|06.04.11 at 8:44 pm ET|
There are a lot of events that will get lost in the shuffle of a 14-inning game that features 16 different pitchers, 415 pitches and lasts five hours and 17 minutes. J.D. Drew‘s walk-off line drive in the final frame arguably should have been the one to remember. But the one inning that stood out both during the game and in the aftermath was the bottom of the ninth.
Papelbon allowed the first two runners to reach on a single and a walk, just his fourth free pass of the season, respectively before striking out Landon Powell for the first out. The eight-pitch base on balls given to Daric Barton had both Papelbon and catcher Jason Varitek shaking their heads as they tried to decipher umpire Tony Randazzo‘s strike zone. With one out and runners on first and second, Coco Crisp lined a God-given double play ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But instead of ending the game right there, the ball dribbled through the sure-handed infielder’s legs allowing Mark Ellis to score from second.
Five pitches later, the ninth hitter in the A’s lineup, Cliff Pennington, lined a double to left to minimize the Boston lead to 7-5. At that point, Varitek ‘lost his cool,’ as he put it, because of a perceived lack of consistency on Randazzo’s part, and the Sox captain was soon given the heave ho. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.04.11 at 6:30 pm ET|
J.D. Drew has struggled mightily in the early going, but in a 14-inning marathon, none of that matters. Following a Carl Crawford double and an intentional walk to Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox rightfielder stroked a single to right-center to give the Red Sox a 9-8 win over the Athletics.
But before those heroics, the wheels had come flying off.
The Red Sox entered the ninth inning in possession of what appeared to be an airtight 7-3 lead. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was called upon to shut the door in a non-save situation that seemed to offer little drama.
Yet Papelbon proved flat, and an uncharacteristic error by Dustin Pedroia coupled with a hotly disputed strike zone led to a wild five-run rally.
Papelbon permitted a flared single and then issued a walk to Daric Barton (possessor of a .215 average and .602 OPS), with a couple of the pitches seemingly just missing the strike zone. But Papelbon bounced back, punching out Landon Powell for the first out and then getting what appeared to be a tailor-made double play against Coco Crisp.
But a bounder to the Sox’ most sure-handed defender, Pedroia, uncharacteristically went under the glove and through the legs of the second baseman. Instead of a game-ending twin-killing, the A’s had plated their first run with chaos soon to follow. Cliff Pennington followed with an RBI double to left on a 1-2 fastball; catcher Jason Varitek, distressed that an 0-2 splitter just off the plate had been called a ball, got ejected for arguing balls and strikes with home plate ump Tony Randazzo; Papelbon was ejected as well soon after when he muttered something to Randazzo’s disliking while marching back to the mound. At that point, the damage had already been done. The Sox closer had allowed a two-run, game-tying single to Conor Jackson to tie it at 7-7. The four-run blown lead was the largest by Boston this season.
In the 11th, Alfredo Aceves gave up a go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly to leftfield by Ryan Sweeney. Jacoby Ellsbury retied the game with a ground-rule double to score Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the bottom of the frame.
The blown lead meant that Josh Beckett had another solid start wasted. Beckett gave up three runs in six-plus innings against the Athletics, sending his ERA “soaring” to 2.01 (from 1.80). Even so, he turned in his ninth quality start (in 12 outings), and has now allowed more than three runs in just one start this year.
The right-hander allowed four hits in his six innings, walking three and striking out four. He mixed his pitches thoroughly, and showed terrific movement all over and around the strike zone.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Beckett now has nine quality starts in his 12 outings this year, nearly matching his 10 quality starts in 21 turns in the rotation in 2010.
—Kevin Youkilis may be emerging from a brief skid. Prior to Friday, he was hitting .143 with a .361 OPS, just one extra-base hit (a double) and no walks over a nine-game stretch. But in Friday’s victory over the Athletics, he went 2-for-3 with a double and walk, and on Saturday he was 2-for-5 with a pair of both doubles and walks. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.04.11 at 4:08 pm ET|
John Lackey plans to make his long-awaited return from the DL and his first appearance since May 11 against the A’s Sunday at 1:35 p.m. While the veteran had some obvious struggles to start the season, Oakland will counter with Brett Anderson, a young righty who has dominated the Red Sox to this point in his career.
Lackey (2-5, 8.01 ERA) said he felt good in Tuesday’s rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, where he threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run, three-hit ball. Lackey struck out four and walked none but did surrender a home run. The 32-year-old was far from convincing in his last two starts before hitting the DL with an elbow injury, giving up nine runs to the Blue Jays and eight runs to the Angels. In his first seven starts, Lackey surrendered 35 runs and allowed opponents to hit a combined .393. In 15 innings at home, Lackey has allowed 16 runs on 24 hits, while striking out just six batters.
