allowed by Price to a left-handed batter in the pitcher’s career.

Marco Scutaro also continued a mild hot streak when it comes to hitting home runs, claiming his third of the month via a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his second homer in as many games.

Carl Crawford gets some work in and gets his legs back under him

07.15.11 at 8:47 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. ‘€” The offensive aspect of Carl Crawford‘€˜s game was answered Friday night as he went 1-for-2 with a walk in three plate appearances in his first of two minor league rehab assignments with the PawSox. Crawford also scored and drove in a run in Pawtucket’s 3-2 win over Durham at McCoy, helping Kevin Millwood improved to 5-0 in his minor league assignment with the Red Sox.

Crawford drove in Che-Hsuan Lin from third on a broken bat single to center, hanging in on a changeup from Durham starter Alex Torres in the first inning.

The biggest and best test of his left hamstring came in the third when he took ball 4 on a full count. After showing his batting eye hasn’t been affected in his month off, he took off for second on a hit-and-run on a single by Ryan Lavarnway. As important as his explosion from first was, his ability to put on the breaks around second was just as significant. He did both cleanly.

“The most important thing was being able to take out of the [batter’s] box like I normally can, being able to move quick without worrying about my hamstring and I had a few moments today where I was able to test it,” Crawford said after his 20-minute treatment in the whirlpool.

“That felt good, that was a time I had to test it and it felt good. When you stop like that, something can happen. So when you stop real quick and nothing happens, that’s a good sign.”

Crawford advanced to third on a single to left but was held up around third. He faced the hard-throwing lefty Torres in the first and righty Lance Cormier in the third and fifth.

“Getting back out here and seeing live pitching definitely helped me,” Crawford said. “It’s all about the timing. You’ve got a lefty throwing pretty hard so I tried to see a few and make the adjustments I need to make from there. It was a little challenging but I was able to make a few adjustments.”

Crawford grounded a ball into the hole at short after Daniel Nava singled to open the fifth. Nava appeared safe at second but was ruled out, costing Crawford his second single.

There would be no hard running on the bases this time as Lavarnway blasted a long homer to left, allowing Crawford to easily jog the bases on the round-tripper that made it 3-1 PawSox.

Crawford’s only defensive chance came in the fourth when caught a fly ball off the bat of J.J. Furmaniak.

Crawford will play again Saturday night for Pawtucket before taking Sunday off. If his left hamstring responds, he will be activated for Monday’s game in Baltimore.

“We’re just trying to get my legs back under me right now so we didn’t see the need to play nine innings,” Crawford said of playing just five innings Friday. “As long as I was able to the things that I can do when I’m in the big leagues, that’s all I need to do. Just see if I can do it two days in a row. Just want to do everything two days in a row, make sure there’s no pain and nothing like that. After that happens, I’ll be ready to go.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, daniel nava, PawSox

Carl Crawford at the plate

07.15.11 at 7:52 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Carl Crawford, in his first appearance back in a game since straining his left hamstring on June 17 against the Brewers, collected a broken-bat single in the first inning, scoring Che-Hsuan Lin and staking the PawSox to a 1-0 lead over the Durham Bulls at McCoy Stadium.

He indicated to reporters before Friday’s game that he is limited to six innings in the first of his two rehab stints with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

“Hopefully, it won’t take me that long to catch up,” Crawford said in the Pawtucket dugout. “But that’s why I’m down here, first time on my own. I was a little worried about it when it happened but it’s taken care of now.”

If all goes as planned, Crawford will play again Saturday night for Pawtucket and then travel to Baltimore on Sunday, where he will join the Red Sox on Monday when they open a three-game series with the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Che-Hsuan Lin, MLB

Live Blog: Red Sox take on Rays at Tropicana Field

07.15.11 at 6:43 pm ET
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Red Sox vs. Rays Live Blog

Carl Crawford ready to go in Pawtucket, but for just six innings

07.15.11 at 5:48 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Carl Crawford will bat third and play left field for Pawtucket Friday night against the Durham Bulls at McCoy Stadium. The Red Sox star left fielder has been on the disabled list since June 18 with a strained left hamstring.

He indicated to reporters before Friday’s game that he is limited to six innings in the first of his two rehab stints with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

“Hopefully, it won’t take me that long to catch up,” Crawford said in the Pawtucket dugout. “But that’s why I’m down here, first time on my own. I was a little worried about it when it happened but it’s taken care of now.”

Crawford injured his left hamstring when he beat out an infield single against the Brewers at Fenway Park on June 17.

If all goes as planned, Crawford will play again Saturday night for Pawtucket and then travel to Baltimore on Sunday, where he will join the Red Sox on Monday when they open a three-game series with the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Friday’s PawSox game will also be of note to Red Sox fans because of their starting pitcher. Kevin Millwood is 4-0 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts since the Red Sox signed him to a minor league deal.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, hamstring, kevin millwood

Joe Maddon on M&M: Rays not intimidated by Sox, Yankees

07.15.11 at 3:46 pm ET
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Rays manager Joe Maddon joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox, Rays and their three-game series which starts Friday night. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Maddon does not let Tampa Bay’s financial limitations, compared to those of teams in major markets such as Boston and New York, intimidate his team.

“The point is that regardless of your location and the fact that you may have attributes that we don’€™t based on that location and funds or whatever, that doesn’€™t mean that you’€™re any better than us,” Maddon said. “We don’€™t believe that. We love the idea of playing the Boston Red Sox and all of their tradition. We love the idea of playing the Yankees based on all of their tradition. But don’€™t for a second think that that’€™s going to matter to us regarding the game itself. We come prepared to play every night. Sometimes you write all the names on a piece of paper. Some people may say disadvantage Rays, but we don’€™t feel that way. I actually like our names a lot.