The right-hander will have a chance to get back on track against a familiar opponent, as the Athletics have a combined 287 plate appearances against Lackey, dating back to his AL West days as a member of the Angels. In his nine-year career, the A’s have hit a combined .244 off Lackey with five homers and 25 RBI. However, Oakland has struggled offensively this season, and has the second-lowest run total in the American League.
Mark Ellis has seen the Boston starter a team-high 71 times, hitting .267 with eight doubles, five RBI, and 10 strikeouts. Former Red Sox speedster Coco Crisp has just five hits in 32 plate appearances vs. Lackey, but two of those hits were home runs. Daric Barton has had the most success against the righty, posting a .308 average to go along with a homer, four doubles, and three RBI.
Anderson (3-5, 3.68 ERA) has pitched well for the most part, but a lack of run support has led to three losses in his last four decisions. The 23-year-old pitched brilliantly against the Angels on May 26, throwing a three-hit shutout through eight strong innings. However, he got shelled by the Yankees in his last start, giving up ten runs on eleven hits through 5 1/3 innings. It was by far his worst outing of the year, and ballooned his ERA up from 2.84.
Every Boston regular has seen Anderson at least once, but no one on the roster has faced him more than 15 times. In this limited experience, Anderson has dominated the Red Sox. The left-hander hasn’t allowed a single earned run against Boston, and has held the Sox to a combined .111 average in 94 plate appearances.
Jed Lowrie‘s .222 average against Anderson is a team high, while Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez are hitting a combined four-for-28 against the A’s starter. Anderson shut down the Red Sox back on April 19, holding them scoreless through eight innings while striking out eight in a 5-0 win.
ATHLETICS VS. LACKEY
Mark Ellis (71 plate appearances): .267 BA/.371 OBP/.400 SLG, eight doubles, five RBI, eight walks, 10 strikeouts
Hideki Matsui (55): .240/.291/.400, one home run, five doubles, nine RBI, four walks, six strikeouts
Coco Crisp (32): .167/.219/.367, tww home runs, two RBI, two walks, three strikeouts
Kurt Suzuki (32): .194/.188/.419, one home run, two doubles, one triple, three RBI, five strikeouts
Daric Barton (28): .308/.357/.557, one home run, four doubles, three RBI, two walks
David DeJesus (24): .273/.273/.273, two RBI, three walks
Ryan Sweeney (19): .333/.368/.389, one double, one RBI, one walk, three strikeouts
Cliff Pennington (15): .071/.133/.071, two strikeouts
Kevin Kouzmanoff (5): 3-for-5, one double, one strikeouts
Landon Powell (3): 1-for-3, one strikeout
Josh Willingham (3): 0-for-3, one strikeout
No other player on the A’s roster has faced Lackey.
RED SOX VS. ANDERSON
Kevin Youkilis (14 plate appearances): .154 BA/.214 OBP/.154 SLG, one walk, six strikeouts
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (13): .077/.077/.077, two strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (11): .100/.182/.100, one walk, one strikeouts
Carl Crawford (10): .200/.200/.200, two strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (10): .000/.100/.000, one walk, one strikeout
David Ortiz (10): .100/.100/.100, two strikeouts
Jed Lowrie (9): .222./.222/.333, one double, two strikeouts
Jason Varitek (6): 0-for-5, one walk, one strikeout
Adrian Gonzalez (5): 1-for-5, two strikeouts
Mike Cameron (3): 0-for-3, two strikeouts
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3, three strikeouts
No other player on the Red Sox roster has faced Anderson.
|06.04.11 at 2:11 pm ET|
The Red Sox have four of the first 40 picks in next week’s Major League Baseball draft. It’s a rare situation for any team to be in, as only eight times since 2000 has a team had four of the first 40 picks. Those include the 2010 Angels, the Athletics in 2002 and 2004, the Braves in 2000, the Cubs in 2002, the Giants in 2007, the 2005 Marlins and 2004 Twins.
Having such a high number of top picks allows the organization to possibly take chances on guys whom they might otherwise shy away from if they did not have as many top picks. The Sox often refer to using top picks as a stock portfolio, using some to acquire high probability guys but for whom the payoff is capped, and others on higher risk players (whether due to makeup, signability, or tools that remain in the early stages of development) who can also offer huge returns if everything clicks.
‘You want to get good players,’ general manger Theo Epstein said. ‘You want to combine upside and probability but when you don’t have extra picks, it’s sometimes hard to take that extra risk with the very high upside. You can diversify your portfolio a little more when you have more picks and take that chance.’
Teams that have had such a large number of top picks haven’t fared as well as one might think: Read the rest of this entry »
|06.04.11 at 1:06 pm ET|
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|06.04.11 at 11:44 am ET|
Clay Buchholz stated after his start Friday night that he was thinking about a potential abnormality in his back while on the mound, and Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Saturday’s contest that the the idea of there being any kind of malady had given him some cause for concern. Out of that, the skipper said Buchholz may get a few extra days off instead of pitching in his scheduled spot on Wednesday against the Yankees.
“I think we want to sit down with him and figure out the best way to go forward, whether it’s in five days or giving him a couple extra days,” said Francona. “We can do that with the day off on Monday.”
As a result, Tim Wakefield will do a regular bullpen session on Saturday in preparation to potentially take Buchholz’s start on Wednesday in New York. Spot starter Alfredo Aceves will also move to the bullpen full-time in preparation for John Lackey’s return to the rotation Sunday “so that we have everything covered,” according to Francona.
The manager cautioned though that all of these moves were precautionary and that everything could still go according to the original plan depending on how Buchholz’s back feels before the start of the upcoming road trip.
“Maybe we don’t know today,” he said. “Maybe we need a couple extra days to see.”
|06.04.11 at 9:44 am ET|
Beckett is pitching as well as anyone in the American League. He leads AL starters in ERA (1.80) and opponents’ batting average (.189), and has allowed the fewest earned runs (14) among qualified AL starters as well. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than 2.5:1.
Beckett has been good but not fantastic against Oakland, going 5-3 in eight career starts with a 4.41 ERA and a .255 opponents’ batting average. His last start against the Athletics was on September 12 last season, where he pitched six innings, gave up three runs and won the game.
As well as Beckett has pitched, he has received inconsistent run support this seasn, resulting in five no-decisions despite a quality start in all but two games this season. He’ll be facing another ace Saturday in Trevor Cahill (6-3), who leads the Athletics rotation in wins and ERA (2.31). Cahill has struggled recently, however, having lost his last three decisions and taking a no-decision in a losing Athletics effort in a fourth game. His last win came on May 9 against Texas.
Cahill has struggled in three starts against Boston, going 1-2 with a 5.19 ERA and a .266 opponents’ batting average. He beat the Red Sox in his most recent start, pitching seven shutout innings on September 10 last season.
Beckett will have to be most careful with designated hitter Hideki Matsui. Because of Matsui’s years with the Yankees, he has already seen Beckett 41 times. Although he’s only batting .243 against Beckett, Matsui has hit three home runs and a triple. Second baseman Mark Ellis has also homered off Beckett and driven in five. Ellis is batting .333 against Beckett, but has struck out seven times. Left fielder Ryan Sweeney is 3-for-8 with a home run and two doubles.
No one on the Red Sox has the kind of experience with Cahill that the Athletics have with Beckett, who have combined for 132 plate appearances against the Sox right-hander. J.D. Drew and David Ortiz have each faced Cahill nine times, going 2-for-9 with a homer. Dustin Pedroia has doubled and homered off Cahill in six appearances, and Jacoby Ellsbury has tripled and driven in a run in five appearances.
|06.04.11 at 7:55 am ET|
At this point, Bobby Jenks isn’t worried about style points. He’s worried about getting outs. And for the first time since starting his season with four straight scoreless outings, the 30-year-old righthander recorded consecutive scoreless – if not clean – innings of work in back-to-back appearances.
On Tuesday, Jenks came into a 10-1 game against his former team – the White Sox – and allowed two hard-hit balls that fell for hits. But he escaped when Paul Konerko lined a ball right back into his glove. Jenks then underhanded a toss to Adrian Gonzalez at first to complete the inning-ending double play.
On Friday, Jenks entered a much more highly leveraged situation. The Red Sox were down just 6-5 as he came on for the seventh inning. Again he got into trouble with two runners on base. He allowed a leadoff double to Josh Willingham. He then balked Willingham over to third base and walked Kurt Suzuki.
But then Jenks showed exactly why the Red Sox still have faith in him.
Like Tuesday night, Jenks made the pitch he needed, a fastball to Barton, inducing a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play. Fully recovered from the right biceps strain that forced him to miss almost four weeks, Jenks is back throwing 96 mph fastballs, sliders and offspeed pitches, and doing it with a smooth delivery.
“It’s huge,” Jenks’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “That’s what wins games, pitching and defense. He was able to get a ground ball and it was a double play. But no one is going to worry about Bobby. Bobby’s got great stuff. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to battle. He’s not going to give in. He’s been through a lot this year. For him to come back like that is huge for this team.”