“Recently we played the Red Sox at home and you guys beat us 7-6 over a three-game series. Great series. Recently just lost two out of three in New York and scored more runs than them, but they had the 1-0 shutout. My point is that we can play with the Red Sox, we can with the Yankees, regardless of our payroll. Never saw a dollar bill make a good pitch or hit a ball to the right-center-field gap. It’€™s about playing the game properly, with respect and heart on a nightly basis. And that’€™s what we showed people in 2008.”

On the play of former Red Sox Johnny Damon: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, Joe Maddon, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez

Report: Sox expressed interest in Kuroda

07.15.11 at 3:18 pm ET
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According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Red Sox “have called on” Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, suggesting that while the Sox are confident in their depth even in the face of injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett, the team is exploring potential alternatives.

Kuroda is 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA this year in 18 starts for the Dodgers. The right-hander is in his fourth season with L.A., compiling a 34-40 record, 3.50 ERA and 6.5 strikeouts against 2.1 walks per nine innings in his career.

Kuroda is pitching for the Dodgers on a one-year, $12 million deal he signed last offseason. That deal also includes a no-trade clause, and according to FoxSports.com, the right-hander will require some sort of compensation to waive the clause.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Hiroki Kuroda, Los Angeles Dodgers,

Trade Deadline: Diamondbacks reportedly interested in Kerry Wood, Jason Isringhausen

07.15.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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The Diamondbacks, who are in need of a seventh-inning arm, are looking to acquiring a veteran reliever. They have shown specific interest in Kerry Wood and Jason Isringhausen, tweeted John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix.

Both veterans have turned the clock back half a decade and are putting up impressive numbers. While the Mets are open to trading Isringhausen, who is 1-0 with a 3.14 ERA in 28.2, the Cubs will have a harder time dealing their 34-year-0ld hurler. Wood, who has a 2.76 ERA in 31 appearances this season, has a no-trade clause, as well as personal ties to Chitown.

Gambadoro added that Arizona is looking at Toronto’s arms as well.

Nomar Garciaparra on M&M: I don’t see David Ortiz leaving Red Sox

07.15.11 at 1:00 pm ET
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Former Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra checked in with the Mut & Merloni show Friday afternoon to talk about the Red Sox and news around Major League Baseball. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter skipped the All-Star Game and received some criticism when he was spotted with his fiancee in Miami. Jeter had recorded his 3,000th hit over the weekend, shortly after coming off the disabled list, and opted for the rest instead.

“I didn’t have a problem with it,” Garciaparra said. “I understood. It’s hard, because as a player, you’re caught in between. You’ve got to worry about the second half. He’s coming off an injury.”

Garciaparra said the All-Star Game is “a huge honor,” but the schedule is so tight that it can be a problem for a player with an injury. “There’s really no time for you to get treatment,” he said, adding: “I don’t think people really understand that the environment is not there for you to really get ready like you do normally during the season.”

Garciaparra said he’s one of those who does not like having the All-Star Game determine home-field advantage in the World Series. “I never liked it to begin with,” he said.

Touching on David Ortiz‘ future in Boston, Garciaparra was asked if he expected to see Ortiz eventually play elsewhere.

“I really don’t, but then again you’re asking the wrong guy. I thought the same thing about myself,” Garciaparra said with a laugh.

Read More: David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra,

Andrew Miller explains why drop in velocity shouldn’t be a concern

07.15.11 at 12:58 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ‘€“ Andrew Miller stands at 6-foot-7 and has broken off fastballs of excess of 96 mph in the past. That, he explains, doesn’€™t mean you should be expecting non-stop, eyebrow-raising radar gun readings every time he pitches.

Some talk has been made of the difference between what kind of velocity Miller was delivering in the minors (and even his first outing with the Red Sox this season) compared to what is showing up at now.

In his first start, against the Padres, according to Pitch FX he maxed out at 96.1 mph with an average fastball of 93.2 mph. The next appearance (vs. the Pirates) his fastball topped out at 94.9 mph with an average of 92.40 mph.

In his start in Houston, Miller’€™s heater reached 93.9 mph with an average of 90.83 mph. And in his last start, against the Orioles, the fastball hit a max of 93.9 mph with an average of 91.28 mph.

‘€œIt’€™s just one of those phases to be honest with you. I’€™m not really concerned with my velocity,’€ Miller said. ‘€œObviously it’€™s nice the higher it is, if you can control it, because it’€™s something you can use to your advantage. It’€™s just one of those things. I feel great physically. I’€™m not battling through anything, sore or tired or anything.

‘€œI’€™ve always pitched at a certain level and then kind of bumped it up a little bit. I think a lot of time expectations are maybe that I throw harder than I actually do. And for me, while I think I was throwing the ball harder for whatever reason, it has come down. It will be nice if comes back, but I’€™m not concerned about it.’€

The bottom line is that Miller continues to get wins for the Red Sox, having gone 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA, a trend he is hoping to continue Friday night at Tropicana Field.

‘€œWhen I came up it was like, ‘€˜We’€™re going to do a six-man rotation.’€™ Unfortunately it seems like guys have been hit by the bug or something because it’€™s one guy after another,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s what I’€™m here to do, fill in the best I can. I know I can’€™t replace some of those guys shoes but if we can go out there and win some games we’€™re reaching our goals and we’€™ll try to do that every time out.’€

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