Two outings, three hits, a walk, a balk and most importantly, no runs.
“Right now, it’s telling me that I have to stop getting into those situations,” Jenks said, only partly tongue-in-cheek. “I thought they were pretty quality pitches to Willingham but he took some really good sliders in the dirt. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap. He waited for a good pitch to hit.
“You just have to stay confident and know you’re just one pitch away, which was the case.”
And for a pitcher trying to regain the form that convinced the Red Sox in the winter that he could help them, focusing after the balk call by home plate ump Dan Bellino wasn’t a problem. Throwing the right pitch to Barton was the only thing on his mind.
“I knew who I had coming up,” Jenks said. “And I knew going in, the scouting pitching report, if you quick-pitch him, he’s a first-fastball hitter. So I tried to jump on him a little bit. You can induce ground balls that way.”
Most importantly to the Red Sox, a healthy and effective Bobby Jenks means restoring the bullpen order to Jenks in the seventh, Bard in the eighth and Papelbon in the ninth, exactly what happened Friday night in the 8-6 come-from-behind win.
“Obviously, it wasn’t a clean inning but I battled through it,” Jenks said. “The way I feel right now, it’s about making those quality pitches when you need them.”
|06.04.11 at 6:55 am ET|
After another brief hiatus (let’s go ahead and blame the power-play) here we go with the return of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Each week (or as close as we can get) throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’s division and which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series.
Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing email@example.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.
(Note: Team record and last ranking are in parentheses and all stats are through 6/2.)
1. Phillies (34-23, 2). Since the start of the 2007 season, Roy Halladay has walked a total of 165 batters in 1,052 IP. During that same span, Daisuke Matsuzaka has walked 301 batters — in 429.1 fewer innings pitched.
2. Indians (33-22, 1). Fair to ask if this recent skid is more than just that and maybe the beginning of a return to reality. The Indians need more from Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, each with a slugging percentage of less than .400.
3. Cardinals (34-25, 6). We talk about this all the time, but it’s guys like Fernando Salas — 10 saves, a 1.05 WHIP, 25 Ks and a 1.82 ERA — that make it awfully tough to believe that the Sox are going to cough up $45 million for Jonathan Papelbon.
(Oh, and have you urinated in the last hour or so, or do you have food or water in your mouth? No? We’re good? OK, I guess it’s safe for me to tell you what nickname Chris Berman came up with for Salas. Ready? Fernando “Tossed” Salas! Done laughing yet? One of these days I suppose Berman’s act is going to get tired, but I just don’t see it happening for at least another 30 years.)
4. Yankees (31-24, 15). Wow, has the Cano vs. Pedroia debate ever been an easier call? Just a monster gap between the two at this point. After a third-place MVP finish last season, Cano has an OPS of .839 in 2011, which down from 2010 but still 151 points higher than Pedroia’s this season.
5. Marlins (31-24, 5). Josh Johnson leads the National League in WHIP (0.59) and is second in ERA (1.64) and has exactly one more win his nine starts than John Lackey — last in WHIP and ERA in the American League — has in his seven starts.
6. Giants (32-25, 8). Losing Buster Posey is a killer, but Pedro Sandoval is expected back in the next 10-14 days, and even if he doesn’t match his 2010 production I don’t see how a rotation (Matt Cain has the highest ERA at 3.88) this good doesn’t keep the Giants on top of the NL West.
|06.04.11 at 12:34 am ET|
David Ortiz is no stranger to clutch hits. The man affectionately known as the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history has produced the lion’s share of the franchise’s biggest hits in the last almost-decade.
So when Carl Crawford, he of the many an early-season struggle thus far in 2011, stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning while facing a 6-5 deficit, Ortiz knew exactly what to think.
‘We’ve got money,’ Ortiz said after the game. ‘We’ve got money. He likes to get that paper right there, always.’
Indeed, it was Crawford who cashed in on the big situation with a broken-bat liner to centerfield that plated both Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis to give Boston the lead in what would be an eventual four-game-losing-streak-snapping 8-6 win over the Athletics Friday night.
And Ortiz had some basis for his confidence in his leftfielder.
Crawford now has a team-leading four hits in the seventh or later that have given the Red Sox the lead, one more even than early-season MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez. Crawford also trails Gonzalez by just one for the team lead in game-winning RBI with five. On the whole, in late-and-close situations (which are defined as the 7th inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck), Crawford was hitting .314 (11-for-35) after his base knock Friday. Compare that to his .161 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position regardless of the inning, and you can pretty easily determine that the lefty has been hitting his best when the game is on the line. Read the rest of this entry »
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